There was an article in The Atlantic a few weeks ago called The Cheapest Generation, Did you get a chance to read it? It talks about the shift in spending habits between Generation X (my generation), and Generation Y (Millennials). I feel like the title is misleading — it sounds like it’s going to paint Millennials as some sort of cheapskates, but it doesn’t do that — and thank goodness, because I’m definitely over articles that drag Millennials. Geez. They get blamed for everything.
Instead of the cheapskate angle, the article is really more about how Generation Y is making different spending choices than their predecessors. Which personally, I don’t see as a bad thing, even though I realize it could have major repercussions on our economy as we’ve known it.
Basically, it turns out Millennials are not buying houses or cars, and it goes into some of the strategies car companies have been using to try and reverse that trend.
From the article:
“All of these strategies share a few key assumptions: that demand for cars within the Millennial generation is just waiting to be unlocked; that as the economy slowly recovers, today’s young people will eventually want to buy cars as much as their parents and grandparents did; that a finer-tuned appeal to Millennial values can coax them into dealerships.
Perhaps. But what if these assumptions are simply wrong? What if Millennials’ aversion to car-buying isn’t a temporary side effect of the recession, but part of a permanent generational shift in tastes and spending habits? It’s a question that applies not only to cars, but to several other traditional categories of big spending—most notably, housing. And its answer has large implications for the future shape of the economy—and for the speed of recovery.”
The article has me trying to imagine the future. My own kids are part of Generation Z — will their spending habits be similar to Millennials? Maybe even more pronounced? I can already see my kids have very little interest in cars or in getting a drivers license. The interest isn’t non-existent, but I won’t be surprised if they never own a car. There are so many car sharing options these days, like ZipCars and Car2Go and Uber, with new ones popping up all the time. In fact, I just saw a video for a new company called Canvas that bills itself as “a simple alternative to car ownership.”
I feel like it’s pretty easy to get a glimpse of how my kids might deal with transportation as they become adults. But I’m still unclear on what they’ll want housing-wise. Will housing become more flexible? Will people own a lot less, making it easy to move around? Will things like tool-lending libraries become wide-spread so that people don’t need to own or store things and can get by with much less space?
Will suburbs be abandoned in the same way malls have been abandoned? As people rely less on individual cars, will they want to live closer to walkable community centers? In places like Silicon Valley, will companies provide housing in the same way they feed employees during the day? Will young families purposely and enthusiastically share a house, so they can also easily share resources like child care? Will housing and transportation become entirely public goods, like roads and national parks?
How about you? What do you picture when you think of the future? Do you think your kids will live differently than you do? Or make different financial choices? If yes, does that stress you out? And can you picture an America that isn’t built around cars? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
40 thoughts on “Will My Kids Ever Own A Car? Or A House? Will They Even Want To?”
I’m a millennial and don’t own a car. I do own a bike though, which has a pedal assist since I live at the top of a hill in SF. We do own a condo, but only because we won the lottery with housing assistance with the city. Otherwise, we were fine to rent. We don’t have a yard or a garden. Though we do go to the public parks and hope to have a plot on a community garden soon. We just don’t find it sustainable to have urban spraw. It’s isolating and doesn’t have a community feel when you use your car to go everywhere. We are currently deciding about moving and our other option is urban sprawl and it’s a huge turn off even though the job is perfect. I really have no interest in owning a car. I like public transportation because I meet interesting people. And biking is so fun to see the city with.
some people are in this world to commune with and meet people; others are in this world to see it. i’m an introvert, firmly on the later group and a car makes travelling infinitely easier; i would have never been to some of my favorite places without one, as there’s simply no public transport there.
