Sell Your Options Dearly: WASTING ASSETS

Andy note: "Best of Eddie" - while Eddie is on vacation we're throwing up some of his classic posts from the past. This one from June 2010 is part of the very popular "Sell Your Options" 5-part series. More to come later this week & next. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

"The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything." - Tyler Durden

Sorry for the delay in this final post, guys. Yesterday was my oldest kid's end-of-year play, so a large part of my day was spent watching the boy that will carry on my family name dance around and sing Hitler Youth-style indoctrination songs about man-made global warming (don't even get me started).

Anyway, we've made it to the final installment of Sell Your Options Dearly, and this one might be the most important of all. Wasting assets hold the greatest temptation for us. But before I get into that, let's define "wasting asset" so you know what I'm talking about. When I say wasting asset, I'm not referring to the DXD calls I had expire worthless on me yesterday - AGAIN (damned overvalued market).

The wasting assets I'm referring to are better known by their street names: BLING. STUFF. CRAP. Basically, shit you don't need but might enjoy acquiring. The problem with most of it, though, is that the joy of acquisition diminishes rapidly after you acquire it.

That doesn't mean you should forgo toys altogether. Without blowing money on senseless shit every once in a while, you'd have a pretty boring life and it would be hard to get out of bed in the morning. We need the things that motivate us, and those things are often depreciating (or wasting) assets. The key is to not go overboard.

Is a $10,000 Rolex going to keep better time than a digital Timex? I use this example because one of my protegés found this out the hard way. This was a kid who went from making no money to making really pretty good money. So the first decent check he gets, he goes out and blows $7,000 on a watch.

And he loves it.

For about two weeks.

Then he calls me and sheepishly admits what he did. I ran him over a little bit because he should have known better, but you guys know what I did with my first decent check, so I don't give it to him too badly. But then he tells me he's over the watch. It just doesn't do anything for him anymore. He can't wear it to work because he's still a pretty junior guy and it looks ridiculous, and he'd just as soon sell it if he could get his money back.

Wasting assets go hand-in-hand with debt, and the two together can ruin you. So it's important to ask yourself what it is that turns you on about something. Is owning it going to make you happy? Or would just experiencing it satisfy your desire?

It's a lot cheaper to rent a Ferrari than it is to buy one. If you live in the city, when are you going to get to drive it anyway? I know there are a lot of avid car guys out there, and if that's what really revs your engine (no pun intended) then go for it. But if you want a slick car just because everyone else has one, you'll be a lot happier renting. Like these guys:

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The same can be said about just about anything. So I guess this is a pitch for a minimalist lifestyle. Do you really want to own all that shit, or do you just want to experience it?

I've owned 8 sailboats in my life, and I loved all of them. With the exception of one of them, I sold all of them at a profit or break even (based on purchase price – not factoring in monthly expenses). You could say I'm passionate about sailing. But these days, I'm more than happy to charter. (full disclosure: if I do go back to the States at some point, I'll buy another boat because it's a great way to spend time with the kids).

I just want to touch briefly on home ownership and real estate in general. I've also owned 8 residential properties in my life, 3 of which were my principal residence (the rest were investments). Real estate has worked out well for me, generally speaking. But you make your money on it when you buy it, not when you sell it, and a huge percentage of Americans are just now waking up to that fact.

Don't believe the reasons you've been given about why it's a good idea to buy a home as soon as you can. Real estate doesn't always appreciate in value (thank you sub-prime crisis). And the carrying charges can be brutal. Maintenance is always more than you expect, municipalities are scrambling for tax revenues, and the tax break you get for mortgage interest is little more than a working class myth.

When I met my wife, she owned her own house and her mortgage payment was $483 a month. You read that right. You're not going to rent a place for that, so buying makes sense in that case. But in almost every other case, renting is going to be your better option. Unless you can buy for significantly less than you can rent, renting is the way to go. If you do buy, pay the mortgage off as quickly as possible.

Hopefully Patrick will chime in on this post, because he's just gone through a major phase of life simplification in preparation for some long term travel. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts on selling your crap to make yourself more mobile.

Having a bunch of stuff just ties you down. If you're not getting the enjoyment out of it anymore, get rid of it. I'm reminded of something Robert DeNiro's character said in the movie "Heat":

"Never have anything in your life that you can't walk out on in 30 seconds if you spot the heat around the corner."

While I'm not suggesting such a spartan existense, there is some wisdom there. Don't let yourself get tied down by crap. Enjoy the things you have and give some thought to whether you really want to own the next big thing or just experience it.

Hope you've enjoyed it, guys. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and have a great weekend.

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