Wrong Priorities

I’ve often heard that those under about 35 will be the first generation to be poorer than their parents. This, my, generation will be “generation rent” — those who cannot afford to buy a house, will struggle to live to the same standards as their parents. This, it is said, is proof of a broader societal failure.

I’ve come to see things very, very differently. There are always two sides to “prosperity”. The first is the notional, the easily visible. To own a house, to own a car, to own 20 televisions, the cat, the dog, the whole kit and caboodle. Add to that the holidays to the Costa del Sol or, for the more discerning, Tuscany and you have all the elements of modern “prosperity”. Replace the Costa del Chav and Tuscany with Cabo San Lucas and Napa for North Americans or Bali and Japan for Antipodeans.

But there’s another side to this “prosperity” — there always is. And it’s ugly. It’s rare for people to actually “own” a house. They take out mortgages. They have to pay for insurance, pay for maintenance, pay taxes. All to often, it takes two people to qualify — just — for the mortgage. Add to that car payments and car insurance, the associated taxes and fees as well as maintenance required to keep MoT/DMV/RMS happy and that’s even more money. How many of those televisions were paid for in cash and how many were paid for on credit? How much of the kit and how much of the caboodle is actually owned outright, or merely financed?

I belong to a small group of people who remember the pre-credit boom days, came of age during the boom years and then entered the workforce during the height of the economic collapse. I also remember when technology was peripheral to daily life and when we had to function with the likes of land-line telephones, telephone books, dodgy internet and one computer per family. Most baby boomers and older Gen-X weren’t doing so well. They aren’t doing so well. For them to maintain an illusion of prosperity they had to go deep in debt. Many went bankrupt when the economy crashed, some lost almost everything and a few never recovered.

Those in my generation have a great chance to reconsider our priorities. Do we really need a big house, or would a flat suffice? Do we need a QLED television with no smaller a screen than 76″? Do we need to “buy” or, shudder, lease new cars ever 2-3 years? Do we really need so many things, things we can’t use, things that serve no purpose other than to collect dust? We have the chance to simplify our lives and to cut out things that only bring stress, aggro and misery to our lives. It took some humbling on my part to learn this lesson, but after scaling back my expectations I’ve concluded that a simple life is the only sensible way. I do not have much, but I do not need much. I live very well for £670 a month. I have a good work-life balance and I lack nothing. Most importantly, my life is my own.

Author: Christopher-Dorset

A Bloody Kangaroo

7 thoughts on “Wrong Priorities”

  1. An excellent topic, Christopher. I have to say, though, having met you and from your writing that you are the exception in your generation and I wish there were many more like you. Sadly, most seem to be of the ‘I want it all and I want it now’ persuasion.

    There was a girl on a BBC quiz show last week where the prize was 10,000 Sterling, the amount, ironically, that the ludicrous Resolution Foundation is mooting as the amount each UK pensioner needs to pay to those of 25 years in order to distribute wealth. That’s right, ten grand to every illegal immigrant, knife criminal, drug dealer, baby boiler, ‘social media influencer’ and waste if oxygen in the country. The girl, a 22-year-old and second year degree student of’animal studies’ stated, when asked what she would do with the money stated that she would buy a new car as her current one was ‘old’.

    I beg to differ with her sense of entitlement. Excuse me, but I worked very hard for what I’ve achieved and for my pensions and it did not include paying the bills of some selfie-obsessed beginner in the real world. Unemployment levels in the UK are at a forty year low (despite Brexit :-)), so go out and get a job.

    OZ

  2. I have never understood people’s need to consume crap, why they want it so much, why they want to copy each other. It is as if they have absolutely no individuality or personal style, just trundle along in the herd.
    Being resolutely racist and classist I have always dismissed them as ghastly peasants! One of the reasons I abandoned living in cities decades ago. It is too greater assault on the eyeballs. The green hair at$150 per go leaves one nauseous.
    Never did believe in buying anything except a house ‘on the drip’. Why put money in others pockets un-necessarily?
    Pay cash and get a good discount! Amazing how much cheaper things get when dirty notes are flourished.

