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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 11:07 AM   #41
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 12:30 PM   #42
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

About the same value as your contributions to the forum, which appear to be roughly 30% unwarranted snipes and the remainder largely unhelpful or unpleasant remarks.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 12:41 PM   #43
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Ugh, this appears to be a hairball derivative of the pay-off-your-mortgage debate. I don't want to go there, and I can understand people wanting to pay off their mortgage to reduce debt, reduce cash flow, etc. But just for fun, I'll reiterate that not all cash flow is the same.

When you have a mortgage, that cash flow has the following characteristics:

1) The payments go down in real terms. Unlike everything else in your budget, mortgage payments don't go up with inflation.

2) They are fixed term, so relatively easy to plan for, and they go away on their own.

3) They are a form of forced savings. Part of the payment comes back to you as home equity.

4) Another part comes back to you in the form of reduced taxes (for most people).

5) As long as your investment returns exceed your interest rate, you can successfully use the mortgage to leverage your investment returns.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 01:00 PM   #44
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Of course its the mortgage discussion...where else would a question regarding "does my home equity affect my portfolio" end up?

Your points are good for an accumulator saving for retirement. What I proposed was a different way of looking at it where your points 2, 3, 4, and 5 are rendered inapplicable or moot.

#1 is often a red herring because people on average dont stay in a home/loan long enough to let inflation help them very much vs the interest paid since thats heavy on the front end.

On #4, my scenario produces lower taxes than if I had a mortgage and the related higher withdrawals. Our net income after standard deductions lands us well within the lowest brackets for income and capital gains. If I added a mortgage and another 25-35k in withdrawals, all of that would be at 15% income/capital gains rates or higher. I'd have to go back to my tax returns from this year for the exact number, but my overall federal tax rate was around 3.5%.

On #5, you must have missed the part about being able to 'slide' your asset allocation towards a higher equity component to produce higher rates of return.

Everything you do financially affects a lot of other things. Many people like to 'fishbowl' piece parts of it to make wrapping their brains around it easier. Unfortunately that may lead some to make a set of good fishbowl decisions that cost them money overall.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 01:23 PM   #45
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Whenever these debates start, I feel like Lord Farquaad in Shrek trying to pick a princess "Pick numba 3 m'lord!".

I've said before our choice was a cop out of a 20 year @ 5% and be mortgage free at retirement. I will be keeping leaning more towards equities in retirement than some of my compatriots (heck, I'll probably cop out and just go Wellington).

I have a specific question for the triad of power here ( CFB, WAB and Sgeee): is there consensus that having a 6% mortgage while having significant money in a 4% fixed return asset (say, a bond, or CDs or whatever) does not make sense? I think where most lurkers can gain value is by understanding where they are shooting themselves in the foot with their asset allocation vs. mortgage decisions.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 01:31 PM   #46
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

I personally see very little reason in an accumulator keeping a 6% mortgage and a bunch of 4% bonds.

I'm tempted to remove the word 'accumulator' from the above comment.

While "4% bonds" also can return significant capital gains along with the interest...I dont think the near term is going to be one of those times.

The problem with these diatribes is that you have some folks who think they're being 'tricked' if you include more than 2 variables, and the 'major players' have already done their analysis, made their decisions, and are now in the position of defending that decision. And occasionally taking it personally.

The reality is that the number of variables makes issuing any blanket statements impossible.

That having been said, I find very few good arguments for a retired person without an income, living off their portfolio, to keep a mortgage...unless they own few/no bonds or significant cash reserves or have some odd tax situation where they'd be itemizing with or without mortgage interest.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 01:41 PM   #47
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
is there consensus that having a 6% mortgage while having significant money in a 4% fixed return asset (say, a bond, or CDs or whatever) does not make sense?
As a general practice, I would pay off high-interest debt before putting new money into a low-interest FI investment, and I'm pretty sure there's consensus on that.

When the decision is closer to break-even, say a 5% mortgage and a 5% short-term CD or money market, I would keep the long-term debt and invest in the short-term FI. If rates drop in the future, you can always reevaluate. If rates go up, then your long-term low-interest debt is golden!
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 01:55 PM   #48
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wab
When the decision is closer to break-even, say a 5% mortgage and a 5% short-term CD or money market, I would keep the long-term debt and invest in the short-term FI. If rates drop in the future, you can always reevaluate. If rates go up, then your long-term low-interest debt is golden!
Waitwaitwait, I have some good ones--

What if you move more often than every seven years and paid closing costs on both ends?

What if you paid points or "origination fees" on the mortgage?

What if your annual mortgage interest doesn't exceed the amount of the standard deduction by at least 50%?

What if it's a 15-year or 40-year mortgage instead of 30 years?

What if only small-cap value stocks still have an equity risk premium or you invested in dividend-payers instead of growth stocks?

What if I bonds go above 1.5% fixed?

What if the tax laws change again?

What if a giant meteor... oh, wait, different post.

I think everyone is beginning to appreciate why there's as many opinions right answers for everyone as there are asshoposters.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-09-2007, 08:02 PM   #49
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Who you calling an asshoposter?

