Poor Tim Gurner.
He’s the Australian millionaire who recently got destroyed online for claiming that millennials would be able to afford their own homes if they just stopped spending money on “smashed avocados and $4 coffee.”
Millennials around the world were up in arms, firing back with some (hilarious) sarcastic replies:
There’s also an awesome Open Letter from Millennials to Rich Guys with Opinions About Avocado Toast.
Yeowtch. Don’t mess with the millennials, people. They will whup yo’ Baby Boomer butt with their organic fibre hipster shoe inserts.
We millennials are a conflicted bunch. We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity (which sets high expectations on pretty much everything in life), accompanied with a “meh” economy (which means we can’t fulfil many of said expectations). We’re chasing too many dreams with too little money.
So, how do we deal with this conundrum? How do we get a handle around this “adulting” business without feeling miserable?
How do we afford our first pricey home in Singapore, without sacrificing our hatha yoga classes and acai berry yoghurt?
Sometimes, We Just Need Some Avocado Toast
As an old millennial myself (hey, there’s a difference), I get it.
We’ve long known that life isn’t all about saving and scrimping and increasing the size of our bank accounts. Also, as Tim Gurner’s critics have pointed out, this isn’t a terribly effective strategy. You’ll need to eliminate $4 coffee for 33 years to afford a downpayment on a $245,000 house.
I don’t know about you, but if you ask me to forgo coffee for 33 years, I might commit suicide.
When I first started work, I spent hundreds of dollars a month on drinks, Butterfactory (aw, the nostalgia!), and overpriced brunches at Wild Oats. I splurged a month’s salary travelling to Germany to attend a dance camp. I spent lots of money “irresponsibly”, and I don’t regret a single cent of it.
At an age when I was transitioning between college and “being an adult”, these activities reminded me that I wasn’t yet another corporate drone.
So I get it. Sometimes, you just want a piece of avocado toast to remind you that life can still be awesome.
But Mr Gurner Has A Point
At the same time, we millennials know that we spend too much money on dumb stuff. That’s why the rest of the world rolls their eyes when they talk about us. For example, I love this line from Millennials: A Musical:
Natalie: Uh, I went to my favourite artisanal spot, TRNSCDNCE
Jack: Artisanal, what is it? What does artisanal mean?
Natalie: Well, it’s like stuff you would normally buy, but it costs a lot more.
There’s nothing wrong with spending money on indulgences. I do it all the time. Part of the fun of earning money is that we get to waste a part of it.
But the danger comes when we spend so MUCH of it that it screws up our lives. A recent BOA Merrill Edge study found that today’s 18-34 year olds are more likely to prioritise travel, dining and fitness over their financial future. (Maybe because the term “financial future” sounds helluva boring, amirite?)
It’s one thing to splurge on HIIT bootcamps and luxury hotels; it’s another thing to get rejected by an ATM because you only have a $2.49 until your next paycheque. Most millennials wake up to this problem when we start thinking about settling down. But by then, it might be a couple of years too late.
Sooooo, how do we resolve this? Grab a Venti soy latte and a pen, because we about to deal with this shizz.
Settle The Responsible Stuff First
When I was a kid, I had a Jurassic Park helicopter and a T-Rex that I loved playing with. But my grandma would REFUSE to let me play until I got my homework done. If I tried being sneaky, I’d get a smack on my head accompanied with a “NO TOYS UNTIL WORK FINISH!” bellow.
I got the message: Having fun isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s the order which I prioritised it. I had to get the responsible stuff done first, and then I could play with my T-Rex guilt-free.
So when it comes to our money, there ain’t nothing wrong with spending on Netflix or craft beer or a treehouse Airbnb in Ubud. Just make sure that you set aside some “responsible” money first.
It doesn’t even have to be a huge amount. When I first started figuring out this finance thing, I set aside $500 a month into a separate bank account. I labelled it “Housing fund” because I knew that I wanted to use it to buy a house in the future.
Now, $500 a month is terribly low, but it was a start. Simply having a growing pile of cash helped me to maintain a semblance of responsibility, even as I was spending $25 a pop on Flaming Lamborghinis on Friday nights (do people still drink that these days?).
It turned into a game – how much more could I funnel into my Housing fund? Could I ratchet it up by just a little bit more next month?
I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my dance classes and date night money; but I was willing to eat Hokkien mee for every meal and never take cabs. Without knowing it, I was following the old personal finance adage: Spend extravagantly on the things you love; cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.
Give it a shot. If anything, it’ll bring you closer towards affording your first house without having to feel like you’re “missing out” on the fun things in life.
I both agree and disagree with Mr Gurner. The key to solving the “Grow rich vs. enjoy life” debate isn’t about how much willpower you have to forego avocado toast to save money; it’s about the systems you have in place to do both.
Once you’ve got that sorted out, Young Millennial, go forth and enjoy your piece of avocado toast.
This article first appeared on Cheerful Egg.