A lot of millennials are disgruntled about their economic situation, a recent poll showed. To find out more, we asked our young adult readers to tell us about their work experience, their housing situation and what makes them angry and hopeful. Here are seven voices of people aged 27 to 37. Their responses have been edited for length. Click here for personal finance columnist Rob Carrick’s take on millennials and housing.
Ian Borsuk, 27, renter living in Hamilton
Work experience: I was quite lucky to consistently find employers who would pay above minimum-wage – but not a living wage – in Toronto. I then moved to Hamilton for work and have been fully employed for two years now.
Home ownership: I cannot imagine being able to even consider purchasing a home anytime in the future – or at least, a home that is located where I would like to live.
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Generational woes: I am keenly aware that I make less at my age than my parents did, relatively, after factoring in inflation. I can barely imagine being able to afford one child, if any. I currently see no clear path to retirement.
What makes you angry/hopeful: I’m tired of people who had the luck to be able to afford a home 20 years ago being able to seemingly veto any political or cultural shift my generation is pushing for, such as addressing income inequality, climate change, etc. What brings me hope is seeing more people from my generation take on leadership roles in our community to change the discourse around inequality.
Amanda Rozak, 37, renter living with her husband and daughter in Vancouver
Work experience: I’m lucky to have a challenging creative career within the fashion industry. I’ve gone from being a graduate, to intern, then booking agent, then agency director.
Home ownership: I have been saving for a down payment, and in the meantime the real estate market in Vancouver skyrocketed. I went from shopping for my first condo to deciding I will stay in my rental apartment to see if there will be a price correction. My job only exists in a large metropolis so moving to a small town is not feasible.
Generational woes: I’m more educated than both my parents and we live on two incomes in a rented home with one child. My stepfather was an artist with three kids and a stay-at-home mom. They were able to purchase a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house on a single income. We’ve made the choice to only have one child … because daycare is superexpensive and hard to get into. My husband and I are hoping to retire at 65 but without either of us having a pension job I’m not sure if our current savings plan will be enough. I would like to increase the amount we save per month once our daughter starts school and our daycare costs are reduced.
What makes you angry/hopeful: There have definitely been good efforts made by the B.C. government with the foreign-home-buyers tax as well as the empty-homes tax, but it has not increased the number of rental properties or condos for sale within our budget. Having paid off all our student loans to get into our careers also set us back. It’s just that much harder.
Kris Campbell, 32, renter living with his wife and two children in Victoria
Work experience: I am trained in three trades. I’ve been able to move from job to job as I wish and make reasonable wages. My wife, who planned on becoming an English teacher, had zero prospects of a job after school.
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Home ownership: My prospects look bleak. Housing in B.C. seems so overvalued compared to the wages people actually make. To be honest, I enjoy not worrying financially about a house and having enough disposable income to enjoy life. Current rental markets are no help, though. Renting in markets with a 0.2-per-cent vacancy rate with $2,500 a month rent for a duplex is hardly a sustainable alternative.
Generational woes: Other than housing, I think we have similar challenges and benefits. Housing is the killer, though. The families I know that own houses both work full time, received huge sums of money from families for down payments and get free childcare from the grandparents, just to make ends meet. This is not a sustainable solution. Renting is hard as well. In tight rental markets, families are turned away in lieu of “quiet professionals.” You also can’t fit a family of four into a bachelor apartment or have roommates so there isn’t any way to share the cost. I am planning for early retirement. I invest around 10 per cent of my wages into RRSPs and TFSAs through a mix of bonds and stocks via DIY online brokerages. I have RESPs for my kids’ future educational needs.
What makes you angry/hopeful: House shaming and the general use of housing as a stock market, aka “an investment property.” Home ownership appeals to me because it becomes a stable place to settle for the long term and raise a family. There are so many financial instruments; housing should be viewed again as housing.
Patrick DeRochie, 31, a renter living in Toronto with his wife
Work experience: Six-plus years of working in various jobs related to politics, government relations and environmental defence.
Home ownership: My wife and I have virtually ruled out the option of owning a home in Toronto. We are fortunate to live in a nice apartment with cheap rent in a desirable neighbourhood close to downtown. We want to maintain our professional mobility and the option of moving abroad or to a different city for work without being bogged down by a massive mortgage and we feel homes in Toronto are not materially and physically worth what they cost.
Generational woes: With current trends of declining social services, housing unaffordability, obscene inequality, economic dislocation and disruption, decaying physical and social infrastructure, and the increasingly severe effects of climate change, I am hard-pressed to envision a world where we are better off than boomers. My wife and I have made a conscious decision not to have children for reasons that are not financial or economic. But I do believe that even if we wanted to, having children in Toronto is almost prohibitively expensive.
