Thursday, August 9, 2012

An overly personal rant: I Don't Want to Buy A House Right Now

I'm going to rant a bit about something that's only vaguely related to this blog (the perils of buying a home), so if you're not interested in that, don't click on the jump. I'll understand. (This isn't going to be a regular thing at all, it's just been something on my mind.)


Good news for manufacturing chemists in the housing front, possibly, from Ben Walsh (who works with Felix Salmon, the economics blogger for Reuters):
...There is, however, a bit of good news coming from the housing market, as the WSJ’s Nick Timiraos reports: 
Prices rose by their largest percentage in at least seven years during the second quarter, propelled by low inventories of properties for sale and high demand for bargain-priced foreclosures… Prices rose by 2.5% in June from a year ago, and by 6% from the previous quarter, said CoreLogic Inc., a Santa Ana, Calif., data firm. The quarterly jump was the largest since 2005… Separately, Freddie Mac, which uses a different methodology, said home prices during the second quarter jumped by 4.8% from the previous quarter. That was the largest jump since 2004. 
It’s been long enough since we last saw this kind of rise in home prices that Bill McBride of Calculated Risk thinks it’s worth remembering the economic effects even modest gains in home prices can have. There’s increased profitability at Fannie and Freddie, fewer homeowners with negative equity, lower mortgage delinquency rates, fewer fear-driven sellers adding to excess inventory, and increased private residential investment. That last data point, McBride says, is the “the best leading indicator for the economy”. 
Still, that doesn’t mean that younger Americans are going to become home buyers en masse anytime soon. Not only does student debt loom over many first time buyers, but as Bloomberg’s Caroline Fairchild notes, median wages for college graduates fell 10% from 2009-2011 compared to 2007. As a result of this decreased cash flow, the workforce’s newest entrants prefer to rent; they’re delaying making other large purchasing decisions like cars, too. (emphasis CJ's) 
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A less-indebted and more mobile population should be a source of economic strength. But if, as Felix thinks it will, the housing crisis lasts a full decade, those benefits will largely be wasted in a sputtering economy. We really need a housing recovery: let’s hope Calculated Risk is right, and Felix is wrong. – Ben Walsh
Not that the readers of this blog need any reminder, of course, but the housing sector is rather important to the overall American economy. In addition, many chemists are employed by the different companies that are involved in making the materials in the modern home and household (and the modern car, for that matter.) Good news all around.

I find myself reflected in the bolded statement above. While we are terribly fortunate not to have a student loan debt overhang, we find ourselves renting. (Terrible people, renters (that's a joke, folks.)) We have not purchased a home, even though I've been working in the "real world" for basically the life of this blog.

When I tell people this, they look at me a little weirdly. My parents, God bless them, have wasted a lot of time attempting to get me to think about purchasing a home. (We happen to live in the same area as them, something that was really not planned.) For my parents (and much of their generation), home purchases have worked out really well for them. They've been able to make a little money selling an older home, and they've been prudent with their finances and built, financed and purchased their "dream home" (long before any of the current real estate ridiculousness, I might add.) But just because it's worked out fine for them, doesn't mean it will work out for us.

[Let us stop here and consider the many millions of people in the last ten years for whom housing costs have most certainly not worked out for them. How many people do you know who cannot take another job in chemistry because they're locked into their house?]

When they talk to me about it, the conversation is never about dollars and cents. It's all about "stability" and "owning a piece of land of your own" or "making your mother happy about seeing her grandchildren regularly." While this is all well and good, I see things in a much colder light, courtesy of the New York Times rent/buy calculator:


For the size of home that I wish to buy (not very large, but still above the median home price for the country), it doesn't make sense to buy for a very long time. Will I still be working at my current company in 7 years? Gee, I hope so, but I don't know. Are there any chemists who have worked for the same company for 7 years in these times? Probably, but I'm going to guess that they're a bare majority.

[And there's the matter of the down payment! I am a big, big, big fan of saving. But a down payment is a huge sum of money. What seems more prudent for a chemist these days? Saving for a down payment, or socking away cash for the near-inevitability of job loss?]

