Is My Home A Good Investment?

640px-Belton_House_2006_GianoIs My Home A Good Investment?

NOTE:  This post is part of an ongoing education series.  This information is for educational purposes only.  This information does not constitute investment advice.  Please consult with your financial advisor before taking any action.  For planning advice contact Polaris Financial Planning.

Like many things in the investment world – It depends.  Some say housing is an investment and I think it is more like an expense.  Clearly a home is and asset but, is it a good investment?

I looked around the web to find a good estimate of the average increase in home values and found this really cool chart.

united_states_housing_value

The amount your house goes up depends on: where you buy, when you buy and when you sell.  If you look at the blue line you will see that you could have purchased a house for about $125,000 in 1999.  That same house had a peak value of over $250,000 just 7 years later.  An average growth of 10% per year.  However, over the long run the increase is about 5% per year on this graph.  Historically, I think the rates are lower but let us use 5% for now knowing that it could be too high.

I will create two examples.  House A has a price of $100,000 and house B has a price of $200,000.  (To keep the math simple we will assume that you can by either house with $0.00 down)

If you get a 30 year fixed loan at 4% the monthly payment on house A will be $477.42 and house B will be $954.84 (the difference is $477.42 per month we will use that below).  The payment for house B would be twice as much – just as you would expect.

After 30 years of payments and constant growth in value of 5% every year house A would be worth $432,194 and house B would be worth $864,388.  House B’s value is $432,194 higher than that of house A.  Not bad for just an extra $477.42 per month.

But, what if you bought house A and invested the extra $477.42 in the stock market and you did that every month of every year for 30 years and made 10% return every year you would have a portfolio in excess of $940,000.

You could argue that the higher mortgage could help on your taxes and that is true if the interest is higher than your standard deduction or you are already itemizing.  On the other hand, you probably have to pay a lot more in taxes, utilities, repairs and insurance for the bigger house.  Don’t forget with a bigger house you will also need to buy more stuff to put in it.  Finally, you may have to pay 6 or 7% commission if you need to sell it.

For me, I would rather have $940,000 in cash than the extra $432,194 in home value but, your preference may be different.  You did have the advantage of living in a much nicer house for the last 30 years.  In the end, I recommend that you DO NOT buy the most expensive house you can.  I recommend you buy the most affordable house you can live in and invest the rest.  Nothing provides more security than cash!

Religious German Home Schoolers Gain Asylum

Romeike_FamilySCOTUS declined to hear Romeike v. Holder and demanded the government to respond to their petition for asylum which was granted. For those not in the homeschool universe the Romeike family is a conservative religious family that didn’t want to follow Germany’s mandatory public school requirement because it was too secular.

First, since secularists often consider all homeschoolers to be either religious or the parents of high-need children I must say we home schooled all three of our children more or less for reasons of travel and lifestyle. My oldest son was accepted on scholarship to Beloit and was on the Dean’s List his first year. One daughter received the highest math honor in her middle school (she chose to go to school at 14). The other daughter has had all A’s and has chosen to homeschool a year or two because of bullying and the mindless routine of public schools here.

To be blunt, if your children are smart or stupid schools have declined in their ability to support them. Around here parents of either population shuffle their kids around to various institutions trying to cobble together a decent education. It’s not just Tiger Moms but education-starved children.

I would homeschool my children more if we could afford it. The idiotic routines and mind-numbing activities of underfunded, undersupported, underachieved, and too-religious public schools easily convince me. The middle-school science text in my town does not mention evolution or even change over time. It is an idiotic book that should be thrown out. I also find the moralizing posters and facile motivations in the hallways and class walls horrifying.

Especially now there are many secular homeschool resources available. It helps to remember that homeschooling was originally distance learning for those who couldn’t get to schools. It was hijacked by religious separatists. There are many ways to ensure children meet minimum education standards and if we actually had competent schools we wouldn’t need SAT and ACT tests to prove it long after the fact and long after it can be changed.

I welcome the schools to keep the money they have not had to use to educate my children. They need all of the financial help they can get.

My spouse is now a school teacher and hates it. The authoritarian ego trips and lack of ability to discipline children combined with low parental support means she is little more than a class police woman and she hates it. She is the only teacher with a Phd at her school. I make more money painting houses. This means we are also trying to change the system and not be secular separatists.

With all of these caveats in mind…

Religious separatists have found common ground with libertarians in championing home school. They both want to dismantle the government. The one because they don’t want government and should be more properly called anarchists and the other because it is the wrong government. Religious separatists would be happy under church authority and obedience to their sacred texts and canons. It is a disingenuous or mistaken alliance. While libertarians want the freedom separatists wish to change the goals of the authority and not remove authority.

