Can I Adult Later? Thanks.

I am a final year university student. For me that means that I have about six months to get it together before I get thrown out into the world with only a piece of paper to protect me. Being a part of my family, my graduation also means that my bags will be at the front door in less than six months if I don’t move out sooner, and I have to buy my own car. I can definitely say I have been beyond lucky and fortunate to have a family that has supported me so well to this point, but now with that looming graduation date, I am about to become a lone ranger discovering the first frontiers of adulthood.

Legally speaking, I have been classified as an adult for almost four years now, yet the recent phenomenon of Adulting has taken over my life. Rising to prominence in the last few years, the term is used sarcastically and sincerely to describe acting like an adult. However, the word has morphed into something a little ickier, becoming more of a way to complain about the drudgery of adulthood. Used mostly by Millennials, it’s become a way to seek validation for carrying out the everyday responsible tasks our parents and those who we deem as adults have been completing for years, like filing taxes or paying a bill; and yet the very act of seeking this validation is judged childish by the adults around us. For years, becoming an adult included the four M’s — marriage, mortgage, (e)mployment and motherhood (Sidenotes: I recognise that employment starts with an e but the sounds work. Also fatherhood or parenthood would work too, but that doesn’t fit with my M theme). These pillars of adulthood have been handed down to us by a generation who lived so differently.

One of the most stressful is mortgage. My parents are homeowners, and have been since the age of 21. They were sold the Australian Dream — ‘the aspiration of homeownership remained central to the way many Australians think they ought to live, a belief that is borne out by the fact that over 90% of Australian adults experienced homeownership in the period of 1945–1980’. At the time, fulfilling this dream marked a rite of passage symbolising a transition from adolescence or youth to independent adulthood. It was not only expected, but it was also a realistic dream. Research by McCrindle shows when comparing 1975 to 2015, although annual income has grown by almost tenfold, over the same time period housing prices have increased by almost thirtyfold. So, although one person in 1975, might earn on average $7,618 annually full time this is about 43.5% of the medium house price in Brisbane that year. Comparatively in 2015, the same person might earn $72,000 annually full time, this is only a meagre 15% of the medium Brisbane house price. If you don’t live in Brisbane, you can do the depressing math for your Australian city from the table below.

For me, this doesn’t seem like the same dream I’ve been fed by my parents since childhood. Why would I slave away, working my butt off while paying to rent someone else’s property in the hope that maybe one day I’ll be able to afford more than 15% of an average house whilst saddled with a ridiculous mortgage, when the other option is packing my bags and experiencing the world?

However the average income to house price ratio isn’t the only influencer in this story; the fact is marriage was expected at a much younger age in previous generations allowing a double income to help further the housing affordability for our parents. Although this sounds appealing, I have trouble keeping the crumbs out of my bed from snacking let alone keeping another person around (a supporting point as to why I can’t fulfil the motherhood pillar either).

My life

So what is another option that allows ‘adults’ like me to have my property cake and eat it too? The idea of ‘rentvesting’ is a new concept based off the theory buy where you can afford, rent where you want to live. As Domain explains, although this can work for some, it completely goes against the entire point of buying in the first place, so you don’t have to rent. Additionally, in some Australian states, rentvesting also voids homebuyers of the first homeowner’s grant, something anyone should definitely consider when purchasing their first property. However to be able to do this, you still need money. Vicious cycle.

We are a here and now generation; as in ‘I see that lovely Contiki tour here, and I want it now”. Our satisfaction needs to be fulfilled immediately, and for many, the idea of saving for something five or ten years in advance seems absurd. As a possible contributor, young adults are living in their parental homes longer often at little to no cost at all. Why would I want to leave before I have to, when my mum is right down the hallway waiting with open arms if I have a nightmare about a mortgage? This has definitely added to our adulting fascination because we simply don’t need to.

Like the milk in the back of my fridge, the Australian homeowners dream of old has passed its due-by date and it seems like we would rather be in ignorant bliss than actually taking the steps towards re-evaluating the situation. Although this dream worked for past generations, it’s no longer fit for Millennials. So mum and dad, when we talk about me getting my life together, looking into the property market, or “settling down”, please know that however tempting it all might seem, can I adult later? I am far too busy right now with my stress relieving adult colouring in book.

Originally published at The Isthmus.

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