Monday, March 30, 2015

It depends...

Should I Buy My Dream Home Now?

By Larry LaBorde

Dear Fred,

I am writing in response to your question, “Should I buy a bigger house now so that my adult children will have a place to stay when they come home to visit because interest rates are so attractive?”

As you well know there has always been trouble in the world. I have studied cycles in history and as they state in the book, “The Fourth Turning” history is not linear but more like a vertically extended slinky. While history advances, it does so in cycles that run approximately 80 to 100 years per cycle (4 generations). The Russian economist Kondratiev in the 1920’s came up with the K wave cycle of 50 or so years. Stalin didn’t approve of his work since it did not predict the end of capitalism and had him killed by firing squad in 1938 but that is another topic. Then there are cycles within cycles such as Martin Armstrong’s work exemplifies based on a multiple of pi. The Old Testament also talks about 7 year cycles and the 7 times 7 year cycle that results in the 50 year jubilee. The debt forgiveness during the jubilee is necessary to wash out the excess debt buildup in the system. (If you have ever played a very long game of monopoly the banker ALWAYS wins in the end—never forget this when trying to outsmart the bank.)

I feel that we are currently entering into a long term economic winter (20-25 years in duration) as a result of the build up in debt that is currently overwhelming the system. We have tried everything to put it off including changing the bankruptcy laws that make it harder to enter into bankruptcy. We have lowered interest rates in order to allow us to take on and service even more debt. The world’s central banks are entering into “negative interest rates” in order to encourage consumer spending and discourage savings. Competitive currency devaluations also tend to discourage savings and encourage spending. People tend to forget that Capitalism at its very heart is about accumulating capital through savings to purchase the economic tools (backhoes vs shovels; factories vs garage industries; trucks vs draft wagons) that allow the overall standard of living to increase for all of society. When Capital is destroyed, squandered on silly public works programs (bridges to nowhere) or misspent on consumer items then there is less to invest in the very powerful capital intensive tools that allow us all to live better through an increased standard of living for all.

Bill Bonner writes that economics has become a complex mathematical discipline in the past 75 years where people in power can just adjust the dials and pull the right levers in congress and at the Federal Reserve and the economy will respond like a machine. The truth is the economy is 7 billion people (a huge living organism) that is beyond the control of a few people. Each of these 7 billion souls is making individual decisions based on their own best interest (as well they should) and that the entire complex world does not respond to the tinkering of a few individuals. God has made us all with free will to live and prosper in an amazing complex society. It is my belief that the purpose of government is simply to provide a very loose framework so that we can all operate within this grand chaos and that it should simply act as a referee so that we do not harm the weak or each other. I believe that economics is more a philosophy and not a science. That being said, we should always watch out for “heard mentality” in society and therefore in economics. As Charles Mackay said, “Men go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” I believe cycles will eventually trump the few men and women behind the curtain trying to operate society as a machine.

Now we come to your question of a long term low interest mortgage on a larger home in today’s current economic climate. Dad once said (he was quoting someone and the name eludes me) that there are two ways to deal with the bank. The first is to owe them nothing the second is to owe them 110% of all you own – anywhere in the middle is a dangerous place. Keep in mind that Dad was a banker in the late 1960’s. In other words if you owe them 110% of your loan they will work with you and extend you terms and do everything possible to avoid foreclosing on you because they will suffer a loss. If on the other hand you borrow 50% from the bank and put up 50% of your funds you are in a perilous condition. If your investment suffers a 40% loss and you cannot pay they will swoop down, foreclose and sell your property at a discount where they will recover all their capital and you will loose all of your capital. Just keep this in mind.

A home is a normal person’s largest investment and it is usually a poor investment when all is factored into consideration, however, you gotta live somewhere. Once you realize that a home is more of a lifestyle choice and less of an investment it is easier to move forward with your decision.

So the big question is, will the banks remain solvent and will the economy muddle along for the next 30 years so that I can pay off my low interest mortgage? Or even better; will the banks remain solvent and will the economy soar in the next 30 years so that I can pay off my fixed interest 30 year mortgage with my lunch money? Only God himself knows for certain but if cycles are correct we are entering (or have entered) into an economic winter. If you feel your jobs are secure and if the banks (nation, economy, currency) will remain solvent for the next 30 years then you will come out on top. There are a lot of unforeseen hazards or black swans that could cause problems on the horizon. In an economic winter all sorts of crazy leaders and theories arise. If you read ”The Roosevelt Myth” by Joe Flynn he has one chapter entitled “The Dance of the Crackpots” in which he details all the crazy economic suggestions that were put forth (some were even tried and failed miserably) during the beginning of the great depression during the “first” new deal. The last economic winter brought forth the fall of Russia and the rise of communism, WW I, the great depression, the collapse of world trade and several other major financial upheavals. It is NOT the end of the world, it is just a little economic madness for a while. Eventually people come to their senses (reread the quote above from Mackay), the debt is forgiven and economic spring begins again.

There will always be cycles and we simply have to live in the economic cycle in which we are born. I suggest that you prayerfully consider wise council from multiple sources (certainly do not take what I am saying as the unvarnished truth) and do what you feel is right and gives you peace in your decision. Perhaps look for a great bargain, maybe a smaller fixed rate 10 year mortgage, maybe a place you can buy now and easily add onto later, maybe a larger piece of land with a nice house that will allow room for one or two small guest cottage(s) a little later as finances permit. My only recommendation is to avoid a large long term debt that does not give you any flexibility in the future in case things get difficult.

As Mark Twain once wrote, “I apologize for this long letter but I didn’t have time to write a short one.”


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