I’ve made a tonne of mistakes in my life, and this one ain’t one of them.
If you’re reading this hoping to hear a story of woe, well you’re not going to get one. This is a story of two consenting adults who made the terrible financial decision to drain one of their retirement accounts to purchase something absolutely unnecessary under terrible circumstances.
So how did this come to be. Well lets go back in time 7 years to 2015. My husband was unexpectantly diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the ripe old age of 28. Our children were just 7 and 3 years old, and the diagnosis was utterly lifechanging for so many reasons. At the time of diagnosis he was between FIFO contracts, and the diagnosis was devastating to his career. Following treatment he was unable to physically return to his career, was unemployed and without an education (my husband never completed high school).
Financially we were in a good position as we owned our small house outright. We had saved every cent of my husbands pay in the years prior and had paid off our house whilst we lived on my income. We also owned a piece of land interstate that had a mortgage on it. They say that you shouldn’t make big decisions in the year following a life changing diagnosis like cancer, but we ignored this sound advice. Instead we decided that it was the perfect time to do all the things on our bucket lists as quickly as possible.
Time to buy our Dream House
We had wanted to move house for a long time. Pre cancer our plan was to build our dream home on a gorgeous piece of land we purchased in 2012 (Located on a lake in regional Victoria). Post cancer we realised that we didn’t want to move interstate away from our families, and decided to purchase a house away from the suburbs in the Adelaide Hills and renovate it to become our dream house.
Unfortunately in 2015 the housing market wasn’t as good as it is now, and our house lingered on the market for 6 months before we finally sold it for less than the cost to build it. But we didn’t linger on the bad news for long at all because after 6 months of looking we had finally found our ‘dream’ house. We were keen to forget about our old house full of memories of cancer and treatment, and were keen to have a fresh start and learn how to live again.
Lets put a swimming pool in
We had planned to put a swimming pool into our dream home since we first came up the goal of buying a dream home when we met in 2005. So when we moved into our ‘dream’ home which was far less dream and more nightmare in 2015 we looked at ways we could make our swimming pool dream a reality.
As mentioned previously my husband was unable to bring in an income, and had decided to knock off another bucket list item ‘go to university’. I was happy to support him, and so he juggled renovating the house part time with being a stay at home dad and university commitments. Unfortunately without a second income things were extremely tight, and we had a modest mortgage on the new home (even with the funds from our old house sale, and an insurance pay out thanks to the cancer diagnosis). I was working for a not for profit organisation during this time, and although we were able to save a little each week to keep our renovations going we had no capacity to purchase a pool in cash. When we moved in we had a small amount of savings (10k) but this disappeared within the first fortnight thanks to a few early house disasters – the ducted reverse cycle air-conditioner and gas heater both died.
Despite the lack of funds we managed to scrape together enough money (2k) to pay for the initial pool drawings and the council approval application with the pool builder. My thought process around going ahead with this was that in the 3 months it would take for it to get approved I would somehow work out how to pay for the pool (cost was 50k). We were also hoping that our land which was still on the market would’ve sold in time to assist us.
As time passed it became clear that the land wasn’t going to sell anytime soon, and financing the pool short term wasn’t possible because of my income. Then we got given the news that my husband could access his superannuation early due to his cancer diagnosis (what we call our retirement account in Australia). So we thought about it and decided to make a really terrible financial decision, and instead make a decision based on what our hearts wanted.
In the years since we put the pool in we haven’t had any regrets about the decision.
Yes, it would’ve been better to have waited and saved up in cash for the pool.
Yes, my husband’s superannuation would’ve been over a 100k higher than it is now.
But the memories we’ve made as a family in that pool have been worth every cent of it in our eyes. Our children are only young once, and my husband and I know better than most that either of our lives could end at anytime.
Now I’m not advocating that people should do what we did, because it’s honestly a terrible financial decision that we made. I’m only highlighting the fact that sometimes you need to make decisions that don’t make financial sense, and for us buying a pool with my husbands superannuation was one of these.
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