Do they have to wear diapers when driving long distances?
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 09:42 AM   #50
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Liquidity is under appreciated in most of these "a house acts like a bond" discussions.

First lets stipulate that a higher equity allocation leads to higher portfolio survivability, up to a point. Although, in most cases going beyond 80% results in diminishing returns for someone relying 100% on his portfolio.

Lets also stipulate that if it makes someone feel more comfortable to look at their home value as a source of stability, which in turn allows them to increase their equity allocation from 40-50% to 60-70%, its probably a good trade off. But I seriously question the value, or the wisdom, of someone increasing their equity allocation to 90-100% because their house "acts like a bond." It doesn't.

Rebalancing is an important risk mitigant in portfolio survivability. Drawing on a bond portfolio to avoid selling and also to replenish a declining equity portfolio is important to portfolio survivability. That is why an 80% equity portfolio generally has greater survivability than a 100% equity portfolio. Sure you can draw on a home equity line to provide short-term liquidity, but such lines are far more costly then the lost income from selling a bond. Current HELOCs are averaging between 7%-8% and then need to be repaid monthly - hardly optimal, or even desirable. Further, I sure wouldn't want to have relied on a floating interest line of credit for liquidity and rebalancing during the 70's - yikes. If you're truly rebalancing, it also puts you in a position of having to borrow on the house to buy stocks . . . not for me, or most people, I think.

The caveat that "you can hold bonds for rebalancing" gives the lie to the notion that your home equity is a bond equivalent.


Bonds also provide income, which reduces the need to sell anything - possibly as low as 0!

I hope you also mark-to-market your house when doing this calculation. Real-estate isn't necessarily as stable as everyone currently hopes/expects - even in squiggly states. Average nominal housing prices in LA, for example, declined 20% from 1990 to 1996 and took 10 years to recover their peak. Similarly, a colleague of mine bought a condo in NYC in the early 80's and could not sell it for almost 10 years. Hardly a source of liquidity or stability . . . more like a financial anchor.

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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 10:33 AM   #51
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

You're right, nobody should consider this awful option and time is better spent trying to force awkward comparisons between home equity and a bond which aren't even relevant to the points being made.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 10:53 AM   #52
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
You're right, nobody should consider this awful option and time is better spent trying to force awkward comparisons between home equity and a bond which aren't even relevant to the points being made.
We'll perhaps the confusion is that you made a categorical statement like:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
The whole 800k acts exactly like a "bond" with regards to your investing decisions, IMO.
When you really meant something else.

I'll remind you the original question was:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ijuba
My point in explaining this is, should I take that $450K asset "equivalent" today and treat it as a "bond" portion of my asset allocation? The whole $800K? None?
Not whether he should, or should not, carry a mortgage. Given the original question and your categorical response, I think all of my comments are right on point.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 11:03 AM   #53
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

I'm having trouble understanding this discussion - if one mortgage is "good", why not have 2 or 5 or 10 of them?
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 11:24 AM   #54
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Well, the proponents of keeping a mortgage would certainly not advocate multiple mortgages and the costs associated with that. But in theory, if you have good credit, you can refinance your house at 5-6% and pull out all the equity and invest in things that return a greater rate over the long term. There has been hundreds of posts in the past on this issue, but the preliminary consensus derived from the hundred years war is there may be an advantage to this in the accumulation phase, and many still prefer this even in the FIRE stage, but there have been strong arguments opposing it in the distribution phase due to portfolio survivability, volatility etc.

One mistake many people make, though, is to say, "I'm not going to pay off the house, I can make more in the market!" then they diversify their portfolio to include conservative but poorly performing investment vehicles like T-bills at rates below their mortgage rate. If you are going to play the arbitrage game, you better have your portfolio in higher risk/ higher return investments to beat the spread. But some people are uncomfortable with that. In addition, some are pointing out that going above 80% equities doesn't improve portfolio performance while still increasing risk, but then, if you put that 20% in "safe" investments that return less than your mortgage rate, what has a man profited? Wab has smartly noted that you can arbitrage a 5% mortgage with, say a CD ladder running a 6% average and if rates fall, change strategy as CD's come to term, safe and beating the spread, but perhaps not by enough depending on your value of time and portfolio size (yay, I made 20 bucks!). So there has been a lot of back and forth on this that can really be summed up by saying, "do the math, figure out what you are comfortable with, pays your money, takes your chances".
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 11:46 AM   #55
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

3yrs -

The problem is that you focused on this:

"acts exactly like a "bond""

Instead of this:

"with regards to your investing decisions, IMO."

And then appeared to not read any of my further explanations. I can shoot huge gaping holes in everything you said, but thats unproductive and the point is for people to read and understand all the factors and implications. Unfortunately we moved to the point where it was more interesting to shout opinions past each other than to try to comprehend the matter at hand and locate valuable advice and information in it.

