This morning I woke up to an article from CNN Money that gives the stat that 30% of all mortgages are underwater.
The first two lines read:
"Sometime, somehow, the foreclosure crisis will ease. But probably not anytime soon."
Kind of a downer, right? Kind of? Ha. Definitely. And if you're underwater or facing foreclosure, that is how it feels. And the reality of this foreclosure crisis is that it is a long one. Not an uplifting revelation.
So what do you do if your mortgage is underwater? And how does that feel on a daily basis? And what do you do to make a difference in that situation?
Our mortgage wasn't underwater. We ended up in foreclosure as a result of not being able to make our payments due to job loss. However, I imagine a lot of the experience is similar.
So I present to you, an IMAGINED conversation with an underwater homeowner (UH):
ME: Did you ever expect to owe more than your house is worth?I'm not sure this imagined conversation sheds light on anything.
UH: (Duh.) Not in a million years. We obviously would never have bought.
ME: Right. Of course. So how does it make you feel to make those payments every month?
UH: Duped. Like the bank is laughing all the way to the... well, to the bank.
ME: I imagine you feel angry too.
UH: Yeah. And like an idiot at times for having made such a terrible investment.
ME: Well, you couldn't have known--
UH: No. But if I had known... well, I wouldn't have this bleeding ulcer.
ME: You have a bleeding ulcer?!
UH: From the stress.
ME: I'm sorry to hear that. So what do you do?
UH: I make the payments.
UH: Because I signed a contract. Because I can. Because I don't want to end up in foreclosure.
ME: Are you aware that many underwater homeowners are now walking away as a business decision?
UH: Yes. And we considered that. But...
UH: It just doesn't feel right.
ME: I get that. I think a lot of people feel that way.
UH: Are we almost done?
ME: Just one more question. With all of the stress of being underwater, how do you...
UH: How do I...
ME: How do you breathe?
UH: (sighs) One breath at a time.
And I'm still not sure I know the answer to the question How to Breathe When You're Underwater, but I do know some things that don't help...
5 Things that don't help you breathe when you're underwater:
1. Dwelling on the mistakes of the past
"We never should have bought this house!" Sound familiar? You can't change the past and this sort of thinking will only lead to more regret, depression, self-loathing, second-guessing, anger, resentment and bleeding ulcers.
2. Playing the blame game
Whether you blame your spouse for wanting the house in the first place, your intuition for telling you it was a good idea, President Bush for starting this crisis, President Obama for not yet solving it, or the banks for getting rich while your investment tanks... spending energy blaming is energy wasted. The sooner you come to peace with the way things are, the more room you'll have to breathe (and regroup!)
3. Taking it out on your house
We've all heard the stories of homeowners who destroy their homes just before the banks repossess them. They do this, I suppose, to release anger and to stick it to the banks. Well, whether you're in foreclosure or underwater, this is not advised. For your own sake! Think about it. Your environment is so important. Especially at this time. The best thing you can do right now is ENJOY YOUR HOME WHILE YOU HAVE IT.
Now is the perfect time to de-clutter. Organize those closets. Get rid of excess stuff. Go on. Sell it on eBay or Craigslist and make some extra cash. Then, once your house is in tip-top shape, throw a dinner party. Share it with your friends and family. Appreciate it more now than ever before. This makes sense because A. You still live there, so you may as well enjoy it and B. If you end up needing to sell, you'll be ready.
Just remember. It's not your house's fault. So be nice to your house.
The only thing denial gets you is inaction and that is very dangerous for someone who is underwater and/or facing foreclosure. It's not a fun place to be, I know. A little escapism can go a long way. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about outright denial. Ignoring the situation and pretending that it's all peaches and cream. Now is the time to be reading up. Researching your options. Talking to the bank. Working on restructuring your loan. And facing reality with confidence and determination. You never know what you might be able to accomplish when you embrace reality.
5. Neglecting the rest of your life
While it is a good idea to face the reality of your situation, it's not a good idea to become singularly focused on your personal housing crisis and ignore all other areas of your life. This doesn't usually happen intentionally. It just happens. Yes, I know. It's hard to enjoy life when such a huge part is going so far off plan. But obsessing about it will only bleed into the other areas of your life. You know. Like an ulcer.
Instead, try this: LIVE IN THE MOMENT
As hard as it might sound, it's really not. It's just a switch. Notice the world around you. Be in the moment in every moment.
As John Lennon wrote, "Life is just what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Breathe each breath, as our imagined underwater homeowner said, "One breath at a time."
And if all else fails, try yoga.
I hope that helps!
What helps you breathe?
CNNMoney - 30% of Mortgages Are Underwater