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Don’t blame avocado toast for millennials’ housing woes

(AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” says multimillionaire Tim Gurner.

Gurner knows a thing or two about buying homes. He bought his first investment property as a teenager, and is now worth nearly half a billion dollars at the ripe old age of 35. The Australian property mogul thinks you could save up for your first house or condo… if only you’d start skipping out on avocado toast.

Gurner’s biting comments about brunch habits hit home – or, more accurately, lack of a home. A study by HBSC revealed that Only 35 percent of American millennials own their own homes. That’s far behind China, which takes the lead at a 70 percent rate of Millennial home ownership. However, we outpace Gurner’s native Australia, where only 28 percent of Millennials own homes.

Here in the States, we do spend a lot on food. Forbes reports, “Millennials spend 44 percent of their food dollars – or $2,921 annually – on eating out, according to the Food Institute’s analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food expenditure data from 2014.”

There’s no disputing that we shell out for food (especially brunch). Gurner says that if we stopped doing that, we’d much more easily rack up enough for a down payment on somewhere to truly call our own. Is he right? Not quite.

The fix isn’t as easy as buying your own avocado, toasting your own bread, and smearing aforementioned avocado on the toast. Let’s say avocado toast costs $20, including tax and tip. Let’s say the average person consumes it once a week. The median home price in America is $188,900. Stashing away the avocado toast money would allow you to afford that house in a quick 181.63 years. Even a 20 percent downpayment would take 36.33 years. 

Of course, Gurner is referencing all of our spending habits and using avocado as an example. But that’s not even close to the most major purchase many of us make.

That honor goes to college tuition. If college wasn’t so expensive, we could save up that house money much faster. College costs grew far faster than inflation. The New Republic explains, “In 1979, it took a student working at minimum wage…385.5 hours to pay off one year of the average college tuition…Today, it takes 2,229 hours working at the federal minimum wage.”

With hours like that, it’s surprising that any of us have time for brunch at all. 

But even with these student loan payments and skyrocketing housing costs, Gurner remains convinced that we live beyond our means. “This generation is watching the Kardashians and thinking that’s normal, thinking owning a Bentley is normal,” he said. Are we that indoctrinated by television, Instagram, and Snapchat, that we think the Kardashian lifestyle is normal? Probably not.

Celebrity culture is, on some level, aspirational – the appeal of being famous for being famous, surrounded by luxury, and primped and polished to perfection. (How many non-Kardashian millennial Bentley owners has Gurner ever met?) Further, every generation has had wealthy role models. 

There is no amount of brunch bootstrapping that can realistically get someone out of a debt hole and into a home that they own. Aspiring to wealth is not the problem. Gurner, with his hundreds of millions, ought to know.  

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