For those who have started in the chemical or pharmaceutical industry since 2009 (as I have), I suspect that, as Mr. Walsh has said above, we have delayed the major decisions and purchases of life (marriage, babies, cars and homes.) That's a problem for the country, certainly, but it affects our lives, too. While delaying all of these decisions from 18-22 to 26-29 seems prudent, delaying these issues until people are 34-37 would seem to be a tradeoff that involves real costs.

Readers, I'm sure I'm reacting just as emotionally as my parents, who never cease to inform me of the miraculous benefits of the mortgage interest deduction. Where am I wrong?

48 comments:

  1. I live in Boston--renting makes more sense unless one wants to settle in the frontiers of marginal neighborhoods.

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  2. he thing to keep in mind is that the house you buy is not going to be easy to sell in the near (with depressed market by the huge over-suply) even if you were willing to sell it at loss. So buying house will tie you down. So if you were for any reason to lose your current job, how likely will you be able to find another decent chemist job within a commuting distance?

    I used to be at Scripps FL, I was the first synthetic chemist they hired. I bought a house nearby close the East Coast. After nearly 6 years with the institute I lost my job there but I could not sell the house. I was very lucky to get a very good job with a small biotech in Florida but it is on the Gulf coast so I am renting a small apartment near my work and I get home only on weekends because it it 200 miles away.

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  3. Since I chose a career of a chemist I have resided in four different states, never longer than four years. I am on the verge of going to state #5. Not only I am not buying, I am renting month to month.

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    1. I'm of similar mind and background, although I haven't been fortunate enough to always find places that are month to month and have ended up eating penalties for early lease breaking.

      I'm with you CJ, I'm in no hurry to buy a home, maybe ever. A lot of my friends that own homes have inherited things like homeowner assoc fees, losing all weekends and free time to maintenance or upkeep, or at worst, being upside down on the value of them. And then there's my other friends who sold their house and decided to live in high-rise luxury condos in the middle of downtown for the rest of their lives instead. One of my friends made a good argument that it's probably a pain to have to still worry about rent when you're 70 or 80. Nonetheless, I think I'd prefer to live in walking distance of the downtown bars and be able to call someone to fix my leaky faucet at no cost to me.

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  4. @CJ and others: I agree with the current majority opinion of this thread. Even with "record low" interest rates, home purchases should not be made without extensive cost analysis. As Americans, we tend to overbuy, even when it comes to real estate. For young professionals in high cost-of-living areas, it is usually better to rent. For those living in "cheaper" areas, it is best to avoid buying large properties. Before having kids, condo life is more than adequate; plus condos are typically easier to sell than McMansions. Another important consideration is whether or not one can cover the mortgage and living expenses on a *single* salary.

    I already got burned once, having bought a house right before a layoff. Fortunately, I was able to sell, albeit at a loss.

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  5. I think you're making the right decision, which is a sad reflection of the current economic situation. As you say, given the current near-inevitability of job loss, flexibility is key.
    I couldn't afford to buy a house when I started work back in 1989 aged 27, as even a modest house where I lived was about 6 times my salary. I bought my first house, a maisonette, when I was 30, married when I was 36, and made a 9% loss on the sale of the house when I moved from the UK to the US (fortunately it was 9% of a relatively small number). Then came my lucky break. I bought a house in the US in 2002, and by a combination of making bi-weekly payments (thus paying off the capital as fast as I could) and a 45% increase in the value of the house, I was able to walk away with a substantial sum of money when I had to sell the house in 2011 in order to move to a new job in a new state, having lost my old job in 2009. If I'd bought my house a bit later, or in a different state, it would have been a different story entirely. I bought a new house last year, but only put 20% down, keeping the rest of my profits in the bank as insurance against another possible job loss. Like I say, I was lucky. Hopefully this dreadful economy will turn around at some stage, and the younger folks will get a chance. In the meantime, I think you are right to be cautious.