HSLDA is a hyperconservative  homeschool advocacy business that sells home schoolers insurance again litigation. Yep, for a small fee you can buy some legal insurance in case you have to go to court over homeschooling. They often use scare tactics to convince home schoolers they are going to be litigated and litigated soon if they don’t stand up for parental rights whatever the hell that means. It certainly doesn’t mean they think you can have an abortion, later or early. Nor does it mean they think religion should be out of government or schools. Nor does it mean they would allow me to teach Buddhism, or in some schools, Yoga, even historically.

The Romeikes could have moved to another country in the EU that is more tolerant of homeschooling. HSLDA was thrilled to ensconce them in their circle of scare tactics and hold them as the poster family of religious freedom. Even the asylum granted is proof to them the US is going to avoid their issue of parental rights where you can do anything you want with your children as long as it follows a christian ideal. Though which denomination seems rather unclear.

This is the so called immutable characteristic that HSLDA wishes to assign to home schoolers. But there is no canon, no constitution, no binding characteristic of home schoolers as a group. If home schoolers could call themselves Amish, or Menonite, or any of a number of formal separatist groups of tradition they could claim asylum as that group but  not because they are home schoolers. You can’t ask for asylum because you have a changeable characteristic like carpenter, knitter, prostitute. That’s the law part which most don’t care about but that’s why SCOTUS, conservative as they are now, wouldn’t touch it.

Germany created the public school mandate in response to its Turkish immigrants who moved in or were born in such large numbers as to outnumber the Germans. Further these immigrants balkanized themselves into social and religious ghettos (they are not a homogeneous group either) and do not wish to participate in German society. They want all of the welfare but little of the responsibility.

In Denmark this balkanization with muslims has been such a problem that liberals have given way to conservatives who seem oddly correct that a country does have a character that should be maintained. That certain laws of governance and morality are more universal than the ethnicity of its citizens. 

This should be familiar to Americans since that is precisely why we created the public school system here. Too many immigrants who could not speak the language, know the constitution, and participate in society. The US needed workers who would show up, stay at work, and then go home. It is renewed problem as it is not just theocrats in the Carolinas and Texas that would like to secede but parts of California and elsewhere that are in hispanic majority. Who understanding the US is a democracy would like their own kind of hispanic governance, representation, and if necessary separatism. HSLDA would not approve.

HSLDA falls back on the old libertarian canards of commerce law to squeeze out legitimacy for state’s rights as expanding to parental rights. This tactic fails big. Most citizens don’t know law very well–no lawyer would make more than an “opinion” outside their area of expertise. Most people don’t get that neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, states, and other nations have different levels and effects of standing, jurisdiction, and jurisprudence. Most just see themselves in reference to themselves. This kind of myopia is a problem. We should teach much more law in schools.

HSLDA preys on this ignorance by emphasizing that Romeike should be allowed asylum. Since the US allows homeschooling so should the entire world. It confuse US law with international law, US rights with other countries’  rights. Indeed if religious separatists wish for that they should not insist that every country have the same laws. It is clear it is not a function of governance but the specific issue itself. While claiming separatism they really wish everyone would follow their law. Again they don’t want tolerance they want rulership across the board. Even if a country votes for mandatory public school they insist that country is wrong.

Unless you wish to expand the UN to a global legal empire that not only enforces all rights but all law, countries by long agreement and demand  have their own governance. You can’t criticize Nazi’s in Germany but you can here. Do you wish for Germany to demand  the US change its laws?

Just because you have a right in America does not make it an international right. The right to homeschool is not under any international law. Oddly HSLDA has fought against any US involvement in international law for decades until now. Just as conservatives wished to “Americanize” immigrants for decades, a century or two, they now wish to Americanize the world. It’s not a libertarian issue, it’s a theocratic issue.

If the Roemeikes had been deported the worst that would have happened to them is their children would have to go to school or they could  move to another more accessible country. They are not in danger of persecution. So much so why do we turn away people who are physically abused and tortured but allow this?

The Romeikes can teach their children churchy stuff at home just as I have to teach evolution to my children at home even if I don’t homeschool.

Jim n

A Cross to Bear, New York and Nationalism

world-trade-center-cross-new-york-mathew-lodgePlato would hate the cross as a monument in New York to celebrate 9/11. First I say celebrate as Americans have fetishized this event so far grandly beyond other far more horrific disasters it has become incomprehensible. Indeed the punitive action taken has been so much greater in misbalance that even reasonable liberals have dreamed up convaluted  conspiracy theories to somehow explain the emotional intensity of our reaction. Leaving that aside there are other issues needing to be discussed.

David Silverman gets grilled by Megyn Kelly on his dyspepsia and headaches from the cross. Any moral person would be dyspeptic and have severe headaches. If you’re religious you can’t stand the promotion of it as secular. If you’re non-cross-oriented religious you know it’s an affront to your religion. If you’re secular you know it makes a travesty of religious tolerance in the public sphere and is disrespectful to the nonchristians involved.

