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Young adults have less to spend on non-essentials, study says (theguardian.com)
75 points by playpause 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments



My advice to "millenials" (well I think technically I'm one, so let's say younger ones) is to stay the hell away from London. I read these articles on the housing crisis and staggering rent amounts and wonder am I even living in the same country as these people.


Many places outside of big cities are depopulating, have few decent jobs and services, and are still pretty expensive. If you are from the areas, have a family or an already decent career it might work, but for the majority it isn't a solution. And if people would actually would start moving somewhere else instead the same things would happens there.


> if people would actually would start moving somewhere else instead the same things would happens there.

Not really. Unless everyone moves to the same place. We need to diversify from London. Having everything centred there is madness.


It would probably in many places though. The reason cities like London are more "successful" these days despite being completely unsuitable for modern industries at face value is because they can handle the growth. Adding a couple a thousand people is a rounding error in big cities, but would be the entire liquid housing market in smaller ones. Maybe you are right, maybe people just aren't aware. But it doesn't seem like the most obvious explanation. People, including Britons, have been moving to Berlin for decades now in search of more affordable living.

Edit: I am being rate limited so I will respond here instead.

> Except for the lack of affordable housing?

Sort of. Affordable housing is more a problem of uneven distribution of opportunities than costs as such. If you are part of those who do get to take part in those opportunities this is less of a problem since you are effectively in the same situation as living in a richer country. Of course you also miss out on opportunities that would be enabled by affordable housing, and a lower cost of living. But since most more affordable location can't take advantage of that as their own cost of housing is usually relative to their local opportunities it becomes a game of who is the biggest which large companies in large cities win.


> ...because they can handle the growth.

Except for the lack of affordable housing?


On the US side, I've learned that the infrastucture for each industry is clustered in specific cities.

If you want to participate in that industry, you need to live in one of those cities or have the luxury caveat of remote workability.

Want to work in tech? Good luck buying a house for cheap - anywhere that property values are languishing will not have useable broadband internet providers.

Got a chemistry degree? There's a short list of cities to move to, where you specialize in either medicine or petrochemical plastics. The option to do either rarely exists in a single city.


There are still a lot of places in the UK outside of London that have plenty of jobs and are far more affordable.


I live in Nottingham. There are tonnes of tech jobs here in the Midlands, and housing is quite affordable.


And yet the tech scene in Leicester is awful in comparison :(


> stay the hell away from London

Will somewhat agree living in London, but I'd also throw Oxford into the mix as somewhere to avoid. I found the relative cost of living noticeably worse in Oxford (salary vs living costs) than compared to London.

Essentially the main point being: really evaluate the cost of living, salary, lifestyle matrix before committing. Lots of other places in the UK offering much better options right now.


Oxford is different because of geography. In most places where housing is too expensive the core problem is politics. That's not easy to solve, but it's universal. But in Oxford the biggest obstacle is that the obvious place to put more houses is in fact a swamp.

For students it works out OK (so long as numbers don't grow too much) because the very wealthy people who paid for Oxford's university to exist built somewhere for students to live right inside the university too, in effect their housing costs are subsidised - until they graduate. Then though, either they need to move far away ASAP or they're going to be spending most of their income on rent.


> Oxford's university to exist built somewhere for students to live right inside the university too

For those it's true, but also forgetting there's more than one university in Oxford. There are plenty of places on the East and North sides of the city where denser housing could have been placed, but it comes down more to politics around NIMBYism and preservation, more than geography.


Serious question: How many other real universities (not places with one office above a coffee shop offering correspondence courses to the gullible) are there in Oxford? I spent some of my teens playing pinball in the student bar at one of the Oxford Brookes halls (Harcourt Hill maybe?) -- and already by the point you're counting Brookes you're stretching the point, it wouldn't be named that if Oxford wasn't famous. It's not quite "London" Stansted Airport, but it's barely in Oxford.


I worked at Brookes for several years, I can definitely attest their campus is in Oxford (Harcourt Hill is miles out, as is Wheatley, but their main campus for the last decade or so is right next to South Park in Headington). It's not a stretch to say they're properly in the city and now have a claim to having "Oxford" in the name - and large swathes of the student body now live in the city proper.

If you want to take the naming thing, then consider Kidlington Aerodrome is called "London Oxford Airport"...


Unfortunately the UK economy is very London centric. And the deck is very much stacked in London's favour due to the sheer numbers who live in London compared to the rest of the UK - (greater than 1/8th of all people in the UK live in London).