community is not my priority, travelling and going places are. and i’m a millenial, so here’s another take on the subject. :)
This is an interesting article. I am 33, and my husband and I own two cars (small and used) and we do not own a home. We both have advanced degrees and spent the first five years of our marriage paying off our student loans and becoming debt-free. My in-laws, who own a 5,000 sq foot house, just took out a loan for a brand new luxury car, and have balances on all their credit cards have told us that we need to “be mature” and buy a home, and that debt is “a part of life.” We are grateful for all they have done for us, but we disagree. They are both in jobs that they don’t enjoy, and plan on working until 70-75 to accommodate their lifestyles. It’s not for us. I think the “millennial” lifestyle is a backlash against such excess, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I agree with this sentiment! Well said! It seems excess, to me too. We live in a rental, and would like to purchase a “starter home” but they seem to be nonexistent! The McMansions have razed all the “affordable properties” and it seems such a waste. There is a gap in neighborhoods between rental properties and mc mansions right now- at least here in Austin, TX. My parents purchased their first home, and a couple investment properties when they were my age, and they had less lucrative jobs than we do. But they didn’t have the student debt, and the properties to invest in were available, and accessible. The older population is filling up all the spaces, paying more for it, and are getting comfortable with the debt. Meanwhile the younger population is not willing to spend time in cars or money on gas simply to move to the outskirts of town in order to buy a house that they spend less time in! we do not see it as a sustainable quality of living – and we realize that someone is going to have to pay off the debt. The feeling of debt that has enabled one generation is somehow crushing the next.
I am about to turn forty and live like a millennial. I enjoy walking and public transit and have not owned a car in over a decade. Our family uses Gig share cars and would purchase an electric car if we bought one. Honestly it’s more likely that we would buy a cargo electric assist bicycle because we don’t want the added expense of a car.
We don’t own property and have experienced happy co-housing experiences. We love living in California but housing is very expensive. Smaller apartment living in a fun downtown space suits us just fine for now. We have discussed living abroad more than settling down and buying land.
I am sure that living in the Bay Area influences our lifestyle the most because it is a place where the pleasant weather, existing infrastructure and emerging tech converge to make it all possible. My family in Los Angeles need cars and never walk or use public transit. The younger folks are saddled with student debt and have no real way to purchase property without leaving California. I am curious what kind of paths will open up to them.
Very interesting ideas and reminds me of another article about the sharing economy. I just texted a friend yesterday about borrowing a drill so I can install some blinds :)
I think many people will still want to own cars and homes, and I certainly don’t think housing will ever be completely public. But I think small, and appropriate purchases will become the norm. People feel freed up to live within their means and not “fake” an unreal lifestyle.
I wish walkable cities would become the future! In fact, I read and enjoyed a book with that very title: walkable city.
Great topic! I think the combo of crushing student debt (without resultant high-paying wages), unaffordable single-family housing, growing up with evidence of global warming and its inevitable doom, and the loss of family bonding (via McMansions) and community (via urban sprawl) have led to a burgeoning zeitgeist of reform that will be entirely novel. Tiny houses, shared rides, high-density mini-cities forming around industrial giants (you should see what Amazon’s created here in Seattle), the ever-increasing ability of workers to do their job with nothing more than their own brain power and an internet connection, the increasing role AI will play in nearly everything…and on and on. I am a grandparent to today’s littles (Gen A?) and I hope to live long enough to see the Zs and As correct the course and lead us to environmental salvation!
Cynthia the optimism of your last sentence made my day! I’m pregnant with our third baby and have so much concern about the climate they will live in and your words energized me. Thank you!!!
My husband and I (both 30) own two cars and a house in the Bay Area. I think it’s more a larger aversion to debt, which is also driving interest in sharing economy hacks. We’re the age group hit hardest by the 2008 crash, rising college costs, etc and we don’t trust banks the way our parents did. I don’t know if that’s a new thing really or more of a return to old thinking. My grandparents and I tend to have the same financial philosophy except I don’t keep large quantities of cash on hand. :)
While I’m proud of my peers for being more financially cautious, I also worry about what that’ll mean for housing as an investment. I read a great article years ago about how our housing market is a very elaborate suicide pact. It’s a system that requires broad participation in order to continue driving “value” up so that as people age out, they can sell sufficiently higher to justify their long term investment. The author didn’t have a guess what the minimum threshold of participation was to keep the system from collapsing, but I imagine we’ll find out in my lifetime if another recession/depression doesn’t make it a moot point first. I’m just praying it holds long enough for my parents to sell, since like many of their peers, it’s their largest investment and primary source of retirement income.
I’m 28 and have zero interest in owning a car and moderate interest in owning a home. I think we will buy someday, but are fine to rent in the meantime. They’re just not markers of success the same way they were for my parents.
Our reasoning is we prefer city living-living in a suburb is my worst nightmare actually-and public transportation is good. Plus it’s a lot better for the environment. Also, bikes are great.
