Author Topic: Building my dream home, or my prison...  (Read 3361 times)

maxpower

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Building my dream home, or my prison...
« on: April 02, 2019, 02:23:18 PM »
A few years ago I posted some progress updates on a home that my family and I were building ourselves. It was a fairly impressive feat, if I do say so myself. “You’re living the dream!”, someone said. And indeed, I was. By mustachian standards, I was winning. Debt free, self-reliant, learning new skills, getting in great shape. Life was good…

However, I’m not sure how to evaluate the whole project anymore, and here’s why. Since moving in, we’ve been saving up a pot of cash, in addition to continuing to save towards our early retirement goals, to build a garage/studio + breezeway. I’m turning 40 this year. We have been shooting to flip mandatory work the bird by the time I hit 45-ish. We’ve got $230,000 in our investment accounts and are presently contributing 40,000 per year. Once we are not pouring money into construction projects we should be able to save another 30,000 per year, …if current income realities hold.

Trouble is… my wife’s job, which is the real money maker, is K I L L I N G her.

She makes big city money while we live in a small town, due to her scoring a remote working gig. There’s nothing even close to her caliber around here. She knows our goals, and thus feels enormous pressure to keep slogging through in order to liberate us completely in five years. Five years is a long time to ask someone to put up with a soul crushing work situation. It’s hard on her and the whole family.

And so here we stand on the doorstep of summer, construction plans in hand, bids in place, ready to begin work on a $60,000-70,000 addition to the home we began. I’ll be doing much of the work myself again. We have $40,000 saved. We’ll need to draw from a HELOC to finish it off. She really wants a garage. She’s tired of walking though the mud and shoveling her car out of a snow bank. She really wants the upstairs studio, a space to reconnect with her art. And she is very very tired of my “garage” being distributed evenly throughout our house! But this is even more PRESSURE to stick with a work situation that screws with her head on a daily basis.

The typical mustachian schtick would have one live well below one's means, invest the rest efficiently, then say goodby to mandatory work ASAP and get on with more self-actualizing ways of being in the world.

I don’t feel like we’re doing that anymore.

But even more, I get the feeling that there’s a point at which the drive towards early retirement becomes more of an affliction than salvation.

It’s a muddy, cold, windy, sad day here today. I should probably not be thinking big thoughts, but here we are.

RWD

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2019, 02:36:39 PM »
Sounds like a difficult situation. What's your question?

therethere

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2019, 02:50:43 PM »
To me it sounds like a lot of those complaints are just resulting from stress and the drudgery of life in general. Any way you could carve some time after work to allow her to work on her art a 1-2 nights a week in a dedicated corner for now? What about a studio shed? Any interim organizing solutions you could take on to get rid of the crap in the way of day to day life?

Encourage some self care and time out of the house to destress. A remote job plus building your own house from scratch sounds like a lot of time spent at home. And a lot of time to find "problems" and let your mind escalate them.


maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2019, 02:54:15 PM »
Sounds like a difficult situation. What's your question?

Ah, sure. I suppose there ought to be questions:

How much pain is worth enduring for the sake of a great deal of future freedom?

Should we just put the project on hold, invest the money, then I can build the whole damn thing myself once we are retired?

Has anyone decided to just punt on the whole early retirement thing, take a part time job that meets one's needs, and just let the savings marinate for a few decades?

Or, assuming she keeps the job, how does one mentally compartmentalize the job as a means towards an end? She knows she shouldn't let the BS affect her, but she can't help it...

Pick whichever seems most interesting.

JLee

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2019, 02:56:57 PM »
What about an inexpensive interim solution, i.e. a basic carport that would alleviate the snow/mud parking situation?

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2019, 03:07:51 PM »
To me it sounds like a lot of those complaints are just resulting from stress and the drudgery of life in general...

Thanks for that, therethere. Definitely good thoughts. Regardless of how we move forward, these should definitely be put into practice. It's been a hard winter for my job. I've been gone late into the night and regularly working 15 hour days. The kids have been sick all week. My mom's detached garage that housed many of our belongings flooded... then froze. Our house doesn't provide a lot of psychological space. We're all kind of crammed in here. She's been living either in her mother-in-law's basement, or in the middle of a construction site for three years... and before that, dealing with me finishing a Phd!

Don't get me wrong, we've got it good and we know it. But still, she's had to deal with a lot.

maxpower

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Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2019, 03:10:38 PM »
What about an inexpensive interim solution, i.e. a basic carport that would alleviate the snow/mud parking situation?

