Real Estate

Homeownership isn’t for everyone, money coach says: Don’t fall for artificial ‘pressure to buy’

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Jannese Torres is the founder of the blog Delish D’Lites and the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero.”
Photo Jannese Torres

In her upcoming book, “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa,” author Jannese Torres discusses how she became the first woman in her family to graduate from college, build a career and achieve what she believed were marks of success.

Yet in her pursuit of the American dream, she realized that she didn’t know what to do with her financial success. She also realized certain milestones, such as homeownership, often aren’t so much achievements as a new set of challenges.

“It’s just important for people not to just feel this pressure to buy a home because you’re a certain age or you’ve reached a certain life milestone,” said Torres, a Latina money expert who hosts the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero” and an entrepreneurship coach who helps clients pursue financial independence.

CNBC spoke with Torres in early April about what drove her to write her new book, how she has worked through “financial survivor’s guilt,” and why pursuing the American dream can become a nightmare for some.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

‘Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth’

“I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money,” said Jannese Torres, author of “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa.”
Courtesy: Jannese Torres

Ana Teresa Solá: What drove you to write this book? 

Jannese Torres: When I was doing the market research for the book, one of the things that I did was look and see what the competitive market looked like out there, or if there is a reason that this book needs to exist. 

I couldn’t find a single book that was specifically marketed to the Latina community or Latinos in general being the majority minority in this country. 

Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it.
Jannese Torres

I felt like I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money. The more that I’ve talked to folks through the podcast and through my social media platforms, that’s been a very common sentiment. We’re told to go to school, get a job and make money, but then that’s the end of the conversation. What do we actually do with it? 

ATS: Like many younger generations of Latinos in the U.S., you overcame many hurdles and achieved major goals. But you describe in the book that these milestones also come with a sense of guilt. Why is guilt tied to success? 

JT: I call it “financial survivor’s guilt” because this is one of those things that we have not been prepared for. Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it. Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth. Nobody talks about what it feels like to be on the other side of the struggle when so many people that you love are still there and you feel powerless to help them all. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value.
Jannese Torres

It’s going to require folks to give themselves some compassion, and to be okay to feel those feelings. But don’t let them sabotage you. It’s going to require some boundaries that you learn to exercise and also being okay with feeling like you’re on this island by yourself. When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 

‘I was over my head very quickly’

ATS: Walk me through the chapter or that point in time when you bought a house, but it wasn’t all you thought it would be. 

JT: Looking back at it now, I was falling victim to the American dream. As a first-generation kid, my parents didn’t invest. The only thing that we saw as examples of “making it” was when family members would buy homes: The sacrifices were worth it and this is the thing that you have to show for your success.

When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 
Jannese Torres
Latina money expert and entrepreneurship coach

I definitely felt the pressure to keep up with the Joneses in that respect. I was turning 30 years old and I saw friends buying homes, getting married, doing all those things that are on the successful adult checklist of life. When I decided to purchase the home, it was coming from a place of, “Well, I need to do this too, because this is just what everybody does.”

I quickly realized that I bought a home in a place that I didn’t even want to live in. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value. The freedom to have that flexibility that comes with renting is something that I valued much more.

But I felt like I was falling victim to that narrative that says, “You’re wasting money if you rent, and successful adults purchase homes.” It took a lot of unlearning of those narratives and realizing that just because something works for one person doesn’t mean that it’s universally applicable. 

Homeownership is one of those things where more people need to question if they have the personality, lifestyle, or the value system for this, or are you just wanting to do it because that’s what everybody else is telling you to do. 

Jannese Torres
Courtesy: Jannese Torres

ATS: What would you tell someone who’s financially comfortable or has reached certain benchmarks where they could potentially invest in a property but are still wary about it? 

JT: One of the things that made me realize I was over my head very quickly was the fact that two weeks into moving into the home, I discovered that the basement would flood. The sewer line was blocked, and that was not something that we checked during inspection. I ended up having to spend $4,000 on replacing the pipe in the basement two weeks after moving in. That pretty much depleted the little money that I had left over after closing costs. 

I ended up having to take a 401(k) loan to pay for repairs and putting things on credit cards. It’s important to realize that closing costs, the fees and the down payment are just the beginning.

There’s this narrative where if you get a mortgage, then you’re going to be paying the same amount of money forever and that’s why you should buy a home instead of renting. And I’m like, “Absolutely not.” Your property taxes and insurance will increase. You’re not going to be able to predict when things go wrong in the home and when you need to fix something. 

You have to make sure you can afford the maintenance costs and the things that will inevitably come with homeownership. And from a value perspective, you have to really be honest with yourself: “Does this suit my lifestyle? Do I want to stay in this place for like a decade or more? … Or do I want the flexibility to give my landlord 30 days’ notice and be able to move somewhere else? Are you in a job that feels like it’s something you want to do long term? Or do you want to make a career pivot?”

‘The American dream is more of an illusion’

ATS: Do you think the American dream has changed? 

JT: I definitely do think that the American dream is in the process of being redefined because it has become so inaccessible, especially to the newer generations. I think there was this path to “success” where you could go to school, you could buy a home with a regular job, and previous generations were not saddled with the level of student loan debt and the cost of living was not as high. There’s factors in play that are making the American dream obsolete or at least inaccessible to people. 

We are seeing sort of this questioning of it and this shift. I think that the Great Recession was a big impetus for people starting to wonder. It feels very much like the American dream is more of an illusion for a lot of folks, and I am curious to see where it goes.

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