As far as homes we’re not super convinced it’s worth the investment when the money used to buy a house can be put in low risk stocks, bonds, and other forms of investment. In any case, we won’t buy in the next 3 years because we’re not in our “forever” city but after my partner finishes his job contract we’re moving to our country’s capital and might buy then. That being said if it comes down to owning a home in the suburbs or renting an apartment in the city, we will choose the city every time.
I wonder though, how much does this apply to millennials specifically living in cities – where transit is good, where car shares are available and make sense, and where housing is very expensive? I have read articles that talk about the same (cheap) spending habits… until kids come along. And then there is the same desire for a car, for a house with a yard, etc.
I would love to see us give up our reliance on cars, and lose the desire to own so much stuff, but I think it will be a very long time coming before that is the norm for the average person living in a mid-sized city. A lot can happen in thirty years, but looking at the past thirty years I am not overly hopeful. I think it’s still a few generations away, unless forced on us by environmental reasons.
I do think this is probably a function of where you live. If you’re not in a city with reasonable public transit, ride-share options, and lots of different housing possibilities, you’d have fewer choices.
I also agree that a lot of these choices change once people have kids (if they have them). While there are people who will stay in a high-density urban environment with kids, it’s not a choice everyone will want to make. The siren song of “good” schools is a hard one for many to resist.
What I think is good about this, is that it is evidence that variability in lifestyle is not just recognized (because it’s always been the case, right), it’s celebrated and validated. People aren’t in lockstep with each other, hell bent on keeping up with the Joneses. Now there are just lots of different Joneses!
Full disclosure: My husband and I are in our late 40s. We own a car and a one-bedroom apartment in an outer borough. Our daughter is in high school at the local school, which is fine but not drop-dead amazing.
We are technically Gen X but own a rowhouse in Seattle, one car for our four person family. The car sits as we primarily ride our bikes, walk or bus (uber occasionally – likely more as my preteens get older!). I love our sustainable lifestyle and don’t plan to ever live in the suburbs. However, I think driverless cars could be a huge disrupter to this trend towards city living. If no one owns a car and it is very cheap to get driverless subscriptions (as many say will happen), suddenly long commutes are not so bad and some (but not all) of the benefits of living in a city disappear. I think, like the Internet, driverless cars will have huge and far reaching unintended consequences and we can only begin to guess what they will be!
My husband and I are 32 and have 2 little ones. We currently live in the suburbs and own 2 cars. I think we’re each on our 3rd or 4th car! Although I personally lived in Europe in HS and didn’t get a license until 18 years old and didn’t own a car until 21! I’m honestly more worried about them being able to afford college rather than anything else. I think our own kids will be in college before we get the student loans paid off! phew
This is so interesting, but I have to say it’s not practical for large areas of the United States. It’s very difficult anywhere but a big city or college town to live without a car. We live in a small town/suburb of Raleigh, NC and while there is some public transportation (a circulator bus system unique to our town and larger metropolitan bus system), my husband works in an even smaller town north of us and I work in Research Triangle Park to the west of us and there is absolutely no way either of us could get to our jobs without separate cars. We could certainly not own a house, but around here rents are almost the same as mortgages and rentals are actually harder to find in our area.
Where we used to live in an inner-ring suburb of Minneapolis, we could have been car-less if we worked in downtown Minneapolis…which neither of us did. Public transportation is improving greatly in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, but it’s still not integrated into the suburbs.
I think a lot of it depends on where you live. We love in a small town in AR and literally have to drive 30 minutes to an hour to get anywhere, even a grocery store. Taking a transit anywhere is impossible and just forget about Uber. :)
My husband and I are millennials, and we recently became a two-car family because of my new commute. I miss being a zero-car family–when we lived in the east bay, we could bike, bus, BART, or zipcar to anything we needed! We made it a year in the south bay with no car (just a motorcycle!) before we caved.
I wish the south bay were more invested in housing density and better, faster public transit so we could sell the cars. Sadly, there’s so many NIMBYs we’ll probably be in our 50s before anything gets done!
As for home ownership…we’d love to, but, well, it’s the bay area. Old prop 13 beneficiaries own everything around me. I still have student loan payments. Maybe by the time our nine-month-old’s a tween…
Agreeing with many of the other commenters in that it really depends on where you live. In rural southern Utah, there is no public transportation to speak of. Cars are a necessity and kids learn to drive at age 15. I can’t imagine them not getting their license. My husband drives 3x a week to work in the hospital in St. George–100 miles each day. I wish he had options!
