Why this Copy Chief isn’t buying her dream home… blame it on Mark Ford & AWAI
Two and a half years ago, my husband and I moved into our dream home.
It’s a million-dollar condo in downtown Cincinnati. And it’s everything we fantasized about back when we were starving artists working for Carl Solway Gallery.
It has soaring 12-foot ceilings and huge white walls to show off our art collection.
It has a private deck overlooking downtown with one of the best views in the city.
It’s located just steps from Findlay Market, the oldest public market in Ohio, with everything from fresh produce to homemade sausage to handmade pottery and candles…
Plus, it’s surrounded by great restaurants, music venues, and parks.
The condo is owned by a friend of ours, and he has given us the option to purchase it in the next eight months… otherwise, he’s going to put it on the market and sell it.
And if it weren’t for AWAI and Mark Ford, we’d be busting open the piggy bank and breaking out the checkbook.
The snow shovel moment
You see, last spring, Katie Yeakle asked me to moderate a panel of A-list copywriters called “The Money Conversation” at AWAI’s Writers Retreat.
The panel included heavyweights like top copywriter and AWAI Co-Founder Paul Hollingshead, premier business coach and mentor Ted Capshaw, and millionaire (or is it billionaire?) Mark Ford.
And that day, Mark Ford said something that hit me like a snow shovel upside the head.
Mark was sharing his own experiences about growing up poor and then making his fortune in publishing with the Agora empire.
He described the slippery slope of “upgrading your life.” (My words, not his.)
In his typical grumpy self-deprecating humor, he told the story of upgrading to a new home and how excited he was to finally have this beautiful showplace.
Only to realize that all the furniture that looked perfectly fine in his old home looked like crap in his new one.
Before you know it, he’s buying a three thousand-dollar sofa to match the architecture. 😉
Do you really have to?
Mark went on to explain that if you want to be successful with your money, one of the best things you can do is NOT to “upgrade your life” every time you upgrade your income.
Instead, try to maintain your style of living while investing and growing your “extra” money.
That’s not to say you need to live in a cardboard box for the rest of your life.
But don’t get caught up in the cycle of constantly upgrading just because you can.
Realizing the dream
Now, for the last two decades, my husband and I lived in a falling down hundred-year-old farmhouse in a blue-collar neighborhood in Cincinnati.
We paid a whopping $130,000 for it, and the property taxes were less than five hundred bucks a year.
There were squirrels and raccoons constantly breaking and entering in the attic, temperamental plumbing, and knob and tube electric.
Thank god my husband grew up in construction. Otherwise, the house would have fallen down around our ears ages ago.
So, when our friend offered us the chance to move into his million-dollar condo while he decided what to do with it, we jumped at the chance.
Our kids are all grown and living on their own. We’ve always dreamed of living downtown.
So we packed up, sold the house to a cousin (squirrels and all), and moved downtown.
We basically 10Xd our lifestyle overnight.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s been a glorious two years, and we’ve loved every minute of it.
But after hearing Mark’s talk, I sat down with my husband and said, “Do we really want to work this hard to maintain this lifestyle for the next decade?”
I mean, I’m 57, and he is 60. Do I really want to hustle that hard to buy and decorate a million-dollar home?
One with four bathrooms for two people! (Good grief, six of us shared one bathroom in our farmhouse during the pandemic.)
But I digress…
The bottom line is we made a choice NOT to upscale our life right now.
Instead, we’re moving to a smaller and less expensive apartment just six blocks away.
Our new place is still downtown where we want to be, near all the restaurants, museums and the market.
It’s in an old historic building that was converted to apartments – with … wait for it… 20-foot ceilings!
The pressure is gone
We often joke that now we can hang all our artwork from floor to ceiling salon-style, and I’ll sit in the middle of it holding court like Gertrude Stein ;-).
Rather than upgrading to three thousand dollar sofas, we’re embracing our artworld bohemian roots.
We’re decorating with used furniture, a motley assortment of throw pillows, and all the artwork we’ve collected from our friends over the years.
And the money we’re saving is going towards our up-till-now, nearly non-existent retirement account.
Once we made the decision to let go of our “dream home,” I felt relieved. No more pressure to keep up with Jones or anyone else.
Lately, I’m spending my evenings going down YouTube rabbit holes, looking at decorating ideas for small New York lofts on tiny budgets.
The texts are flying non-stop with things like, “Hey, check out this Ikea bookshelf hack. You could totally build this for our artbooks!”
We’re having fun re-inventing ourselves again as 20-year-old artists in 60-year-old bodies.
What do you really want?
The moral of the story is this…
When you finally start making some real money as a copywriter or freelancer, it’s tempting to use it to buy all the things you’ve been dreaming about.
But before you start up-leveling everything in your life, from your coffee maker to your car…
Stop and ask yourself if this is what you really want. Will this make you happy?
Or, could you be just as happy with a modest upgrade and more money in the bank?
It’s taken me 57 years to learn this lesson. Hopefully, you’ll get it sooner than I did.
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