Right? Between that and a tool shed a great deal of this could be dealt with. She would however need to deal with a lot of the finishing work on the house waiting. I need more space to finish trim and cut wood. So the question then boils down to... "what is more important to you?" Something none of you can really answer for us...
« Last Edit: April 02, 2019, 05:23:09 PM by maxpower »

RWD

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2019, 03:13:29 PM »
Sounds like a difficult situation. What's your question?

Ah, sure. I suppose there ought to be questions:

How much pain is worth enduring for the sake of a great deal of future freedom?

Should we just put the project on hold, invest the money, then I can build the whole damn thing myself once we are retired?

Has anyone decided to just punt on the whole early retirement thing, take a part time job that meets one's needs, and just let the savings marinate for a few decades?

Or, assuming she keeps the job, how does one mentally compartmentalize the job as a means towards an end? She knows she shouldn't let the BS affect her, but she can't help it...

Pick whichever seems most interesting.

This is the "Ask a Mustachian" section after all. :)

The Mustachian philosophy is that you should be enjoying your life now while realizing that spending money does not equate happiness. Your situation is difficult because it sounds non-trivial for your wife to find a job that she can be happy with without taking a huge paycut. I sympathize because my wife is in a similar situation.

Have you run the numbers on how much this project is delaying your retirement (doing it now versus waiting)?

Look up "CoastFI". A lot of people follow that path.

The art of not caring at work is hard for some people (and for certain jobs). It seems impossible for my wife. It's easy for me. In general concentrating only on the things within your circle of control and setting good boundaries as to your job responsibilities/hours is the way to go.

TrMama

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2019, 03:48:10 PM »
It sounds like you're being owned by your possessions. You have to work hard to build a big structure to house all your stuff. How different would your lives look if you owned less stuff? Do you own a bunch of tools so you can build yourself a bigger house? Seems redundant to me . . .

If you can't go down to 90% less stuff, could you manage with a basic kit shed for the stuff and a portable shelter for the car? They make very sturdy ones in Quebec and they're all that 90% of the locals use to keep their cars mostly free of snow in the winter. We had one, and while I didn't love it I wouldn't sign up for years more work to trade it for a stick built garage.

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2019, 03:57:34 PM »
This is the "Ask a Mustachian" section after all. :)

The Mustachian philosophy is that you should be enjoying your life now while realizing that spending money does not equate happiness. Your situation is difficult because it sounds non-trivial for your wife to find a job that she can be happy with without taking a huge paycut. I sympathize because my wife is in a similar situation.

Have you run the numbers on how much this project is delaying your retirement (doing it now versus waiting)?

Look up "CoastFI". A lot of people follow that path.

The art of not caring at work is hard for some people (and for certain jobs). It seems impossible for my wife. It's easy for me. In general concentrating only on the things within your circle of control and setting good boundaries as to your job responsibilities/hours is the way to go.

Very good stuff, RWD, especially the "Coast FI" term. I did not realize that there was a word for an option that I've been batting around lately.

I have run the numbers on doing the garage/studio now vs waiting. It's about one year of life, if I factor in labor savings for me building it myself, but not accounting for material cost fluctuations.

Any good resources for only caring as much as your job deserves? I know the single most crushing issue for her is the emotional energy she expends on factors outside of her "circle of control." She's gotten a lot better at boundaries, but it could always improve.

Thanks!

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2019, 04:08:19 PM »
It sounds like you're being owned by your possessions...

...Yup?

I'm pretty sure that a few relatively low cost additions could solve a lot of it. I'd still be lacking a heated, clean location to do car repairs (my job requires a car), and other various shop related activities. I would need to keep borrowing my Mom's garage to use as a shop for my side business building motorcycle seats. We wouldn't have a dedicated makers space, which is something we both enjoy, retired or not.

But you're right, having less stuff would mean having less stuff to store, repair, protect, etc.

It's a serious question I need to ask myself.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2019, 04:51:57 PM »
It sounds like you're being owned by your possessions...

...Yup?

I'm pretty sure that a few relatively low cost additions could solve a lot of it. I'd still be lacking a heated, clean location to do car repairs (my job requires a car), and other various shop related activities. I would need to keep borrowing my Mom's garage to use as a shop for my side business building motorcycle seats. We wouldn't have a dedicated makers space, which is something we both enjoy, retired or not.

But you're right, having less stuff would mean having less stuff to store, repair, protect, etc.

It's a serious question I need to ask myself.

