Updated: Aug 2, 2018
I’m always amused by social media outrage and Bernard Salt certainly copped his fair share this week after writing a piece for The Australian on middle-aged moralisers (his words, not mine). In it, he mocked hipster cafes, suggesting they were trying to keep Baby Boomers at bay with their teeny writing on menus, their uncomfortable milk crate seats and their expensive prices. If you’ve ever watched a Baby Boomer use the camera on their phone to read the menu while asking for a cushion in an inner city cafe you’ll understand what I mean.
Of course, what we saw over the last week was media around the world grabbing an isolated paragraph near the end of the article where he asks how young people can afford to eat out like this and dares to suggest that $22 several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.
Oh Bernard. What he discovered was what comedians all over the world intrinsically know. You can have a go at the demographic you’re a part of but woe betide if you set your sights on another. That’s mean, insensitive and morally unjust, right?
Or are we all just being a tad oversensitive.
I mean, the idea that you can simply forgo brunch and buy a house is, I think we can all agree, a teeny bit ridiculous. As someone this week calculated, missing three brunches a week will save you $3,432 per year which hardly a house deposit doth make. What is far more sensible is the whole conversation around values, priorities and choice.
What Bernard was perhaps clumsily suggesting is that if you want to buy a house (whether to live in or an investment), if you want to live overseas for a year, have children, start a business, retire at 50 or one of any number of life choices, you’re going to have to figure out what’s important to you. What you’re prepared to suffer for if you like. This might include not living in the suburb of your dreams because it’s too expensive, eating out less, cheaper holidays, buying an investment property and renting your home, bringing your lunch to work, moving back in with the parentals, renting out spare rooms in your house or apartment, selling your designer handbag collection or half of the six bikes in the spare room. That’s because life is about compromise and choice. And while we might not love that we can’t have it all and have it now, that’s kind of life.
Is it fair that Baby Boomers appear to have cashed in on a property boom and are now sitting back and complaining about entitled Gen X and Gen Y? Is it fair that Miranda Kerr won the genetic lottery and now has a life most of us only dream of? What does one question have to do with the other? Well, essentially it’s the same question. Sure, we can complain about being born when we have been, to have missed out on something we think is our god-given right and we can wail that it’s simply not fair. Or we can be thankful we are enjoying an era where borders are disappearing, the world is shrinking, barriers to entry for business are lower than ever before, opportunities are more prevalent and we truly have so much choice. If you offered me the chance to be born in the 1940/50’s and take part in the property boom or be born when I was and be able to take advantage of all of the many business, career, financial, social and other choices and opportunities on offer today – I’d take being a non-boomer any day. Gratefully. And I suspect you would too. I mean, that’s not to say Boomers can’t take advantage of these choices but in many cases it’s so much easier to start when your’e young.
I think we can be mock outraged about the gaffe a baby-boomer columnist made or it can spark us to think about our own choices, our own priorities and what we want out of life. I mean, do you really even need to live in your own home or can you rent and invest instead? Will starting a business on the side give you the financial boost you need? Should you consider a sea change or tree change because the flexibility of jobs and business now means you can work from anywhere?
Avo-gate will mean you’ll either dig your heels in, feel outraged and throw your toys out of the cot (which doesn’t help anyone) or hopefully it means you take the opportunity to work out what you really want out of life (not what you’ve been told by a generation of Baby Boomers you should want), what’s important to you, where you should be spending your time and money and what financial choices you should be making as a result.
So pack away the outrage, step away from social media and start figuring out what it is you really, really want out of life and what you’re prepared to suffer in order to reach that. If avo-gate means you’re doing that then you really are on your way to writing your own financial fairy tale. And you just might have a middle-aged-moraliser to thank for it.