The American dream. A house in the suburbs, two children, two cars, and maybe a family dog. It’s the image that’s been seared into the American consciousness via countless television shows: Happy Days, Leave it to Beaver, etc.
The desire continues to run strong in the American landscape. Anybody who has married friends can attest to this. Eventually, it’s out of the bachelor pad and into a suburban home with a manicured lawn.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that this dream is not important to American men. Most guys are content to get the most bang for their buck, whether that means living in an apartment complex, renting a room from a friend, or buying a cheap piece of land in the country. I’ve never met a man who actually dreamed of owning a home in the suburbs.
This desire—to own a suburban home—is dated. While there are some exceptions to this rule (like 1%), this is by and large the case. Americans dream of a future life in an affluent suburb. This raises some questions that all American men, particularly younger ones, should consider.
If you do a cursory review of the numbers, you’ll see the Mount Everest you’re being asked to climb. And you don’t need a PhD in Mathematics to figure out that it’s too expensive to pay for the “American Dream.”
Disagree with me? Well, let’s break down the numbers then…
1. The cost of an average American home is $300,000
This requires a down payment of $60,000 and a $1400/month mortgage payment for the next 30 years.
In January of 2017, the average cost of a home in the US was sitting at a hefty $300,000. So how will you afford this?
Well, first comes the down payment. As many homeowners know, it’s recommended to put 20% down on a property.
Anything lower than this comes with a slew of added costs and stipulations (such as PMI payments, limitations to the amount you can borrow, etc.). So 20% is the prudent move.
Well, 20% of $300,000 is a whopping $60,000! Do you have $60,000 in your savings account? Does your wife/ girlfriend have that money?
Most Americans don’t—not even close. In actuality, most young American men and women are entering their mid-twenties swamped with college loan debt. They’ve been scraping by for the last four to six years.
They’ve been eating Top Ramen and soda crackers. They don’t have $60,000 just lying around the house. If anything, they have $60,000 of debt—each.
But the average American doesn’t care. They must have their dream, regardless of the damage it produces.
So they’ll look to borrow the down payment money from a family member or friend. This is quite common. However, this trend is on the decline. A weakened economy is reducing the wealth of the average American, and fewer older parents have $60,000 to part with.
But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you manage to get the $60,000 down payment. You secure a generous gift from Uncle Joe, who has dementia and two months left to live.
You put $60,000 down on a house worth $300,000—the loan with be roughly $240,000 when you get the keys to move in. Now, the current interest rate on a thirty year fixed income is 4.3%. If you go to bankrate.com, you can calculate the following numbers yourself. You’ll find that a 30 year mortgage at 4.3%, on a total payment of $240,000, comes out to roughly $1300 a month.
2. The house needs to be remodeled and a new car needs to be purchased. You’re now paying roughly $2,000/month
Do you think your old couch from college, the one you’re perfectly fine with, will suffice? You silly child. The entire inside of the house needs to be remodeled (even though fewer friends seem to visit you these days).
The list here can get quite long: sofas, flat screen televisions, dining room tables, hardwood floors, new beds, kitchen remodeling, re-tiling of the bathroom, backyard pool and accompanying jacuzzi, garden landscaping, etc.
What’s the cost for all this? Well, there’s not an official number, but let’s just say it’s pricey. Many couples take out a second mortgage to pay for it. Others will put the tab on the credit card.
I personally know of one couple who spent $150,000 to remodel their house. We can say, conservatively, that the new modifications for the home will cost an extra $300 a month.
Also, a new car (or cars) needs to be purchased. Can’t be seen in a sub par vehicle. You wouldn’t want to endure that, would you? So you pay $10,000 more than you normally would to please an escalating ego.
Purchasing a quality vehicle, of course, comes with a hefty monthly payment. Let’s be conservative and say another $300 a month, on top of the second mortgage you took out for the remodeling.
So remember that $1,300 a month you were paying? Well, with the remodeling costs, along with the new vehicle, add another $700 a month to the bill.
You’re now paying $2,000 a month.
You’re growing more uncomfortable with this. It’s more than you wanted to spend. You notice that you’ve recently developed acid reflux. Also, clumps of your hair have been collecting in the shower drain. And you’re starting to drink earlier in the day. But here comes stage three. Your wife/ girlfriend tells you she’s pregnant.
3. Having two children will cost another $2,000 a month; you’re now paying $4,000 a month
She wants to have two children—a boy and a girl. However, now that your finances are imploding before your eyes, you’re having second thoughts.
How much is this going to cost, anyway?
A recent article by Parenting.com, entitled “The Cost of Raising a Baby” breaks the news to us: “the average middle-income family will spend roughly $12,000 on child-related expenses in their baby’s first year of life.
By age two, parents are up to more than $12,500 per year.” This cost does not diminish, but stays pretty consistent. Wisegeek.org chips in with, “it costs almost $200,000 US Dollars (USD) to raise a child from birth to age 18.” $12,000 a year comes out to an extra $1,000 a month.
So, if you have two children, that’s an extra $2,000 to add to the mix.
That’s $4,000 a month to buy the American dream: a suburban home, remodeling, new transportation, and two children. I repeat, $4,000 a month!
4. The Reality
How much do you need to make to pay for all this? Well, more than $75,000 a year. The website, my360.com, states this point-blank in their article, “You Cannot Afford a $350,000 Home with a $75,000 Household Income!”
And there’s the rub. You see, the average American household only makes $50, 502 a year. So, if you’re an average American family, you’re still $25,000 short, at a minimum, from owning a piece of the American dream.
Financially, the “American Dream” is any man’s nightmare. It’s far too expensive. So it’s best to circumvent the whole thing by not making it a priority or even a desire.
Remember that bad financial decisions affect the trajectory of your life. Money provides opportunities: to travel, to invest, and more importantly, to fund YOUR dreams.
If you squander all your income on a suburban house, your dreams will be like that song from Kansas—“Dust in the Wind.”
Please forward this article to all the young people you know. Lord knows, they won’t hear about it in their Economics 101 course.