Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buy Low, Sell High

Linda has said for years that market researchers could make a fortune by just tracking what we do. It's not that we're trendsetters. More like we are often into something before anyone knows it's already a trend. More often than not if we make a life decision or buy a new type of product, in a month or two one of us will come across a story that says that the hottest trend happening now is our new choice.

There are hundreds of examples (and the notorious exception, mini-CD players).

When we decided to downsize our house because the kids had all moved out, we discovered a month later that lots of people our age were doing the same. When the kids moved back in with us in the smaller house, that too was pretty much a universal phenomenon.

When we developed a strong yearning to do nothing more at night than stay home and eat comfort food, we read soon enough that cocooning was the latest Boomer trend. And at least one of us (OK, me) unknowingly joined the crusade to have obesity classified as an epidemic. (Hey, diabetes didn't even become a leading disease until I joined its ranks.)

When we started going on cruises, that age-old vacation became the fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry. When we decided to retire early, thousands of others our age joined us --- albeit most of them because they lost their jobs rather than choosing Option B.

In the past year alone, we have become Wii addicts, Flip video producers and Kindle readers. It has now reached the point where CNN calls us up on a slow news day and asks what we're doing so they can do a feature that will appeal to their baby boomer demographics.

Which is all a long way around to talk about our decision to sell the Sydney house and move to Tasmania. There are lots of reasons we chose Tassie, and we are absolutely excited to be moving there. But the initial decision to abandon Sydney was purely and simply based on money. In fact, it was the factor that let us decide that blogging and listening to old Cars albums in the afternoon would be more fun than working.

One of the most incredibly lucky things that ever happened to us was that we bought our first little house in the early 90s. (That's the down-sized one I mentioned.) What was lucky was that we bought it in Sydney, a city that so far has defied world trends by having property values go through the roof in the 90's and early 2000's --- and then was nice enough to us not crash to earth during the global financial crisis.

What happened was, the money we spent on our first house doubled in 7 years, enabling us to buy the house we are in for another week or so. And that house more than doubled in 9 years when we sold it in November.

During that time, we were able to buy a lovely place near the beach outside Hobart about five years ago. It cost about 15% of what a similar place in Sydney would cost. So the math is dead simple: Cash in the Sydney house, move to the Hobart house. Bank the money and at current rates, live nicely on the interest.

So what does this have to do with trends? Well, just as we were both getting sore elbows from patting ourselves on the back for such astute decision-making, LK came across this story in the New York Times.

Called "Baby Boomers' Second Act" the opening paragraphs feature this observation: "By selling their homes that are paid for, or mostly paid for, in expensive urban areas and moving to sometimes astonishingly less expensive parts of the country, many boomers may well be able to pay cash for a new home and avoid the dire financial straits that some economists predict for them."

So it turns out that once again what we thought was a novel, arresting idea turns out to be pretty much run-of-the-mill thinking by lots of people like us. So, not too many points for originality, I guess, but at least we have the comfort of knowing that lots of others from the Most Selfish Generation are thinking the same way we are.

Who knows, maybe we can organize a love-in on Kingston Beach once we settle in.

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