Posts Tagged ‘returns’

Americans vs. Reality: Why Your Home is Not a Good Investment

Re-posted from: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/05/02/the-uncomfortable-reason-your-home-is-not-a-great.aspx

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Check out the graph below by Noel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller.  The lesson is that a home is great to meet your housing needs, but not great as a long-term investment.  Shiller — who won the Nobel Prize last year — is regarded as the world’s foremost housing expert. He has married historical data with deep insight into human psychology to offer some of the best housing analysis anyone’s ever produced.

“The housing boom in the early 2000s was driven by a sense that housing is a wonderful investment. It was not informed by good history,” Shiller said. Most people now agree on that much.

“If you look at the history of the housing market, it hasn’t been a good provider of capital gains. It is a provider of housing services,” he explained.  By that, he means a home gives you a place to live, a place to sleep, a place to store your stuff.  But that’s it. Americans believed — and still believe — that the value of their home will increase above the rate of inflation.

In the 2000s Shiller noticed that nobody had created a chart tracking national home prices historically, over the long term.  So he did it himself.  “The strange thing is, nobody else had ever made a plot like that. I can tell you, no one had ever seen that picture,” he told me, shaking his head in disbelief. “People plot all kinds of data. Why wouldn’t someone have done that? I still haven’t figured it out.”

The chart, measuring nationwide home prices adjusted for inflation, was this one:

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From 1890 — just three decades after the Civil War — through 2012, home prices adjusted for inflation literally went nowhere. Not a single dime of real growth. For comparison, the S&P 500 increased more than 2,000-fold during that period, adjusted for inflation. And from 1890 to through 1980, real home prices actually declined by about 10%.

It’s important to reiterate what a home does do: It provides a place to live. A place to raise your kids. A place to spend the holidays with your family. A place to barbecue with your neighbors. Even a place to rent out. That has tremendous value, of course. Shiller owns a home. He’d buy another if he needed one. “Basically, if I were in the market right now because I wanted a house, I would buy a house,” he said.

The problem is that Americans expect more out of their homes than just a place to live. In 2010 — years after the housing bubble burst — Shiller’s surveys showed Americans still expected their home to appreciate by more than 6% a year over the following decade. If history is any guide, that’s probably about twice as fast as they’ll actually appreciate by. Despite the housing crash, people still expect stock-like returns out of their homes.

Since a home is most Americans’ largest asset, you can see how this becomes a problem. When you have inflated expectations about the largest asset you own, you walk down the path of financial disappointment.  Everyone should live in a home they can afford and provides the lifestyle they desire. But assuming it’s a superior long-term investment, one to rival stocks, is dangerous.

My addition: Of course, there are exceptions to the general rule some specific areas where homes will increase in value.  Areas undergoing gentrification is a great example of areas that generally appreciate in value.  But the key to remember is that those are exceptions to the general rule.  If you’re buying a home as a long-term investment (and not just to meet your housing needs), make sure you have data to explain why your home is an exception to the rule.

 

Do you really save when you buy discounts?

I was thinking about Black Friday and how hundreds of people camp out overnight to get massive discounts, such as 60-inch flat screen LCD TVs for $150, 70% of laptops, and buy 1 get 1 free digital cameras. Most people go through the hassle of waiting in line and waking up before dawn, so they can save money.  But, do they really save?

My questions to you are: When you buy things on sale, does that mean you’re actually saving money?   Do sales really help you keep more cash in your bank account?

What do you think?

Think about it . . .

A little bit more . . .

Got a final answer?

Alright, time’s up .


My answer: Often discounts and sales actually hurt your bank account! Let me explain with a personal example.

A few years ago, I went into Banana Republic to buy a winter jacket during the after Christmas sale.  I planned to buy one item—a jacket for about $125.  The sales were better than expected! The jacket was marked down from $300 to $32! (You already know what happened next, don’t ya?) I bought more stuff, for a total of 1 jacket, 3 pairs of pants, and 3 tops. The total cost was over $200. I walked out smiling about much money I saved.

But did I actually save money? Here’s the math:

Planned Actual Difference
# of Items 1 7 Bought 6 impulse buys
Average Price per Item $125 $32 Average price per item was about $95 less than expected, due to great discounts
Total Price $125 $225 Spent $100 more than planned, a full Benjamin gone from my bank account

I walked out happy and smiling because I bought 7 items on sale–1 that I needed and 6 that I bought on impulse.  I wasn’t thinking about the bottom line: My bank account was $225 poorer. Did I actually save money?  Was this actually a net plus to my life or finances? No to both!

I can’t tell you how many times I went shopping with the mentality that if I got discounts per item, I saved overall.  It took a while, but it finally sunk in–I save money only when my total shopping bill is less than planned or the extra items are things I needed. (Ladies, I mean need like food, water, shelter, etc. Not the way you “need” another pair of black pumps or a new LBD.)

By buying extra items I didn’t need, I wasted money.  I could have bought just the jacket, and had about $195 to spend on something I really valued.  (Like 3 -4 nights at a hotel in Greece!) Store owners are smart.  They get us in the door with sales, hoping that we’ll buy more overall. 😉

Proving the point that impulse buys often waste money, I rarely wore the 6 impulse buys and no longer even have them.  The jacket, which I needed, has lasted 4+ years, is still worn regularly, and is hanging in my coat closet right now.

Now it’s your turn: When you get discounts, does it feel like you saved money? Even if you spent more overall?