How the Simple And Sustainable View Real Estate Differently And Why You Should,Too – Part 2

Simple living houseIn Part 1, we looked the history of American personal real estate investing. We discovered we had made a mistake thinking that investing in home ownership was the best thing we could ever put our money into. It turns out that houses are just as subject to economic and market pressures as stocks and mutual funds are. So let’s spend just a few minutes discovering a new way to think about home ownership and money.

The Simple, Sustainable crowd want to limit risk and maximize life.  We learned that big, oversized suburban homes, don’t actually improve our lifestyles, they only make them APPEAR to be improved. In reality, those houses have to be filled with stuff. Stuff costs money and generally depreciates in value rather quickly. Financing the typical suburban lifestyle frequently requires multiple incomes, which increases the number of vehicles a household needs. Those vehicles must be purchased, fueled, insured and maintained. The stress of the big circle of the big suburban lifestyle is killing us.

Living Simple, Sustainable lives, means instead of buying as much as we can afford, we look for the minimally viable living space.  It means prioritizing the land over the structures. It means smaller mortgages, spread over shorter periods of time. We think in terms of 15 year mortgages, maximum, and getting them paid off early.

A smaller house is less expensive to buy, to heat and cool, to maintain and to furnish, which reduces our expense requirements even more.  Fewer operating costs allows for faster wealth building or faster mortgage reduction. I bet you can feel your blood pressure dropping just thinking about it.

Besides the financial savings, reduced energy costs benefit the environment by reducing nonrenewable portions of our footprint.

Most Simple, Sustainable lifestyles include growing some, or all of our own food. I’m not just describing the back to the country, homesteaders, like my wife and me. More urban and suburban dwellers are gardening (much of it organic) than at any time since the end of WWII.  Whether the motivation is environmental, financial or nutritional, it’s a win for everyone except big corporations.

Let’s summarize: The Simple, Sustainable, Lifestyle, has less debt, on shorter terms, smaller operating costs, better nutrition, and less stress. We have taken back ownership of our time, our lives and our finances. We are investing in our families and in ourselves, rather than handing our hard earned cash to big banks, insurance, utility and oil companies. We are keeping it and using it for things we value rather than handing over to someone else.

I remember once, a friend parking his big, new, heavily financed truck next to my little runabout commuter car. As we got out and started walking to the office, he said, “Geez, Sam, what is that thing you’re driving?”

“Paid for”, I grinned. Years later, I’m still grinning.

There is a revolution happening all over America. Some haven’t caught on yet, but the movement is growing. Americans are beginning to think differently about real estate and home ownership. Rather than throwing money after the appearance of wealth, we are looking at ways to build REAL, tangible, cash in hand wealth. We have minimized risk, have more liquid assets and own our houses outright. We have less stress and sleep great at night. We’re not afraid of the next economic bubble. We have created a kind of immunity.  We love our simple, sustainable lives. And we’d love to have you join us.

I sure would like hear from y’all. Drop in a comment, or send an email with your thoughts on how you’ve simplified your life, or how you’d like to. After all, we’re in this thing together.






How the Simple and Sustainable View Real Estate Differently Than Most people, And why you should too. Part 1

Real EstateMost of us, especially those of us called, ‘Boomers’, grew up hearing, “Your home is your biggest investment, so buy as much house as you can afford.”  In fact, for many years, some ‘experts’ even encouraged us to refinance every 5 years or so and withdraw the equity in order to invest or to facilitate a lifestyle of consumption.  We assumed equity was an eternally growing organism.

In 2008, we found out the hard way, that real estate was a gamble like any other ‘investment’, and was subject to economic laws and markets. Many people lost their shirts when the housing bubble burst.  I got to keep my shirt, but lost all my equity and then some. Wow was that a tough lesson.  Now I look at real estate a whole new way, just like many others who learned a new kind of prosperity through simplicity.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I knew instinctively that the ‘buy big’ and ‘equity happens’ had ‘baloney’ written all over it, but I chose to ignore my spidey senses and went along with the crowd. Oh, how I wished I’d listened a long time ago.

I don’t remember exactly when I first began to question the generally accepted real estate philosophy, but I remember clearly what I was thinking. I was watching one of those fix it shows on HGTV and was floored at how much the homeowners spent on the makeover. Out of the blue, my brain told me that the perception of real estate held by most Americans was a violation of the laws of thermodynamics; things have a tendency to run down.  It’s called ‘entropy’.  Building materials would always deteriorate and decay. It was inevitable.  Basic physics demanded that barring intervention, appreciation would peak and would be followed by depreciation as the buildings, roads, yards and community infrastructure fell to the laws of thermodynamics.  A drive through the neighborhood I grew up in, confirmed my hypothesis.

On a visit to Kentucky just prior to 9/11, I took my wife to see the house where my sisters and I spent most of our ‘Wonder Years’.  It was a three bedroom, 1.5 bath ranch house.  It was a typical starter home in a typical subdivision, in a typical suburb. Over the years, the idyllic setting where neighborhood children rode bicycles, played backyard ball games during the afternoons, kick the can in the streets on muggy summer nights and dreamed our dreams of what we wanted to be when we grew up, became a place of overgrown trees, dying lawns, crumbling bricks and oft replaced roofs.  The days of property appreciation had long since abandoned the neighborhood just like the children who grew up, moved away and never came back.

Despite what science, logic and my eyes told me, I continued to buy homes, sell them and buy bigger ones, accumulating, rather than eliminating debt.

To be continued…..

In the next installment, I’ll explain how I changed my way of thinking and joined the growing ranks of the simple, sustainable prosperous.  Then I’ll challenge you to do the same.