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  6. thanks for the link to the NYT rent/buy calculator. I hadn't seen that. I do think you are making the right choice, but I think many people make this decision more on emotion than logic, which, at times, is a hard thing to argue against.

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  7. I think you're doing the right thing too, CJ. We bought a house a few years back when my husband took a new job and his company agreed to pay all our closing costs if we bought within a year of our relocation. Now his company is closing up shop, and it's not unreasonable that we'll have to move for him to find a new position. With houses around here having lost 10% of their value since we bought, we'll certainly take a hit. Also, as folks have pointed out, maintaining a home is a real pain.

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    1. Thanks, Beth. I am sure that, in the long, long run, (35+ years) owning your own home is a good idea.

      I also did not mention that renting is its own form of suck. Next year, my landlord could decide that what they really want to do is turn my place into a giant pot farm, and I'd be out of a place to live. So there's that, too.

      [Hey, landlord, want to come fix that light that you promised me that you would, on the day we moved in, 1+ year ago? No? Really? Please?]

      And I'm very sorry about your husband's situation. That really stinks -- best wishes.

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    2. Thanks, CJ. Lots of chemists are in crummy situations. So it goes.

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  8. Chemistry Nomads are We.

    I rent. Always have. And not because the older generation isn't constantly on us about "settling down" or whatnot (I totally feel you there, CJ).

    But, like "somedude" above, I'm on State #4 in a seven year period. Why settle into a mortgage, into a community, put down roots of any kind, when the average tenure at most companies still hovers in the 2-5 year zone?

    We did the math before the last move: even with the rent we're paying, we're still 10-15% under what a comparable mortgage would cost for the area per month, and we aren't responsible for home repairs, property taxes, or fluctuating home values.

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  9. Renting is the way to go for me too. Keep saving until I figure out where to settle. The price of a house is not just the price of buying. Add taxes (insane for Jersey), add maintenance to keep the value of the property, insurance etc. Did I already mention taxes? Now add that during the years you own the house plus the price and mortgage interest... The profit of owning goes away very quickly.
    When I am ready to buy it will be either a condo or a townhouse. I do not see the need to have a humongous house and do not use have of the space.

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  10. I closed on a house two months before one of the big Pfizer mergers was announced, needless to say we lost some money on that one. Bought again for the new job in a different state but only after we calculated we could rent it out and easily cover mortgage, taxes, and insurance if it happens again.

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  11. I've moved once in my career and my company helped with my relocation. I think that is getting rarer and rarer.

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    1. I've moved 3 times for employers. For the largest employer, I received the standard OMG!Generous! package. For the smaller ones, a lump sum that maybe covered 50% of the cost, and the second employer, ~75%.

      We've never gotten help with actually purchasing a home, which seems like it used to happen.

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    2. I've also moved multiple times for employment, all of them a significant distance from one another. Never got more than $2000.

      In my latest job hunting experience, I was told by one company that not only would they not offer relocation, they wouldn't even pay for my flight or accommodations for an interview. They said the local talent pool was strong enough that they didn't feel the need to pay it (bullshit, this wasn't a hub area). While the local talent pool may have been strong, they wouldn't have bothered asking if I was interested in an interview if it was that easy for them to find people. This is just the new normal for us; companies can brazenly tell you what they think you're worth because there's so goddamn many of us they'll find someone else willing to eat shit and call it steak.

      Makes absolutely no sense to set down roots anywhere unless you can get out of science.

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  12. I bought a home, got laid off, and had to move out of state. I now rent out my former home at a minor loss. My current employer is now reducing staff considerably.

    It is very difficult to move forward after this experience. Even though I have been able to save a reasonable emergency fund for a chemist (1.5yrs of living expenses), I now find myself delaying any major life or purchase decision.

    As I see those slightly younger than myself going into home purchases or other life decisions - I can't help but cringe. The optimism of their youth is beautiful... I just hope the economy doesn't crush their dreams as it did my own.

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  13. You are absolutely right..put off buying a home for 5 years and a baby for couple. I have no idea where this industry is headed.

