Home Value and Self-Esteem

Are We Only As Important As The Size Of Our Bank Balance?

Lately, everyone sounds so beat up. It’s as if we’re all really tired from the past few years, worn out from the irrational exuberance we coveted, and exhausted from the bursting of the national – and our own – housing bubble.

But as we watch our home value balloons deflate, it’s as if more than a number is being lost. The voices I hear are beyond tired. It’s as if their self-esteem has deflated as well.

When you feel as though you’re a punching bag, always getting the hard knock, it’s tough to stay on the sunny side of life. Each week on my radio show, when I talk about the latest news in money and real estate, the voices I hear talking back to me most often sound as though their owners are living on a dangerous edge, and are starting to tip over.

Some of my callers sound so beat up – and not surprisingly, they’re the ones who have lost the most: home value, job, health care, emergency funds, cars, and even their marriage. All of these things that are such important, “core” values in this country have been wiped out for millions of so-called “working Americans,” even if many of them aren’t working that much any more.

Are our home values and self-esteem so tied together that we only feel as important as the size of our bank balance?

A few years ago, I’d go out to a party and hear everyone bragging about how much their home went up in value that week. Home values were rising so quickly that it did seem as though you were adding an extra grand or two to your net worth with each passing week. I think many Americans felt pretty smart that they had mortgaged their souls in order to grab their piece of the American Dream.

And now that a home is just a place to live in, rather than a vessel of ever-increasing wealth, we suddenly don’t feel or sound as smart. And yet, you have to live somewhere. It’s important to plan roots into a community, especially if you’re raising a family.

What we’ve all discovered is it’s just as painful to lose paper wealth as it is to lose real wealth – and sometimes the two are intertwined. Many Americans who lost their jobs during this Great Recession learned how fast paper wealth can go up in flames, just as the paychecks stop coming.

One of two things will happen – either we’ll start to adjust to this new, lower standard of living and the economy will – ever so slowly – start to right itself, or we’ll rebel. First at the polls, and then maybe in the streets of our subdivisions and neighborhoods.

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