Once upon a time, many, many moons ago, Gary and I were newly married. In the spring of 1985 as we were approaching our 1st anniversary, we were ready to buy our first house.
Like most house-hunting couples, we discussed what we each wanted. Well, we discussed it like people did in the mid 80’s. House Hunters wasn’t on tv yet. We both wanted a back yard. We didn’t know to call it “outdoor space.” And, thankfully for our budget, granite countertops were not necessities at that point in history.
These days, the internet provides all kinds of mortgage calculators to help determine and affordable price range for home seekers. Back then, in the
prehistoric, pre-internet days (how did we survive?!?) the common rule of thumb was to look in the range of three times your annual income.
Given that we were just a year or two out of school, and our future earning potential greatly exceeded our actual earnings, it was really hard for me not to stretch the price range a bit. And then, Gary hit me with what he thought was a great idea.
Me: Why would we do that?
Gary: We don’t really know what may happen in the future. What if you want to stay home when we have kids?
Me: (Stunned silence)
A lot of things were running through my mind. What kind of house can we get for that little money? Why would I want to stay home with kids? (If that last question seems shocking, check out the About Danita page on this site.)
Gary thought it would be safer and we wouldn’t easily get into a financial bind. (Have I mentioned he’s a fiscally conservative CPA?) So, I willingly submitted to his leadership.
Who am I kidding? I don’t remember how I reacted, but looking back at my twenty-something self, I’m pretty sure I quickly hurled 20 extremely logical reasons why my income (future income, I didn’t have much at that point) should be considered in determining a home purchase price.
Fortunately for me, Gary prevailed. It set the stage for what we have come to call “options” in our lives. Here’s a glimpse at what happened in the years following:
1986 — I was employed in a hospital public relations job that paid for 40 hours a week, but required 60ish and we were expecting our first child. It turns out my body reacts violently to being pregnant. The fancy term is hyperemesis gravidarum. The lay description is “pukes all day long for 9 months including during labor.” After a couple of hospitalizations early on, and losing a lot of weight, it seemed a change might be in order. Because we had options, I resigned. With the reduction in stress, I felt much better. Still puked every day (and in labor), but not quite as often. Later, I returned to work part-time. And we kept our house.
1991 – We sold our first home, including the lines on the wall tracking our childrens’ heights, to relocate 3 1/2 hours away. In our new community, we rented and, because we had options I stayed home with the kids for six months to help us all adjust. But my plans were to find a job after that initial adjustment period.
As we looked for a home to buy, I crunched numbers based on my projected income added to Gary’s. And when I say “projected” I mean “made up in my head.” I had neither a job nor a lead. But in my mind, I felt like I was a valuable employee. (Wow. I’m leaving that sentence in, but I believe it borders on grandiose thinking. I’ve always wondered where Andy got his extreme sense of confidence…)
Gary insisted we buy a house based on his income only. (Here we go again!)
1992 (June) – We bought a house and moved in.
1992 (July) – Our precious daughter, Caitlyn was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. For two and a half years, my “job” was as Caitlyn’s primary care giver. She and I logged a lot of miles back and forth for treatment. I also learned a lot about portacaths, chemo and insurance as well as keeping Andy engaged and building our family bonds through serious illness. And because we had options, we were never in danger of losing our house.
2008 – Caitlyn (yes, a cancer survivor) started college.
2009 – I began working full-time in student ministry at our church. While I had worked part-time through the years the kids were in school, this was my first full-time job since before Andy was born. Working with students takes a lot of time and energy. And I had both to give.
2013 – I began having physical problems — joints that hurt with indescribable pain and crippling fatigue. Having learned over the years that stress intensifies physical maladies, Gary and I had a heart to heart. While I loved my role with students, it was getting harder and harder to do it. I no longer had energy to keep up with the job. Soon, because of my limitations, it became more of a job and less of a ministry.
But, thanks to my husband’s wisdom early on, we had options. And last year in July, I exercised that option, and resigned from a position that had become physically overwhelming to me.
Dave Ramsey would say to save up your money until you can pay cash for it. That’s probably good advice. I probably wouldn’t have listened to it. (Please don’t tell Dave I said that.)
Gary Brick would say to only base your mortgage on one income, because you never know what lies around the next corner — and it’s good to have options.
In my opinion — that’s great advice!