Are avocados to blame for housing affordability?

14 Oct 2019

Australian Demographer Bernard Salt wrote a tongue in cheek article for The Australian in 2016 about observing “young people who order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more”. He suggested that this money could have gone towards a deposit on a house instead of frequenting hipster cafes. The image of an avocado smashing hipster millennial became a global media sensation (and inspired my own animation below of how a smashed avocado is made).

But are hipster café’s and premium breakfast options really the reason why Millennials cannot afford their own home? A report by the Grattan Institute entitled “Generation gap: ensuring a fair go for younger Australians” busts this popular myth.

The report found that whilst the Australian population is generally healthier and wealthier than our counterparts 100 years ago, not everyone has benefited equally. Younger Australians have been spending less than their predecessors, especially on items such as alcohol and entertainment.

In comparison with their counterparts in the last 20 to 30 years, Younger Australians are:

  • less likely to own a home in their 30s;
  • more likely to have double the level of debt if they own a home;
  • less likely to get a job with a high growth salary; and
  • more discerning on what they spend their money on (cutting back on all non essentials in a bid to save).

The challenges of today might pale in comparison to the challenges the millennial generations could face tomorrow including:

  • bearing the economic and tax burden of an aging Australia;
  • experiencing major disruption due to AI and technology replacing skilled jobs; and
  • facing the effects of climate change.

After reading this depressing news, a Millennial may need to partake of some stronger stuff (perhaps an economic DIY homebrew rather than avocado toasts or shakes).

Helping younger generations get a head start

The report recommends a range of policy reforms around economic growth, housing affordability, age-based tax breaks and intergenerational transfers. Unsurprisingly, it is a complex issue to resolve which will require significant tax, stakeholder consultation and policy change impacting older and younger Australians.

Some of our clients put plans into place to support their Millennial children to get a head start. These options are varied and include:

  • helping them get a financial plan for a major life event or goal (such as buying a home, getting married or having children);
  • helping with a deposit / renovation on a home;
  • paying for insurance for the main breadwinner to provide financial security; and
  • setting aside funds for their grandchildren’s education or university fees.

Professional advice helps

If you are considering any of these options, speaking to a professional Shadforth Adviser can help you understand:

  • how much you could afford to set aside;
  • the different tax implications and cashflow implications on how to structure any assistance;
  • safeguards you might put in place to ensure the funds are used for their intended purpose; and
  • suitable types of investments depending on the timeframe the funds are needed.

Whilst the debate is still very alive between which generation is getting a better deal, we should not forget that older Australians have worked very hard to save and also deserve the ability to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

When next in your local café, take a few minutes to observe who really is eating smashed avocado toast. Perhaps see if you can spy a hint of grey hair emerging from their hipster beards?

Adrian Kwa - National Head of Advice

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