November 12, 2014

Why you’re often better off saving for retirement than buying a home

Is homeownership the best way to build wealth? Not for many. A study by HelloWallet found that many would have generated more personal wealth by renting a home and investing their money in tax-advantaged accounts.  As reported in The Washington Post U.S. home prices lost 43% from 2005 to 2012, yet the vast majority of Americans consider home ownership to be a good idea and the best way to build wealth. But is it? For half of current homeowners—the answer is no, according to a new study by HelloWallet. People in those households would have built more wealth by renting and investing their money in 401(k)s, IRAs or other tax-advantaged investments.  Most of the income tax breaks go to the highest earners, thus low to moderate income households subsidize the wealthy. View:  House of Cards: The Misunderstood Consumer Finance of Homeownership
Can you hear the outcry from the real estate industry? So, young adults, think carefully about committing a huge chunk of your future paychecks to the biggest, most expensive house that you can possible “afford” (according to the real estate sales person and mortgage broker who will collect their fat commission at closing and don’t care if you can afford the house in the long run).  Once they have children most Americans aspire to live in a single family house. It’s true that the rental stock is not the same as the stock of homes for sale. Just don’t get suckered into thinking you’re going to get a big tax break. As the study authors point out, the mortgage tax deduction is ripe for revision to end subsidies for the well-off that encourage building of large, unsustainable houses.

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