RENT vs. Mortgage —
Are You What You Own?
A question for you:
Where would you go if you had the entire world at your feet?
A lyric from one of my favorite shows, Rent — Jonathan Larson’s hit rock musical from the late 90’s.
Loosely based on the Puccini opera “La Boheme”, Rent won multiple awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical (1996) and flourished on Broadway for 12 years.
It then expanded into multiple national tours, a hit movie in 2005, and also a live TV presentation starring A-list celebrities in 2019.
But sadly, Jonathan Larson never had the opportunity to enjoy the worldwide prosperity of his work. He merely kindled the flame, that ignited an entire era. In a tragic twist of events, Larson passed away unexpectedly of an aortic aneurysm, the night before Rent was to make its premiere debut off-Broadway in 1996.
Some may argue the show is no longer relevant. But it was definitely a reflection of 90’s pop culture, and the overall social & political environment at the time.
It essentially embodies everything that was loved, hated, endured, provoked and questioned throughout an entire decade of evolution and angst.
A coming of age narrative, before everything became so technologically-dependent and “smart”.
The show centers around a circle of friends trying to navigate their lives through challenges, love interests, money woes and health crises. And it has a main focus on the AIDS epidemic, which plays heavily into many of the character progressions.
I, for one, choose to embrace the multiple messages woven throughout the storyline and within the score. Knowing it was a reflection of the day, and absolutely imperative to that very specific point in time. So that’s why I feel it will always be a musical classic.
But present day relevance aside, the lyrics below are what have recently sparked my interest, to result in this blog post.
It’s about the past, and it’s about the future. And it’s also about taking advantage of what is now sitting there in front of you —
“Find One Song,
One last refrain,
From the pretty boy front man
Who wasted opportunity.
One Song — He had the world at his feet.”
-Jonathan Larson, “One Song Glory”, from Rent
One Song Glory
The song “One Song Glory”, is performed by the character Roger Davis (played by Adam Pascal), who is rebuilding his life following the tragic death of his partner, April.
Roger’s life is truly at a turning point. He’s a struggling musician, trying to decide if he should continue pursuing music, or start a new career with more stability.
This is the lyric that has been on my mind lately: “One Song. He had the world at his feet.”
What would you do if you had the world at your feet?
One Song = One Life
And that’s where I am right now… Well, not technically… but at least in theory.
Because in years’ past, I was struggling to get on even footing. Attempting to get my family’s finances on track. And primarily trying to do that on my own.
The push and pull to gain agreement on where our financial future should lead. Evaluating wants vs. needs, and trying to persuade my significant other to finally acknowledge we were living beyond our means.
Did that work out precisely as planned? Hell no…. But that’s just life.
We follow where the road leads us, and have faith we will wind up exactly where we are meant to be.
And now? That debt is a thing of the past. It’s gone. I no longer have debt.
(Holy crap, to actually even say that out loud!!!)
Such an AMAZING feeling —
So let’s just say that again, a little louder this time:
I. NO. LONGER. HAVE. DEBT.
(damn, that felt good, lol…)
In addition, I’m currently on a great path with my retirement plan. Thankfully, I started my 401k back when I was in my twenties. God Bless compounding interest…
Coupled with the fact my employer contributes a full company match up to 6%, this has enabled me to create a semi-decent nest egg for my future.
And now that I am responsible only for myself — my future is looking fairly bright.
Particularly for an introvert who doesn’t have crazy travel plans for the future. I’m pretty even-keeled and easy to please —
Just give me a scenic view and a great musical vibe, and I’ll be perfectly content to just chill wherever I’m at.
(And if I could eventually find someone to sit on the covered front porch with me, playing music while in our rocking chairs — that would be icing on the proverbial cake!)
Another blessing from Rent — It introduced us to Taye Diggs, pre-“How Stella Got Her Groove Back“… (Anyone else think Benny was just sorely misunderstood??)
But this brings me back to the million dollar question…
Where do I want my future to take me?
Where do I want to spend my retirement years, or even the next decade??
You’re What You Own
I’ve lived in Connecticut for the past 25 years. At one point in time, I had a lot of family in this state. Even further still, I had an extended family of in-laws, through my ex.
And now? I no longer have a large amount of family here. I have one stepson who is moving down south. I have another stepson who is pretty content here right now (I think?), but who knows where he might wind up. And I have a sister who lives the next state over (but is still a bit of a drive to manage with regular frequency).
And this is really something I’ve been thinking about as of late, but haven’t told too many people about. (Sooo, heyyy — this is me sharing the deets with you!!)
