Now that I’m a father of two in my 40’s, I often see the experiences of my children and am reminded of my own similar experiences from a long, long time ago.
There are some things about being a child that I miss.
I was obsessed with Christmas as a child, and having one Jewish parent and one Christian parent sure didn’t help this go unnoticed! But imagine twelve months of build-up? Six weeks of red-and-green lights, Christmas music, Christmas cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, Christmas-themes in school (back before everything fun was cancelled…), and just non-stop Christmas throwing up on you until that magic morning? Oh, the haul of gifts! To heck with the religious aspect; my 12-year-old self just wanted a new Noma GT Snow Racer!
I suppose not having to work for a living, pay bills, deal with adversity, family complications, and the realization that the world can be an awful place are also reasons to miss childhood.
But do you what I really miss?
Yes, I know there are lots of board games for adults.
Those “drinking games” that you played, pre-pandemic. Apples to Apples, or the dirtier Cards Against Humanity. Those are fun.
I played Settlers of Cattan once with my wife and another couple. But then one of you gets too competitive, and the night is ruined.
Forget those adult games.
I’m talking about the games we played as kids.
We all had our favourites. We all had the ones we dreamed of getting for a birthday, for Christmas, or just for being a good kid when your Mom or Dad comes home and smacks it down on the kitchen counter in an Eatons or Simpsons bag.
Then there were the games that we felt we were supposed to play. They were advertised on TV and in magazines, and they seemed to infer that well-rounded, normal families played them. Like this one:
What a perfect family!
One boy, one girl. Probably named Bobby and Suzy.
The dad is “relaxing” on a Friday night by wearing a sweater over a dress shirt, and the mom probably just finished slaving over a hot stove and doing the dishes, putting the leftovers in this new thing called tupperware.
The kids don’t fight or argue and they brush their teeth before bed without being asked, and the same goes with saying their prayers. They never curse, and they have no problem doing household chores.
The parents are pillars of the community. The dad has worked for the same company for twenty-five years and they recently gave him a gold watch. The mom spends all day doing “housework,” wearing dresses, and is always smiling. She loves her life and has no regrets.
They’re just a typical family!
A family not unlike this family:
I guess the sweater/dress-shirt combo was readily available from 1976 through 1988?
Raise your hand if you felt pressure to at like one of these families growing up, because I sure did!
But then I discovered the television show Married With Children and realized that dysfunction is normal, but that too is a topic for another day…
Did you ever play Operation?
Not quite a board game per se, but the television ads were great. The only problem was: it wasn’t nearly as fun in person as it seemed in the ads.
Battleship? We all played it. And we all loved it. Even though it was 98% luck (where you placed your ships might have been classified as “skill”). I got Electronic Battleship in 1989 but my mother, who hated “waste,” didn’t like the idea that it wore out the batteries. So it became regular-Battleship.
I absolutely LOVED the board game Clue. But I also loved the movie, starring Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael McKean, among others. I would beg my friends to play Clue with me at indoor recess, but the game took longer than fifteen minutes so we’d never finish.
We all outgrew Snakes & Ladders by the time we realized there was no skill involved. Just rolling dice over and over.
Wheel of Fortune made an appearance sometime around 1988, I believe. You had to look up the letters in the back of a book, so it made the game-play really slow.
We all begged our parents to buy us Mouse Trap because of the epic commercial and accompanying song, which we all knew by heart. But the game was silly. We just liked to knock the ball in the rub-a-dub-tub which flipped the man into the pan…
Sorry to those who disagree, but I never cared for Sorry! Sorry!
I loved Mastermind. Especially the Mickey Mouse version that I was given for my 8th birthday. I kept it in mint condition. I liked any version of Memory too. The game Pizza Party was essentially Memory, but with a game-board in the form of a slice of pizza.
A lot of games were based on television shows, but they all sucked. Gi Joe, Masters of the Universe, Smurfs Ahoy, et al. But who the heck makes a game out of All My Children? That was in the cupboard of our third-grade class and it never got touched.
