I’m Happily Renting, but My Mom Thinks I’m an Idiot for Not Buying a House

A for rent sign outside a brick building.
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Dear Penny,

I’m super excited about the house I just started renting, but my mom won’t stop making negative comments about my decision to rent. She keeps trolling Zillow and pointing out how my mortgage payment would be so much lower than my monthly rent. I’ve pointed out several times that the calculations Zillow shows assume you have a 20% down payment (I don’t) and don’t include things like property taxes or insurance.

But honestly, I’m not seeking to start a debate about renting versus buying. I’m just looking for a good response to homeowners who feel the need to lecture the renters in their lives about what a stupid financial choice they’re making. Why do so many people feel like it’s OK to question other people’s financial decisions?


Happily Renting

Dear Happily Renting,

Homeowners’ memories of the homebuying process just can’t be trusted.

So many homeowners have reminded me — a fellow proud renter — how much their mortgage costs each month compared to my rent. They are so very willing to tell me about the equity they are gaining the longer they own their homes. But they rarely volunteer wise knowledge about their down payments, closing costs, homeowner association fees and property taxes, or how much they spent replacing the dishwasher last summer.

Buying a home isn’t the mark of adult stability it used to be. A 2018 survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that almost half of respondents said they don’t make enough money to even start house hunting. A similar percentage said they have too much debt or not enough savings to think about buying a house.

Want more statistical ammunition? Last year, Bloomberg News reported that renters outnumber homeowners in 52 of America’s 100 largest cities.

Aside from economic factors like wage stagnation and our crippling collective student debt burden, the decision to rent is deeply personal. Renting provides mobility for those with an unshakeable case of wanderlust or who anticipate frequent career changes. It can be a testing ground for partners who want to make sure they can live together without ruining the romance. It can provide peace of mind to know that your monthly expenses will be relatively fixed — and that you’ll never have to fix the dishwasher yourself.

But you probably know all that. What you need now to fend off the scolding from homeowners is a simple mantra to repeat whenever (and every single time) someone gets on your case.

I will suggest a very simple one:

“Renting is the right choice for me right now.”

Say it out loud. Say it with conviction. Say it even if you’re not sure renting is actually your first choice, but your bank account commands otherwise. You do not need to justify your choices to anyone (even your mother!). You do not need to feel compelled to clap back with attitude. You can stick to your mantra with a smile.

Have a tricky money question? Write to Dear Penny at https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/dear-penny/

Lisa Rowan is a personal finance expert and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder, and the voice behind Dear Penny. For more practical money tips, visit www.thepennyhoarder.com.