This worked well when rents were low enough to save and homes were cheap enough to buy. In one of the most infuriating conversations I had for this article, my father breezily informed me that he bought his first house at 29. It was 1973, he had just moved to Seattle and his job as a university professor paid him (adjusted for inflation) around $76,000 a year. The house cost $124,000 — again, in today’s dollars. I am six years older now than my dad was then. I earn less than he did and the median home price in Seattle is around $730,000. My father’s first house cost him 20 months of his salary. My first house will cost more than 10 years of mine.
The fundamental approach this article takes is directly lifted from Douglas Coupland's Generation X, itself a millennial for purposes of this discussion. GenX was itself full of factoids and statistics. The one that really hit me when I read it in '92 was that the average price of a couch had gone up by a factor of 5 since the early '70s.
And sure - if you really want a couch, you'll pay 5x for a damn couch. Or you'll improvise. I'm sitting on a massive leather sectional right now. It still has the original price underneath - $7800. From a company that no longer exists. In 2001. I bought it from the guy who paid that in 2002. He was definitely a 'boomer.
And here's the thing: you've successfully navigated the majority of the maze. You have a job, you're earning money, and it isn't weird to you that you live with your parents because so do most of your friends. But that's different. We were the fuck and gone out of our parents' houses as soon as we could be and when we had to move back in, it was this weird, shameful thing that nobody really talked about. Our parents? Dude they were homeowners at 23 thanks to the GI Bill and shit.
I, too, have successfully navigated most of the labyrinth. My financial future is, barring utter left-field catastrophe, secure. I'm most likely to talk about those damn millennials on social media or whatever because I can throw rotten vegetables from my ivory tower. The ones that are still in the trenches?
If you load boxes at Amazon at 55 for a living, it isn't the Puerto Rican standing next to you at 23 that bugs you. It isn't the 33-year-old trade-school grad. It's the unpaid intern that nags you about clocking out to use the bathroom that pisses you off; she's better dressed than you and it's entirely because Daddy is still paying for her well-being. You're focused not on the millennials in this article, you're focused on you.
And you are displaying a lot of the entitlement that raises the hackles of those entitled-ass GenX and Boomer fucks.
Your observation is basically "you can solve all these problems by not being a jackass." You're right. You can. But the basic problem is success didn't used to require an utter and total lack of jackassery. Look - my wife managed to swing 3 months paid paternity leave for me out of the state of California. Muthafuckin' triple-word score. In order to do that we had to:
- live in the only state in the nation that offered it, a total fluke
- know about the program because a friend at work told me
- have an insurance plan that would be forced to provide maternity coverage because of state law changes 8 months after we signed up for it
- carefully time the pregnancy such that it would be after my work period but not so much that I would actually have to, you know, give up work to take it
...which gave us a 2-week window in order to conceive. And we did. But you gotta admit - successfully navigating the hoops necessary to qualify for half the benefits accorded the rest of the goddamn world is legit Kafka-esque.
My wife's parents have a house. They bought it new in '79. Her dad was living on grants. Her mom did data entry for the school district. It's 30 minutes by bus to the heart of downtown. It was $80k and interest rates were Volcker high - something like 9%. But they bought it, they paid it off, and now it's worth $400k, all 950 square feet of it.
We were able to succeed up here in no small part because our mortgage is $130k. We're paying 1/3rd the market value of this house because my wife bought it 17 years ago. If I were my own tenant I'd be charging about $700 more than I pay on the mortgage. It's all about the entrenched advantages and the longer you succeed, the more of them you have...
...and the more of them you have, the harder you can make it for everyone else.