We all discovered Guess Who at some point, and it was really fun at first until you realized that only the cards featuring players without glasses, or facial hair, or a bald head were the ones you could ride to victory.
Then there were those weird games that nobody had, except for that one friend who seemed to have them all! Othello, Keeno, Parchesi, Uno, and the like. That one friend also had parents that outlawed cable television, so he only got CBC and maybe, if you were lucky, Global or CTV on a rainy night when you tilted the rabbit ears the right way…
So many games would be outlawed today. Imagine the game Dare nowadays, with the tagline, “How far will you go to win?”
I feel like the game Chicken Out and the associated peer pressure would render it cancelled by society. And don’t even get me started on Chinese Checkers…
But the game that I loved more than anything, and the game that I longed to play as a child, if only I could find somebody willing, was Monopoly. I would beg my little brother to play, or my older sister, or even my mom, who is probably reading this right now, feeling bad. But nobody wanted to play Monopoly.
It’s simply the greatest board game ever invented. There’s an element of luck, like all board games, but there’s strategy, and you get to negotiate with other players, and potentially joint-venture (or “gang up”…) to take other players out. From age-six, you learn about mortgages, rent, rates of interest, the cost of building houses and hotels and maintaining them if you happen to pick up the single-worst card in the game:
Yeah, that’s a bad one!
But you can get income tax refunds, collect life insurance, inherit money, bank error in your favour, benefit from sale of stock or the maturity of your Xmas fund, and even win second prize in a beauty contest, of all things!
Of course, you can also be forced to pay school tax, or a “poor tax” (imagine such a game in 2021??), but I think the pros outweigh the cons here.
I am of the opinion that children in public school today should be taught the game of Monopoly as a course starting in grade-six, and this should be revisited every year. I’m being serious here. We talk about financial literacy all the time on TRB and lament how young people today have no clue how to understand (let alone calculate…) compound interest, and yet in Monopoly, you have to decide between paying $200 or paying 15% of your net worth when you land on the “Income Tax” space.
So, let’s play a game!
Let’s play an interest rate game!
I assure you, the lead-in for today’s post wasn’t intended to be the actual post itself, but alas, here we are.
There’s been a lot of talk on TRB so far in 2021 about the low interest rate environment propping up the market, either as the cause of accelerating prices or merely one of the causes.
Say what you want on that front, and the opinions will vary.
But today, I wanted to work through an example of how interest rates play a role, and understand where you, the readers, think the breaking point is.
We’ll look not just at the monthly payments but also the breakdown of principal and interest, and ultimately you decide when a potential buyer would look at an investment as “affordable” and when that becomes “unaffordable.”
Assume we are buying a house for $1,000,000.
Our down payment is 20%.
The current variable rate mortgage is 1.35%.
As we all know, this is essentially free money. Those who don’t champion accelerating prices will suggest that this is the cause of appreciation in 2021, and that our market is not in a good place.
The monthly payment for this mortgage on a 25-year amortization is $3,142.01.
How do we determine if that’s affordable?
Many lenders use a GDS ratio, that is, gross debt service, which would include the mortgage, property taxes, and utilities (CMHC simply refers to “heat” but some lenders look at all utilities and/or insurance), as a percentage of gross income. Lenders use the mortgage stress test but to keep our game simple and as understandable as possible to those without financial backgrounds, let’s just use the interest rate as is.
In the above case, $3,142.01 per month, plus $400 for taxes, plus $200 for utilities, would bring us to $44,904.12 per year, so you’d need a gross income of between $106,900 and $128,297.
For two individuals making $53,450 per year or more, this is quite doable.
Now, what if the buyers took a 30-year amortization instead?
Well, now the monthly payment would drop to $2,702.31.
Thus the yearly commitment would $39,627.72, and thus the income needed to qualify would be between roughly $94,352 and $113,222.
Let’s say the buyers go with a 5-year, fixed-rate of 1.59% that was attainable last month.
