Best Laid Plans ...

As I mentioned last week, I visited my family in Canada recently. Our conversations were - as you might expect - scattered all over the map, as we got caught up with all the news on various family activities. One topic came up on a couple of occasions - but not with my parents nor the grand-children; this particular theme was relevant only to the young couples in the group. Mortgages.

My daughters (and their two partners) are in a stage of life where mortgages are an ever-present issue. They have both decided to buy rather than rent, and as their local housing market is quite an 'excited' and volatile one, decisions do not come easy. As far as I am able to tell though, they both seem to be in a relatively stable situation at present, with comfortable homes, and manageable financial burdens. They have very clearly done much better at this game than their father did when he was their age. I too, had a mortgage in Vancouver once upon a time, although my story ended rather ignominiously ...

I was in my early 20s, with a full-time day job at a music store, and although this wasn't a particularly well-paying situation, it did cover my basic expenses plus a little. It was certainly not enough income to purchase property, and such a thing was never on my radar.

Those of us working at that shop always considered our employment there to be a temporary situation until a 'real' musical job came along. For most, this would never happen, but one day the 'bell rang' for me; a phone call came in from a musical contractor downtown. Did I want to join the orchestra at one of Vancouver's most prestigious hotels?

Did I? Woo-hoo ... of course I did!

But instead of simply resigning my position at the shop and taking the music job, I decided I would be able to do both. This was possible because the orchestra work began in the evening and ended around midnight. I talked to Bill the owner about this plan, and he was willing to be patient while I gave it a try.

Nine to five-thirty or so, then six-thirty to midnight. Both jobs six days a week. No problem, at least not when you're twenty-four! And so my new - very busy - life began.

The orchestra job paid quite well, and suddenly here I was in a situation where I had too much money and needed to 'do something' with it. I feared that I would just dribble it away, so looked around for a way to put this new resource to use. I found this in real estate, and decided to purchase a one-bedroom condominium over in North Vancouver, located about two blocks from the then brand new SeaBus terminal, where you could catch the quick ferry across the bay to downtown Vancouver.

I paid the required 5% down payment on a total price of $95,000 with the balance financed at a reasonable rate. I had no intention to live over there, as the commuting time back and forth between the two jobs would be too difficult, so I advertised for a tenant to live in the property. The rent they paid would go a long way towards helping me pay down the mortgage, and I was thinking that once things were running smoothly, I would purchase another unit, and next thing you know, I would be 'set' for life!

It was a great plan, and I was very pleased with myself to feel that I was getting my financial situation so well organized, at such a young age.

And indeed, my subsequent life could have taken a very different course, if things actually had gone as I envisioned. But within the space of one short month, I encountered strike one, two and three, and found myself unemployed, broke, out on the street, and fielding repeated calls from the North Vancouver police department!

Tune in next week to see just what went wrong!


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