The housing market is nuts in St. George (cheaper than California, but not when you consider how little money people can earn in Utah)…we live in Cedar City where it is much more affordable to own or rent. People like their space out here with big houses and big plots of land. I don’t see that changing in our area.
My mind would rest a lot easier if I could just count on my kids being able to afford college and get good paying jobs afterwards and not have to sacrifice so much. It’s getting to be ridiculous.
Having moved from a large town in Texas to a small city in England, I’m going through a major shift in perspective! Cars in Texas were assumed, as there was minimal public transport (mostly near the colleges) and it was not pedestrian friendly (no sidewalks, nearest grocer several miles away.) But here in our part of England cars are not the norm, even for families with several small children. Basically everything is accessible by bus, and the community is set up so differently – instead of a few massive shopping centers there are smaller options sprinkled throughout the city in each community. Our doctor, dentist, pharmacist, library, several parks, and grocery stores are all within .5 miles of our home and all are easily/safely walkable (trails, sidewalks, etc.) You can take a bus to city center and hop a train to head two hours east for the beach or two hours south for London, without ever needing a car. It’s a completely different mindset… and considering that getting your license here costs on average over $1k (for lessons and exams) I think a lot of people feel like it’s not worth it.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Heidi! I had no idea about small-city England
I was just thinking the same thing Heidi! We’ve found the UK, with its ‘high streets’, a lot more conducive to a car free or limited car lifestyle compared to the US. Our default is to use public transport but if we must use a car then we’ll leave it in a car park and walk as much as possible. There is limited need to drive from the grocery store to the dry cleaners and then onto the pharmacy etc. – everything is clustered more closely together.
The major supermarkets will deliver food for a small cost so really with a bit of organisation and a cargo bike we really could go car free (even with kids). For the record – I’m a millennial but i think our attitudes are more about the European mindset rather than the age bracket.
My husband and I are 35 and 34, with no kids. We’re at the older end of the millennial bracket. Like others have mentioned above, I think it depends on the area. Both of us grew up in rural PA, and we still live here. The amenities of the city (Uber, sharing cars, public transportation, biking to the grocery store, etc.) are simply not available/possible here. We both completed bachelor’s degrees, but not everyone here goes to college. We both hope to continue on to advanced degrees but not until we pay off the original school loans. We own a house because it’s cheaper to buy a modest fixer upper than it is to rent. We used to own two (used) vehicles, but my husband is blessed to have a work truck through his employer, so we sold our other vehicle because we decided it was silly to pay to maintain an extra one. (We actually kept that second vehicle over 5 years longer than we needed.) We’re very focused on becoming debt-free, and we try to make decisions that align with that goal. Many of our friends do the same. However, that is by no means the norm in this area. Both sets of our parents are in debt and basically cashed out their retirement accounts (many years ahead of retirement) because they lost jobs and had to pay an insane amount of money to maintain health care and basic living expenses. Other jobs weren’t available. Moving wasn’t really an option due to aging parents (our grandparents) who also live nearby. It’s… complicated. My experiences of living in this rural area are VERY different from the experiences I read about from people living in cities.
Almost all teenagers in this area drive and buying a car is high on their priority lists. We both have brothers and cousins who are in their 20s, and they all bought houses or plan to soon. They all own vehicles as well. Some went to college, and some didn’t. The idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” is still very much a trend around here. I feel older generations waited and saved to get biggere and better things. The younger generation here just goes for it and takes out the loan. (It’s crazy to me.) Economically, our area lacks so much opportunity that debt has really just become a way of life for so many, not always out of luxury, but sometimes necessity.
I love reading all of the different perspectives on Design Mom!
Again, cars depend a whole lot on where you live. My husband and I (we’re Millennials) have been married for 8 years and never even thought about getting a second car until we moved a year ago–in our current location, 2 cars are a necessity.
We do laugh about the things our parents think we’re crazy for not having, but that are just not at all priorities, like cable TV and a guest bed. Some definite generational differences.
Another chiming in about the lack of public transportation – even in SoCal. Unless you live in LA, San Diego, or a very few other large cities, you’re not going to find options other than owning a car, and even in the cities, transportation still doesn’t go into each and every neighborhood. Walking and riding bikes in the desert areas of SoCal can actually be dangerous.