"I've been gone late into the night and regularly working 15 hour days."  How do you have time for a side job?  Given your wife's high stress job is bringing in the big money, maybe drop the side job for now and give her a break?  Working at home means it is really hard to put work away when you are done.  I know, I taught College and brought masses of work home, which looking back was not good for the family (2 College teachers, 2 people overloaded, definitely not good).  Any spare time/energy could be used to make the house more livable for both of you (and this does include a garage/carport and and other new areas, if that is what is needed).

I'm with her on the car parking situation - no more mud, no more scraping snow/ice off the car - her car needs protection and a proper base (concrete, gravel, not mud).


maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2019, 06:16:15 AM »
How do you have time for a side job?  Given your wife's high stress job is bringing in the big money, maybe drop the side job for now and give her a break?  Working at home means it is really hard to put work away when you are done.  I know, I taught College and brought masses of work home, which looking back was not good for the family (2 College teachers, 2 people overloaded, definitely not good).  Any spare time/energy could be used to make the house more livable for both of you (and this does include a garage/carport and and other new areas, if that is what is needed).

It's just been a tough winter. I'm a utility meter reader. There's been tons of snow here in Minnesota this year and my boss fired a guy who had an area up near the Canadian border, so we had to pick up his routes too. Life has now begun to open up again. I now only work between 1 and 4 days a week. Definitely taking your advise to heart. I have a few days off here. Instead of continuing on with projects that "I" see as important, I've asked her for a list of things that would make her feel more at ease. Starting as soon as I finish my coffee and send the kids off to school!

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2019, 06:18:48 AM »
To me it sounds like a lot of those complaints are just resulting from stress and the drudgery of life in general... Encourage some self care and time out of the house to destress. A remote job plus building your own house from scratch sounds like a lot of time spent at home. And a lot of time to find "problems" and let your mind escalate them.

She totally agreed with this. We went out to a local pub for quiz night last night as a result. She loved it. Thank you!

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2019, 06:38:35 AM »
Without knowing your specific numbers it's hard to say with certainty, but reading your OP I was thinking "coastFI" even before I got to RWD's suggestion.

To me it sounds like your current path is unsustainable for 5 years, particularly for your wife. You also have a reasonable amount in your investment accounts - enough where market forces will result in annual five-figure changes.  Not enough to live off of, but enough future investments will matter less and less in the years ahead.

Can you both agree on a hybrid compromise?  For example, instead of 5 years your wife could work just another 12-18 months.  That will give you the resources to finish the addition and sock away another $50k+ in investments.  At the same time scale your addition way back - instead of a completely finished space get the shell and foundation built.  You'll still have an enclosed garage and a place to put all your stuff besides scattered around the house.  It solves the immediate frustrations, and you can probably cut $15k-20k from your current cost (meaning you might not even need the HELOC).  Then finish out the interior in a couple years when you have time and resources to do it yourself. After 12-18 months your wife should consider a much less stressful job, even if it means a large pay cut.  The beauty of the CoastFI path is once you get to your current point (a few hundred $k saved) you only need your income to barely exceed your expenses for you to still reach FI. 

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2019, 07:18:18 AM »
To me it sounds like your current path is unsustainable for 5 years, particularly for your wife...

Can you both agree on a hybrid compromise?  For example, instead of 5 years your wife could work just another 12-18 months.... 

The beauty of the CoastFI path is once you get to your current point (a few hundred $k saved) you only need your income to barely exceed your expenses for you to still reach FI.

I read your suggestion to her just to see what feelings it would elicit from her. She smiled and nodded her head as I went. A half decade of life is a terrifying thought, but 12 to 18 months is psychologically surmountable. One can always reevaluate once one gets there. We are at a point in our savings now where things just seem to be getting easier and easier. It's a a good feeling being able to notice the freedom growing with each passing day!

As for the scale of the garage project, I'm totally with you. All I need for now is a shell. I think the best I'll be able to do (thanks to steel tariffs and our metal roof) is 60,000K.

I think I have a tendency to think in too binary of terms about our financial situation. "Either we work till we die or we totally cut ourselves loose in five years!" This conversation has helped both of us feel the potential we've already built up and start considering other more livable variants on the FI theme. Really appreciate the insight!

brandon1827

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2019, 08:16:20 AM »
My thoughts here are in no way rooted in sound financial advice. Speaking from personal experience, we made a point to add a garage to our house when we built it a few years ago. It was one of those items that my wife would not compromise on. Instead, we ended up doing "less" inside the house such as built-ins, less expensive flooring, less expensive lighting, cheaper appliances, etc. to help offset the costs of not only a garage...but an extended garage. It may or may not have been the most financially sound decision we've ever made, but we enjoy that damn garage every day. My wife parks her car in there and never has to worry about rain, mud, snow, etc. in the mornings when she's preparing to leave for work. I also have enough space to store my mower & tools and our son's sports gear and toys/bike. I'm thankful every day that we chose to build that garage, and the quality of life improvements it brought are...to us...worth any additional costs we may have incurred. Should we have less stuff? Maybe...but it's not just about storage for us. It's about having a happy wife and the extra space we need should circumstances change down the road.

