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Avocados Are The New Lipstick!

23/05/2017 15:31

"When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each", Australian millionaire and property mogul Tim Gurner recently commented.

There has been plenty of hysteria this week about his comments and I'm not going to pile in.

If we are honest we will admit he's not wrong; spurred by tech-enhanced convenience millennials are spending a huge proportion of their money on eating out and all this money does add up.

On the other hand let's also be honest that governments, around the world, have implemented policies that have damaged the chances of young people to hit "traditional financial milestones" meaning they have a less-than-fair-shot at social mobility and wealth accumulation.

So let's acknowledge that both sides have a point  -  millennials are spending much of their disposable income in "wasteful" ways and millennials have been dealt a "bad economic hand" and so see many big-ticket items as out of their reach.

Avocados are the new lipstick

The "lipstick index" a phrase coined in 2001 by Leonard Lauder (of Estée Lauder) sought to explain why lipstick sales surge during a recession. Lauder observed that small luxuries get you through the tough times.

Today it seems that when times are bad millennials reach for the avo. The humble fruit has become a symbol for non-millenials of all that is wrong with millennial personal finance.

When we can't achieve our goals, or feel they are out of reach, we reach for small pleasures.
According to Halifax the average deposit for a first-time buyer has risen 88%, from £17,499 in 2007 to £32,927 today. The average young earner saving 10% of their average salary (£24,000) would need over 15 years of saving to get the deposit together.

You'd need to forgo almost 4,000 avocado brunches to afford that deposit. But if you do forgo the brunch and takeaway coffees that deposit would take seven years to raise  -  not an insignificant reduction.

If it's all going to $hit, may as well have some fun

At the most base level Millennials want to live life in an acceptable and fun way and feeling financially doomed means they look at money (and spending) differently.

The economy of the last 10 years is the defining scope through which young people see the world. The recession, compounding the challenges of student loan debt and a property market seemingly increasingly out of reach, are all contributing factors.

All of these, not to mention the media hysteria around generation rent, generation debt, generation hopeless etc etc, has had a major impact on millennials and millennial thinking about money.

We shouldn't be surprised that young people would rather spend on experiences (holidays and restaurants) than assets, like buying a car or home. In the age of "influencers" and life-filtering, experiences help to project the right image to gain the social (media) capital that is so important.

That said, every £500 saved and not spent on holidays brings our deposit closer by three months. Again, that makes a big difference.

Expectations

Millennials want what they want and they want it now.

Boomers believe this attitude flows from feelings of entitlement and narcissism. Speak to a millennial and these expectations are a natural consequence of believing that life is to be enjoyed -- that we should live a life of purpose, be content and happy and feel empowered and satisfied in all aspects of life.

Expectation is a double edged sword; hugely positive when it creates ambition and initiative and horribly negative when not grounded in reality and an understanding that dreams are built by hard work.

Your cutting power is limited, your earning power is not
We can all cut frivolous spending and make small lifestyle changes. And given that we can only spend our money once, making some cuts is a great plan especially if we spend because of habit not desire.

Reducing takeaway coffee consumption (save £1,200 a year), bringing lunch to work (save £1,400 a year), go meatless on Mondays (save £600 a year), getting rid of that gym membership you aren't using and even cancelling the TV package you can't afford (save £900 a year) are all ways of pumping your saving.

So cutting makes a huge difference and living more frugally can mean a far shorter path to getting that deposit together.

But we will never convince everyone, let alone the young and ambitious that cutting is the only path. We need to be encouraging greater investment in earning potential.

Get a good job, start a business, always be learning to maximise your earning potential and for goodness sake get financially savvy  -  to play any game you need to know the rules and if you want to win you better know them well.

No one ever got rich from cutting avocado toast out of their life, but no one got rich by spending all their money on brunch and coffee either. Find a balance in your life by deciding what has true value and what has perceived social value and choose wisely.

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