Serious Questions (because really, I haven’t got a clue): How do folks visit people in other towns or places that are far from home yet not far enough for a flight? Can my husband, myself, and our 5 kids hop in an uber minivan at our house in Crescent City and be dropped off in Half Moon Bay? And when we get there to visit my sister and her family of 8, will we need 2-3 ubers to take us all out to dinner? After dinner, will they take us down to the beach and wait while we enjoy the sunset, and at what price? What are the options for going camping or taking a day trip? Are they available they pick me up and drive me from Bakersfield to Fort Bragg to see glass beach? Or what about that odd “Art Piece” that was built in the desert? (You have to drive to LA to pick up a key, then use clues to find it, and then drive back to LA… I can’t imagine an uber driver being ok with that.)
As far as renting vs buying, again it’s location location location… Renters are subject to the whims and increases of demand and property owners. I have a daughter who keeps trying to buy a home just so she doesn’t have to keep renting someone else’s space, with their rules, and restrictions…and “Pay the increase or we can give it to the person standing in line to get in here.” She feels more like a hostage than someone living in their dream home.
I seriously *DO* hope that this can all be figured out in the very near future, it would be wonderful if we all had reliable ways to live close to work and the opportunity to reduce dependence on oil, etc. I L O V E the picture you paint with such cooperative people who work together and share resources!
And I’m pretty sure malls have not been abandoned in most of the country. I suppose it would be nice, though.
For longer trips or when we want more flexibility, we do a normal car rental for the weekend (or a Zipcar for more convenience). With city parking being about $300 a month, insurance, plus the maintenance and actual cost of a car, it makes a ton of sense.
I find it interesting that my husband and I aren’t alone in how we choose to spend our money. I had no idea we were in sync with other Millenials! We’re in our early 30’s with two kids. We don’t own a home, we never have. We live in Mexico now, but we’ve also lived in New York and San Francisco. We choose to live in places where we can primarily get around on foot.
Here in Mexico we own a beat-up old jeep that we use to take our kids back and forth to school.
We have always chosen to spend our money on travel and food. We only spend what we have, no debt here! I find that most of our friends (people from all over the world) in Mexico live very simply too, we all seem to value lingering over a delicious meal with wine and friends, over going home to a fabulous house. Not that we don’t have a great place to live, our house is charming, just small and simple.
One of my favorite things about my contemporaries is that no one seems to be in a hurry to acquire things. I think it’s a very positive thing about this generation.
One thought that comes to mind is that sometimes owning a car or your own home does give you options and independence. While there are cons, renting and relying on others does have its drawbacks. I currently know two families with kids in my town that were renting, and the owners of their homes or apartment buildings decided to sell, and they were both told you need to move out. We have limited rental stock that work for families with kids in our area, so both are looking outside of town and are sad about it since their kids have already started in the schools.
I also work at a college in a small city in the middle of Massachusetts. Cars give students options for jobs. I’ve had multiple students get good job or internship offers from companies that are in between our city and Boston, and they then have to scramble to figure out transportation options since they really can’t get to them without a car. I also have helped some of our international students learn to drive. I’ve done that with a couple of female students from other countries where women don’t typically know how to drive, and we both view it as an opportunity to really become independent in a way they couldn’t at home.
Interesting–I think that renting instead of owning is what gives me and my husband independence :) We aren’t tied to our town or neighborhood and if a job or other opportunity comes up in another town, we can say yes without having to worry about a house tying us down geographically and financially. Same goes with other opportunities we can say yes to because we don’t have a mortgage or car payment to worry about. Not owning a lot offers us a lot of freedom that I think we otherwise wouldn’t feel.
I’ll assume you don’t have kids though. Totally different situation. Schools, accessibility to activities, and just the security of living in one place: all important things with children once they’re in school.
I love the shift I’m seeing toward spending money on experiences and not things. I also love the ‘tiny house’ movement! We don’t need to own all this STUFF! We just bought a house and I’m 43 years old. Most of that has to do with living in Brooklyn for many years and the housing being just so incredibly expensive. My husband and I both have great jobs and make good money and we couldn’t even begin to save up money to buy an apartment. We moved to Westchester and bought a sweet, teeny old house and it’s just perfect for us. So, maybe it has to do with people struggling to pay for all the luxuries that the generations before have valued, and also just not valuing them as much.
