Aspen Untucked: Must We Choose?
As a young person between the ages of 20 and 35, is purchasing a home a priority? This question came to mind a couple of weeks ago as I was browsing the Internet for millennial-related topics, a.k.a. column fodder. There are always some hilarious stories out there about Generation Y, claiming that we’ve stolen the American Dream or we’ve destroyed the modern-day economy. Some blame us for declining napkin sales. You name it, we’ve been blamed for it. Most of these accusations I don’t bother to write about because of how outlandish they are. The one that ended up catching my attention seemed to be of that breed at first, but as I read more, I realized it may have some validity.
The story was about Australian real estate mogul — and millennial — Tim Gurner. He was on the Australian 60 Minutes last month. One of the headline-worthy topics he touched on was the housing market and the younger generation’s inability to buy a home.
“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” said Gurner, who is worth nearly half a billion dollars. He continued to say millennials have rather lavish lifestyles that inhibit them from making big investments in housing.
“They want to eat out every day, they want to travel to Europe every year,” he said. “The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it (and) saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.”
I have to admit, when I first read the articles about Gurner’s interview and saw the video clips, my first inclination was to find this $19 smashed avocado dish he had referenced. It sounded just decadent, and I was particularly hungry at the time. With no knowledge on where to get this dish, I had to pause my research, go make myself some toast and smear on half of an avocado. I then ate every last morsel of it and returned to the stories about Gurner’s remarks. Many were appalled by his comments. People took to Twitter to share their dislike, millennial-focused organizations used it as a way to explain their mission statements and news organizations were careful to credit other reasons why the younger generation suffered from financial woes. In a matter of hours, Gurner became an enemy to the millennial lifestyle and “Where do I buy a coffee for $4 or less?” was the most highly searched question on Google. OK, that second claim may be a joke, but you get my point: Everyone was so quick to react that I’m not sure Gurner’s comments got a fair share of consideration.
Yes, my generation has gone through a lot of obstacles that have inhibited our success. I’ve talked about many of them in previous columns, such as dealing with crippling student loans, not having a surplus of career-oriented, full-time jobs in the workforce and attempting to become fully functioning adults among the housing crash of 2007-08. We haven’t exactly had it easy, but we also aren’t considered to be the thriftiest of youth. A study from Goldman Sachs shows that we prefer to spend money on experiences like vacations, concerts, sporting events, etc., as opposed to long-term assets like cars and homes.
Albeit, these are generalizations, but perhaps there’s some truth behind them. Maybe we are choosing to find comfort in experiences and fleeting moments as opposed to planting roots and watching them grow? If that’s the case, I wouldn’t blame any of us for it. There’s certainly no rule in place that says we have to invest in the same things that the previous generations did.
This apparent tendency that many millennials have valuing experience more than long-term investments is emphasized even more in a little place called Aspen. Most Aspen millennials don’t hold a great deal of hope for being able to buy a home in our extremely high-priced real estate market. We also put a lot of stock into our experiences, whether that’s powder days on the mountain, offseason trips to beach towns or treks to our favorite music festivals. We live for the next adventure, filling up all of our free time with fun. We may not own a home or even a car, but perhaps that’s not what we are looking to get out of our lives right now.
Life is all about priorities. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too, but we each have the freedom to prioritize what’s important to us. If lavish foods and beverages are what one deems vital in their life, then that’s exactly what they should indulge in. If a house and an important amount of stability are the priority, then other luxuries may need to be sidelined. It’s all about how you spin it. And, with an indulgent season about to begin in Aspen, I must admit that avocado toast and expensive coffee are looking pretty damn good right about now.
Barbara Platts finished this column while drinking a nice glass of cabernet. She then went out to a fancy sushi restaurant with some friends and talked about European travel ideas. She has no current plans to invest in a home. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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