When I get in discussions with others about the benefits or disadvantages of home ownership, almost always, someone brings up the special feeling of having a home.
I bring this up, just because John McCain is perpetuating this myth.
I'm not even going to address the sentimental aspects; renting vs. owning, or what have you. Because sentiment doesn't really enter into it. Buying a house is an investment of at least tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands for most folks. This translates not to a mere investment of money, but of years of your life. Sentiment should inform your decision- you have to absolutely love the place you're buying. You're stuck with it for a long time.
But it can't be the entire driving force. $100K + 6% interest over thirty years is a lot of money to pay for a feeling. In the long run, marijuana is a better choice, if all you want is to feel good.
I'm not trying to get down on home ownership. But the idea that it's this American dream, and that everyone wants to, and should, buy a home, is absurd. It's an emotional appeal in a situation where you need to have a clear head.
It all ties into the automatic nature of growing up in our society. You grow up, you get married, you buy a house, and then you have kids. There's nothing wrong with that plan, per se (it's certainly not the only plan), but it draws people into a major error of thinking:
Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Just because you can get a mortgage and find a house doesn't mean you should. There are so many other factors to take into account: the market, your future job prospects, the likeliness that you're going to move in the next ten years, the rate of saving and your other financial goals (going back to school? investing? starting a business?). Just because you can pop out a kid doesn't mean you should- god gave us condoms and birth control for a reason!
It's okay to rent. It's okay to be a . You don't have to rush through your life according to the instruction manual, but you do have to be smart about your finances. Of course there are things more important than money- but having money makes it a hell of alot easier to enjoy them.
Money is like physical attractiveness: it's not about what you've got, it's about how you use it.