My husband and I both work year round at a summer camp, which provides housing, so we’ve had no need to buy or rent (yes, I know how very, very lucky we are!). We do however own 3 cars, each acquired (by paying cash) as our family size changed. He and I both have side gigs, as a musician and sewist, which often have competing schedules requiring us to be in separate places. We have no mortgage, no car loan, no student loans, and we pay off our credit cards monthly. We live outside a small town, with no public transportation except for a senior citizen bus, and its not safe to walk or bike anywhere from our home. Our eldest will get her license in a couple of years and one of the cars will become her’s. When we retire from camp, our plan is to buy an RV and travel, working at campgrounds as we go, so we still have no plans to buy a house. This horrifies my mother-in-law. :)
Although this is a gross over-generalization, it kind of seems like some bubble has burst and the “American Dream” has become the “American Burden.” Owning more, having more debt, keeping up with what one is supposed to want/do/have has reached a peak in recent generations and their children see this and want no part of it. It’s stressful. Being attached to less allows for more freedom, which is incredibly attractive to all the kids who have seen their parents struggle through jobs they don’t like to pay debt that never ends in order to maintain homes and cars and all the rest of it.
There’s also more awareness of things like carbon footprints and environmental factors that opens up a whole other side of the argument…
I am 35 and we just bought a house after renting for a few years and at least for one of my kids, having a permanent home has really helped him. He doesn’t like change, needs space to be introverted and we really felt that a home with a yard would meet his needs, mentally. I understand the “freedom” aspect of renting– plus, it was super nice to be able to call and have something fixed and not on my dime or time. I didn’t mind renting.
I like this shift away from stuff and sprawl, and as renters, we couldn’t have a lot of stuff. I hope I keep it that way now! But I am thankful for my house too. I would like to see walkable cities planned as well.
Renting changed my perspective in a lot of ways. Aren’t there millions of people worldwide who live in apartments and never own a car? Some of what we “think” is the American dream just isn’t really that important. But I think historically, it was. People came here because they had no other good options in their old country (that’s simplifying it, I know). But that was when people farmed off their land, lived over their store or had a smithing shop in their backyard. They made money because of their land. That just isn’t the case anymore.
Oh, what differences the comments show. And there are so much more opinions.
As far as I’m concerned, I prefer to have my own house. But let me tell you about our circumstances.
We’re technically no milennials, Ithink. But I’d love to join the discussion!
Me: 36, 2 kids, stay at home mum with an evening job at a restaurant 2 times a week.
My husband: 42, 2 kids of course, full time money earner. Self employed, he builds new brick (or stone? How do you tell houses made of bricks, but not necessarily covered in brick but stucko?) houses by coordinating architect, engineers and craftsmen.
We’re based in Bavaria, Germany.
We own a house for us and a second one to rent out.
Our take is: be in debt (moderately, considering what is paid off since we built the first house) for now and sell later in life, when the kids move out. In the meantime, we want to pay off as much as we can. Rents are incredibly high in our city/region, so we’d be paying a good chunk of money more would we want to rent a house similar to ours. Crazy, right?? So in my opinion it’s simply not logic to rent. If you get a property, of course, which is a whole other story. There’s not much building land available for sale, and if it is, it’s expensive.
We were really lucky to score our two properties!
And renting out, well! That’s a risk. For sure. But we live in close neighbourhood (2 minutes’ walk) of our rental, and that’s good for our peace of mind. Just being able to look at the yard being taken good care of is great! And meanwhile, the tenants pay our mortgage. Later on, we’ll be able to sell the house, hopefully for a good price- but even if the prices should go down, there’s be not much left of the debt. And every Euro will be appreciated for our retirement. Until now, our tenants have been great, paying in time, caring for everything visible I managed to see sneakily through our car windows – I’d rather not be caught staring, no thanks!! 😲
As for cars, we own one (paid cash) and my husband drives a second one he needs for work (and is provided by his company).
We live in a village 5 kilometer north from a big town (everything above 100.000 people is considered big in Germany. Our town has 135.000 residents.).
Our village has 4.800 inhabitants. There are 3 grocery stores, a pharmacy, 2 butchers, 2 bakers. We’ve got a small but great library, 3 kindergartens, one elementary school and of course a doctor. So technically we’d be able to do everything by bicycle, except in winter and our work.
