I am riding 50 miles in August for a charity event and I have only ridden a bike a few times in the last 30 years. While on vacation, I rented a bike and rode it 10 miles into town from our rental, lake views on my right and hills to my left. My mental picture and my post-bike ride rear end turned out to be incompatible, as I limped to put in my coffee order and drank it standing up.
We often make choices that we think will make us happy, only to find out that we relatively quickly adjust to them. Things that we fear will make us miserable we also adjust to. This is the hedonistic treadmill. The bigger problem, though, is that some of those things to which we adjust have ongoing costs that may outlive the immediate pleasure they give us.
Personal vacation homes make no economic sense, especially with the advent of Airbnb and VRBO. We always underestimate the cost of owning these properties — especially factoring in the opportunity costs on the cash we invest in them. We rationalize buying because we want to get a foothold in an area, interest rates are really low, or most likely, we have a picture of the memories we are going to create. The memory part is noneconomic and valid. It may also be a tad overblown. If we looked at the total cost of second homeownership, and said that we were going to spend that money on creating family memories or planning getaways, we could do many things for the same cost per night of owning.
But for some reason, we can justify plunking down the money on a property and yet have a more difficult time spending the money on something that seems indulgent. The non-ownership experiences we buy also result in memories, are more flexible as life changes and may not have guilt associated with them.
There are reasons for owning a second home — trying to build community, having your gear in one place — but unless you plan on renting it out, financial justification is not one of them. The picture of ownership is often disconnected from its reality.
It’s great to have a picture of how you want things to look. But recognizing how quickly we adapt to something and factoring in ongoing costs after the initial excitement has passed makes the picture blurry. Time shares, country clubs, some charitable obligations are unfortunately the gifts that often keep on giving.
My wife bought me a pair of padded bike shorts that have made my rides more tolerable and when the ride is over, I’ll hopefully have a memory that will last longer than the pain.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the chief executive and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.