By way of Plato, to continue Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato in the Googleplex where Plato shows up in modern times, Plato would hate the cross.

Christians have themselves enabled this castigation by insisting the cross is not a religious symbol but rather a nationalization of the courage of those there that day, just a symbol of the greatness of Americans and their capacity for courage and compassion. Hmmm. Plato, separated the acclaim of others (kleos) as irrelevant in his concept of virtue (arete). Socrates denied the ability of Athens (nation by any other name) to have any say in whether he was virtuous “the city can do him no harm, even if their disapproval of him is so great they sentence him to death,” remembering that Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth and  being antiAthenian, because Athenians had become too proud of being Athenian and less concerned with being good individuals engaged in dialog.

The same with praise or being distinguished. One lives a moral, ethical, and virtuous life by means or principles that have nothing to do with the state or the approval of others. Though we use others to become less egotistic (reveal biases etc) we do not revere the state simply because it is the state. One does (should do, would hopefully do, would optimally do) what is right because it is right and not because the state will appreciate it, or one will receive fame and recognition. 

Socrates was the first to associate virtue with moral character in absence of social approval.  Goldstein explains this as analogous to healthiness.

A person doesn’t have to be recognized as healthy in order to be healthy, and so it is with Plato’s Socrates’ arete… Plato argues that even if a person could get away with all manner of wrongdoing while maintaining a good reputation because of a magic ring that renders him invisible. Still he should not do any of these awful things, since by destroying his arete the man will destroy himself. Arete is entirely independent of social regard.

Either way the cross is not appropriate. Let us not promote empty Nationalism nor let us promote a particular religious symbol as if it were for all of us. If some sort of symbol is necessary why not a peace sign, a dove. Or why have a symbol at all, a visual deepity that mocks the real.

Jim n

The Three Horsemen of the Post-Enlightenment

pres selfieIn a beautiful selfie, Bill Nye, Barack Obama, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson show support for the first Student Film Festival at the White House. I love these boys. Yes, I know Nye’s debate caused Ken Hamm to earn Millions and Millions for his infantile Ark project–Hamm’s no Thor Heyerdahl and the Ark is no Kon-Tiki (excellent books to read on true scientific-amateur adventure). I know Obama has been less liberal than I wanted–he always was a centrist intellectual and you can’t tie a person’s hands and expect them to knit.  I know Neil buddy eschewed being called an atheist for agnosticism and insisted that he was after better science education and not a godless manifesto.

Nevertheless these three have done a tremendous amount for humanism and provided hope for many people. I only wish I coulda been there to photobomb it and then  laugh our asses off and do another.

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider an Arkansas case whether Muslims can use Islam as sufficient reason to to allow beards in prison. You know pussy-faced, bare-cheeked, and baby-bottom smooth was touted by the Romans and mandatory. The term barbarian comes from bearded and was pejorative for nonRomans. Why on Earth do we shave any hair? Women are supposed to look like prepubescent girls as well? The prison says beards can hide darts and weapons… This is the kind of logic that allows the TSA to cavity search women multiple times and then do body scans as well. It’s like some twisted George Carlin skit where he asks when we lose something why do we keep looking in the same drawer or spot we think it’s supposed to be in over an dover again as if it would magically appear. Except it’s not funny.

Paco deLucia died, one of the most respected modern Flamenco guitarists. He won his second Grammy in 2012. He was originally criticized for separating the guitar from the voice and the dance which was heretical to an entire school of Flamenco. But he also helped revive a declining art form and later brought singing to it again later. Kind of like what Lindsey Sterling and others are doing to bring classical music to relevance again. Flamenco was originally a Roma protest art form as they were excluded from society–still true today, remember last year’s Big News story about a blonde gypsy kid they were sure was stolen? Flamenco is extremely difficult to learn both as a result of enforced leisure (unemployed and disenfranchised) and to prove themselves as good as anyone. The rough near-screaming aspect of Flamenco singing is the remains of the protest much like the older Blues were field shouts, call and response.

Pete Seeger was the other great loss recently. Seeger had an amazing ability to get people singing.

Don’t say it can’t be done / The battle’s just begun / Take it from Dr. King / You too can learn to sing so drop the gun

He also wrote some of the best protest songs ever. The Nation has some video-covers of them.

Mathew McConaughey proves Religiots know no bounds. The Oscars have been traditionally a secular venue. Apparently he feels so opressed, uuuhhhh, so full of god, he needs to thank them. Once again proving that religious people really do insist everyone listen to their fervent idiocy regardless of appropriateness–what about his mother, father, friends, coworkers? The people who actually helped him. Fuck em. God did it.