What I do think is important is making sure everybody gets a lot of good ideas and things to think about, rather than making blanket "nobody should do this/look at this in this way" comments. I look at it the way I described, I've run all the numbers, and while it may be unconventional, I think its more survivable and more conservative, while coincidentally offering a better chance of long term gains. I think its worthwhile for others to make the same evaluation.

Sorry, but I feel that you missed my primary points and spent all your time focusing on the stuff that I repeatedly agreed did not matter.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 11:55 AM   #56
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
. . . I have a specific question for the triad of power here ( CFB, WAB and Sgeee): is there consensus that having a 6% mortgage while having significant money in a 4% fixed return asset (say, a bond, or CDs or whatever) does not make sense? I think where most lurkers can gain value is by understanding where they are shooting themselves in the foot with their asset allocation vs. mortgage decisions.
Not if you are an asset allocator (risk balance is primary task). You don't decide to sell all of your poor performers from year to year. You balance your risk through your allocations and keep that constant through rebalancing. This is why I keep pointing out that a house has different risks than a bond has difference risks than a mortgage. For a specific house and individual, the risk difference can be significant or trivial. That's why you need to look at overall portfolio for what it really is and balance all the risks.

If your a market timer (buy low sell high) then you might.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 11:57 AM   #57
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
I can shoot huge gaping holes in everything you said.
Have at it then.

Where we agree is that home equity provides financial flexibility (as does a larger portfolio). But I think the trade off between a larger portfolio and higher expenses and a smaller portfolio and lower expenses is mostly situation dependent (and probably indistinguishable in an efficient housing market).

I do, however, believe that categorizing home equity as a "bond equivalent" is misleading and deserves to be challenged.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 11:59 AM   #58
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by streamjp
I'm having trouble understanding this discussion - if one mortgage is "good", why not have 2 or 5 or 10 of them?
If one stock is good, why not just buy all stocks? If one bond is good, why not just buy all bonds?

A mortgage is "good" if it helps you with your long term risk-reward goals. Two mortgages may not be so good.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 12:08 PM   #59
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

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Originally Posted by 3 Yrs to Go
Have at it then.
Theres no reason to. Nothing you said had anything to do with what I was talking about. You got stuck on making focused technical comparisons between the characteristics of a bond and home equity. Wasnt my point, and I even ceded that it wasnt.


Quote:
I do, however, believe that categorizing home equity as a "bond equivalent" is misleading and deserves to be challenged.
See, same problem even after I spell it out. I did not say home equity is a bond equivalent. I said it could perform a similar function from an investors perspective.

Even though you're probably not even reading this, I dont need the vaunted "bond income", nor do I need to liquidate the house, or do any of the stuff you're implying.

Its friggin simple:

Pay off the mortgage

80/20 portfolio

1-3 years spending in decent cash equivalents like cd ladders

High long term returns

Pay your bills from dividends and the income from the 20%

Dip into cash if you need to, when you need to (I havent as of yet)

In poor market conditions, move up 2 steps, rinse and repeat.

If things get really crappy, get a part time job or cut spending.

I suspect your average 60/40 guy with a mortgage goes back to work somewhere in the course of the last 3 steps or defaults on his loan. I wont ever have to.

No need for 40% bonds, no need for income, no need to liquidate the house, none of the malarky you're determined to focus on.

By having the high home equity and low associated monthly spending, I DONT NEED BOND INCOME. By having fairly nominal monthly spending costs covered by dividends and interest, I ALSO DONT CARE ABOUT VOLATILITY.

Since bonds are usually kept in a portfolio for income and to lower volatility...by having high home equity and no mortgage, I dont need them.

THATS the only rough tie-in between the two.

But I'll staple some friggin coupons to the side of the house if it'll make you happy.
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?
Old 02-10-2007, 12:31 PM   #60
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Re: Advice....Should I look at home equity this way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
Its friggin simple:
I guess when you make a whole host of unfounded assumptions, sure.

You keep arguing about person A who has a mortgage and person B who doesn't. That was never the question.

You also assume that person A with a mortgage has a 60/40 equity split while person B has an 80/20 . . . there is no reason for that to be true.

You fail to account for the fact that person A (who may also rent) has a larger portfolio equal in size to the home equity.

You fail to account for the fact that the mortgage payments do not increase with inflation. Better to be a borrower than a lender in the 70s.

You now assume that you "can pay your bills from dividends and income on the 20%". Even if you can manage 6% on your cash, a 80/20 split leaves you earning just ~2.6% - far below what most people anticipate needing to cover their bills.

You are also now talking about an 80/20 portfolio instead of:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
In that scenario, the role of bonds is limited or non-existant. You simply dont need them, but are obviously most welcome to continue to hold some as a diversifier.
Or to really confuse:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
By having the high home equity and low associated monthly spending, I DONT NEED BOND INCOME. By having fairly nominal monthly spending costs covered by dividends and interest, I ALSO DONT CARE ABOUT VOLATILITY.
So in the same breath I both DON'T NEED BOND INCOME but have my "costs covered by dividends and interest"

But then I guess if you keep changing your argument you can always counter:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
Nothing you said had anything to do with what I was talking about.

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