I moved to London from a UK regional capital, and personally I've had the opportunity to improve my earnings much further than would be achievable at home for my particular branch of Tech.

All my peers are well aware that the rent is breathtaking - however most of us with home ownership aspirations are not intent on living in London indefinitely, owning or renting in the commuter towns in the south east are far more achievable on a good IT salary.


You've increased your earnings, but if you run the numbers it's very unlikely you're actually better off unless you have a property appreciating at London speed.

Over my career (I did contract in London around y2k) I have more in my pocket each month - after expenses - by staying outside the SE. Rent or mortgage, commuting costs, the price of everything else - food, beer, tickets. Sure, I could earn £x extra and have to spend all of it and more on rent and getting to work.

The capital accumulation on the house would have turned it into making economic sense, and only that. Which only becomes real once you move out of the area.


Not sure I really follow the "cost of beer" thing. One of the merits of high income high expenses is that "luxury" spending is relatively affordable in the long run, because your discretionary income is a larger absolute number.

On the other hand your time becomes more expensive. But since most medium income medium expenses locations means less opportunities to do other things with other people that isn't always a good trade-off. Unless those other people are your family, in which case it tends to make sense.


But that was my point. Even with the London loading of salaries, which is miles away from the SV salary differentials you see bandied around on here sometimes, the London absolute number is usually smaller for most jobs. Banking is the one exception for some roles.

To invent some undoubtedly wrong numbers out of thin air: Earning £35k in Leeds or Manchester leaves a few hundred more to spend on luxuries and nights out than £50k working in a similar role in London. By the time you accounted for the huge extra expense on mortgage, season tickets to get to work, services and even ignore the price of a pint, you have less in absolute terms to spend than your "poor" Northern friend. I simply couldn't get it to add up the few times I tried. Now had the opportunity been to be a quant, I might have taken the opposite view... :)

I could have saved for deposit in the North, taken mortgage the day I moved there, accepted a markedly worse quality of life and lower money left after expenses for twenty years, to move elsewhere at the end with a nice nest egg. That's just a contributory pension with no tax relief.


That could certainly be the case as some housing markets now seem to require initial capital to make sense. But I wonder if part of it isn't accepting a specific deal (or life)? Which is probably a good idea, but not something everyone can do. At least my impression is that most people who move to big cities do so because they want to establish themselves in life.

The question is whether average person trying to do so is going to have better success in Leeds than London. Or if it is going to be mostly the same thing but with less opportunities. Once you know roughly what you want to do, or what position you are in, medium size cities tend to make more sense. But I don't think that is controversial.

I think many young people argue if they are going to have to change jobs every few years, commute some distance, have high rent or whatever else that affects their quality of life they might as well do that somewhere where they at least think it might count for something. Whether in the future or right then.


As an anecdotal example the cost of a pint of beer in London can be 3 to 4 times as expensive as what I'm used to in the South West. For other basic necessities I agree with you however.


The South West feels so old now. We were in Dorset a couple of weeks ago and I'm convinced I didn't see anybody younger than myself and I'm 55.


That’s why you need to move to places with better income to cost of living ratios.


I'd disagree if you have a job where you will earn most by far in London. You can live really cheap if you share a flat and you dont need a car, so you'll save much more in London than other places. When you have a family things are very different.


I don't live in London, but I live in my country's biggest city. All the jobs are here, so I can either live in the city or outside the city, with a 2-hour commute. It kind of sucks either way, but that extra hour a day, I spend with my daughter and that makes me happy.


This basically amounts to advising them not to live in a city (which is fine). But some people do like living in cities, and London is really the only option in the UK if you want to do that. No other city in the UK is anywhere close to London in terms of culture and economic opportunity.

Yes, rents in Manchester and Birmingham are lower. But you're going to get paid less, you have to live in a second tier city, and in the long run you have fewer career opportunities.


You can get a far better quality of life in most other cities on the standard developer salary than you can in London. I know multiple colleagues who have moved out of London, taken a large salary cut but ended up with a far higher quality of life and more disposable income despite it.

Also the idea that other cities are second-tier is incredibly biased. Sure London has some things that the RUK doesn't but there are also plenty of things you can't get in London (fresh air for one). It's a different lifestyle, not a 'second tier' lifestyle. Also other cities are cities, they might not be mega cities but that's not the definition of the word.

Lastly the career opportunities part depends. Yes there are less opportunities but there are also far less people vying for them. Smaller pond but bigger fish. If you're a careerist looking to become the top 1%, London is probably your best bet in the UK, but it's perfectly possible to work in the top 10% outside of London.