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  14. The mortgage interest deduction is a myth. Do the math on the deduction versus owning the home outright.

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    1. Could you be more specific? I'm inclined to believe, but I'd like to hear more.

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  15. Example: A guy in the 25% tax bracket has a 200K mortgage on his house at 3%. Therefore, he pays $6000 in interest to the bank per year (3% of 200K). He is also allowed to deduct that $6000 of interest on his taxes that year. Because he is in the 25% tax bracket, he saves $1500 dollars on his taxes (25% of $6000). So, this poor fellow has sent a bank $6000 dollars in one year to avoid sending the US government $1500 dollars. Net loss of $4500.

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    1. The other thing that depressed me was the rule of 70 (or 72, or whatever).
      Take n as the interest rate (e.g. 7%) and divide 70 by it (gives 10). That's the number of years your loan amount will double (here, 10 years). A 5% loan doubles in 14 years, 6% loan in 11.66 years, etc.


      It does work in reverse for compound interest, but who has $200k in the bank at 7%.

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  16. I think too many people look at home ownership from a strictly investment point of view, rather than as a place to live with some stability. I think this is incorrect (note, I make my living investing, and am pretty ruthless when it comes to ROIC).

    To be clear, I'd likely not be so sanguine if i had had to move cities more than 2X in past 5 years. It really sucks that pursuing a career trying to make drugs to cure diseases is so difficult.

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    1. I was hoping that you would comment on this. I think, in the long run (20+ years), you're right that you cannot look at it from a strictly dollars-and-cents POV. But in the short term (<10 years), I can't see anything but risk with little hope of benefit. Sigh.

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  17. I own a house we bought 5 years ago, and probably never will again. Since the beginning of the year, we have replaced an HVAC, starting looking into replacing the roofs on our porch and carport (doesn't seem to be a huge deal, but it is leaking and will probably collapse pretty soon. flat roofs - the engineering equivalent to the square wheel!), had BATS, mice, the house was hit by lightning, we have a pool and the liner sprung a leak and currently is a mosquito habitat, and now our 25 year old roof is leaking. Yes, we need to replace the roof, but just have run out of money!

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  18. Prof. Piggington bought in the last year. If you have any semblence of stability in your life it is a good idea...
    http://piggington.com/

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  19. I'm not as down on owning a home (I have a condo, and live in a low-cost-of-living area) but the reticence is pretty reasonable.

    1) I rented for a long time, and bought when I was getting ready to marry (more or less, at the top of the housing bubble). A guy in school for his MBA at the time equated home ownership to a forced (long term) investment plan, so you have to decide if the investment is likely to pan out, in the absence of any other uncertainty. Since the market has fallen a lot, it may be, but there's also the uncertainty with the economy (Europe, US Congress and populace's inability to agree on what to do with debt and health care and SSI). Also, selling a house involves a chunk of change with realtor fees (> 9%), and it has to appreciate a lot just to break even.

    2) I don't think the mortgage deduction is BS - if you rent, you're still paying that interest for the owner (he's got to pay his mortgage and taxes), but you can't deduct it. However, the mortgage deduction and killing the property tax deduction were the major portions of tax reform recommended to get rid of the alternative minimum tax, and they may change those deductions for other reasons. For me, the deductions have been positive, but they could change, and so I don't know whether you can factor them into the benefit of owning a home.

    3) Repair hasn't been bad for us, but my wife's dad helps a lot and there are still lots of things to fix that we haven't. If we needed to sell, they would all come up at once, which makes losing a job even worse.

    However, a significant positive for owning a home is access to education. I live in OH, where we are supposed to provide every child with an education, but only in theory [and have been flouting that rule for twenty years since the State Supreme Court said that our funding system violated the state constitution]. The municipalities in the area I live in have drastically different qualities of schools, and my impression (not quite ex recto, but close), is that rental property is less common in the towns with good schools. Where I live, renting can make it hard to get children into good schools (although overbuilding of condos where I am meant that properties opened up for rental that would have been for owning only, because builders drastically overestimated how dumb people were). I don't know if that's true of other places, but I think so.

