Paid off Mortgage in Three Years

Sean Cooper

Sean Cooper quoted me in Why the Guy Who Paid Off His Mortgage in 3 Years Isn’t as Smart as You Think.  You’ll want to read about this guy:

You’ve gotta hand it to Sean Cooper: In a mere three years, this Toronto homeowner made epic sacrifices to pay off a $255,000 mortgage on his $425,000 house. His reason: “For a lot of people, their mortgage is like a life sentence,” the 30-year-old explained to the press. “I just wanted to not have a mortgage hanging over my head.”

After his story broke in publications such as the Toronto Star and The Hamilton Spectator, thousands applauded this as a feat of frugality.

But some experts say the opposite—that Cooper made a colossal mistake.

Forget the fact that to pay off his mortgage this pension analyst took on two extra jobs (including in the meat section of a supermarket even though he’s a vegetarian) and worked over 100 hours per week. Let’s also set aside the fact that he stopped using his car and claims Kraft dinners were his “best friend” (because clearly his real friends stopped hanging out with him). No, experts argue that Cooper’s extreme mortgage-paying regimen may have actually damaged his financial health.

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“Having a mortgage is not really such a bad thing,” says David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. “When you think about what a mortgage is, it makes sense to pay it off over a long period of time. You use a mortgage to buy something that will last a long time—a home—so you would probably want to spread the payments for that expensive thing over the whole period you’re using it, just as you would with a car. [Cooper’s paying off his mortgage quickly] may work for him, but not for the typical person.”

So if you’re inspired to follow in Cooper’s footsteps, think twice and consider less drastic measures.

“There are less extreme ways of doing this,” Reiss says. “Some people make payments every four weeks instead of every month. This results in one extra payment every year and does not seem so painful. Others will put extra payments into their mortgage—a tax refund, a bonus, money from a consulting gig. This is also less painful because you were probably paying your regular expenses without that money already.”

Bottom line: Don’t beat yourself up for having a mortgage. Embrace the benefits, relax, and live a little. Cooper, for one, is now playing catch-up. Now that he’s debt-free, he’s moved on to his next goal: He’s looking for love. Because let’s face it, most bachelorettes aren’t into eating mac ‘n’ cheese on a date.

The Divided City — New York Edition

Richard Florida and colleagues at the Martin Prosperity Institute have posted a report, The Divided City:  And the Shape of the New Metropolis. The executive summary explains that

To better understand the relationship between class and geography, this report charts the residential locations of the three major workforce classes: the knowledge-based creative class which makes up roughly a third of the U.S. workforce; the fast-growing service class of lower-skill, lower-wage occupations in food preparation, retail sales, personal services, and clerical and administrative work that makes up slightly more than 45 percent of the workforce; and the once-dominant but now dwindling blue-collar working class of factory, construction, and transportation workers who make up roughly 20 percent of the workforce.

 The study tracks their residential locations by Census tract, areas that are smaller than many neighborhoods, based on data from the 2010 American Community Survey. The study covers 12 of America’s largest metro areas and their center cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Detroit. It examines these patterns of class division in light of the classic models of urban form developed in the first half of the 20th century. These models suggest an outward-oriented model of urban growth and development with industry and commerce at the center of the city surrounded by lower-income working class housing, with more affluent groups located in less dense areas further out at the periphery. It also considers these patterns in light of more recent theories of a back-to-the-city movement and of a so-called “Great Inversion,” in which an increasingly advantaged core is surrounded by less advantaged suburbs.

 The study finds a clear and striking pattern of class division across each and every city and metro area with the affluent creative class occupying the most economically functional and desirable locations. Although the pattern is expressed differently, each city and metro area in our analysis has evident clusters of the creative class in and around the urban core. While this pattern is most pronounced in post-industrial metros like San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, and New York, a similar but less developed pattern can be discerned in every metro area we covered, including older industrial metros like Detroit, sprawling Sunbelt metros like Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas, and service-driven economies like Miami. In some metros, these class-based clusters embrace large spans of territory. In others, the pattern is more fractured, fragmented, or tessellated.

 The locations of the other two classes are structured and shaped by the locational prerogatives of the creative class. The service class either surrounds the creative class, being concentrated in areas of urban disadvantage, or pushed far off into the suburban fringe. There are strikingly few working class concentrations left in America’s major cities and metros. (iv)

As a New Yorker, I was particularly struck by the map of New York City on page 12. It is striking to see how few blue-collar communities are left in the City and how starkly divided the rest of the City is between the “creative” and “service” classes. This is not particularly surprising, but striking nonetheless.