I know many people my age (I’ve just tuned 38) and younger feel frustrated that they aren’t getting ahead and they are on the big Monopoly board paying big city rents and not getting ahead to save for a house or a family or whatever.
I’ve been back about a month now and most of that time has been having meetings with various advisors to figure out how I’m going to fit into the business and how we’re actually going to do this. For those of you who don’t read my blog, I’ve recently chucked in a six figure job at an ad agency in Sydney and moved back to small town New Zealand to run my parent’s modest little motel.
One of the things that has struck me has been how little time we spend sorting out our own stuff and our own lives. When you work at a full-time job you are constantly meeting with people and figuring out the best way to get something done. You are forced to work with stakeholders and consult and haggle and compromise.
We’ve met with lawyers, accountants, bank managers and other wise heads to look at the options and make sure that everyone is happy and that our ideas are feasible.
For example, one of the plans we had was quickly scuttled by an advisor but he then shared a model he had recently done for a dairy farming family transferring to the next generation and it looks like something that might work for us. We would have never come up with that option on our own.
So here’s the kicker…
If you feel like you aren’t getting ahead, get your wider family involved and try and work out a solution that will benefit everyone. Before you recoil, let me first say that my family is far from perfectly harmonious and we’ve had epic rumbles. EPIC RUMBLES. Also, we are comfortable but not rich so it wasn’t an option for them to drop a 20% deposit on a million dollar Auckland property for me and my brother without a perfectly timed Lotto win.
What it will give you is a longer term perspective. In 20 years time my parents may need full time care and can’t keep working their business. I’d be 58 (omg) and do I still want to be bouncing around in an ad agency with 20 year olds? (omg no- it’s hard enough now).
Once you admit that you may actually need each other you can put some cards on the table and it’s amazing what will wash out.
For example, I was paying AUD$400 per week for a half share in an apartment in Sydney. So I automatically need about $20k per year to pay for basic, rented accommodation. My parent’s have a lot of freehold accommodation so automatically this benefits me. If they want to go away and have time off from the motel, they need to pay a manager and find someone they can trust. So that goes in the pot. If they move away from the motel, they have to pay to live somewhere else and use their savings. Do I buy another house in Turangi (cheaper than Auckland) or stay in the manager’s house? What if we could all live in the house together for 12 months and not kill each other and then we’d all have free accommodation and have money for improvements to the motel or to buy another rental?
It’s actually extraordinary how much you can save and support each other if you get over your stuff (we all have stuff with our family—I’ll write another post on dealing with your stuff) and don’t think you have to struggle along on your own. Everyone has made mistakes with credit cards and spending in the past so don’t beat yourself up about mistakes you made when you were young and stupid.
Also, spend some time thinking about your values. As people live longer, the model of the eldest son inheriting the farm is a bit outdated. You could probably do better with the hand up now instead of in 20 years time. It’s a hard conversation to have as it forces your olds to start thinking about their final years as well but everyone sitting around for someone to die before you talk about it isn’t that useful either.
Here’s some things to get you thinking about it:
1. build another unit down the back of your parent’s place.
2. buy a share or get them to gift you a share in their house. Every year, they might gift you 5% of their house
3. move home with your parents to turn off your living costs for a while so you can save (humbling I know but…)
4. house sit your parent’s house. They can buy or lease a motorhome and travel around while they are still young enough and you can live in their house and water the plants
5. The NBR did a story (sorry paywalled) on the record number of boomer business owners who are heading into retirement so instead of struggling along trying to strike gold with your startup, maybe you could work for equity in someone’s established business and give them a path out?
Cry. I’m serious. I felt a huge boulder shift off me when I admitted to myself that I wasn’t getting anywhere and that it was time to close the door on the independent chapter of my life. I had more than a good run and I would encourage any young person to be as young and stupid and intrepid as possible because life isn’t all about how many acorns you acquire. But you grow and change and admitting that the things that excited you at 25 probably won’t still spin your wheels at 55 is hard reality and tears and snot and all that.
Once you’ve done that, give your parents some credit and they will probably surprise you. They want to be wanted and part of your life. There will be many stupid, unworkable ideas but if you try and stay present and not bring up a fight from Christmas 1993 you might just strike some solutions.
Call your Mum. That feeling you're feeling is pride and it won't help you with this one.