Or, for you younger folks, I just paid off my mortgage.
Back in the day, when folks bought a home, they generally stayed put right there in that very neighborhood, where they had babies and raised their kids all the way through high school and college. That's the way it was in the neighborhood where I grew up. And then, one day, hopefully not too long after that, they finally made that last payment on the mortgage.
They would invite their closest friends over and have a party to celebrate this huge milestone and at some point, head to the backyard where they would ignite the deed of trust mortgage note and let it burn to ash. I guess in a way it was also symbolic of moving from one stage of life and marriage, and into another - retirement. A time where you could stop the stressful 9 to 5 grind, be done with raising babies and high demand housework, spend more alone time together, become grandparents, relax, garden, do more charity and volunteer work, take up old hobbies, start new ones, take your time with household duties, watch a lot of tv, stay up late and even sleep in if you choose. And maybe even start a blog.
You don't hear too much about a mortgage burning these days. There are probably a number of reasons for that, but namely that people stay in debt even up into their 60s. Over their careers, they move around a lot, change jobs, change states, heck sometimes they completely change careers to go where the money is. They buy houses, sell houses, and buy newer, and often bigger houses, sometimes houses that they truly can't really afford. They get credit lines on their homes to finance other things and so they can buy new stuff and they stay in constant debt. Sometimes, like now with the current housing crisis and predator lending, they end up owing more than their home is even worth.
I moved into this house in the summer of 1994. I didn't choose the house or area, but it became mine with the divorce property settlement a few years later when my then husband decided to have a mid-life crisis where he needed to be single. Yes. I have been married a couple of times. Don't judge.
When I moved in, this was a simple, modest, ranch style home, built in the late 80s, and only about 1300 square feet, in a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood of mostly military families or older folks. While it is off the beaten track outside of city limits in the county, instead of being located in a more northern area it was right on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with a little known beach and beautiful fishing pier right around the corner, a boat launch, a golf course, and only minutes from all the city conveniences. The area is full of trees and most of those oaks - something that you don't see much of in suburban neighborhoods anymore since developers tend to plow everything under when they start clearing lots to sell. When I first moved here, it was a nice, quiet and peaceful neighborhood, and I grew to love it.
The neighborhood has changed a bit, mostly since Hurricane Katrina really - but that's a whole 'nother story - and there have been times where I have alternately thanked God that I was lucky enough to have a roof over my head, while cursing this house for being too tight, too small, too compact and badly designed, I still stayed here. I didn't upgrade. I didn't move into something bigger or newer. I paid my mortgage on time. I paid off my other debt so that I could pay more toward my mortgage. And today I paid it off.
And you know what? Yes, there have been times where I did get a tinge of resentment that there are some (not all) folks out there who did get the bigger, newer houses, many who really couldn't afford them, but were able to get the loans anyway due to bad banking practices. And I have at times felt a little envy that they had the space I didn't, and the big chef's kitchens and walk in pantries and nice big master bedrooms and baths I longed for. But, I also realize many of them are now going to work stressed out, and living on the very edge of losing their homes and praying for a last resort government bailout. And while there may not be a big party here celebrating, I gotta say, making that final payment sure felt pretty good. It may not be a mansion, but it's home. And now, it's mine.