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We are more fortunate than most millennials. We both have good jobs, supportive parents and strong financial literacy skills. That being said, I would not be surprised if we are not in a position to retire at 65, if current economic trends continue. To take this question a step further, I actually find the concept of a typical retirement - as the boomers would view it - unimaginable. The environmental, economic and geopolitical problems my generation will be facing 30 or 40 years from now will be so severe that normal, everyday life for large segments of the population will be a struggle. This is already true for many young people in Canada and around the world.
Janine Rogan, 27, a renter living with her husband in downtown Calgary
Work experience: Both my husband and I have good job prospects because of our Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designations.
Home ownership: My husband and I will eventually own something but right now we are frustrated with finding something with more space in the inner city so that we still have a short commute to work. We are looking for a bit more space than we currently rent without a million-dollar price tag.
Generational woes: Wage stagnation and increased cost of living, in addition to housing costs, are something the boomer generation didn’t have to face. Also, there are fewer full-time jobs and barely any defined-benefit pension plans. We are hoping to have a smaller family and to retire at 60. We started saving early so if our investments co-operate we should be in a good place. This is obviously contingent on both of us not getting laid off for an extended period of time.
What makes you angry/hopeful: The housing market is definitely something that is frustrating because it was propped up by low interest rates for so long and everyone being told to buy a house, even if they can’t afford it. In addition, I would say that the boomer generation benefiting from a plethora of advantages such as defined-benefit pension plans, low housing prices and a market that increased exponentially over their lifetime, as well as many more job prospects just with a bachelor’s degree. The reason this is frustrating is because this generation constantly tells millennials they have no work ethic and that we are lazy when truthfully we have had nowhere near the advantages.
Matt Matheson, 37, owns a home with his wife in Fort Saskatchewan
Work experience: After seven years of teaching, I was able to land a job as an assistant principal. The biggest thing that has contributed to my career success is knowing what I wanted and going after it: I got the education and built the relationships with colleagues and those in upper management roles in order to advance.
Home ownership: I lived in a high-end suburb of Edmonton and housing was very expensive. My wife and I moved to a smaller, more rural town a bit further outside the city and found a great place for way cheaper. It was a great decision for us as a family and now that we’re a bit more established financially, we’re looking to buy something in our original town.
Generational woes: Why does one generation have to be better off than another? They don’t. I also think that when different generations buy into this, it feeds a victim mentality and an outlook of helplessness. This does nothing to encourage us, millennials, to get out there and hustle to make things happen. I don’t think we could afford to procreate like my grandparents’ generation, but money is not the limiting factor to how many kids we have. If anything, time is far more restrictive. I expect that 55-56 will be when I take my teacher’s pension, but I don’t think I’ll officially “retire.” I’ll work, but just at other things.
What makes you angry/hopeful: People who complain about how hard things are and how there’s nothing they can do to change their circumstances. That said, I’d like to see the TFSA max increase to over $10,000. That would be very nice and helpful for taking some of the strain off future generations of CPP contributors.
Laura Church Ferguson, 34, living in her own home in North Vancouver, B.C., with her husband and two sons
Work experience: Varied, employed in various fields around the world before returning to Canada and starting a small business in the Lower Mainland that makes custom packaging. I oversee all aspects of the company as president and have a large and skilled team. I also care for my two sons, aged 2 and 3, with the help of my husband and my mother.
Home ownership: We have a home and we love it but the cost of mortgage and maintenance has been debilitating. Our financial life centres around the costs of our home, including the mortgage and lots of upkeep. But I don’t feel bad about that; we are lucky to have our house and we really enjoy raising our family here.
Generational woes: Because of the growth of the economy and specifically the increase in land values, it is necessary for wealth to be passed down before younger generations can fully enjoy what their parents have enjoyed. This is common in other expensive places on earth such as London, New York, or Paris, and now in Vancouver, too. We would like to have a third or even a fourth child. But we can’t afford full-time childcare along with our mortgage. Neither me nor my husband ever expect to have enough to retire. We don’t have any pensions aside from CPP and as an entrepreneur I’ve contributed very little to that. We plan to work until the bitter end. But we do hope to achieve higher levels of financial security and be able to achieve pricier dreams such as more family travel. I dream of being able to treat my extended family to brunch at my favourite restaurant. Fundamentally it would be nice to feel less and less “on the edge” financially and to sleep comfortably at night.
What makes you angry/hopeful: We’ve recently had our corporate taxes raised, our personal taxes raised, and now a new payroll tax to cover MSP [health care] premiums. Income splitting was cancelled. There is no government subsidized childcare or maternity leave for me. This is all fine but it really disappoints me when the government(s) claim to be helping the middle class while actually enacting policies which are against middle-class people like me. The current political situation seems so partisan and so full of lies and that’s really upsetting to me. I also don’t like the message that to help one group get ahead we need to take more from other groups, - it’s a combative message that’s building animosity. I think we can see increased prosperity across different demographics through good policies.
The above responses have been edited for length and clarity. We would like to thank our young readers for sharing their thoughts with The Globe and Mail.