Now that we’re on McConaughey who is famous for his bare-chested athleticism, how the hell is it OK for him to nip out constantly but a woman can’t breast feed in public or, hell, just be naked too? This ongoing hatred on the body is so endemically Abrahamic…

Speaking of which Bhutan is now fetishizing the Phallus which is fine but what about the Breast, the Uterus, or gasp, the whole body. At least this helps show that body hatred is not some gene-driven dislike of self, the body.

This guy writes an idiotic post on the end of religion which seems reasonable until you read it along with his confused definition.

Religion is a sociological construct meant to take us back to the primary experience from which it arose; it enshrines an ideal and provides one with a structured approach to spiritual awakening.

That’s why we love religion? You take anything, anything that you admire or feel good about and call it religion. This pathetic desire to own all emotions and all ideals as being religious ideals and religious emotions is exactly the kind of controlling bullshit we need to abandon. Feeling good is not a religious experience. Nor were religions separate social structures until the advent of the city-state. Religion really was just bad science early on and why would you want more of that?

Jim n

Of Course AIDs is God’s Punishment

Rainbow Mickey MouseThe blistering news that in 1992 36% of people thought AIDs was god’s punishment is down to 14% is comforting maybe even surprising–but aren’t all evils due to moral turpitude? 25% of Americans still think the sun goes around the Earth. Latinos get science better than the average American.

“I teach around the world and I notice that the scientific literacy in the U.S. is lower than just about everywhere, including Latin America. Also some teachers in certain Southern states are prohibited from teaching climate change. That contributes to the lack of literacy of climate change,” she concluded.

And Americans don’t even give a shit as a third don’t think science needs more funding.  So immigration actually helps Science and saves the Earth?

Better news is millennials aren’t less religious merely because of gay rights issues, though that would be enough.

Maybe Sunday brunch is just a more palatable religious experience for millennials.

Absolutely! But then I have been to Sunday church maybe five times in my life and that was always an unpleasant experience. Sunday brunch on the other hand is just fantastic! If church is about community how is lining up like tomato sauce cans on a shelf listening to an authority figure community? Even Megachurches get you need games, food, and other bribes.

Amanda Marcotte writes about the change in conservatives where abortion was once not about sex (poor little babies) and now it’s about sex (procreation only people)–contraception and abortion are issues only because the people involved are sluts. Marcotte also writes that teenage boys asking for supermodels (like Kate Upton) to come to their prom in Youtube videos is really kind of disturbing.

Let’s mark every sex offender’s license so everyone knows there is a sex offender about–maybe if we dealt with rape litigation better–nawww, let’s just do a big old Scarlet S on their forehead so everyone knows. I’m sure that will help push them over the edge and back to jail where they at least have a community–and we can’t laugh at community as a reason to join any and all groups. I really don’t want to know…and no, it’s not a safety thing.

The irony of Wendy Davis is while she seems like a hero she’s still a Texan which means she only wants more allowances for the 20 week mark and not late-term abortion at all, in any way. That only 1% do abortions after 20 weeks and most of those because they couldn’t abort before 20 weeks–often because they don’t even know they’re pregnant–seems illusive. Texas-sized baby, uhhhh, fetus steps.

While we cherish stories of stars raping or molesting children, I have to agree with Marcotte again and ask why aren’t we bashing the hell out of Bill Cosby where there is so much more evidence of his guilt. And yes, when I talk to people about this they get a huge Ick factor and don’t want to know more about Bill, so it’s not just protective love of children. We continue a long tradition of only wanting to associate with perfect people doing perfect things in a perfect world–the only perfect person died and who can ever replace Mary Poppins?

I actually felt better finding out the insane bills flowing through Arizona are championed by CAP a conservative organization–I’m used to religious groups hijacking people’s minds but have some faith in the people themselves.

Since the group’s 1995 establishment, 123 CAP-supported measures have been signed into law, including the state’s 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That effort was spearheaded by the group’s president, Cathi Herrod. Twenty-nine bills backed by CAP have been vetoed by various Arizona governors after being passed by the state legislature.

The high school student Kalei Wilson who asked for a secular club who was denied has now retreated and doesn’t want the club anymore. She was threatened and harassed to retreat.

However, we never expected our family and friends to be sought out and demonized. Please know that we recognize the importance of the club but we can not justify our involvement with the risk of our families safety and well being.

That’ll teach those uppity students. As if it weren’t difficult enough to survive the social pressure cooker of school.

The best news is Disney is refusing funding to the Boy Scouts because of their ant-gay policies. While most love to hate Disney, old Walt was more interested in talent than anything else. The biggest employee complaint I have with Walt is he created a pressure cooker environment where everyone was competing and working insanely hard to rise up the food chain.

Jim n