Interview with Tom Graneau - Author of 'Renters Win, Home Owners Lose: Revealing the Biggest Scam in America '

Tom Graneau is the author of Renters Win, Home Owners Lose: Revealing the Biggest Scam in America. Lately, he spent roughly ten years as a financial management coach, conducting workshops and private consultations for people in the military, government agencies, and the civilian community. His first book, Are You Financially Checkmate?, was published in 2005 and is now being revised.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Tom. Can you tell us what your latest book, Renters Win, Home Owners Lose: Revealing the Biggest Scam in America, is all about?

A: The real estate industry, including banks, mortgage companies, the government, and various other organizations have come together with one voice, claiming that home ownership is the most reliable path for financial prosperity. Presently, most Americans (70 percent, down from 83 percent in 2003) are preoccupied over the idea of owning a home as a financial investment.

However, based on historical trends and statistical facts, Renters Win, Home Owners Lose: Revealing the Biggest Scam in America debunks the wealth claim linked to home ownership. On the contrary, when the opportunity for wealth building is compared between home buyers and renters, those who rent have greater propensity for financial success. Data indicates that those who have purchased homes (in some cases, more than once) are not necessarily better off financially than those who haven’t.

For instance, more than 85 percent of the 78 million baby boomers in the United States are home owners. Many of them have bought and sold several homes. Yet, close to 90 percent of them are broke. The curious question is, where is the wealth earned from the home. Additionally, more than 2/3 (78 percent) of American families are home owners. Nonetheless, the majority of them are strapped for cash, have little or no retirement savings, and are deep in debt. Renters Win, Home Owners Lose is a stunning, thought-provoking work that unravels the realities of home ownership. All told, renting is a wiser choice than buying.

Q: How did you come up with the idea?

A: The inspiration for Renters Win, Home Owners Lose essentially started in 1996. While sitting in an economic class for a Bachelor of Science Degree, it occurred to me that most people in the United States are broke.

By that time, many of my fellow students had admitted, in one way or another, that they were borrowing money for college—thousands of dollars in student loans that would take years to pay back. Furthermore, during my course of business, I noticed that more and more people used credit cards for purchases instead of cash.

Interestingly, I was in the same financial predicament. I was using credit cards to pay for things, not because it was convenient to do so, I simply did not have the cash available. At the time, I had recently separated from the military and had difficulty finding a job without a degree that paid more than the minimum wage. My six-dollar an hour job was barely enough to pay for essentials. To make matters worse, I was receiving foreclosure threats from my lender who was demanding money to bring the mortgage current. Meanwhile, my credit card balances were skyrocketing.

My desire to improve my situation led to research, which confirmed my suspicion about the financial condition of the masses. I discovered that the majority of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck regardless of income, education, or career position. The root problems are many, but nothing consumes more of our hard-earned income than the homes we buy. Hence the book, Renters Win, Home Owners Lose: Revealing the Biggest Scam in America.

Q: What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?

A: Most of my research was based on reference materials. The Statistical Abstract of the United States (2001 through 2009) served as a vital resource. Other sources included the annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), current events, personal experience, and clients’ contribution.

Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?

A: Common wisdom suggests that home ownership is one of the best pathways to financial prosperity. In reality, however, the concept works against people’s goals and expectations. Most people lose money on the property, often without realizing it. Instead, a person can be equally safe, comfortable, and wildly successful by choosing to rent while investing the extra money that would be “wasted” on a home.

Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it?

A: It is often said that writing a book is easy; publishing it is hard. This concept is partially true since writing itself is not easy. These days, any book can be published with money. But for one who has little or none of it, reaching the public with a message (fiction or nonfiction) can be difficult. My approach has been self-publishing through a reputable publishing house and using a systematic approach to promote the book. I am currently using, or have plans to use, the following mediums:

1. Partnership: Forming alliances with companies who believe in the spirit or philosophy of the book.

2. Radio Interviews: I believe, with the right message, one can reach a wide audience quickly, in the least expensive way.

3. Publicity: Publicity is the next best effective method of promoting books. I plan to experiment with various press releases at regular intervals, hoping to obtain free national press coverage through print and broadcast media.

4. Social Media: This medium has worked well for some authors. I’m currently experimenting with it.

5. Book Reviews: Knowing how others feel about my book is important in the on-going effort of promoting it. Independent reviews are known to facilitate book sales. I’m continually seeking ways to get additional book reviews.

6. E-mail Marketing Campaigns: Opt-in e-mail marketing is another good way of reaching people for book sales. The results are more effective when the list belongs to the author.
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