From the July 2006 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Trading Up, at a Cost

We live in an emotionally adolescent culture that focuses mainly on short-term solutions. Many of us are not well trained in delaying gratification. We don't save as much as we should and spend more than we need to. Feelings of boredom, emptiness, or low self-esteem can prompt us to try to fill ourselves up with things. Big houses that allow us to keep up with or overtake the Joneses are part of this problem.

When it comes to clients who insist on buying bigger houses than they can really afford, I encourage you to help them think about what matters most to them, now and in the future. Where does the attachment to a big, fancy house come from? Do they have a plan that will help them keep the house if they can't afford the payments later?

I would also ask if they have friends who live in a home their own budget can comfortably afford. Do they know anyone else who is forced by high mortgage payments to work two jobs or juggle money to pay bills? Which of these groups tends to be happier and more relaxed? By investigating these deeper questions and illuminating the landscape of home financing, you may be able to lead your clients to consider their appetites and their options more carefully and thoughtfully.

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