    The things we value and need to achieve in life (relationships of all sorts, children) require the ability to manage stability, but the way we organize our economy doesn't allow for stability. I don't know what to do with that.

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  20. You should note that the NYTimes buy/rent calculator takes it account "lost opportunity costs", which assumes you invest your down payment rather than keeping it in the bank (although you can modify this in the advanced settings). It also does not take into account overpayments etc, which mean that you can target your principle and pay it off faster while keeping a low interest rate.
    Still a useful resource, also it is nice to know I made the right financial decision buying rather than renting!

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  21. I got tons of pressure from everyone when living on the W coast "You're crazy to rent! You haffta buy! Think of all the money you're wasting!".... and all those people are now *very significantly* underwater, many laid off on top of that. All the golden platitudes (home ownership, 401k, interest rates in the 6% range etc etc) of the previous generation are just that. We're in unchartered territory and everyone needs to make their own wise decisions- the employment and investment wisdom everyone has relayed on for ages is done, done, done.

    Seriously, how the hell do you plan for retirement, when just keeping employed is nearly impossible?

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    1. Nevermind that many employers don't even offer retirement packages, even 401Ks. I'm part of a small company, and we don't have anything other than "hey, save for the future!" Maybe that's part of the 'small company discount' I always hear about.

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  22. The far bigger expense compared to a house is for children (if you're interested in having kids). We have one 2-year-old daughter, whom we love more than anything and would love to have another. However, for the average state school, the projected total costs for her 4-year undergraduate education is $352,000 (that includes estimates for room-and-board, food, tuition, fees, books, etc.)

    That $352,000 college "bill" is due in 14 years. Our modest home's mortgage is just over half of that, and that is technically payable over 30 years.

    Of course other parents just say that the kid can take out loans for their college. My wife and I cannot imagine our daughter graduating with $300k+ of debt for her undergraduate degree and having to dig out of that hole. Hence, we reluctantly will likely will choose to not have any more children.

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    1. Your daughter is going to college at 16?

      [I understand the dilemma you face. We're trying to deal with it via 529 plans, etc. Obviously, that's not nearly sufficient. One presumes that the cost of college cannot possibly keep rising faster than inflation.]

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    2. It sounds like strayxray may be overthinking it a bit.... It gives me the mental image of the yuppie couple from the beginning of "Idiocracy."

      The costs of college probably won't look so bad in 15+ years. I mean, when i was a kid, $20K for a car would have sounded outlandish.

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    3. Well, her 3rd birthday is in 2 weeks, so it's pretty close to 14-15 years. Regardless, the point is that college expenses per child are "due" in half the time of 30-yr mortgages.

      I certainly hope that I'm overthinking things and that the college-costs bubble pops, but until I see that happen, I have to continue to assume 5-7% yearly increases in college costs. I am more hopeful that the 529 account will start actually growing money instead of being basically flat (at least it is no longer 20% down from what I contributed).

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    4. I agree that sort of planning is prudent; horrifyingly, a 529 account that's invested relatively modestly (in the Vanguard 529, say) is potentially unlikely to keep up w/5-7% yearly increases.

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    5. " a 529 account that's invested relatively modestly"

      Unfortunately most people I know who stared 529s before Sept. 2008 are well underwater.

      These 529s are just another scam of the MF industry to suck maintenance fees out of an unsuspecting public. Nice work for the fund managers, though.

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    6. Yeah, i got pressured into having a more 'managed' fund at the same time, and next thing i knew: -30%. Today, with their active assistance, i'm 'only' -20%.

      What i'm saying is, i hate them but i don't have a solution that doesn't involve taking my money out and locking in my losses.

