Where Will I Live?

Lewis Walker |

The Book of Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve lived in comfort and security in the Garden of Eden. Then temptation got the best of them. They ate of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, and God banished them from Paradise. And so began mankind’s ongoing quest to find shelter and other necessities of life, including food, water, and security.

Early man lived in caves, stick and mud huts, animal skin shelters, and even ice blocks in Arctic regions. Following the predominate hunter-gatherer phase and the advancement of planting and harvesting, villages, towns, and cities emerged. Then cars replaced horses and wagons and we got insufferable traffic! And so it goes.

When we’re young, our parents or guardians determine where we live. When we leave the nest we are faced with a multiplicity of choices and questions, as are parents who may keep The Bank of Mom and Dad open for some time. Financial planning enters the picture. For the college bound does one live on-campus or off-campus? Dorm, frat or sorority house, apartment? Living arrangements and commuting costs must be factored into college planning.

If one joins the military, as this writer did upon graduating from college, one’s rank, housing allowance, and assignment may factor into living quarter options, on base, or off base. When one enters the civilian work force, choices multiply along with budget considerations. For example, in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, apartment rents range from $1,325 per month to as much as $15,432 a month, with an average monthly rent of $3,082. Buckhead appeals with a wide range of restaurants, bars, and entertainment options, but may be budget busting for many.

Conversely, in the fast growing Cumming area of Forsyth County, the median apartment rent is $2,200 a month. But a commute up and down traffic clogged Georgia 400 is not my idea of a good time. By way of contrast, the average monthly rent for an apartment in Manhattan, New York City, is $4,768, plus you have bloodletting city and state income taxes to deal with on top of federal taxes and other considerations such as health insurance. No wonder the Sunbelt is booming, with lower taxes and more affordable housing options.

If you’re going to stay in one place for a time, consider buying a house, an appreciating asset, an important step in a long-term inflation hedging and tax smart wealth accumulation program. In the early 1970s this writer accepted a job transfer from Chicago to Atlanta and was stunned at how much house my wife and I could get for the money. Our first house as a married couple was in Crystal Lake, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. On selling we made a good profit even though we’d owned it for only two years, allowing us to make a healthy down payment on a home in Stone Mountain. As a side note, I had a seven percent interest rate on my mortgage, a bargain in the highly inflationary seventies. According to nerdwallet.com, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan quoted on 2/2/2024 was 6.554%. That’s more than the ridiculously almost free money rates of the recent past, but it is manageable within a well-thought-out budgeting and long-range financial plan. 

As you move through the cycles of life, your housing needs or preferences may change. Many empty nesters are challenged when they determine that “downsizing” and moving may result in paying more for the home they want. If you move further out to a booming and relatively new area where property taxes are lower, eventually taxes catch up. Staying put often is the result. But the realities of aging must be considered. If you lose your spouse, do you age in place? Where is your support network as a widow or widower living alone? The same question may be asked by a late-in-life divorcee. Do you have adult children nearby? Or are you the “go-to child” for an aging parent or other loved one and how close to them are you geographically?

With less sand in your hourglass you may move to an adult living community or a situation with various levels of care available, right down to nursing or hospice care. All of these possibilities must be considered in a long term comprehensive financial plan. Your ultimate goal is financial independence, being able to afford the best if need be, and never being a financial burden on children or other loved ones.

We humans are a unique mix of the material and spiritual, body and soul. At some point you will leave your physical essence and all of your earthly possessions behind. Since God promises eternal life, where will you reside in the hereafter? As children of God we have been promised a glorious home in Heaven, well beyond any earthly abode that we can imagine. All we need to do is to follow God’s teachings as to rules of conduct and service. How does your life plan, your financial plan, encompass spiritual and eternal aspirations? That’s something to think about.