This past month my wife and I sold our McMansion and then donated or sold much of its contents. We banked the equity and rented a 40-year-old doublewide from a friend at a third of our former house payment.
This shocked our financial planner, who almost choked at the news, asking why we’d made “such a whopping change.”
It’s a question I couldn’t completely answer, but I tried to explain how we were preparing for an itinerant life of retirees. But spiritually, I knew it was more than that.
Home ownership in the ’burbs seemed more and more about the obesity and audacity of materialism. We had filled every room and decorated every wall. It was time for a change.
We drew a line in the fiscal sand to declare that we had more than enough things. We said goodbye to all the stuff that weighed us down. We saw wisdom in the biblical admonition from Hebrews 12:1 to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
So, during Sacramento’s record-setting 109-degree heat, we hired three men, two boys and a truck to squeeze the remains of our 2,800-square-feet of home furnishings into a U-Haul. We drove north out of our manicured subdivision and then literally across the proverbial tracks toward our new neighborhood.
We followed the moving van in our cars and were soon caught up in a jam of older-model cars. Their drivers reflected the racially diverse community, which the 2010 U.S. census identified in 2010 as 70% non-white.
During our 15-minute convoy, the street noise intensified with delivery trucks and two passing freight trains. The social scenery changed drastically, too. Youths loitered outside a convenience store and shirtless men gathered in a liquor store parking lot.
Crime here is 167% above the national average. I now have a 1 in 13 chance of becoming a crime victim.
Soon, we arrived at the park, and I punched the gate code. Three other cars entered on my coattails. My sense of security faltered until I entered the park, where I found an island of well-kept homes.
The new neighborhood was quiet enough to be a golf course. The only noises I heard were Shar-Peis and poodles yapping through open porch doors as retired residents bid them to stop. Flags, wind chimes and bird feeders swayed from cleanly swept porches. A gaggle of geese crossed the road, a covey of quail scurried beneath the shrubs and a nest of rabbits scampered for their holes.
We passed over ten speed bumps before finally parking our truck in front of our new, yet old and very dated, mobile home. As we unloaded the contents, our movers expressed what we already knew – “This is very different,” making the comparison with our old home.
“Different” was putting it mildly. We’ve transitioned from a privileged community to a modest, working-class community. There are no libraries, no golf courses or health food stores. The nearest Starbucks is five miles away, and the booms in the distant night aren’t fireworks.
After the movers finish, my wife and I take a breather on our living room couch to look out our window into the shaded playground. We watch as a dad plays catch with his son, a retired couple strolls by and our neighbor unloads his work truck.
My wife turns to me and says, “I feel at peace here.”
“Me too, sweetie.” I say. “I just hope our financial planner finds some of that peace.”