Life in a McMansion – Paradise or Prison?

I live in a McMansion.  It is probably more “Mc” than mansion, but it’s close enough.  By my calculation, we have about 43% of our net worth tied up in our house.  Yes, I include the equity in our home in our net worth calculation because it is part of our master plan.

We will sell our house and downsize significantly once our kids have finished with public or high school.  We will use the proceeds to buy another house and the surplus, if any, will be added to our retirement savings.

Good plan? So far, but….

I admit that lately, I have felt more and more stress about our plan.  I am on a mission towards financial independence and because of this I have engaged in an unending analysis of the situation.  I have watched the house listings in our neighborhood and a few real estate sites too closely.  I tell myself that our mortgage/heloc payments are tiny but counter with the fact that the property taxes and maintenance costs are revolting.  The neighborhood has too many people keeping up with the Joneses, but the kids really want to live here.  I love our house, but it requires too much upkeep.  The real estate market has been really good to us, but it could crash tomorrow.  If I lose my job, will I be stuck here?  Will we be able to sell our house?  Is this a paradise or prison?


This is the chatter in my head. Or it was.

I was cleaning up my internet bookmarks the other day.  I found an old bookmark for the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. I reacquainted myself with the poem and I was inspired and comforted and put in a different frame of mind.  (Strangely, I’m getting my financial inspiration from poems these days.)

In any case, here the conclusion I came to.  A home is about more than numbers.  A spreadsheet might help answer some of these questions, but not all of them.

Better to buy or rent?  Bungalow or condo?  There isn’t a one size fits all answer. The answer is different for everyone.  It depends on your goals and lifestyle.  It depends on your location and real estate/rental market prospects.  It depends on your income and financial situation.  It depends on your family and your career ambitions.  It’s about much more than money.

Maybe I am pointing out the obvious here, but it helped me understand that my McMansion is a paradise, for now anyway.

Desiderata, Max Ehrmann                                                                                    Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Shared at Jet Fuel Fridays @ Money Propeller.

Photo credit: Flickr Jenn Durfey


  1. I can relate to your questions. “If I lose my job . . .” My husband did lose his job within a year of our move to our “dream home”. Ugh! I love that poem too. It’s cool that you’re getting financial inspiration from poetry these days : )


    1. We found ourselves in a similar situation (a lay off though and it did not end up as permanent so that was good) but stressful at the time. Hope things worked out. Appreciate you coming by.


    1. Thanks Anne. I guess that I was feeling a bit conflicted when I wrote this. Love Desiderata.

      Might just post the whole thing here. I understand it is in the public domain.


    1. Thanks for commenting- you captured my feelings exactly. Opinions about home ownership/renting have shifted since the housing bubble and I think that is a good thing but on some level it has been reduced to a “transaction.” Yes, we need to take some of the emotion out of our money decisions but not completely out of our life.
      Glad to see that people are considering all the options though. A few years ago, if I asked friends/family about renting, buying a smaller house etc. they would have told me I was throwing my money away. I don’t think they would say that today.


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