Last night a friend and I were chatting at Goldings.
We hadn’t seen one another in a year and have different circumstances. We met at 20 at law school and while I finished she decided to follow her star into psychology full time. She’s about to start her doctorate and it is her second time applying. She was one of 5 selected and has worked damn hard to get there. After, she will be a clinical psychologist.
“I just feel so much pressure” say said or something approximate*. “I’m going to be going back onto living costs and I’m not allowed to work while studying. I feel like I want to have a baby and my biological clock is ticking but how can I bring a baby into this while life is still so chaotic.”
I could completely relate. If you had asked me when I was 20 where I would be at 29 I would never have thought that all my career and personal circumstances would mean I was still living in Wellington, renting, about to move back in with my boyfriends parents for a year and still hadn’t lived overseas. I get sick of the Mike Hoskings having a moan on the Herald about how entitled our generation is when the older generations had free university education, cheap housing to invest in, no-Brexit, plenty more work opportunities and inflation was low.
Times were different: there’s no way around it. In the 1990’s and 2000’s we still read newspapers, magazines and there wasn’t as much global fallout politically as there is in 2019. You could move to London with a Bachelor of Arts and little work experience and somehow end up rising in the ranks. Today, even with all our work experience, my boyfriend and I are super cautious of making any leaps into overseas living because we just can’t count on landing on our feet. Despite that fact we want to make things work, we feel permanently stressed, like we’re defusing a bomb which will blow up in T-minus 3 years. And let’s not even get started on buying a house (never gunna happen) or having babies.
Part of this is that it takes much longer to qualify these days, and even then to stand out you need to get further experience. Matt is currently part of a year into studying a three year course. I have no plans for further study but as a team player I want any move we make to be together. Teachers used to need to do a one year diploma. Now they need a bachelor degree and a masters to be considered for a head position. Lawyers also need a masters, commerce students need a Chartered Accountancy or Chartered Financial Analyst qualification. If you don’t invest time now, you’ll pay later. But time is running faster than ever.
We’ve found saving a real challenge which is why we need to totally change our life circumstances to get ahead. Neither of us were on great pay until I was 27. The first thing we wanted to do was having a break and time off together, which is why we booked a holiday. But we also delayed saving for a house deposit. We couldn’t have it both ways. Now friends of mine who bought 4 years ago are looking on smugly as prices in Wellington have sky-rocketed. Other friends who need to buy with a baby on the way are uncertain of the future, as they get out-bid by $150,000 in a modest house in Seatoun that ended up being purchased by a property trust. I know I am not alone in feeling like sometimes I just want to scream.
Our parents are only just starting to understand that it isn’t us moaning - it’s being a realist. I kept telling my mum that we couldn’t look for a house because it just wasn’t realistic. She pooh pooh’ed me until she asked what we had in our KiwiSaver. ‘Is that it?’ she said, agog. Okay, I didn’t think we were doing too badly but certainly not enough to pay $500-$1 million plus for a house in Wellington. Sadly, we just can’t see ourselves making that jump yet. Yes, there are options. We’re starting to consider new builds as an option. And then there are the provinces. But realistically, our jobs are in Wellington. We will be looking at minimum an hour commute, which is do-able. But Wellington as a city does simply not yet have the infrastructure to handle its population living out of the city and up the motor-way.
The first step to re-gaining sanity? Talk to people. Don’t suffer in silence. We’ve found our childless older friends a real help. They’re totally hippy in some ways, living within their means and going where they feel like, but they’ve also been smart. They’ve invested money in the sharemarket. They’ve bought flats and upgraded to houses. They’ve also chosen not to buy but accept that life is good and question why we feel the need to own a property at all in the first place, compared to people who live in Europe and are happy to rent forever (they have much better right in Europe - I think New Zealand needs better laws in the future for tenants). Talking with these people have helped me realise that there is no point in following the blue-print because it’s like trying to get somewhere you’ve never been using a map from the 1800s.
Accepting that life isn’t fair and we have a shitty hand sometimes is part of the deal. It’s all about how you play your hand that counts. Taking bold moves to start a side hustle to earn extra income (hello, blog-life), cut costs (hello, Pak’ n’ Save and moving to Greytown) and realise you can’t do it all (we just still can’t decide whether to stay to boost our prospects and get on with life or run away overseas - help!) are part of this. I don’t know what our future holds still but for those of you who are quietly freaking our and feeling like a duck frantically paddling underwater to just keep moving, you are not alone. Life is really tough and you are not a moaning millennial for feeling how you do. Anxiety is real. House prices are real. Inflation is real. Not knowing whether you’ll be so stressed out you need IVF are real worries too. But let’s stand side by side. We’ve got this. Let’s throw our the Gen X and Boomer blue print and design our own future vision of success. And if could look like being exactly where you are, right now. The universe has your back. And so do I.
PS: This year I’ve started to take control of my finances and educate myself. More of that in another blog post. But I promise you that when you make a plan, you’ll feel better, even if it doesn’t fully work. Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss that post - sign up here.