Our home is our castle, our core value of security for ourselves and our family. It is a foundation of security and survival – our most basic need fulfilled. It also symbolizes and fulfills a higher need of meaning; i.e. that we have achieved a symbol of success in providing for ourselves and those we love.
Yet, so many Americans didn’t protect themselves and miscalculated the true value of their home. They perceived it as an investment that had accumulated cash value that could be used for whatever, whenever. They gambled with what they prized most and are now suffering the consequences. They gambled with their precious possession trading off its security for short-term stuff – less precious stuff.
In the end, stuff never fulfills the security need nor is it fulfilling for the soul. So now Americans recently polled by Fannie Mae http://www.fanniemae.com/newsreleases/2010/4989.jhtml?p=Media&s=News+Releases find themselves less enamored with home ownership and are less likely to take risks related to buying a home. This change in attitude may be temporary or it could be a sustainable shift in attitude.
This shift in attitude may become permanent if people are not connecting the dots or making the appropriate attributions for what caused that investment to be risky. It’s not home ownership that created the predicament; it is what homeowners did with that asset. Some people – too many people– used their home as an investment that they foolishly felt was a cash machine with a bottomless source of cash for their short-term whims. It was never meant to be used or perceived as an ATM machine, nor was it to be perceived as an investment. It is considered by experts to be a “non-performing asset”. It’s not meant to be an investment if it is your primary place to live.
It is important to perceive and attribute causes for predicaments of loss correctly so previous mistakes won’t be repeated, appropriate choices will be made in the future and meaningful rewards will still be sought such as owning one’s own home.
Unfortunately, this is just another example of financially naive consumers making self-sabotaging decisions under the influence of savvy self-serving salespeople. It is also an unfortunate example of the powers of emotions managing our inappropriate use of money, so education must be two-fold: facts and personal psychology.
In the end, we are in charge and the managers of our security needs and should respect them. Our homes can be our castles of well-being if we care for them as an extension of ourselves and what makes us most content. We don’t have to give up on that reality and dream if we don’t give up on ourselves and making the best use of our money. See www.kathleengurney.com.