My HELOC Epiphany

17 Feb    Uncategorized

I’m preparing to get the PMI removed on my home several months down the road, and to lower the costs, I’m working with my local bank to apply for a HELOC (home equity line of credit) and which would include a free home appraisal—and would potentially allow me to get around the appraisal costs when it was officially time to get the PMI removed. On the other hand, if I go ahead and get the HELOC now, it would allow me to finance some minor home improvements at a lower interest rate than unsecured, consumer-based credit.


Here’s the thing that caused my HELOC epiphany: My local banker tells me that “home appraisals aren’t really that much money.” Now because I’ve done some marketing work for real estate and home improvement companies in the past, I happen to know that the average cost of a home appraisal is $300-$500. I just couldn’t but think in real-time: what the hell, $500 is a decent chunk of change. Which leads me to think about when I was 16 and $500 felt like a veritable fortune. To the average person on the street—whatever in the hell that means—it’s surely a veritable fortune. So yeah, saving on the cost of the appraisal would feel like a pretty sizable win for me.


It also triggers another recurring thought I have about money: The first dollar you receive on the job in a day, week, month, or year has a tremendously different personal value than, say, the millionth dollar you receive on the job. People who make a million dollars a year have a fundamentally different relationship to the individual dollars than the person who earns only a single dollar or a thousand dollars or ten thousand or a hundred thousand, even though the value of the individual units are supposedly the same. $500 would buy so many meals and basic necessities for people who need them. I want another $500 to try to pay down student loan debt among other things.


It’s like another thought I have that attempts to process the impossibility and inevitability of having a relationship to money: “You take a thousand dollars here and a thousand dollars there and pretty soon it adds up to real money.” But of course, it would still take quite a while to reach $50 billion dollars and become too busy to pick up, say, $25,000 off the street:



Maybe the craziest thing is I think these things, but I also don’t consider myself a socialist. Just someone who believes more highly regulated financial markets based on identifying value instead of indiscriminate capital formation. Which I realize makes me a socialist to a lot of conventional, two-dimensional capitalists out there. Put me in a room with a bunch of self-identified socialists and it won’t take long for me to find something to disagree with. (I realize this characterization makes me seem judgy and self-righteous, but I can’t seem to escape it).


My spouse, ever the logician, tells me this is a thinking error. I, myself, always the fool, tell her all thoughts are flawed. My sister-in-law, forever the mental health professional, explains that thinking errors have a more specific meaning in a psychological context. Thinking errors are like thoughts that take you down the wrong path in a maze. It doesn’t really matter why you took that path or what’s at the end of it. It’s not going to help you get out of the maze. Oh yeah, I say, well, what if the major financial institutions of the world and the telecommunications company of the world have designed a system where it’s not a maze but a labyrinth in which the entry door closes behind you. What then? Do we sit down on the path, or do we keep scratching at the walls? I’m a grouchy old curmudgeon, and I worry for the day when I stop being a grouchy old curmudgeon.


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