Monday, 14 January 2013

Joining the 'Boomerang Generation'


When contemplating my life plan, I didn't quite envisage joining the 'Boomerang Generation'. I am an independent woman. I left home when I was 17. I'm degree educated, a high achiever, I've got a career under my belt. My debt isn't at unmanageable levels, and in comparison to my peers is actually pretty low. So why, at the age of 27, do I find myself pregnant, and living in the attic room at my in-law's house? 

Put quite simply, it all comes down to money.

Unfortunately we're now living in a society where the cost of living far outweighs the average income. By the time my mother was my age she and my dad had bought a house, had two kids (with one more coming later) and she was able to stay at home and look after them, albeit living on the bread line for much of my early years - but it was possible. Cross reference to my in-laws and they too owned a house, and had three young boys (again, one more coming later), also living on a very average income.

Fast forward 27 years and what do we have? Prior to getting pregnant, my husband and I earnt a respectable £50,000 per year between us - more than my parents have ever earnt. We rented a beautiful one bedroom flat in East London which cost £900 per month - the going rate without living in a squat or a shed. After bills, transport, food and small debt repayments we had very little left to save - leaving us no better off now than when we left university five years ago. (And no, we didn't eat out every night, get takeaways, have Sky TV, a landline or broadband).

Did we have to live in London? No. Would I have been able to get a job in my field elsewhere? Possibly but less likely. Would it have paid as much? Probably not. These are the choices we make in life. 

So, what do you do when you want to start a family and you realise that a small two bedroom flat in a rough area is going to cost you £1200 per month plus the extra cost of childcare if you're to keep working, and a loss of over half your income if you're to give it up?

You move in with your very hospitable in-laws and join the ranks of twenty-somethings who have been forced to, or felt the need to, do the same.

Why? Because you want to get into a financially secure position before your essential living costs spiral way beyond your means. Because London isn't sustainable for a young family (unless of course you're married to a lawyer or a banker). Because you don't fancy raising your kids on an East London council estate where only 22% of primary school students cite English as their first language. And there is of course your own ideologies which might include not wanting to be an 'old' mum, hoping that one day you might be able to afford, god-forbid, a second child, and the worry that biology waits for no one and if you put it off until you do have the family home and the £100,000 per year income, will it be too late?

So, here we are. We've left the bright lights of the city and squeezed our lives into an attic room somewhere in mid-Kent. Me waiting for baby, while husband looks for a job. When he gets one maybe we'll be able to move out; rent prices here are currently about half that of London. Saving up that all-important deposit for our own home is still a hazy dream, and if we did manage it, would anyone give us a mortgage anyway? Either way, living comfortably on a single income is no longer a reality for most and the cost of living continues to rise. 

Could this be the best or worst decision of our lives? Only time will tell. But in the mean time, I'm hoping something happens which might mean that the average salary catches up with the cost of living - otherwise how many generations can you squeeze into one house?!

1 comment:

  1. I waited until 41 to have my baby and went through menopause while breastfeeding. Never a good idea to wait. I grew up with my grandmother living in the converted 2 car garage, now my mom and I live together with my daughter. I see no problem with the boomerang situation. In my opinion it's a perfectly good way to build wealth (by not spending all that money on housing for two families) and inter-generational families were the norm until the Industrial Age.

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