For you guys, it may not work out that way due to the potential trade-offs you may have to make in order to get there...but I wouldn't discount the quality of life and your wife's happiness as factors in your decision. Best of luck whatever you decide.

Cassie

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2019, 09:15:35 AM »
Build the garage and yes your wife should look at downshifting in a year or two.

lhamo

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2019, 09:25:42 AM »
The US is at near full employment.  Excellent time for your DW to be looking for another remote work position.  In the meantime, if she can get some unpaid leave through FMLA for medical reasons this might be a good time to take that route.

Personally I'd put additional spending/construction on the house on hold until you guys get a work arrangement you can both live with long-term.  You can always throw up a carport in late summer/early fall if needed.

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2019, 05:54:33 PM »
You can throw up a pole barn for a couple thousand, maybe 3-4 if you have to buy the roof tin (we recycled ours). It takes two weekends if you can get two people to help, one of them an inexperienced high school kid doing it for fun and pizza. (This I know from our own home build.) You can get a car in there for working on, and a propane or kerosene space heater will run you between $100-$150 at a building supply store. That keeps you from freezing while working on cars. Then you buy a prefab tool shed or just line one wall of your pole barn with utility shelves to get the garage stuff out of the house. You keep the chop saw in the house where there's power for a bunch more years, if we're any indication. :) But you can make the situation a whole lot better for 10% or less of what you're talking about.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2019, 09:01:50 PM »
You guys have a plan that will liberate you almost 20 years before your peers, so stay focused. Yes, work is a slog. But, perspective, you live in a first world country and you don’t work in mines and no one is lashing your back with a whip. Work is annoying but unless she’s doing physical Labour, what makes it annoying is dealing with people and how she manages her day.

My thinking is for her to realize she has more power than she currently feels to bend work to work with her instead of against her. She could get an executive coach who could assist her with that, even better if work pays for it. If she’s dealing with depression, stress and anxiety, she could investigate a therapist.

So you’re questioning whether FIRE is worth it, but be honest, if you had never heard of FIRE you wouldn’t be in the position to quit early or even think about getting out. She would slog through her job for 25 years, not 5. Eyes on the prize.

Build your home, but also, have a life during the next 5 years. Go on holidays, eat meals together, laugh, play, have awesome sex and romantic excursions. Don’t put of living your best life. You can live your best life even with an annoying job. We all have annoying jobs. Invest as much energy into each other as you invest in your projects.

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #21 on: April 06, 2019, 07:24:10 AM »
My thoughts here are in no way rooted in sound financial advice. Speaking from personal experience, we made a point to add a garage to our house when we built it a few years ago. It was one of those items that my wife would not compromise on. Instead, we ended up doing "less" inside the house such as built-ins, less expensive flooring, less expensive lighting, cheaper appliances, etc. to help offset the costs of not only a garage...but an extended garage. It may or may not have been the most financially sound decision we've ever made, but we enjoy that damn garage every day....

Ha ha! I’m think I’m needing to be reminded that there’s a difference between strictly “sound financial decisions” (saving and investing at all costs) and living a good life that finances play a role (though not exclusive) in facilitating.


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maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2019, 07:30:15 AM »
You can throw up a pole barn for a couple thousand, maybe 3-4 if you have to buy the roof tin...

A friend of mine is really pulling for this option. It definitely makes sense on a number of levels. My wife is not jazzed about it, however. We live in town and I’m not sure covenants would even allow it.

Love the chop saw in the house image. I like to use our table saw as a multi-use space.


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maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2019, 10:03:51 PM »
Build your home, but also, have a life during the next 5 years. Go on holidays, eat meals together, laugh, play, have awesome sex and romantic excursions. Don’t put off living your best life. You can live your best life even with an annoying job. We all have annoying jobs. Invest as much energy into each other as you invest in your projects.

This is such a great paragraph. I’ve shared it with my wife and a number of my close friends. I need to internalize the truth that FIRE is meant to serve us and our life, not the other way around. That’s true whether we decide to really put out shoulders into it, or dial it back.