Talking about quality of life is usually a coded way of talking about not really living in a city. Yes, London is relatively noisy, dirty, cramped, etc. The only way you can get less of that in the UK is to also have less of the benefits of living in a city. I mean, there's no other city in the UK that even has a proper public transit system. Not liking cities is, as I said, a personal preference, and perfectly fine.


You really need to use a term other than city to describe what you're describing. I live in a city, Edinburgh, as do the various folk who have mentioned living in Manchester etc. Their not mega sprawling metropolises like London but their still cities. You're confusing the discussion by using the term improperly.


Edinburgh has a population of 489,000. You can call it a city if you like, but it's not comparable to London in any way.


It is a city. You're inaccurately redefining the term city to meet a very narrow definition, which is confusing the discussion.


Please provide your definition of what a city is.


You can define the word how you like. London and Edinburgh aren't on the same scale.


> This basically amounts to advising them not to live in a city (which is fine). But some people do like living in cities, and London is really the only option in the UK if you want to do that.

I'm gonna call bollocks on that :)

I agree with the rest to an extent. You're going to be paid higher (well not everybody, but most HN readers would be) and have all the other advantages of London. Fine. But you need to take the downsides with that and stop moaning.

When I was emigrating to the UK I considered everywhere. London was one of the first places I crossed off my list.


>But you need to take the downsides with that and stop moaning.

This is the whole problem with the UK. Many of the current problems with London are fixable. People need to keep moaning about them in order to get them fixed.


Tbh I think the "easiest" single thing which would improve the UK immensely would be to ditch FPTP and bring in some type of PR voting.


What I will give your argument of moving is that once you have something to fix it usually already have become a feature for someone else. It is usually not realistic to fix much of anything so much as moving in another direction from a different position. I just don't see any places really doing that. Not that it would necessarily be visible, but people are looking. While certainly having slightly different criteria Nomad List for example doesn't feature much in the UK. https://nomadlist.com/


If we had a PR voting system and the PM resigned. What would happen?

Would a general election be called?

It's a bit farcical that the country will have a PM that was not the leader of the governing party at the last election.

Granted with the Brexit mess they could arguably have some legitimate reasons for not calling it straight away but it seems that they've all ruled out calling it at all, AFAIK.


> If we had a PR voting system and the PM resigned. What would happen?

Ireland has a form of PR (single transferable vote), they've had plenty of instances of the Taoiseach (PM) being replaced and not going to a general election straight away.


That or turn London into a city state :)


As long as the City of London is independent of that!


Not sure I understand... you're gonna call bollocks on the idea that someone can have different likes and dislikes from you?


London is not the only city in the UK. That's what I'm calling bollocks on.


Ah my bad, somehow I omitted the fact they said London is the only city! Yeah that is a little weird, plenty more to the UK than just London :)



My anecdotal evidence suggests that the London premium in salaries does not, anywhere near, compensate for the increased housing costs and/or commute time. Obviously, YMMV


older generation is not wise at all. they should be saving for when the current pension and old age benefit system collapses. i guess they are the same people that gave us climate change so i am not surprised at their shortsightedness


What you're saying makes sense for individuals, but not the generation as a whole. Total retiree spending is entirely financed by a combination of current tax receipts and selling assets. Pay-as-you-go and financially funded schemes are substantially equivalent here - current retiree consumption is 100% funded by current workers, the only difference being whether it's called something like "Social Security taxes" or "student loan payments".

What additional saving does is improve the standard of living of current retirees, through increasing asset prices. What old people need is to invest in the productivity of current and future generations, so that society is rich enough to support them how they'd like without squeezing the life out of current workers.


They should spend their money as long as the current working population is large enough to satisfy the massive demand of the retirees. The workforce is shrinking over a long time frame. In 20 years there might be more pension money than there are workers to fulfill the demand. The end result is inflation because everyone is bidding prices up. Even if you double their savings, the end result could be zero because the inflation will eat the savings up. However, I don't think this is a big deal for the current boomer generation unless their average life expectancy suddenly reaches 90 but by the time I retire I wouldn't be surprised if there are labor shortages in developed countries.


A sizeable portion of the older generation having fun right now also owns property, and will massively oppose any political move that could depreciate their property values.

Sadly I don't think they are out of their mind spending so much, a lot of them have passed the FU point (enough assets to live decently whatever time is left for them)


the point is that it won't be a voluntary thing like a political move that will wipe them out economically


I wonder at what point the Tories will deem food and accommodation as non-essential?


Isn't that already the case to some degree? Not just the Tories, but pretty much all but a few fringe parties seem happy to make decent food and accommodation a luxury. For example: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/11/08/e...


