One of the headlines today was about pensioners being better off than many working families. It’s a topic that interests to me, particularly in relation to the millennial generation and parenting practices.
I believe the difference in prosperity between the baby boomers and the rest of us has had a major impact on the way we parent as families.
The basic issue with pensioners earning more than working families comes down to the quality of pensions. While the government has made great efforts to introduce workplace pensions for all, for many people this has come too late. Others have started to save the pensions as early as possible but there simply aren’t the quality of rates available to people today as in previous generations. Coming out of the post-war years, the baby boomers were subject to increased social investment, increased prosperity, increased housebuilding, all of which is distinctly absent from today’s society.
The good times rolled and the country reaped the benefits for many years.
Somewhere along the way people started to overspend and compensate with credit. The reliance on buying houses meant the mortgage market continued to be propped up with unsustainable deals… until the bubble burst in 2008, and we all know about that because we are still paying for it today.
Pensioners today have two distinct advantages over the current generation of working families. Firstly, pensions are better than ever for them, particularly private pensions that pay very good rates of return. These simply aren’t available to working families today. Secondly, mortgages and house prices were a lot more manageable for pensioners and many of them now own their own homes outright, including all the equity that comes with them. Anyone attempting to buy a house in today’s market will know of the huge deposit required in order to fund the house and get on the property ladder.
Amid all this, we have to look for the silver lining.
Families of today may not have gold-plated pensions or huge houses with no mortgage, but it has forced us to prioritise and evaluate what is important in our lives. I look around on social media I see hundreds of engaged parents, who are actively involved in their children’s education and upbringing. The newest generation of parents, the millennials born from the 1980s onwards, are leading the charge in involved parenting.
Families today are focusing on spending time with family, on quality rather than quantity.
Sure, it’s nice to have a big house and course there are ways to get one. But in a country where the average salary is £27,600 and houses are on average £269,000, it’s simply not possible to have it all.
Rather than working and paying into pensions that pay almost no return, or saving with no interest rates, families are choosing to focus on what is most important. Therefore, men, who traditionally would go out to work all day and throughout the week, are now thinking seriously about how it is worth it. Instead of making efforts to please companies and employers, many men and women are choosing to work for themselves, with all the freedom that comes with it. Those who work for companies are starting to request more flexibility in their working lives; there’s now flexible policies of leave, the beginnings of equal parental leave pay for men and women, and the notion of being away from work is a lot more fluid these days.
Of course we want to have it all!
Behind the headlines pensioners have worked for many years often missing out on time with their children, and now regretting it. While many working families today may be worse off than pensioners, if we look at it from a different angle we have more possibilities than ever. Technology has improved to such an extent that we can integrate it into our daily lives to make it better. There are so many possibilities that I think I prefer to live in today’s world. It’s a bit sad to think we are part of a generation that is going to end up poorer than our predecessors, perhaps for the first time in recent history. But it’s what we do with our lives that counts and parents of today have more options than ever.
It would be nice to think the prosperity of previous generations will return. After all, who’s going to live in all those big houses?! Even though life is a struggle for many of us we can still take joy in the little things.