Thank you


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MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2019, 02:00:16 AM »
Build your home, but also, have a life during the next 5 years. Go on holidays, eat meals together, laugh, play, have awesome sex and romantic excursions. Don’t put off living your best life. You can live your best life even with an annoying job. We all have annoying jobs. Invest as much energy into each other as you invest in your projects.

This is such a great paragraph. I’ve shared it with my wife and a number of my close friends. I need to internalize the truth that FIRE is meant to serve us and our life, not the other way around. That’s true whether we decide to really put out shoulders into it, or dial it back.

Thank you


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My pleasure, great insight!

DoNorth

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2019, 08:47:36 AM »
Been there.  I left my white collar job in 2015 to build our place.  At first it was awesome and liberating, then it was a whole ton of work, and expensive which led to a lot of fights.  Eventually, we finished with a really incredible home we could both be proud of, but the challenges you mention were around us all the time.  My wife was working a lot to continue funding the project and I was busy all the time which didn't leave  as much time for the kids.  Meanwhile, we were living in paradise, but couldn't enjoy it.  Long story short, we finished, then I took a term employment gig overseas to give us all a break (myself included) so we could focus on being a family.  We stashed a bunch of cash and will head back early next year to resume our plans and enjoy our place.

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #26 on: April 11, 2019, 03:05:24 PM »
A few years ago I built a dream house. It was modern, well built, well insulated with a fabulous garage and a huge lot. It also took two full time incomes to support it, was in a part of the country I wasn't fond of and within a few years felt like a prison. I found myself just nodding along with your original post. I can't tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I did and what I learned from the whole experience.

I ended up selling the house and moving. We made a bunch of money because we'd done all the labor ourselves (we'd built while having jobs and toddlers) and had a bunch of equity. Although we didn't have enough to buy a house outright, we purchased a regular 'ol stick framed house in a good neighborhood that needed a bunch of work. I know there is debate on paying off a house vs investing. I don't care where you fall on that spectrum. In my opinion, not having to worry about housing expenses, either through no mortgage or having an investment accounts that's nice and fat, is what allowed both my wife and I to really relax when it came to work situations. (Because we put a huge down payment on a house that needed work, we had a small mortgage which we were able to pay off quickly).

Do I miss the old house? Yes and no. It was definitely a nice place. But the financial stress did not make up for the "shiny factor" at all. Not even close. Not by a million miles.

Am I sorry I built? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Building my house was in many ways MMM bootcamp. Today...there really is no house project I can't do. I also just don't get worked up about things that (pre house building) would have panicked me or cost me a bunch of cash. Water leaking? Shut the main off, find the split pipe, patch the drywall....drink a beer.

The relationship I have with my wife is pretty fucking awesome too. There's no way you go through a project like that together and either A) End up hating each other and getting divorced. Or B) AT TIMES hate each other while building, figure it out, get it done, then come out the other side wayy stronger as a couple. And since you and your wife are still together....

I think you guys are just tired and grumpy right now. It's a massive project almost NO ONE every tackles. Which means very few people really understand how emotionally and physically draining a self build can be.

But...regardless of what you do, you have developed skills which will serve you forever. You created something that will still be sheltering families hundreds of years from now, grown closer to your wife and kiddos, you've probably got a shit ton of equity. It wasn't luck, no one handed it to you. You probably (and I mean this literally) poured your blood into the project. Be proud. It's like climbing a mountain few people can climb.

Then give yourself permission to detach yourself mentally. Remember..it's just a fucking house. If it's killing you or your wife. Sell it. Buy something small and cheap and have fun with your kids and all the new house projects you'll get to do. You can always build again.


arebelspy

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #27 on: April 11, 2019, 11:38:39 PM »
I enjoyed this thread even more than your last. Posting to follow for updates.

I hope work gets better for DW.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #28 on: April 12, 2019, 08:41:07 AM »
Couldn't agree more with everything you said.  Just curious, if you did most of the work yourself, how did it end up taking almost 2 full time incomes to support it?  Or was it just that expensive?  We went over budget frequently on many things--I quickly came to hate Pinterest--but landed with about a $220K mortgage (I was aiming for less) in the end, so it was still well within our margin of comfort.



A few years ago I built a dream house. It was modern, well built, well insulated with a fabulous garage and a huge lot. It also took two full time incomes to support it, was in a part of the country I wasn't fond of and within a few years felt like a prison. I found myself just nodding along with your original post. I can't tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I did and what I learned from the whole experience.