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  23. One of the things that we don't consider often enough is the sustainability of the housing market and its associated impacts. (A note, this opinion is one from a denizen of the Metro Detroit area, a bastion of blight and sprawl, lack of infrastructure and economy other than the auto industry). Building new houses all the time takes resources, many of which are not sustainable, at least at our current state of technology. New housing requires us to move farther and farther away from the places where we work. This requires investments in infrastructure which our state and local governments don't seem to be willing to put up, nor do the car-consuming general populace really think about at this point. As the older neighborhoods begin to decay there is less interest in building business and infrastructure in these areas which pushes residents further away. It really does seem like a vicious cycle to me. I can say that there are people in my area who feel the same way and are starting to buy up potentioally valuable properties and reserve them for new infrastructure, commercial use, and better planned residential areas (midtown area, the old Cass corridor). This has been a long time coming in this area it will be a long time before Detroit turns into one of the new models such as the Federal Hills area of Baltimore. I will be renting a while longer, that's for sure.

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  24. Stayxray: That estimate for college is outrageously wrong. I think you need to do more research.

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    1. Uh, a little more detail than an assertion would be clarifying.

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    2. Here is an example cost estimator, but most others (or just paper and pencil) will give very similar numbers:

      http://www3.troweprice.com/retailtools/collegeInvestment/pages/collegeInvestment/maryLand/cicStart.do?viewType=MD

      It is a worst-case scenario calculation, I admit that. A more optimistic calculation puts a student entering in 2027 as costing $230,224.

      We're in Minnesota, so I default to the dominant university here (U of MN). For 2011-2012, tuition was $11,650, room & board was $7,834, textbooks $1,000, fees $1,348 for a total yearly expense of $21,832.

      I'm suspect of actually getting all of your textbooks for $1,000 a year, but that's probably a fine estimate for now. As for room & board, I'm afraid to think of the type of place you can get for rent/food/heat/electric/water/trash for $653 a month, but again, I'll take that as an estimate.

      Assuming 6% inflation for college expenses, that's $230,224. Assuming just under 9% inflation gives you closer to that $352,000 value I got two years ago. I like to keep that higher value in mind, because rarely do estimates come out over actual costs when planning 15 years out.

      Yes, she may get scholarships and be brilliant and get a discount. I may not want to have her live off of $650 a month for everything (apt/food/utilities/supplies), so her housing may be more. She may decide she wants to go to a fancy school, but I'll let her burden the excess cost.

      No matter how drastically the college inflation rate is going to drop, you're still looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars for people having kids now. That's a mortgage that is only 15 years away.

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    3. I went to the link trowe link above and found that the big state school where I did my Ph.D charges just under 9k for annual undergrad tuition, and the small state school where I did my BS charges just under 6k. In undergrad, I was able to earn 3k/yr in scholarships and was able to live with the parents and still manage a 30 minute commute. While doing my Ph.D., I lived in a new-construction townhome (although only 650 sqft) for $575 including internet/cable, so I don't think the ~$650/mo for living expenses is too far off either, at least from my neck of the woods.

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  25. @strayxray: Hopefully your daughter will qualify for some form of grant or scholarship. I think your estimate is off, but only by a little bit. Currently, the cost of attending most private universities, assuming no financial aid, is between $55K and $60K per year. Even attending a state school while not living with parents will incur $25K to $30K per year, again assuming no financial aid. As with real estate, it is important to make a wise choices in education/career development. Unless you win the lottery, you should strongly discourage your daughter from pursuing fluff degrees like anthropology or, dare I say it, chemistry.

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  26. Correct, the current average is 59K/year for public state schools. At the current pace of cost inflation, about 230K is a reasonable estimate. However, who says that the parents have to provide all of that? First, there are community colleges that are dirt cheap to attend for the first two years. Add in scholarships and the student working 20 hours per week while in school and during summers and they can get a college degree with zero debt. I know many people whose kids have done this. In fact, there are studies that report that students who work during college are more successful and more attractive to employers throughout their lifetime.

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  27. PS. "fancy schools" are not worth it by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, you are the parent and she is the child. The child does not decide where to go to school.

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    1. The 'child' will be 18 when she enrolls in college, and thus able to do whatever she damn well pleases. However, nothing requires parents to pay for whatever that is.

