Young wild & free

By Garisha Herath

In recent times we have witnessed a growing trend of millennials and Gen Z preferring to live in rentals rather than opt for what seems the more painstaking measure of setting up a ‘forever home’. The temporary nature of rentals over lasting homes that stand the test of time to be passed on from one generation to the next – this would surely be a phenomenon that would plague prior generations!

Throughout history, human beings have evolved as a result of interpersonal relationships affecting their own individualism and in interacting with society as a whole. The impact of external factors such as political and economic instability, overpopulation, scarcity of resources, climate change, inflation, and other such factors have resulted in them altering their lifestyles to suit their financial circumstances. Millennials are far less likely to be married than earlier generations when they were young, and as a result of these changes most millennials and Gen Z’s have opted to live lifestyles that is economical and sustainable. The differences in each generation’s perspectives have also contributed to a different outlook on life. In a nutshell, generations before Millennials (Gen X, the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation etc.) and Gen Z’s, prefer to have a set of expectations from their lives which consists mainly of finding a forever house complete with a forever spouse (the property should ideally have a front yard with bonus points for a backyard!) and then spending their lives tending to their children, eventually growing old in their homes. Some women preferred to continue working and fostering a career, but most looked forward to being stay home moms, at least until their children were of a certain age. These were the general priorities for a couple or an individual back in the day whereas now, priorities for millennials and Gen Z’s have changed significantly. The younger generations expect more from life than having to marry and start a family. Although many prefer to do so, the general consensus is to make memories, explore new cultures and foods, travel the world, gain new experiences, make friends, and live their lives to the fullest before settling down.

The way forward for millennials and younger generations is to go about their journey of self-exploration, magical memories and live a life with as limited responsibilities as possible. Rental units then come, as a huge benefit for millennials and Gen Z’s as such spaces allow them to live lives tailored around minimal commitment. It takes away the hassle of owning a property – actively tending to a house and being primarily responsible for its wear and tear and maintenance.

Apart from the minimum commitment and responsibility factor, rental spaces offer various benefits that would appeal to most millennials and Gen Z’s. The freedom to move whenever and wherever they want, the freedom to explore new opportunities and cultures, convenience to work or experience nightlife, lack of maintenance since there are no garden spaces to take care of or big houses to keep clean. Most of the grunt – work is handled by landlords at a minimal fee, with a sense of community present within the rental since everyone lives near each other making it an excellent opportunity to make new friends and memories. Also the availability of such amenities as in-house gyms, pools, bars, and cafes, and the sense of security in living in a rental space or apartment over living in a house with a backyard, exposed to thieves and other undesirable elements alone with no one close at hand should the need arise, and most importantly the budget-friendly housing.

The wide range of budget-friendly options is another reason most millennials and Gen Z’s prefer to live in rental properties rather than invest in a house or a permanent living situation. From flats, to rooms to studio apartments, a wide range of options depending on the individuals requirements allows choice.

A couple of decades ago, the dream was to own a property with a beautiful garden. But WHY was that? Back when overpopulation was just a concept and countries had an abundance of land and finding property to build a house was never an issue. The first thing your grandpa and father would have done after getting married or getting their first salary was to “invest” in a house. Yes, INVEST! How many of us still hear this? “Your house and land are investments, so they will never go to waste.” At one point, we all have listened to that, especially when parents talk about the prices of property or houses and compare them with the prices they had back in the day. Over time, the value of your property will appreciate, and therefore you should purchase your first house, which will eventually be everyone’s forever housing priority. As times have changed so have the priorities of younger generations. The prices of property and the cost of living is the main contributory factor to this lifestyle change. Who wants to spend all their savings and take loans to build their forever home in their 20s? Most prefer to use that money to travel the world and gain experiences with zero responsibilities. One of the more common phrases we hear from millennials and Gen Z’s nowadays is, “I can earn that money from my next salary, so I might as well spend it now.”

In a day and age where lifestyle changes happen in all aspects of a person’s life, from sustainable living to prioritizing experiences over houses, to eloping and having intimate weddings over the ‘empty-the-wallet’ type of lavish weddings, millennials and Gen Z’s are taking the initiative to live life to its fullest and to leave behind no regrets even if that meant raised eyebrows and appalled faces!

“My house is a liability, and if your house is your largest investment, you’re in trouble.” – Rich Dad Poor Dad.

This quote from “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” written over two decades ago, explains the mindset and the economic thought process of the younger generations. Poor Dad, a college-educated Ph.D. holder who conventionally celebrates milestones in the linear process of; education (check), 9-5 job (check), getting married (check), buying a beautiful house in the best part of the city (check), get loans to live a lifestyle you cannot afford (check), have a kid (check), force and groom your child to go through the same path you took although it did not give you happiness but that being the only path you know, you do it anyway (check). Then there’s the Rich Dad, a person with no higher educational background, an entrepreneur who lives in a small place in a more impaired part of the town, owns multiple businesses, has hundreds of employees working for him, and has enough money to splurge on anything and everything.

Rich Dad lesson: “Your house is NOT an asset”

Van life living or van-dwelling, although relatively new as a lifestyle, has existed for a long time. It has been there for a long time under the names of RV-ing, caravan lifestyle, wanderlust living, nomad lifestyle, Volkswagon hippie van, and eventually, at the beginning of 2010s as a #vanlife movement that took Tumblr and other social media platforms by a storm. Originally, this was a traditional and rebellious lifestyle by communities such as the hippies or employed by those who could not afford houses, meaning. But then, Van living became a sensational lifestyle because of all the romanticizing of it. Many college students and families hopped on the trend mainly due to the increasing mortgage and rent prices. Today with the housing crisis, many opt to live in vans, RVs, cars, SUVs, or buses after remodeling them to fit a portable bathroom, beds, kitchenette, and so on. Many millennials and Gen Z’s who have got burnt-out or tired of doing their 9 – 5 jobs opt to live in portable houses like vans or converted buses as it gives them the freedom to travel while also saving them a lot of money on rent and utilities. As a result of this lifestyle, the digital nomad lifestyle also became a thing. Many companies recruited individuals to work for their companies from any part of the world, and countries started issuing digital nomad visas as many were pursuing this lifestyle. This lifestyle became a win-win for both the employee and the employer as companies no longer had to make space for in-house working, and the employees could decide their working hours.

Millennials and Gen Z’s are shifting the housing and real estate world by a whirlwind, but arguably, the Gen Z’s are more…”ruthless and unforgiving” on two issues. Statistically Gen Z’s are more frugal than Millennials, more focused on long-term stability in careers and finances, think that debt should be avoided at all costs and want to change the world whereas only 39% of Millennials want to change the world. Gen Z has observed the social media mistakes of Millennials and are more aware of the implications of debt and overspending as they see the Millennials struggle to purchase homes and then suffer trying to pay for it!

Gen Z’s and Millennials all grew up with generations that valued property, especially a house of their own, so it is ingrained in the Gen Z’s and millennials to dream of having one, at least at a later stage of their lives, or to start saving for a ‘forever house,’. But what is stopping them? The skyrocketing prices of property, inflation, increase in the cost of living, and many other factors contribute to this, which eventually forces many Millennials and Gen Z’s to settle down to a young, wild, and free lifestyle.

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