I ended up selling the house and moving. We made a bunch of money because we'd done all the labor ourselves (we'd built while having jobs and toddlers) and had a bunch of equity. Although we didn't have enough to buy a house outright, we purchased a regular 'ol stick framed house in a good neighborhood that needed a bunch of work. I know there is debate on paying off a house vs investing. I don't care where you fall on that spectrum. In my opinion, not having to worry about housing expenses, either through no mortgage or having an investment accounts that's nice and fat, is what allowed both my wife and I to really relax when it came to work situations. (Because we put a huge down payment on a house that needed work, we had a small mortgage which we were able to pay off quickly).

Do I miss the old house? Yes and no. It was definitely a nice place. But the financial stress did not make up for the "shiny factor" at all. Not even close. Not by a million miles.

Am I sorry I built? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Building my house was in many ways MMM bootcamp. Today...there really is no house project I can't do. I also just don't get worked up about things that (pre house building) would have panicked me or cost me a bunch of cash. Water leaking? Shut the main off, find the split pipe, patch the drywall....drink a beer.

The relationship I have with my wife is pretty fucking awesome too. There's no way you go through a project like that together and either A) End up hating each other and getting divorced. Or B) AT TIMES hate each other while building, figure it out, get it done, then come out the other side wayy stronger as a couple. And since you and your wife are still together....

I think you guys are just tired and grumpy right now. It's a massive project almost NO ONE every tackles. Which means very few people really understand how emotionally and physically draining a self build can be.

But...regardless of what you do, you have developed skills which will serve you forever. You created something that will still be sheltering families hundreds of years from now, grown closer to your wife and kiddos, you've probably got a shit ton of equity. It wasn't luck, no one handed it to you. You probably (and I mean this literally) poured your blood into the project. Be proud. It's like climbing a mountain few people can climb.

Then give yourself permission to detach yourself mentally. Remember..it's just a fucking house. If it's killing you or your wife. Sell it. Buy something small and cheap and have fun with your kids and all the new house projects you'll get to do. You can always build again.

yodella

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #29 on: April 12, 2019, 10:00:01 AM »
My husband and I have recently begun to extricate ourselves from a very similar situation.

We moved to our current home about 7 years ago. It was a foreclosure and SUPER dated/needed tons of work, but we loved the layout and the land (it sits in the middle of a lovely three-acre lot).

We spent the first three years working on it nonstop (in addition to our regular full-time jobs). We gutted most of it and put in a new kitchen, bathroom, enormous cedar deck, and much more. The only thing we outsourced was a new roof. We made it beautiful and homey, and customized to exactly our tastes. It is not an exaggeration to say that nearly every single visitor to our house comments on how fantastic it is.

And yet....the location has always been somewhat less than ideal. We are far from our friends and most family. The property requires a LOT of work and upkeep. We both work at home, and I have been in a situation for the last few years where my job pays very well but it kind of sucks, and despite much job searching just could not come close to matching my current salary/perks. Our location had a lot to do with that.

But we love our home! How could we leave? Also, we are on track for FIRE in 4-5 years - how could I quit my high-paying job? Well, life continued and I marinated in my career unhappiness and social isolation for a few years. And at a certain point, I knew I just couldn't keep doing this until FIRE. Something had to give.

So, we made some crazy (by MMM) decisions and decided to sell our dear and lovely home, relocate to a HCOL area where there are many many more job opportunities for me, and get rid of most of our stuff in order to downsize to a one bedroom apartment. We sold our home by owner (first offer came in less than 24 hours after listing), and are set to close in early May. In a few weeks' time, we are basically beginning a whole new life.

Obviously this is not for everyone. But it was a decision we came to after several years of feeling hamstrung by our FIRE plans. For so long we optimized everything in our life according to that one goal, and it made me miserable after awhile. It took some time to realize that it was ok to make some choices that would optimize for career happiness and upward mobility instead. We also did the math and, in the end, figured out that for every year we live in our new HCOL area, our retirement date gets pushed back about three months. And that didn't sound like a bad trade, so here we are.

DoNorth

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #30 on: April 12, 2019, 10:28:08 AM »
our situation was almost identical, although we didn't sell.  And everyone comments to me even after we moved over a year ago, "how could you have left your beautiful home, the one you spent so long building?"  I definitely miss it, but living overseas and working full time in a regular job has been a vacation compared to building a house.  I literally couldn't step foot into our place without constantly wanting to work on some project and it really did become all consuming.  Emotionally, physically, financially.  And we did live very close to all kinds of family, but that carried stresses of its own.  Now we live in a much smaller 500 year old place right next to a French castle and a bunch of bakeries, restaurants, bike paths etc. and even though the place we're in now has walls that crumble a bit and we get the occasional splinter from walking on old wood floors, we all definitely needed a break and a re-do on our first FIRE plan.  Its way more common than you think. 