It was very intersting to read all the comments, and I’d love to hear what you think of our take!
Being an older person(60) on this blog I find all these comments so interesting. Yes I grew up in Southern California in a time where we got our license and a car (either gifted or handed down or purchased) at 16, got jobs AND went to college (paid our own way or partially supported by parents) and moved out of our parent’s home as soon as possible (between 18-20). We wanted to be independent as soon as possible. We married at 20, both worked full time and my husband attended school at night – full time load. Purchased our first home at 22 (parents helped a bit with down payment – which we paid back) We had our first baby at 24 and I quit working outside the home, we survived on one income as my husband climbed the ladder and increased his schooling. This was a kind of a given path for us – it was expected on many levels, and I have no regrets. What I guess was different for us was we chose to live within our means. Only debt from a mortgage and a modest car loan. We laugh that we bought our first real bedroom set at age of 32. Until then hand me downs and odds and ends were the norm. We sold houses and moved up into larger homes and different cities as my husband’s job changed. The idea of handing over money to a landlord seemed ridiculous, we invested in a home and used it to purchase the next one. Eventually the 3 kids left home and built their own lives and we chose to move closer to grandkids and downsized into a condo (cash deal) and eventually sold the last house (that had been rented to friends) and purchased a little vacation home (cash deal). Very wise investing and very careful financial choices have left us able to travel and enjoy ourselves. Although my husband has no desire or intention of “retiring” he works in consulting and that makes life flexible.
The fierce sense of independence fueled us. Even today the idea of depending on an uber driver or public transportation is just foreign.
There was a sense of responsibility we took for our lives. If we were going to live our dream we were going to work really hard to see it happen.
I feel that every penny we worked hard to earn and use wisely has been the foundation of the life we currently enjoy. We did without a lot, we sacrificed a lot of immediate pleasure for the long term goals.
And we chose from the beginning of our marriage to live generously (church 10% and other charitable giving) and with the ultimate goal of living on 1/2 our income and giving 1/2 away.
That goal has been realized for a while now. Now we are working at shifting those percentages even further.
I am grateful that our children have chosen to follow in our footsteps – they own homes (their only debt) and have cars but otherwise they have chosen to live simply and focus on their life goals. Although they are millennials they have not bought into the culture of excess and keeping up with the jones’. In that sense we are changing the world one family at a time.
I think giving up cars is a lifestyle choice reflective of millenials’ desire to live in cities, where this is relatively easy, whereas giving up houses is reflective more of being priced out of housing in those same cities (for an interesting take, see http://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-home-buying-crowdfunding-fundrise-efund-2017-7). There was also a recent article in the NYTimes about a couple trying to buy their first house in DC with a $700,000 budget and being locked out. That’s nuts. (And for the record, millenials ARE unfairly blamed for everything; this is whole other conversation but Boomers actually deserve much of the blame for current economic woes.) I do think millenials are more conscious of how they spend their money, their impact on the environment, and also, they are more comfortable with bucking the status quo if it doesn’t fit in with the lifestyle they want to have. Personally, we have three young kids and live in the center of DC–despite the rats in our postage-stamp backyard and other issues–because moving even to the inner suburbs means giving up our 10 minute walk to school/work commute, and only having to get in our one car to go on weekend adventures (never to run errands). We just aren’t willing to make that trade-off right now. Even though a big yard and the relative quiet of the suburbs might be delightful, it loses its luster if it means less time with our family.
We just moved from an area an rural Washington where many (poor) people didn’t have cars. They lived in town and walked or biked around. The bus system was moderately good if you were in town. However, it severely limited job options for many, many people. If you needed to go to the doctor, located 2 hours away? Or you needed a job that paid more than minimum wage? All of these things required a car. We were a one car family for nearly 8 years, until we had one too many babies for a car. So although we now have two cars, when we moved earlier this year, I deliberately bought us a house close to school, church, and work so that we can bike or walk in good weather.
