Captive to the mortgage

Published 11:36 pm Friday, October 5, 2012

By Roger Leonard

I really enjoyed working for myself after the military. I wanted my own freedom and control, rather than chasing another’s dictates. Nothing is more draining than to deal with a boss who sets an agenda, and it all makes little if any sense to you.

I excelled at making deals, and it seemed like every deal I did had more and more money in it, and it came easily and often. I was lucky, with the ability to see a good deal that could pay off well and then how to position myself in front of it. I bought and developed property and devised plans to make the most of it and never had a problem finding someone else willing to pay more.

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Then, I watched with everyone as the economy imploded in 2008. I marveled at how fast a really good thing had turned bad and how it scared the life out of us all.

By mid 2009, the world was turned upon its head, and no one had any real money to throw around any longer. Projects that had made money for everyone the year before were long gone, and values dropped like a rock for land and even our homes. After seeing this unfold, I decided that perhaps it was time to retire and loaf, so I did.

As I took over a year off, I realized that I really missed working hard. I tried different things like politics, writing and so on. None of that was what I needed or wanted. There were so few good jobs, and the ones available locally paid next to nothing, and that was not going to do. So I devised a plan.

My plan was to get back into a regular position, wherever it may be, and work hard and move up. I took my first position more than five hours away and just worked it out as I went.

For many, being tied to the old house, neighborhood and such would have made a departure very difficult, compounded by the fact that no one could sell their home. That was my edge; I could pay the existing mortgage with my military retirement and the cost for a new place with salary, taking my lumps on costs as necessary along the way.

Soon after taking my first position, I quickly got a better offer. Again I moved, worked hard and kept looking. Then I got an offer for Federal Service at a senior level and moved again, 10 hours away.

Right now I have a position out of state, with a strong, secure salary and benefits; not just because of hard work and skills, but because I could move and commit. With this economy, many cannot even contemplate such a move, due to circumstance. They could never sell their existing home, uproot kids and move on.

We have become a nation of campers. We are stuck in place by this economy and are unable to commit to the next job, because we can’t sell our homes. As a result, we are in an economic death spiral with our biggest work asset — a mobile and able workforce — paralyzed. We are frozen under the old mortgage and home, unable to move for that better or only job.

This log-jam of mobility must be addressed or strategic defaults and foreclosures may be the only route out. But with that strategy you only get one move to walk away from your underwater mortgage, as it destroys your credit soon after you leave.
Then you are really out of options.