Future woes of living in a material world
Everybody knows that Eskimos have 50 different words for snow but in our house we have nearly as many for describing not having loads of money.
Words and phrases such as ‘skinty poos’, ‘brassic’, ‘I haven’t got a penny to scratch my backside with’, ‘I’m poorer than a church mouse’ and ‘it’ll be baked beans on toast for the next month’ are often trotted out by yours truly and with little justification it must be said.
Like anyone born after 1970, and someone who hasn’t got the luxury of a guaranteed final salary pension, I enjoy moaning at the prospect of not being able to retire until I am 87 and that ever increasing university tuition fees mean I won’t ever be able to afford to play golf.
Although I haven’t started recycling teabags or, heaven forbid, my underpants, the fear of being hard up spurs on parents of younger children such as us to cut costs wherever we can. This quest is made easier given the fact that there is now more choice than ever before when it comes to shopping around, although if you were to factor in the time and effort spent chasing such deals then you would almost always run at a loss.
It seems that as a nation, we have never before taken such a close interest in what we have or don’t have - some will put this down to technology which allows you to check your balance and spend cash at any time while others will point to the very real anxieties surrounding the Brexit vote.
But, it seems that these concerns are misplaced because, as a nation, we are now worth a staggering £8.8 Trillion or £378,000 per household, a significant increase on last year, if the figures from the Office for National statistics are to be believed..
So what’s the problem then? We should all be jetting off to the Bahamas and having oysters and McCain’s poshest chips for tea each night but it isn’t as simple as that because, on a closer inspection, it is clear much of this wealth is tied up in our ever increasing housing market. Many celebrate the fact that average house prices are now significantly more than Wayne Rooney’s weekly take home pay but having more money than you’ve ever seen before tied up in bricks and mortar is no good to most of us, unless you want to sell up and live in Albania. Or Wales.
Of course, there are ways of getting equity out of one’s property, but the only reason most do this is to make improvements and add even more value to their homes.
We are obsessed with house prices: people who have no intention of selling up can probably tell you to the nearest penny what their house is worth because browsing property websites is the grown up equivalent to checking Facebook likes.
But it is the future that worries me because we are told that the only young people who can buy houses are the Beckhams’ children and lottery winners, so where does that leave millions of us who dream of downsizing in our distant retirement if there will be nobody to afford our homes?
That is a long way off but, for now, we can sit and count our £8.8 Trillion.