      I did go to a 'fancy school' for undergrad, and definitely wish I had at least been better informed about the costs. I am fortunate to have a great job, but having to pay back student loans instead of putting that money towards emergency fund/house down payment is rather depressing when I realize that had I chosen my state school (or heck, one of the other private schools that wasn't quite as prestigious but offered me more $$) I would have graduated debt free. But as a 17 yr old making that decision, and having been told for many years that the entire goal of high school was to get into the *best* college possible, and having NO concept of how expensive college is compared to what you can hope to earn in your first post-college job... I picked the 'best' school, which was (of course) the most expensive.

      But then again, my work at the 'fancy school' got me into the great grad program which got me my great job, so perhaps if I had gone to the state school i wouldn't have gone to my grad program, and if I hadn't gone there then I doubt I'd have my current job now.

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  28. I read somewhere that moving from place to place all the time makes you care about the people you're around a lot less. I don't mean the family and kids, but the neighbors and various other folks in town. It makes perfect sense. If you live in a place for a long time, then you see people pretty often, meet them in bars over the years, and expect their children to associate with your children later on. So you start to feel a bit of camaraderie and go out and volunteer to teach to disadvantaged children or at the local theater or something. You give money to local charities. And if you do all that, then you probably give money to bigger charities as well and probably start thinking about paying your taxes instead of hiding as much of the moolah as possible in your Luxembourg account as in the previous years. You know, because it helps out the nation and makes you feel better when you do the right thing and help out a nation in need of your money.

    But when you know you're probably going to move in a few years... who cares about the bucktoothed lot across the street? Screw them all and their little shitty town in which you're renting a house until the local branch of your pharma company goes under. Then you can get out of there and it's on to bigger and better things. Hopefully, at least.

    Well, you can see where all this is going with social responsibility and caring for your fellow American. I think the last time I volunteered was at the beginning of grad school because I felt I was living in this city for a long time and I wanted to contribute to it. Do all the people who move around so often contribute a lot or as much to their local community as home owners who stay there for a long time? Because if you don't care about the locals, why should you care for them on a national level? I know I didn't. And that's one of the reasons why I left the country.

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  29. I can't imagine being the children of some of the people on here. A child does not decide where to go to school? While parents should definitely have an OPINION, the ultimate decision is up to the YOUNG ADULT and where they think they can get the best education. While parents may have an extraordinarily good understanding of their kids, they cannot (I say this as a generalization, and I think it's a fair one) choose the best place for their children to go to school.

    Also, community colleges are good but only for some majors. If you want to be an engineer, going to a community college vs. your desired end program is often not advantageous because most programs have classes that must be taken specifically for that discipline. While you could get your basic classes out of the way, often times you must still attend the school for 3.5-4 years to take the mandatory discipline specific classes in the order they are offered. Chemistry, luckily, falls a little bit on the other end where the introductory classes are, mostly, available at CC's.

    Just a nitpick, 50-60k applies to private schools, not state schools. Tuition at large state schools is about 18-22k with an additional 5-10k in miscellaneous costs. And just a personal throw in, I think that a parents job extends beyond making sure your kids make it to 18 alive. I don't believe parents should pay the full cost of college if they cannot, but I don't believe they should strap their children with 120k of debt either. If both parties do their jobs (parents raise their children well, save for college; children do well in school and get scholarships), then the cost of school at public universities is often much lower. I also believe that once they reach college, they are a full-time student and should not have to juggle a part-time job in addition to a rigorous course load. The old mantra of every hour of class should go with 2 hours of studying no longer applies. From personal experience, it is more like 3-4 hours of studying so an 18 credit course load (which could actually be closer to 21 hours of lecture and lab time) would also be accompanied by close to 60-80 hours of extra work that needs to be done. Throwing a job on top of that just seems like added responsibility that shouldn't be leveled against a young adult with a lot of their plate already. I also come from a family that saved well and helped me a lot financially (my brother and my sister got the same treatment) and plan to do the same for my children.

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