The monthly payments would increase from:
25-year amortization: $3,142.01 to $3,231.45
30-year amortization: $2,702.31 to $2,793.62
Oh, so who cares, right?
On a 30-year amortization, we’re talking an extra $91.31 per month?
And what does this do the affordability, using the same 35% – 42% GDS ratios?
We go from a qualifying household income of $94,352 – $113,222 to a qualifying household income of $96,961 – $116,352.
Alright, we’ll let’s say the interest rate jumps to 1.99%.
Now we’re looking at a 25-year amortization payment of $3,383.75 and a 30-year amortization payment of $2,949.68.
So continuing with the 30-year amortization, our household income now must be between $101,419 and $121,703.
What if rates increase to 2.99% on a 30-year amortization?
Now our monthly payment is $3,360.57. That’s a long way from the $2,702.31 that we were paying on a variable at 1.35%, right? Or, maybe it’s not. Maybe $550 per month isn’t anything to write home about for you. But can you say the same for the person standing next to you?
And if rates hit 3.99% on a 30-year amortization?
Now our monthly payment is $3,799.62.
And it takes between $125,703 and $150,844 of household income to qualify, as opposed to the mere $94,352 to $113,222 that was needed on a 1.35% variable for 30 years.
Again, maybe there’s no real difference between $95K and $125K for some people, but for others, there will be.
Personally, I think there’s a very small chance that we see 5-year rates over 4% in the next five or six years (disagree if you want), so I’ll stop the interest rate game here.
But I’ve only looked at this from the perspectives of monthly payments and household income qualifications.
What about the forced savings?
The unsung hero in this market is the automatic paydown of principal!
In our example where you have a $1,000,000 purchase with a 20% down payment, and a variable rate of 1.35%, the monthly payments are:
What’s the breakdown of principal and interest paid each month in, say, year-one?
25-year: $2,258 of principal, $884 in interest
30-year: $1,816 of principal, $886 in interest
Now how about on that 1.59%, five-year fixed?
25-year: $2,191 of principal, $1,041 in interest
30-year: $1,750 of principal, $1,044 in interest
And on the 1.99%, five-year fixed?
25-year: $2,081 of principal, $1,302 in interest
30-year: $1,643 of principal, $1,306 in interest
Now on the 2.49%:
25-year: $1,950 of principal, $1,629 in interest
30-year: $1,517 of principal, $1,634 in interest
And the 2.99%:
25-year: $1,826 of principal, $1,956 in interest
30-year: $1,398 of principal, $1,962 in interest
Last, but not least, how does the principal and interest break down on a historically-low, but unimaginable-in-2021 rate of 3.99?
25-year: $1,594 of principal, $2,609 in interest
30-year: $1,183 of principal, $2,617 in interest
For those TRB readers who only come here for the MLS Musings or to watch me get ripped in the comments section, I probably lost you a long time ago. But for those without backgrounds in finance who are still reading this, you ask, what is my point?
Well, in addition to having your monthly payment jump from $2,702.31 on a 1.35% variable rate, 30-year amortization to $3,799.62 on a 3.99% rate for the same amortization, you’re also paying way more each month in interest.
You go from paying $886 per month in interest on the 1.35% rate to $2,617 per month in interest on the 3.99% rate.
During the course of five years, here’s how your total mortgage payments would break down:
To the folks looking at buying real estate right now: does any of this affect your decision?
If not, is it that you’re only looking at the monthly payments or that you aren’t concerned about the potential for a 3.99% interest rate?
I can make an argument either way here, and I know the readers will have no shortage of thoughts on this.
I understand, more now in 2021 than ever before, that many buyers view the purchase of real estate as buying a payment plan and not buying a house that they expect to own free and clear one day. But others see their monthly mortgage payment as a form of forced savings, and when you’re at 1.35% on a variable, and you’re paying $111,953 of your $162,139 in total payments over five years back into your own pocket, then buying and owning real estate is an absolute no-brainer.
But then what about when you’re only paying $76,921 of your $227,978 in payments back to yourself?
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