The American right wing already believes food is a luxury: https://twitter.com/RepThomasMassie/status/10681363932375572...


But that tweet is nothing of the sort. Food is not a luxury, but you can never have a right for someone else's labour.


> you can never have a right for someone else's labour.

The reason a human's productivity is orders of magnitude higher than that of a stone age person is the work of uncountable legions of dead people. Almost everything we have and know is due to network effects of humans working together in time and space. The current generation's productivity is almost all due to inherited tools and knowledge. You do live off of "other people's work", we all do. The amount that you yourself contribute, and that you are concerned about, is negligible in comparison to the inheritance. We can afford to be much, much more relaxed. You are not living a stone age life where your concern would have had merit, because most of what you achieve was indeed attributable mostly to yourself (although even then tools and techniques inherited from previous generations probably was a major factor).

If somebody is able to "make millions", or even billions, how much is only their own effort? Put a baby in a swamp and see what they can achieve. That billionaire is sitting in the center of a vast network of humans in time and space - most of it consisting of the dead who cannot be paid even if you wanted to. It's certainly good and necessary to have such people in central network locations, I just dislike when people think those guys are "self-made". I let you live alone in a remote forest, and even with all modern knowledge, where is your "self-made" empire? Same for a 50k/year job, who still is vastly more productive than a $100/year stone age guy not at all because of superior skills or effort. Your position in the space-time human network determines most of your impact.

So to what I quoted of your comment, that is exactly what we do, every one of us. Some just like to pretend that their own contribution is much more significant than it really is, because almost all of the productivity and possibilities are from the network and not from a particular person. So - relax! It isn't you who pays, it's the dead >99.9%.


This is true, and that's why you should advocate for charity - which is based on free will decision on controlling your own property and resources, just as all the interactions that make up modern world that you so thoroughly describe.

The "human right" concept, however, is entirely different: it is referring to use of the mechanism that has monopoly on violence, the state, to redistribute these resources, by the use of or threat of use of said violence, without any free will involved. This mechanism completely removes individual capability of making a moral decision, and uses morality as a pretext to obtain monopolistic, bureaucratic power.

In my view, this monstrous mechanism, which is capable of despotism thousands as bad as any other, should be only used for things that cannot be achieved without it, such as rule of law. Charity and helping others is a noble thing, but since it can be achieved without it, just through free individuals decisions, it should.


Using violence to collect taxes is monstrous but using violence to protect the property of rich people is right and just? In nature, a person cannot have infinite wealth. The idea that someone can have as much wealth as they want is a creation of the state and is enforced by violence.


I don't understand the argument against government violence. Violence has a very interesting feature by design: assuming you have enough force you can always resist it. There is some slack in the system that lets you change it under special circumstances. Compare that to other non violent ways of enforcing the law. In theory one could genetically engineer humans to always obey the government. There is no opportunity for resistance and even if by mere chance you do resist, you might be subjected to a drug or gene therapy that "fixes" you.


> In nature, a person cannot have infinite wealth.

In nature, most of children die in infancy, might makes right, murder rates are sky-high and starvation is a constant threat.

So, if anything, using "in nature" is working against your case, not for it.

> The idea that someone can have as much wealth as they want

Nobody can have as much as they "want" - but everybody should be able as much wealth as they have acquired through any kind of lawful exchange.


> In nature, most of children die in infancy, might makes right, murder rates are sky-high and starvation is a constant threat.

> So, if anything, using "in nature" is working against your case, not for it.

Total non-sequitur. The point is that the idea of unlimited wealth is an artificial construction.

> everybody should be able as much wealth as they have acquired through any kind of lawful exchange.

Any state that protects the property of wealthy people through violence can surely also put obligations on those people. In exchange for the state's violence, they must support a social safety net which gives the people who wealthy people are being protected from basic human necessities and dignity.

The state who gives an artificially constructed right to wealthy people (the institution of private property) can also give an artificially constructed right to poor people (basic needs and dignity).


> Total non-sequitur. The point is that the idea of unlimited wealth is an artificial construction.

But you're trying to reach some kind of value judgement from this point - as if "artifical construction" means it's bad in some way. It is not. On the opposite, these completely virtual notions of money and finance helped achieve modern-day prosperity that humanity enjoys.

So, yes, it is artificial, which makes it good.

> which gives the people who wealthy people are being protected from basic human necessities and dignity

So, pay off the potential looters and thieves to sooth them? You do understand that this is basically "might makes right" moral imperative and nothing more?