I love hearing from readers. Please drop a note to offer your feedback, ask questions or just say hi. Also, please consider subscribing to the blog for updates. This month, beginning later this week, everyone who follows and subscribes (need your email to do this), will receive a copy of my list of the best fall garden crops for beginning (and experienced) gardeners to plant. I’ll start emailing those later this month, so I need your email to g

Five Reasons Why This NON GMO Farmer Is Opposed To Mandatory Labeling Of GMO Products

non_gmoSome mornings, my Facebook timeline is virtually over run with updates and promotion of the campaign for mandatory labeling of GMOs. The proponents of labeling are passionate and articulate. They have stated their case well, are well organized and are driving the message as hard as they can.

Unfortunately, IMO at least, they are expending an enormous amount of energy (and money), driving a flag into the wrong hill. The cause sounds noble enough. People have a right to know what’s in the food we eat. But, what if there is a better way to accomplish the goal?  And…what if the ‘mandatory labeling’ goal isn’t really about education and information but about control?  What if the leading voices of the movement have, despite good intentions, become useful idiots in driving home an agenda for more Govt. control and regulation? I’m not trying to start a fight, just thinking out loud.

I don’t like GMOs. I don’t believe they are good for us in the long run (or short run for that matter). I don’t trust the Monsantos, Dows, Cargills and Duponts of the world. I don’t like their agenda(s), which I see as much larger than profits.  I don’t like the way Monsanto has turned large monocrop farmers into indentured servants.  I would never raise a GMO crop. In just a few years they create super weeds and super pests. Then we need newer, stronger herbicides and pesticides poisoning the earth, the air and the water, followed by newer GMO strains to combat the herbicides and pesticides. And on it goes.

Having said that, I don’t believe mandatory labeling is the answer. In the next few paragraphs I’ll share a few reasons why. And for those of you who have grown weary of my voicing my opposition to mandatory labeling, this will be my (hopefully) last post on the matter.

  1. Mandatory Labeling does not address the bigger issue; it merely makes us feel like we’ve done something to protect consumers.

The potential health risks of GMOs are not to be taken lightly, but it is only one facet of the problem. There are broader matters of earth, air, water and the world we’re destroying for future generations. In some ways, it’s like treating one symptom of a severe disease rather than treating the disease itself.

I know that some believe labeling will lead to boycotting of products containing GMOs, which will in turn lead to healthier options. I’m afraid that’s simply naïve. Informed consumers DO read labels, but the average shopper is buying on price, taste and convenience. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, but I AM saying that’s the REALITY of the situation. And it’s not about to change in the near future. There is a much easier, cost effective way to address the informed consumer. Mandatory labeling will not move the needle for the majority.

  1. Mandatory Labeling is a partisan solution that is divisive and plays into a Big Government agenda.

America is divided when it comes to the issue of bigger, more powerful vs smaller, limited Government (by the way that’s not a way of saying Democrat or Republican. There are a few small Govt. Dems and a large number of big Govt. Republicans).  As a free market, fiscally conservative, Libertarian leaning person, I fall squarely in the limited Government camp.

Mandatory labeling leads to more government control and regulations, which strengthens a central Government at the expense of liberty and adds layers to burocracy which is ultimately more expensive to the tax payer and the consumer.  Inevitably, enforcement will be expensive to companies and taxpayers alike. Tax dollars will be diverted from other projects or taxes will rise. Food prices will also rise as companies seek to maintain profit margins.  Again, we’re not talking about what ‘should’ happen, but about what WILL happen.

  1. Ironically, and contradictorily to point 2, Mandatory labeling would force the Government into an openly hypocritical position, and Governments don’t like to be in places like that.

The United States is heavily invested in subsidizing GMO crops. That’s not a secret. Anyone who watches commodity prices or understands the Farm Bills over the years (or who farms corn and soy beans) is well aware of this information. For the Government to subsidize GMO crops with one hand while requiring labeling of products made from those subsidized crops with the other would be farcical. Who would prop up an industry while trying to undermine it at the same time? Heaven help us if that’s the kind of thinking driving our economy.

  1. Mandatory Labeling creates a paradox in the marketing of the whole ‘good food movement’.

We don’t label conventional carrots and potatoes as ‘grown in a chemical soup’, which is what really happens when those root crops sit in soil that has been repeatedly treated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. All that nasty stuff soaks into the ground and bathes the root crop. Yet, we don’t scream for mandatory labeling of root vegetables.

Instead, we promote Organic methods and voluntarily label them as such. Why? Because it’s a positive message and the public responds better to that positive message.

Similarly, we don’t campaign to label conventional beef as “packed full of unhealthy grains, antibiotics and awash in e-coli infused fecal matter”. Instead, we promote the healthier option as ‘humanely raised and grass fed’, which by the way, is a much better message.

Why then, do we want to take a different path in regards to Genetically Modified Organisms when the voluntary, positive message in other areas works so very well?

People DO have a right to know. If we encourage the voluntary labeling of NON GMO products, I believe those producers will get on board and separate themselves from the crowd. I guarantee the absence of such a label would then speak volumes.

  1. Mandatory labeling won’t work until consumers really understand what’s at stake.

As I said earlier, the average American shopper buys on price, taste and convenience. The reasons for that are beyond the scope of this post. I’ll address them at another time. For now we’ll have to forego the why and just deal with the what.  As evidence, I submit that despite the furor a while back re: how much treated dark meat and meat glue go into various chicken nuggets, sales of nuggets and ‘boneless wings’ are still doing well.  People are more interested in what’s cheap and tastes good. Labeling won’t change that. That kind of change will require an entire paradigm shift in the way Americans think about money, health and food.

I’ll stop now. I fully appreciate the motives of many, probably most, of the public promoters of mandatory labeling. I just can’t buy what they’re selling as the best way to effect change. There’s a better way. It occupies the moral high ground. And it’s voluntary. I like that.