The internet seems to have exploded with articles and posts about an avocado toast and what the 35-year-old Melbourne millionaire and property mogul Tim Gurner said about it.
“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each.”
If someone, rich or poor, said this to me, I wouldn’t see any problem with it. These are just two examples of the expensive food and drinks they forgo in order to save up for a house.
If someone decides not to make their avocado toast for $2 and coffee for less than $1 at home ($3 in total), and spends $23 at a restaurant instead, that’s their choice.
Is it just an avocado toast?
I wouldn’t come up to a young person eating their $19 avocado toast and drinking a $4 Starbucks coffee and start telling them: “You can’t buy a house because this is what you choose to eat and drink. Look at me, I didn’t do any of that, so I could afford to buy a house.” People would think I’m crazy.
However, I think that’s how many millennials feel when they hear or read about what the mogul said. Someone just told them to stop eating one of their favorite foods and said it’s their own fault they cannot afford their own home.
And what have they done to deserve such criticism? Eating an avocado toast. I bet anyone would be irritated and offended by that thought. I know I would.
However, did Gurner mention only an avocado toast? No. He talked about eating out every day, traveling to Europe every year, and owning a Bentley or a BMW.
These are merely examples of expensive spending habits and lifestyles, especially for someone who’s just starting to build their life like millennials.
If I did all of those things, Mr. FAF and I would be in serious debt. We wouldn’t be able to afford the monthly mortgage and would for sure lose our house.
I think what Gurner said has been taken out of context by the media to make a shocking headline. How many times have you heard something that’s been taken out of context, blown out of proportion, and thus sounds so absurd and outrageous?
I am not trying to defend Gurner. I might even have some anti-fans after this post. But I just think we need to think more carefully and not let anyone, the media or Gurner, make us all worked up and get defensive about our spending habits.
Gurner’s $34,000 loan
Many people point out that Gurner got a $34,000 loan from his grandfather for his first real estate investment and downplay his hard work and fortune. I don’t think it’s bad to receive help from family. It’s not an inheritance. It’s a loan.
What would you do if someone gave you $34,000 when you were 18? The options are endless: paying for college, putting it down as a payment for a house, traveling the world, living a lavish life, etc. I doubt if I could use that amount of money to make myself a millionaire like Gurner, especially at the age of 18.
How many of us would be willing to work from 6 AM to 10:30 PM seven days a week without eating out when our friends and classmates are going to parties, traveling to far away places, taking classes, and exploring the world? I know I didn’t do what Gurner did when I was 18.
I am not praising Gurner because he’s a millionaire. I have never met him. But based on how he described his real estate investment journey, it didn’t sound easy.
Sometimes we look at other people’s remarkable success and try to find an explanation that would make us feel better about our situation. If that person happens to have received financial assistance from family, we can breathe a breath of relief. They are just lucky. It’s not entirely our fault that we haven’t achieved something we want yet.
Who’s to blame?
I was reading an article on Refinery29 that summarizes the reasons for millennials not being able to afford their own home into two sentences below:
“The actual problems are the unpaid internships, stagnant wages, and soaring rents and home prices. When you reduce the issue to a piece of toast, you’re missing the point.”
Yes, I think whoever wrote these two sentences is missing the point. What Gurner said is not just about an avocado toast. It is about a lifestyle choice that can send a young person into debt and make them think it’s ok to live with debt because they are entitled to a good life.
If you are broke and in debt and blame your situation on external factors – employers, wages, the market, and the government, you are refusing to take ownership of your own issues and to find a solution to your problem.
You keep hoping the government can wipe out your debt or put in place policy that can make housing affordable for you. You then get frustrated because the government is too slow and nothing is done efficiently enough to lift you out of debt.
I understand and sympathize with a lot of hard-working people out there who just can’t make ends meet no matter how much they work and how frugal they are.
However, if you have a stable job and make expensive choices in your life, you shouldn’t complain about why you haven’t been able to have an emergency fund or a down payment for a house yet. In short, don’t whine if you refuse to save.
I see why millennials are frustrated by what Gurner said. I also see the point the real estate mogul is trying to get across to young people.
But instead of getting defensive when someone seems to be attacking our diet and lifestyle, we can think about how what they said can actually help us and whether we want to take their advice.
I know Mr. FAF and I spend a good amount on eating out. If someone tells us that’s the reason why we haven’t been able to pay off our mortgage fast enough, I’d probably agree with them.
We are frugal in almost every aspect of our lives, and we are trying to limit our restaurant budget. But I’d also tell them that we accept that fact and will work a couple more years to enjoy good food every once in a while. I hope they will understand we also have our priorities.
Most importantly, we don’t complain about not paying off the mortgage fast enough. We know there are things we do that slow down the process.
I admire people that forgo so many wants and needs in their lives to be debt free and pay off their house. But we’re also ok with our choice of eating out once a week and making slower progress on our mortgage payoff.
It all comes down to one word: priority.