Robert Kiyosaki sitting on a bench in the courtyard of his house

Your House is an Asset—that’s a lie

An uptick in adjustable-rate mortgages and being doomed to repeat the past

A cultural right of passage is buying your own home. Many people dream of the day when they get the keys to their own front door, imagining the joy that will come with the monumental achievement of taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal debt.

I’m, of course, only being slightly tongue in cheek.

Your house as a retirement plan?

The reality is that many people desire to buy a home because they think of it as a good investment. And in many cases, homeowners expect their house to be a big part of their retirement plan.

For instance, as Rob Carrick writes for the Canadian “The Globe and Mail,” “In a recent study commissioned by the Investor Office of the Ontario Securities Commission, retirement-related issues topped the list of financial concerns of Ontario residents who were 45 and older. Three-quarters of the 1,516 people in the survey own their own home. Within this group, 37 per cent said they are counting on increases in the value of their home to provide for their retirement.”

The sentiment I’m sure is the same here in the US, and in many places throughout the world.

Lenders in ARMs

This is why I’m not surprised to read that now that housing prices are going up (6.9% year over year in August), risky mortgages are coming back into style.

As CNBC reports, “The number of adjustable-rate mortgage originations jumped just over 40 percent from the first quarter of this year to the second, according to analysis by Inside Mortgage Finance.”

For those needing a refresher, an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, allows potential homeowners to purchase more expensive houses by having lower interest rates than a traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. ARMs are usually offered at one, three, or five years, meaning the interest rate will adjust to market rates after that period. In essence, it’s betting that interest rates will be as low or lower down the road…and that you’ll be in a better financial position to pay more, should the need arise.

You might not be surprised to hear that defaults on ARMs were a big part of why we faced the great recession from 2008 to 2011. And while there are new safeguards in place to ensure that ARMs aren’t given to sub-prime borrowers, there is something of a frenzy that is building around buying homes in the US again. This, again, is because people inherently think they are good investments. After all, don’t housing prices always go up?

That’s what you’d believe if you followed most conventional financial advice.

Where bad financial advice comes from

Rich dad believed that people struggled financially because they make decisions handed down from parent to child, and most people don’t come from financially sound families. He often said that most bad financial advice was handed out at home, which is one reason I am an advocate for financial education in the home.

Of course, for most people, while financial advice starts in the home with old rules like go to school, get a good job, save your money, buy a house, and invest for the long term in a diverse portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds; it doesn’t end there. Many people also take the bad advice their parents give them and compound it with bad advice from financial advisors as they get older.

Many financial advisors will tell you that your house is an asset, but that is untrue. The fact is that when financial advisors say this, they are not really lying, but they aren’t telling the whole truth either. While your house is technically an asset, they just don’t say whose asset it really is.

Your house is not your asset

If you look at a bank statement, it becomes easy to see just whose asset your house really is—the bank’s asset.

Most people do not own a home…they own a mortgage. Those who are financially educated understand that a mortgage doesn’t show up in the asset column on the financial statement. It shows up as a liability. But it does show up on your banker’s balance sheet as an asset as you pay the bank interest every month.

Remember rich dad’s definition of an asset, “Anything that puts money in your pocket. A liability is anything that takes money out of your pocket.”

Just look at your bank statement every month and you’ll see that your home puts no money in your pocket and takes a heck of a lot of it out. This is true even if your house is paid off. Even after you pay off your mortgage, you still have to pay money every month in the form of maintenance costs, taxes, and utilities. And if you don’t pay your property taxes, guess what can happen? The government can take your home. So, who owns your house really?

Don’t buy into a lie

Am I saying don’t buy a house? No. I own a home myself, but I didn’t buy it as an asset or think of it as an investment. I bought it because I wanted to live in it and was willing to pay for the privilege of doing so. Could it appreciate in value? Maybe. But it could also lose me money in the end. I don’t really care.

What I am saying is don’t buy a home and think of it as an asset or investment. That’s just simply a lie. Unfortunately, that lie continues to perpetuate here in the US and around the world. And until it’s finally put to rest, we’ll continue to see booms and busts in the housing marketing.

Original publish date: October 24, 2017

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