My husband is a Gen Xer, read: deeply cynical, and I’m a millenial, so not super concerned about living a traditional life, and it makes for some interesting life choices. I resigned myself to never being able to afford a home because of living in an expensive area and deep debt, but about 5 years ago, my husband began to insist that we needed to buy a home. With family help, we did. We just sold that home, and by the time we sold it, rents had begun climbing to astronomical amounts. Buying a home suddenly became a better financial decision for many of our friends. Also, after the 2008 housing crash, developers stopped building affordable starter homes in our area. In my parents’ city, developers stopped building starter homes about 30 years ago. So to simply state that millenials are choosing to not buy a home makes me wonder if the area that they live in even has affordable homes. It’s like saying: Millenials aren’t choosing to buy station wagons! It’s terrible! But there aren’t any station wagons around, except for 30 year old models, so why would they be buying them?
My husband and I plan on paying off our house—not to sell it and use it as retirement money, but so that we won’t have a rent or mortgage payment in our old age. My family’s philosophy has always been to buy a home, pay it off, and live in it until you die. Both my parents and my grandparents have done this. My grandma’s been in the same home for 65 years, and not having had to pay a mortgage for the last 55 years has been a huge financial boon for her. To find that other people’s retirement plans depend on selling their home is actually shocking to me because the fluctuation of the market in the last 10 years is a guarantee that you have no idea how the market will be when you want to sell. If you don’t plan on leaving the home, and it’s paid off, then who cares what the market is? Also, in several areas that I’ve lived in (Seattle/Tacoma), families could often only afford to live in the area if they were in a home that’d been passed down from one generation to the next. That kind of planning helps family members get a leg up in life.
Finally, I too have to voice my extreme tiredness with all blame being placed on millenials. School debt and low wages make it hard to get ahead. If we’re trying to buck that by choosing to forego cars and taking on even more debt, someone tell me how that’s a bad thing? We just want what Boomers had: affordable homes, good wages that grow with inflation, and a retirement that’s padded by Social Security and Medicare.
To act like young people are savvy instead of just poor is putting your head in the sand.
Our parents generation complain about making 20,000 a year when they started out- yet purchased a home in the range of 20,000-30,000.
Kids today are still beginning at 20-30 grand and most homes are 200 plus. They’ll never enjoy the widespread prosperity that earlier generations did.
On this topic – I really recommend the book Happy City by Charles Montgomery. He’s a journalist who studied cities around the world; compiling stats on their satisfaction, health, etc based on their city’s design. It’s fascinating!
We’re both 30, with three kids (6, 4, and almost-2). We live in a city of 50,000 that’s growing incredibly fast and beside a capital city – a lot of people live here and commute in. We live a five-minute drive from our city center. We own a 2003 minivan, and my husband bikes 16km each way to work in a nearby town (he loves it; I’m in awe of his quads haha). We try to take the kids biking as much as possible to the store or to parks, but realistically most of our grocery shopping trips for five people do not fit in the back pocket of a double bike trailer and the 6 year old has a limit to her stamina (she can do ~7km roundtrips). Our city has very much clustered all amenities, stores, services etc in one central location; I wish so much that they would create pockets especially since they’re actively building endless housing developments around here! It’s the perfect opportunity to truly *design* a city, not just let one happen.
We considered moving a little closer to the city centre as we both appreciate a walkable/bikable existence (public transport is not really adequate where we are), but realized that our daughter’s school is .6km away and those 10 trips per week are done on foot – we only do grocery shopping and errands 2x/week. We live on a culdesac in a suburban neighbourhood and honestly – we LOVE it. Our neighbours are great, the houses are from the 70s and not fancy, the kids play with neighbour kids in our yards without having a scheduled “playdate”, we can share tools. It’s a level street, so it’s easy to let the kids practice their bike riding in the culdesac without needing to take them somewhere safe all the time. I like cooking, so we don’t require takeout/restaurants and I can be in the house prepping dinner while the kids play inside or out.
We own our 2600 sq ft home and rent out the bottom half. We paid off our mortgage this spring (prices are high here; we were gifted almost half of the cost by his parents. Their generation was able to buy houses for just over one year’s salary and sell high; ours is about 7 years salary in this area. They generously gifted him and his siblings a large down payment when we were starting out, claiming it would “snowball” and help us so much more if we could have our “inheritance” now rather than when they die. I am so grateful for their help and their generosity and wisdom – even if the housing market crashes!)
It really is so location-specific as to what sort of lifestyle is available. But I hope to see the “happy cities” in Montogomery’s book be thoughtfully built around North America!