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #31 on: April 12, 2019, 12:01:26 PM »
I have a dream of building our "forever" home in our dream location once we retire and the kids are out of the house.  One thing that worries me is that after building the perfect home, some unforeseen circumstance may arise that will prevent it from being perfect.  Perhaps we won't end up liking the area, or the property will be too much work, or we'll be further from the city and need more medical care, or the nice neighbors will sell and we end up with a jerk next door, or we'll want to travel more.

I think the key is to make sure all the other stuff is settled before plunging into building the house.  And I think that applies in a way to OP's situation--they need to make sure the "other stuff" is taken care of, including maintaining their spousal relationship, taking care of themselves, etc.

@maxpower - just an idea--could you plop a shipping container on your lot to act as a temporary workshop/tool storage?  Cheap, immediate, weatherproof, and lockable.  In a way, it's a bit like the car port idea--solve an immediate need in a way that doesn't cause financial stress.

I follow a couple on Youtube who are building their own house, and lived in a 19' travel trailer on the property for something like three years so that they could build their beautiful timber frame home without going into debt.  One point they've made is that discomfort can also work as a motivator, so they preserve some discomfort in order to keep their motivation to finish the house.

My thoughts here are in no way rooted in sound financial advice. Speaking from personal experience, we made a point to add a garage to our house when we built it a few years ago. It was one of those items that my wife would not compromise on. Instead, we ended up doing "less" inside the house such as built-ins, less expensive flooring, less expensive lighting, cheaper appliances, etc. to help offset the costs of not only a garage...but an extended garage. It may or may not have been the most financially sound decision we've ever made, but we enjoy that damn garage every day.
  I would argue that spending the money on the garage rather than the finishes is the right way to go about it.  Interior finishes and appliances IMO have long ago passed the point of TDES (tiny details exaggeration syndrome).  3" baseboards vs 8" baseboards.  Corian vs granite vs slate vs laminate countertops.  Neo angle vs walk-in vs frameless door showers.  These are things that 1) don't really affect your life, and 2) can be easily (and relatively cheaply) changed down the road.  On the other hand, you've got the things that *do* affect your life and very difficult to change afterwards--layout, room size, type of construction, insulation, utilities, a garage, location, drainage, etc.  Getting those things right is much cheaper at the beginning.

My parents were very careful when they built their home about 30 years ago.  They stuck to their budget, which meant that they had to sacrifice certain wants:  they didn't get brick all the way around the house, the bathrooms and kitchen had vinyl floors, and the counters were plain white laminate.  But they spent money where it counted.  They paid extra for a higher-quality roof.  The second sump pump.  The oversized garage.  The lot that backs to a nature conservancy.  The two separate HVAC systems for the two floors.  Sound isolation between the two floors is good.  Every room is perfectly sized and arranged for its function.  The kitchen is fantastically functional, without being huge.

Those "nice things" came later--the deck, the tile, the granite, etc.

Their only regrets?  They wished they had built 9' ceilings throughout, and made the kitchen just a bit wider.

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #32 on: April 12, 2019, 12:15:02 PM »
Been there.  I left my white collar job in 2015 to build our place.  At first it was awesome and liberating, then it was a whole ton of work, and expensive which led to a lot of fights.  Eventually, we finished with a really incredible home we could both be proud of, but the challenges you mention were around us all the time.  My wife was working a lot to continue funding the project and I was busy all the time which didn't leave  as much time for the kids.  Meanwhile, we were living in paradise, but couldn't enjoy it.  Long story short, we finished, then I took a term employment gig overseas to give us all a break (myself included) so we could focus on being a family.  We stashed a bunch of cash and will head back early next year to resume our plans and enjoy our place.

Thanks for this, DoNorth. Love that you were able to follow up with the overseas gig. I'm sure a bit of time away would do you all well! Another commenter mentioned the constant pull of "projects" that tend to surround one when embarking on a task like this. I'd imagine a bit of time away will help lend perspective to such things.

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #33 on: April 12, 2019, 12:20:13 PM »
A few years ago I built a dream house. It was modern, well built, well insulated with a fabulous garage and a huge lot. It also took two full time incomes to support it, was in a part of the country I wasn't fond of and within a few years felt like a prison. I found myself just nodding along with your original post. I can't tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I did and what I learned from the whole experience.

