The mortgage: debt’s final boss character


My friend Rami talks about many facets of life from the perspective of certain video games. And certain video game tropes do occassionally leak into other forms of art and even real life.

For example, can anyone really read The Hunger Games series and not see it in the context of a video game? They have “power ups” falling from the sky!

Hunger Games (artist rendering)
Hunger Games (artist rendering)

Anyway, I’ve talked about increasing equity in one’s home with a garden analogy, with it growing a little each month. But for the flip side, the mortgage debt and all the interest going into it (which for many people dwarfs the principal owed), I think another analogy is in order:

With a mortgage, I am facing debt’s final boss character.


In one’s life, debt takes on a relatively predictable path. I can’t recall the first time I put something in a credit card, but I do recall the first credit card I got. It was, no shock, given away when I entered college. I don’t recall if I got a t-shirt (which seemed to always accompany college credit cards) but I did get a card emblazoned with the name of the college (that I left the next year).

So most people’s first debt boss character of debt is basic small consumer purchases.

A few years later, I put my first car on my credit card. I bought it privately for $1,200 (a figure which strikes me as insane now, especially when I consider how long it lasted) and used one of those credit card checks (that offer no interest for a certain number of months) to do so. This is as close to “financing” a car as I ever got.

So I’d wager that the next debt boss character is a car or larger consumer purchases.

But like all video games, the boss characters get bigger and more challenging as you progress. And one of the biggest debt challenges is, of course, school. As tuition increases routinely hit 2-3% a year above inflation, this means that college is increasingly becoming unaffordable for everyone and will not necessarily pay off for you (and now you know this)  . So, most people, unless you are super crafty, will find it necessary to take out student loans.

Student loans are a very difficult debt boss character indeed.

The final boss

Some video games have intermediate boss characters that are harder than the final boss character. I feel like some of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series was like that, and certainly the original Legend of Zelda fell into that category.

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On the other hand, there are some boss characters that are not only more difficult than all the other mini-bosses, but staggeringly more difficult. Mike Tyson of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out in is this category. I mean, no one else, not even Super Macho Man, even comes close to the Iron Mike of the 80’s.

And so too with debt. The final boss character is, of course, the home mortgage.

For almost everyone, you can have credit card debt of low-to-mid five figures (the average per household in 2014 was $7,529), and student loans of up to low six figures (the class of 2015 will have an average of $35,051, according to one survey).

But a home mortgage? You’re looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars. The average appears to be around $150,000, but that’s presumably very region-specific.

The mortgage is a boss character many times more difficult as the hardest mini-boss.

I think I can beat Mike Tyson

I recall trying to beat Mike Tyson on my old NES. I eventually did it, somehow, but I know many gave up before they got that far.

I’m not giving up.

I know this boss character hits consistently, to the tune of $20 per day. These hits sting, though once I’m able to get some initial damage on it, the hits will become less painful. And one I can get its life level down to 80%, I’ll be able to level up, with my private mortgage insurnace (PMI) going away, giving my attacks more power.

From there, it’s just a matter of consistency and focus. Stick and move, stick and move. Overpower the opponent through tenacity.

It’s going to take years, but eventually, I’ll win by a KO. Now that’s Dynamite.


  1. mpinard

    I did not think of Hunger Games as a video game. But nice framing metaphor! 🙂

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