A financial planner spent $20,000 visiting Antarctica to buy a house

  • A financial planner put off buying a house so he could take a $20,000 trip to Antarctica.
  • He said he and his wife find life experience more important than maximizing their net worth.
  • They also didn’t want economic conditions such as housing prices to affect their decision.

If you had $20,000, would you spend it on an adventure or a down payment on a house?

Common financial wisdom often advises investing in real estate to maximize your long-term net worth, but a Certified Financial Planner went against the grain. CFP Jake Northrup, 30, and his wife Kay, 27, have decided to put off their plans to buy a house so they can take a trip to Antarctica.

The couple still aim to have a minimum safety net of $40,000 in cash saved, Northrup told Insider. In January 2021, they had $60,000 and they thought about how best to use the extra $20,000: keep saving towards their goal of buying a house in 2022 or 2023, or spend it and postpone their home buying schedule to 2023 or 2024.

Northrup said their decision ultimately came down to their values, the most important of which is travel.

“It’s something that strengthens our marriage, expands our view of the world, and brings us the most happiness,” he explained. “Rather than our goal of maximizing our net worth, our goal is to live our lives according to our values ​​and experience as much as possible in a financially responsible way.”

Antarctica jake and kay

The Northrups in Antarctica.

Jake Northrup

Of course, not all millennials have $20,000 in cash savings. Millennials have a median balance of $24,929 in non-mortgage debt. Among those with extra money, priorities for how to spend it may vary — a previous survey by Insider and Morning Consult found that most millennials would spend an extra $1,000 to pay off debt or save, although that some would spend it on traveling and shopping.

Northrup’s mentality is emblematic of how millennials have redefined the American dream, preferring to live life on their own terms. The post-WWII narrative of the American dream – which placed a home in the suburbs and all the consumerist trappings that came with it on a pedestal – shattered in the 2020s economy as a housing crisis, a pandemic and new life prospects have prompted Americans to reassess how to live their best life. For many millennials, that means prioritizing pursuing their passions over the life decisions tradition says they “should” make.

Northrup’s version may seem bold in today’s economy. His generation juggled two recessions before the age of 40, staggering student debt, a spike in the cost of living and one housing crisis after another. Intentionally backing out of buying a home right now is a stark contrast to aspiring first-time homeowners clamoring to get their hands on a home in a fierce market.

But Northrup said they don’t want external variables such as house prices and mortgage rates to drive their decisions. Instead, they wanted to do what felt right, including spending time with penguins and Antarctic whales.

Save for Antarctica

Northrup and his wife hadn’t contributed to any investment accounts since 2018. He admits it “sounds crazy coming from a financial planner,” but they were each planning to start their own businesses (financial planning and wedding planning, respectively). ) short term. term. So they kept their savings in an Ally High Yield Savings Account.

“Having this cash in hand has allowed us to invest in ourselves and our lifestyle putting us in the best possible position to start our businesses which has improved our lives in a way that an investment in an index fund could never do,” he said.

He added that launching their businesses and seeing their income grow made them feel confident in the decision that they could afford a $20,000 trip to Antarctica.

They first did extensive research on the costs of the trip. This process helped them figure out when to make the trip – December 2021 – and how much they needed to save for it. He said this thought process should apply to anyone planning a major trip to fully weigh the opportunity costs. Without considering which choice would result in a greater loss or gain for you personally, he added, this is a blind financial decision.

Then they put the $20,000 in a separate high-yield savings account. He described earmarking money for a specific purpose as creating a “money bucket”. It allowed them to “mentally think about money as ‘spent’, so we were able to manage other financial decisions with the ‘real’ amount of money available,” he said.

Better than buying a house

The Northrups’ decision wasn’t just about the money. They also considered other future goals, such as their hope of starting a family in the next few years, which he said left them with a “short window of opportunity”.

Juggling big life goals is something Northrup thinks a lot of people are dealing with, trying to prioritize something like taking a sabbatical, starting a business or planning a trip before more traditional milestones like having a family. or buy a house. “Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive, but doing both at the same time is more difficult,” he said.

After all, roaming Patagonia with a toddler in tow is tough.

Economic conditions and societal expectations do not help. Northrup believes that the ideal of home ownership and the current state of the housing market, in which house prices have skyrocketed and mortgage rates have reached historic lows, have exerted undue pressure on millennials to buy a home before they’re ready to get out of fear of prices and rates will climb.

jake northrup

Northrup with penguins.

Jake Northrup

He added that he never liked the argument that renting is “a waste of money” compared to buying a house for two reasons. First, he said, he understates the cost of home ownership by ignoring things like home maintenance and property tax. And second, it assumes that building equity is the measure of success.

“It makes sense that owning a home used be the primary measure of success,” he said. “But most millennials appreciate experiences more things, so that measure of success doesn’t really apply anymore.”

Sticking to his priorities led Northrup on his “once in a lifetime” two-week trip that covered Buenos Aires, Ushuaia in the Patagonia region and Antarctica itself as well as the trip he took. it took to get there and back, which he said involved 30-foot waves and 70-mile-per-hour winds. But the peril was worth kayaking among the icebergs through the glassy glacial waters of Antarctica.

“Ten years from now, we won’t remember buying a house in 2022 instead of 2023,” he said. “We will remember the trip we took.”


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