I ended up selling the house and moving. We made a bunch of money because we'd done all the labor ourselves (we'd built while having jobs and toddlers) and had a bunch of equity. Although we didn't have enough to buy a house outright, we purchased a regular 'ol stick framed house in a good neighborhood that needed a bunch of work. I know there is debate on paying off a house vs investing. I don't care where you fall on that spectrum. In my opinion, not having to worry about housing expenses, either through no mortgage or having an investment accounts that's nice and fat, is what allowed both my wife and I to really relax when it came to work situations. (Because we put a huge down payment on a house that needed work, we had a small mortgage which we were able to pay off quickly).

Do I miss the old house? Yes and no. It was definitely a nice place. But the financial stress did not make up for the "shiny factor" at all. Not even close. Not by a million miles.

Am I sorry I built? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Building my house was in many ways MMM bootcamp. Today...there really is no house project I can't do. I also just don't get worked up about things that (pre house building) would have panicked me or cost me a bunch of cash. Water leaking? Shut the main off, find the split pipe, patch the drywall....drink a beer.

The relationship I have with my wife is pretty fucking awesome too. There's no way you go through a project like that together and either A) End up hating each other and getting divorced. Or B) AT TIMES hate each other while building, figure it out, get it done, then come out the other side wayy stronger as a couple. And since you and your wife are still together....

I think you guys are just tired and grumpy right now. It's a massive project almost NO ONE every tackles. Which means very few people really understand how emotionally and physically draining a self build can be.

But...regardless of what you do, you have developed skills which will serve you forever. You created something that will still be sheltering families hundreds of years from now, grown closer to your wife and kiddos, you've probably got a shit ton of equity. It wasn't luck, no one handed it to you. You probably (and I mean this literally) poured your blood into the project. Be proud. It's like climbing a mountain few people can climb.

Then give yourself permission to detach yourself mentally. Remember..it's just a fucking house. If it's killing you or your wife. Sell it. Buy something small and cheap and have fun with your kids and all the new house projects you'll get to do. You can always build again.

So good CatamaranSailor! Thank you! I loved every word of this... Although, the words "You can always build again." triggered a minor PTSD episode in me! lol!

maxpower

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #34 on: April 12, 2019, 12:22:12 PM »
I enjoyed this thread even more than your last. Posting to follow for updates.

I hope work gets better for DW.

Thank you arbelspy. The experiences and perspectives that everyone is sharing is really blowing me away! Super grateful for this community!

tyrannostache

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Re: Building my dream home, or my prison...
« Reply #35 on: April 24, 2019, 11:53:45 AM »
Hey @maxpower, jumping in here for a couple of reasons: 1) I fully grasp what a shitty winter it has been (FYI, we probably went to HS together--I'm also from FF); 2) My DH and I went through a similar process (minus the house) a year or two ago.

With respect to #1, I have a rule about not making major life decisions before the cottonwoods bud. Though I'm not in MN anymore, we also had an awful winter with sick kids, relentless cold, and late snow. It seemed like everyone in our house was depressed until just a couple of weeks ago. I hope that has eased up for you and things are looking better now.

#2, we were in a somewhat similar situation 2 years ago. My DH had a job making very good money, and they wanted to pay him more and give him more responsibility. But he hated it. He was constantly frustrated and stressed and felt like it was forcing him to compromise one of his core values. And travel kept increasing. When an opportunity came up for him to take on some independent contracts in a field that he loves, he jumped at the chance. We accepted that this would be a big blow to our income and savings rate. We reasoned that the high income wasn't worth it for DH to burn himself out and be gone so much while our kids were so little.

It has been about a year since he fully made the transition. I'm honestly not sure if it was worth it. Time will tell. He's still stressed and frustrated--just about different things (clients, getting new contracts, etc). The main upsides are that his work matches his values and passion, and he is able to spend more time with the kids and take time off when they need it.

As others have mentioned, there are likely a lot of affordable options for solving some of the issues around your home without using up all of your savings--temporary carport, shipping container tool storage, rent a studio space for your wife's art somewhere in town (surely, she could find cheap studio space somewhere. Heck, there are whole dang houses down by the river you could buy for 60K). Would some of these solutions potentially ease pressure on your wife? I'd put the construction plans on hold for a bit if they're feeling like something that tethers her to a job she's hating.

House aside, are there ways to make her work less soul-crushing?
Are there alternatives that would be more satisfying but lead you to FI in 10 years rather than 5? If one organization is willing to pay her that much to work remotely, she must be valuable in her field. Just working through those alternatives might give her the perspective she needs to stick it out or find an escape plan.