> The state who gives an artificially constructed right to wealthy people (the institution of private property) can also give an artificially constructed right to poor people (basic needs and dignity).

First of all, the artificially constructed right of private property is given to all, equally. And second of all, while both of these rights are artificially constructed, one is moral, while the other is not.


> But you're trying to reach some kind of value judgement from this point - as if "artifical construction" means it's bad in some way.

I'm not saying property is bad nor am I making a value judgement about it. I'm saying is that it's a concept created by the state.

> So, pay off the potential looters and thieves to sooth them? You do understand that this is basically "might makes right" moral imperative and nothing more?

You're begging the question. There's no such thing as "looters" prior to the concept of property.

> First of all, the artificially constructed right of private property is given to all, equally.

Sure, just as basic necessities like education, food and housing should be.

> And second of all, while both of these rights are artificially constructed, one is moral, while the other is not.

Again, not at all clear how you're making a moral judgement about this issue prior to the creation of the concept of property. Yes, stealing is wrong, but in order to steal something it has to belong to someone first. If we're trying to figure out what should belong to who, it's silly to come into the discussion by simply insisting that stealing is wrong.

I could just as easily say that the wealth of a society belongs to everyone prior to it's distribution. Why then should rich people be entitled to steal it from poor people? Stealing is wrong, remember.


Charity has been proven, time and again, to be completely inadequate to the task of providing for the poor and needy.

We live in a society. The rich benefit hugely from that society. It is their duty and responsibility to give back enough to help maintain and improve that society.

To say otherwise is, effectively, to say that it's OK to want everyone beyond the walls of your castle to starve.


> It is their duty and responsibility to give back

You cannot decide what other people's legal duty or responsibility is if they hadn't entered a voluntarily agreement with you. And moral duty should never be imposed by violence - it's always up to individual moral choice.

> To say otherwise is, effectively, to say that it's OK to want everyone beyond the walls of your castle to starve.

No. To say otherwise is to value individual choice and responsibility over the dictate of the masses.


> You cannot decide what other people's legal duty or responsibility is if they hadn't entered a voluntarily agreement with you.

You appear to be one of those who worship at the altar of inviolable individual self-determination.

That concept is antithetical to a functioning society.

I understand its allure—it seems to be a logical and empowering thing. But it's fatally flawed, because humans are not individual creatures, evolved to live out solitary lives creating our own path. We are social creatures. Thus, any philosophy that puts the will of the individual above all else will inevitably fail.

In my experience in practice, people espousing such a philosophy generally either are or believe they will be in a position to impose their will on others, and want a philosophical basis for claiming that as moral and just.

Note, please, that I'm not saying that individual self-determination must always bow to the will of the majority. That's also deeply problematic. Instead, I'm saying that no absolutist philosophy will provide you with the tools you need to create a world that's worth living in for everyone.


> You appear to be one of those who worship at the altar of inviolable individual self-determination.

Actually, the opposite is true. My ideal place to live is a commune without personal property, and I love being in such temporary environments in places like music festivals (local copies of burning man).

But I draw a very sharp distinction between society and state, and want to minimize the state's reach. All these ideals of sharing and charity should only be implemented through personal free choice, and never - through organization which has monopoly on violence.

For me, it's the basic security principle of separation between minimal operating system kernel and a fat application that manages all of it's features. The smaller the kernel, the less code there is to have vulnerabilities in, the less chance there is of compromise.

The less power the state has, and the more functions it gives away to society, the less chance there is that the state can be corrupted.


There's always a state in one form or another. Always.

The question is who controls it and who benefits from it, not whether or not it exists.


> not whether or not it exists

It seems that you're trying to frame my argument as if I wanted to abolish the state completely, but I have said nothing of the sort. Just as you're saying, the question is, in what form should the sate exist. And my answer is, in the most minimal form required to uphold the things that no other institution can.


The state corrects for market failures, which no other institution can. It can also pool risk much more efficiently than a corporation can.

I'd say the current state (US or UK) isn't far off from what you describe.


But food stamps arent the right to someone elses labor. The laborer is getting paid. Its taking tax money and giving it to a producer and a consumer.

Its really no different than a subsidy.

If you think taking money from the population and redistributing it is theft, youre basically arguing against taxes.


Yes, exactly.


Totally intuitive. Kids have always been broke.

It's a trope seen in movies and tv shows that go back several decades, because it mirrors real life. In the early working years, people have never had much money. (Fortunately, this later corrects.)


The article was comparing the same age ranges through time though. Young people are less well off compared to previous young people and old folk are more well off compared to previous old folk.




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