The Australian dream of the quarter-acre block is uncomfortably out of reach for Gen X and Gen Y, even if they lay off the smashed avo.
But financial planner, columnist and author Melissa Browne’s brilliant new book Unf*ck Your Finances, particularly aimed at young women, argues that maybe all we need to do is dream differently.
“A lot of people look at their friends buying homes and getting married and feel so far behind,” Browne says. “But you should look at what you want in life and decide if that works for you.
“Sometimes when you remove that stress, suddenly there are all these other options available to you, from the share market to owning an investment property, to starting a business. There’s actually a lot of different ways you can invest.”
Browne says multiple credit cards are the number one no-no.
“It’s that really insidious thing where you’ve got a job so you get a credit card,` and then we’re offered limit increases which we can just sign up for at the click of a button. Then you walk into David Jones and you’re offered a store card, and it can really balloon, and you’re not sure how to get out from under it.”
The Instagram-led push for amazing life experiences can be another road to ruin, Browne notes.
“A lot of Gen Y and X are waking up one day and going, ‘oh crap, I had a really good time, but I spent a lot. I should probably financially evolve and I don’t know how. I haven’t been taught at school or uni and I’m really uncomfortable talking about it, so maybe I’ll just ignore it and hope that it gets better’.”
Ignorance is not bliss, whether your life goals include home ownership or not, Browne argues.
“When I first meet someone, we just lay all their cards on the table and often that’s the first time they’ve ever faced their finances. What do I have, what do I owe, what do I earn and what do I want?”
Real world solutions
Credit cards don’t work for everyone, even those with awesome self-control.
“I have a chocolate addiction,” Browne confesses. “I cannot have chocolate in the house and similarly I can only have one credit card with a limit I can handle.”
Get the scissors out, she suggests.
“You can still online shop with a debit card. If you do have credit cards, consolidate them by transferring the balances to a no-interest card, because that interest is the killer. Then cut up all of the cards, choose not to use them anymore and make a plan to pay them off.”
Once that’s done, keep going.
“Once you have paid it off, you’ve actually got into that great habit of transferring a regular amount, so transfer it out to a savings plan.”
Sometimes you need to break up with money.
“Twice a year I do a 30-day detox where I don’t spend on non-essentials. It’s a really good time to reset my unconscious spending, get back into the saving groove and also figure out what I really want.”
Melissa Browne’s Unf*ck Your Finances is out now, published by Allen & Unwin