I knew traveling would broaden my horizons and clarify my ambitions for my future, but I had no idea how far I had to go to make that happen; it’s kinda funny how seeing a place you actually like and can fall in love with can change your point of view.
Grey Houses…in more Ways than One
I don’t know about other people, but the overwhelming majority of housing units I see (detached homes, apartments…hotels too) strike me as just unremittingly depressing places to live in, and the locations they’re in are pretty much all awful, disappointing, or at least underwhelming in some way or another, so much so it put me off the whole idea of being a homeowner. Well, being a homeowner a second time over, anyway; I’m a homeowner right now, courtesy of inheriting a house from my grandparents that, unlike the other places I lived in as a kid, was not so depressing. Mostly by virtue of being an older house, which as a rule of thumb depress me less than newer construction.
Wait, Houses and an Area that I actually like!? What is this Sorcery?
At the same time I hate my current location (alas, without enough home equity to “trade up”; it’s one of the vaunted “low-cost-of-living areas”), so I thought roaming the world would be the best option for me. Well, I’d still like to travel the world, but after seeing the swankier parts of the Southern California coast this winter I feel like I’d really like to have a piece of that to call my own; I’ve found a place I’d actually like being a homeowner in! Something that’s actually worth the trouble and expense of owning…if you can afford it.
Which I can’t; not by a long shot. It’s some of the most expensive real estate in the world, with one little home costing multiples of my current net worth, but I’ve seen many other areas with million-dollar home prices, the professional-class suburbs, old-money enclaves, and Brickell Avenues of the world, and they make me go “meh” at best. The Santa Monicas of the world make me go “yay!”, which is an odd sensation for me; nowhere else I’ve ever been did it feel painful to leave instead of just plopping myself down and relocating there permanently.
Anyway, you see so much more of an open-air lifestyle there, which I cherish, and you see beautiful houses made out of nice materials that are…actually aesthetically pleasing and built/renovated by real designers and architects!? Bizarrely, you just don’t see that in most other parts of the country. “Luxury” houses of mysterious provenance that are ugly, not well designed, and built with crummy materials turn out to be incompetent imitations of houses in SoCal that are actually nice. Kinda horrifying when you think about it.
Anyway, you can see the new listings for Santa Monica for yourself to get an idea of what I’m talking about. Properties that catch my eye include 222 Palisades Avenue, 1024 Palisades Beach Road, 714 7th Street, and 319 14th Street. These four properties all have luxury features and range from 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms to 7 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms, from 2470 square feet to 7587 square feet of floor space, from a sixth to half an acre of lot size. Fantastic places for me, a beloved, a whole bunch of children, and swanky parties.
Too Bad I can’t Afford them…yet?
Prices of these properties? Ranging from $5,695,000 to $16,750,000. Zillow estimates monthly payments (principal, interest, insurance, and property taxes) range from $34,000 to $100,000 a month. Ah, the curse of having expensive taste. It might not be too expensive for me forever, though; my leveraged stock index strategy will grow my wealth long-term faster than this sort of real estate appreciates, so it should come within my price range eventually. How “eventually”? I calculated it yesterday: 25-30 years, or sometime in my sixties. I’m really in decent financial shape; sure, I’d prefer much earlier than my sixties, but even a lifestyle goal as outré as this should be achievable well within my lifetime. Hmph.
Nevertheless, that’s a steep benchmark. I need more intermediate goals. $4000 a month in rent gets me significantly-above-median housing in any city of my choice, such as San Francisco or New York (it’d go further in Los Angeles, which is actually a notch cheaper!). To afford $4000 a month in rent I’ll need to be making 40 times that annually, or $160,000 a year ($13,000 a month).
Back to Square One…but better positioned to get out?
That’s really the bare minimum of what I’d like to achieve in the interim, and already we’re kinda stretching it as far as any regular job I could get locally. But I’ve run the numbers; to accelerate my timeline to within 20 years, i.e. sometime in my forties instead of my sixties, I’m going to have to gradually ramp up from there to mid-six-figures, which means I pretty much have to be self-employed, not an employee. I’ve been ruminating, brooding, and kinda beating myself up over not having any kind of a career, but it would have been a dead end anyway; sure, my current nest egg would be bigger as a result, but I’d have had so little time to do what I really wanted to do to build the life I really want I’d probably be even further behind than I am now!
I’ve also been in something of a mood regarding finding a beloved and starting a family while I’m still young enough for it to really mean anything or be worth doing (or even possible…), despairing at how trapped I am from circles where anyone I find attractive or would want to marry frequents, despairing at not being able to achieve my dreams like I could if I were more privileged, but really, running all these numbers comforts me.
I might not know how to date and find a special someone from where I stand now, but I do know how to grow my money. I can do that! I know how to do it. My intuition tells me that once I have that aspect of my life lined up everything else, including finding that special someone, will fall into place, but even if it doesn’t the thought of being an independently wealthy single doesn’t really bother me. I just need to make something of myself, and to make something of myself I need to be able to envision a life I’d really want that I actually find believable, otherwise I’ll never be motivated enough. Well, thanks to a little spontaneous bout of traveling, I just might have that piece of my life now.