Maybe I don’t want to live here in CT anymore. Maybe I don’t want to live in this way-too-big-for-me house. That I need to maintain, landscape, rake, mow & fix every dang little thing, every time I turn my freakin’ head.
Perhaps I’d be happier someplace else — where there is less snow, and more sunshine… Less owning and more renting… Less responsibility and more peace of mind.
Where do I think this euphoric place might be??
I currently have NO IDEA whatsoever.
But I’m willing to entertain and examine this potential change in scenery.
A fun & cerebral activity for a somewhat dismal winter, where there has been minimal in-person social interaction.
“The heart may freeze or it can burn
The pain will ease if I can learn
There is no future, There is no past
I live this moment as my last.
There’s only us, There’s only this
Forget regret —
Or life is yours to miss.
No other road, No other way
No day but today”
– Jonathan Larson, “Another Day“, from Rent
Would I look to a place I’ve lived before, like NY or FL? Or a state where I currently do have family?
And why even restrict it to places I’ve been to before? I’m in my mid-40’s, and there’s an entire country I have yet to explore.
“Take me for what I am
Who I was meant to be
And if you give a damn
Take me baby or leave me”
– Jonathan Larson, “Take Me or Leave Me”, from Rent
This revelation is something I’ve been considering a lot lately. As I lament the daily requirements of maintaining a house where I barely even take up space.
In the past, it was an active hub of 4 adults whose lives were intertwined with activity. Plus two crazy bulldogs.
Now it’s just me, the dogs — and two cheeky little parakeets. So I definitely don’t need all of this extra space around me.
And while the fenced-in yard is fantastic for the pups, is it really worth a 30-year mortgage, at my age? (The mortgage was refinanced into my name when I separated from the ex, and then recently refinanced again to a lower interest rate.)
I certainly can’t justify paying more towards my mortgage, in order to get it paid off sooner. I don’t quite see the benefit to becoming mortgage-free, since I won’t have any heirs to receive my future assets.
The better path may just be having more money in the present — which I could then funnel into investments for my future.
Plus given the current housing market, it may be an ideal time for me to sell. To get out from under this mortgage, and start over someplace new.
My initial thought was just to sell the house & rent something locally — whether it be an apartment, condo, or house.
But then, as I began to peel back the layers, I realized there is nothing technically holding me to this state, to the northeast, or to this entire region whatsoever.
So where does this leave me exactly? Not sure. With a lot of reflection and examination, I suppose.
“And when you’re living in America
At the end of the millennium
You’re what you own
So I own not a notion
I escape and ape content
I don’t own emotion — I rent”
– Jonathan Larson, “What You Own”, from Rent
Interestingly, I’ve had recent conversations with my ex (who I am still friendly with at this point). He is also contemplating moving to a warmer climate.
These New England winters…. While the past few haven’t been horrendous, they still aren’t a joy to live through. We are definitely due for some doozies, I’m certain.
Yes, the fall foliage is absolutely breathtaking… but in my opinion, that’s about all there is.
And now here we are — not quite at a decision point, but at a crossroads nonetheless.
Where do I want to go? Where would I like my future to take me?
Hopefully, I can figure this out at some point. And luckily (knock wood), I do have a job that allows me to work remotely. It’s also for a company that has many touch points throughout the country, with multiple physical locations, if needed.
So this will now be one of my mini-projects.
Well… maybe not so “mini”. It is kind of a biggie, I guess.
Lots of thought and contemplation will need to take place before this project actually takes flight and goes anywhere.
But the intriguing thing about this activity is that my options are pretty limitless.
There is no place I absolutely need to be, and no restrictions on where I might wind up.
“We’ll pack up all our junk and fly so far away
Devote ourselves to projects that sell.
We’ll open up a restaurant in Santa Fe,
Forget this cold Bohemian Hell”
– Jonathan Larson, “Santa Fe”, from Rent
The future is totally open to whatever I might want to do.
I have the world at my feet.
It’s my One Song, Blaze of Glory.
So stay tuned. Hopefully there will be more to come on this topic…
And if you’ve made it down this far… below is a clip of Adam Pascal performing One Song Glory on tour. It’s an amazing performance that really soars — so you definitely should check it out.
(Program Note — Thought I should additionally clarify the song itself is also about some of the character Roger’s health struggles, as someone who is coming to terms with a deadly disease. So that obviously has no pertinence to my situation. But I do embrace the overall emotion of the song — from the perspective of someone who is at a crossroads, whatever that may specifically be.)
Thoughts? Comments? Just wanna say “Hi”?
Hit me up in the Comments —
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.