I really don’t understand what it is about New Zealanders and the fascination with home-owning. There are plenty of ways to make money in the world, and just because the baby-boomers appear to have the real-estate market sewn up it doesn’t mean you’re condemned to a lifetime of poverty.

Far from it. Sooner or later the boomers are going to have to sell those houses, and they’re likely to do so all around the same time. I’m too much of a “not an economist” to be able to give you all the details on that one. But it does make sense. They’ll be selling their rental houses to pay for their hip operations, and then you can snap yourself up a bargain.

The talk of the boomers being the “selfish generation” has been floating around for a fair while now. They received cradle-to-the-grave care until they realised they had to start paying for it, then voted it away, hanging the rest of us out to dry.

The only real good news is that with their property money being so vast we can afford to make them pay for their own retirements…

Lets go back to property though. What is it with “property” equalling “normality”? I was trying to describe my previous place of employment to someone at work the other day. It was a government department, which means it has high numbers of ‘operational’ staff. These are the “answer phones”, “open letters”, “man desks” type public servants, and they do a sterling job. And as I pointed out in a blog somewhere else they tend to be what you used to call “blue collar” workers. An alarmingly high number of the staff are what you call “lifers”. They started working there in their teens, after dropping out of school, work there today, and will work there till they retire.

Now while these are all good life choices, and they’re decent people we’re talking about, it means they aren’t what you call highly mobile. These are people who like the security of knowing where their next paycheque is coming from, and knowing that what they have is their own. For many their big OE was a trip to Bali or Brisbane. We aren’t talking about art critics and frequenters of Circa Theatre. And, every country is the world has this type of person.

My experience of working there was of a particular attitude though, what the snazzy, upwardly-mobile, flash hairdo kind of person calls, “a culture”. And that culture dictating that getting so a certain age, saaaayyy… 36, and not having a house, kids, marriage? Then someone must be “a bit weird”. And that’s the particularly New Zealand thing.

New Zealand is to me the kind of place where the expectations of ordinary people like the ones I used to work with are commonplace. New Zealanders don’t branch out and embrace new and wonderful things en masse unless TV or a magazine tells them to. While our society is not as stifling as it used to be, it is still highly conventional. People put all their wealth into homes because that’s what expected of you. They don’t see that paying rent and saving is also an option because the conventional wisdom is that you buy a house. A big one. With a great big mortgage. And give twice its value to the bank in interest payments.

Sure, I’m stereotyping and overstating the case a lot. Plenty of people know that there are options and new things out there. Fashion is as fashion does and it always dictates what the suburbs think. Most suburban people are too busy making ends meet and feeding/smartening their kids to worry about the avant garde. But it also leads to some mighty small and narrow thinking about wealth creation, normality, and one’s way of life, because security requires regularity.

And people like me are caught between these two poles. Baby boomers who’ve always thought this way monopolising all the property, and Gen Xers convincing themselves that they need to own the property the boomers will only sell at a premium. Because that’s the way you amass money. You give it to someone else for their house, so they can make back the money they gave to the bank in interest.

It’s an endless stream of buying their ticky-tacky little houses, they way they always have. Seen Papamoa lately? No. This is what it would have looked like in the 1890s.

photo courtesy of 100 word blog

The good news is that I’m not buying into it. And you don’t need to either.