    I utterly refuse to join the current century. I don’t own a mobile phone, why should I be disturbed in my holy of holies, the greenhouse? Talk to peasants in my temple, the garden? Not bloody likely!
    One TV is more than enough, we never watch the main channels, full of ghastly half castes with deformed tits and monstrous arses, denizens of brothels more likely.
    Cars are utilitarian boxes that carry one’s garden implements too and fro. They either go or they don’t go! Staggers me that people can be impressed by a few bits of sheet metal.
    Money machines are a no no too. I insist in going into a bank and removing cash amount from my account by cheque. They keep saying I can have it on the plastic which I refuse, a cheque book has a stub as permanent record. I have no intention of counting money in the street.
    Too many garages in the UK are owned by ragheads, always pay by cash.
    And don’t start me on self service check outs!
    GPS? So they know where you are at all times, read a map!
    Admittedly I buy expensive clothes but if I don’t get 30 years out of them I reckon I have been robbed.
    I detest holidays, always zillions of dreadful people (mostly diseased) milling around.
    By the time one has inspected all goods for country of origin and discarded cheap chinese crap and other loathsome locations of manufacture there is very little left to buy anyway. Who need to go shopping? Never understood women who went window shopping for entertainment, a perverse exercise if ever there was one. Never done it in my life. As being self employed my time was always money.

    Needless to say we don’t owe a penny in the world to anyone. Fortunately spousal unit is as parsimonious as myself.

    Christopher, have you ever worked out how much you spend on airfares, hotels etc? Bet you could have bought a flat for hard cash since you were 21. On second thoughts perhaps you had better not add it up probably give you a cardiac arrest!

  3. OZ: I’m at that queer point in life when I’m considered “young”, but those in their teens and early 20s are a mystery to me. I don’t understand their motivations and with increasing regularity don’t understand the words they’re saying. Quite frankly, £10,000 isn’t going to help anyone in any way. Most would just piss it away on frivolities, anyway. My grandparents were born in the closing years of Weimar Germany, grew up under Hitler and came of age during the Second World War and the post-war reconstruction. They were woken up at night by the lights and sounds of falling bombs. Yet, they started work, saved, lived frugally, paid off their debts and retired with comfortable pensions. They took on boarders for years to pay off their debts more quickly. My grandfather worked as a machinist for 50 years, from the time he turned 15 to the time he turned 65. He only retired at 65 because of downsizing. He had to make a choice. They couldn’t get rid of him because of his seniority, but a young, newly-hired employee with a family would lose his position. My grandfather decided, all things considered, that 50 years at work was enough. My grandmother worked as a seamstress and washerwoman for decades. In her 50s, she became the church janitor and worked there until she reached the age she could collect her pension. Their parents went through World War One, the Weimar Republic, Hitler, the Second World War and Reconstruction. They spent their lives working, making due with what opportunities they had. There was never a question of being owed £10,000, DM 10,000, RM 10,000 or €10,000. You simply carried on and made due with what was there. What I find irksome is that while the economy in much of the world has certainly been rubbish, to compare it to the Great Depression misses the key point that we never risked starving and malnutrition was never a serious concern for all too many people. My grandfather lost his teeth by the time he was in his early 20s because he suffered malnutrition during the War.

    CO: I’m rather fond of small-to-mid-sized towns. Not too much out of the ordinary happens, but everything is easily accessed by taking a pleasant stroll. I’ve lived in large cities, enough of that, ta muchly, etc. Did I ever tell you about the time that I was chased down a street by a strung out tranny? If not, I really should! I’m thankful for the internet. What I can’t buy in town I can have posted to me. The most I have to do is go to Poole a few times a year to stock up at the Chinese supermarket.

    Going on holiday can be refreshing and civilised — if you know where to go. Take, for example, Sweden. It’s clean, well-organised and the cost keeps the grockles at bay. The same applies to Norway and Denmark. All three are eminently civilised countries. There’s none of these diseased zillions! I have actually kept a note of how much I spend on holidays. I’d hardly be able to buy a flat, at least not anywhere I’d like to live. I suspect that I’ll continue my holidays and my travels for no other reason than that I’m restless and I understand only all too well what “saudede” means. Ask OZ for an explanation.

  4. CT, your £670 a month must be net of rent and other fixed expenses? So yes, it would be plenty (for me too) if it doesn’t have to support a car, a pet, a bad habit or a need for social status. Travel here can be cheap. £60 return flight to Cornwall!

  5. Janus: It includes rent, food, a gym membership and Netflix. It’s all a matter of priority. I don’t need a car, so I don’t have one. I am not allowed to have a pet, so I don’t have one. A potted plant will do. Social status should reflect reality, not narrow whims and fancies grounded in nothing. I’ve seen what happens when people care more about illusory “status” than living within their means.

  6. CO: Not at all, I have a comfortable room with a view over the hills, a shower and a kitchen. I shop at Waitrose and the markets. I can’t live wildly, but I lack nothing. The UK isn’t that expensive if you budget carefully.

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