Let’s talk money. A few weeks ago I was directed to a tweet that had gone viral, mocking an article on the ‘i’ Newspaper’s website which looks at how a young couple had succeeded in buying a house less than a year after leaving university. A huge achievement; so why the mockery? Because their parents funded most of it.
Now this article is right up my street. I’m all for young people getting on the property ladder and doing all they can (where possible) to get out of the rental market. However, we’re constantly hearing about the huge difficulties facing first-time buyers all over the UK, with a lack of affordable housing, high rental costs and low wages. So here the i newspaper are addressing that very problem, trying to provide some motivation to their young readers that they can do it too, if they can just put their minds to it! Well not quite.
In reality, the consistent and defining factor throughout Becca & Eddie’s story clearly isn’t their frugality but the financial support from their parents, and that’s what is riling a lot of those who have reacted on Twitter. The tweet sarcastically applauds the couple, in a post which has since been retweeted by James Corden to his ten million followers, gaining 17K likes and counting. But so much attention over this little story; why?!
This tweet has caused a real stir because whilst many agree with the mockery outlined in the post there are plenty who come to the defence of the couple and indeed the help provided by the parents. So let’s really quickly surmise what goes down in this article. I should say at this point I’ll probably be quite sarky for a few paragraphs but I promise that I remain impartial…
Firstly, some context. The article is part of a series called ‘How I Bought It’, which is ‘finding out exactly how real people save and invest in order to achieve a dream purchase’. The article breaks down the costs associated with buying the house and looks at how Becca and Eddie went about saving up the £20k they needed for their deposit and other fees.
We pick up their story from university age and just four lines into the article we are told that whilst at uni they each ‘had different savings methods whilst there’. Excellent, get your pen and paper ready to write down these saving methods! Next line. ‘Their loans were spent on living costs as their parents covered their rent’. *Hastily writes down* ‘get-parents-to-cover-rent’ – okay, what else? Well, nothing actually, we’re not told any other money saving methods… Immediately the article loses credibility, which unfortunately means the couple lose credibility in the eyes of the reader. Also, ‘covered their rent’ – slightly skipping over a major point. That’s not just like paying for someone’s Netflix subscription; as a couple over the three years they’ll have saved tens of thousands of pounds and avoided further costs with the subsequent debt, interest etc.
Continuing the article, we find out that Eddie has worked weekend jobs since he was 13 and has saved up £6k over the years – fair play, decent. But hold on, just as some credibility is being mildly restored:
“We both began full-time work straight after leaving uni. Living with our parents meant we could save a huge amount of our income, over £1,000 each a month,” says Becca. “Eddie paid £50 a week to his parents, but I was living rent-free at home.”
Once again the article does itself no favours. Bear in mind the prelude says ‘the couple saved £17,000 of the deposit themselves’. No, no they did not. As two Twitter users helpfully point out:
So that’s the main overview, but before we continue it’s worth noting that for me the main reason so much offence has been caused by this article is because of the article, and not the couple or the parents. The headline is effectively click-bait. ‘We bought a house less than a year after leaving university’ gives the reader the expectation that they’ll find some new money saving techniques, fresh approaches to finance and motivation to challenge themselves when it comes to budgeting. No, basically the parents pay for it.
It’s taken me a long time to write this blog because I think – or at least what I’ve come to realise is – there isn’t really a solid answer in this debate; basically I’m still deciding as I write it. Money is one of those things which people don’t often like talking about, and so when it does come up you get people with very sensitive and often strong opinions. So here with this article, you have two sides.
Side number one:
“you kids have achieved nothing because your parents paid for your accommodation at uni, let you live at home for free and then on top of that paid £4k of your deposit. Why don’t you go out there and pay your way like the rest of us, work hard and save up over time to get to where you want to be rather than bumming off your parents?!”.
Side number two:
“LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE”.
That was a joke. Side number two:
“Good on the parents! Why not support your kids and give them a head-start in life? You don’t just abandon them when they hit 18, you help them in any way you can. Sure, these kids were fortunate but they worked hard when they needed to and have the house to show for it.”
So where do I sit in all this? As I’ve admitted I don’t really know, partly due to my own experience in house-buying at a young age. I didn’t go to uni, instead starting full time work as soon as I left school. I lived at home with my parents until I was 21 and benefited from heavily subsidised rent, which like these kids meant I could save almost everything I earned. I saved hard for a deposit and bought our house aged 21 with my wife. Now if rent hadn’t been subsidised then I’d have still saved up a deposit, it just would have been smaller, but I’m grateful for the boost it provided nonetheless.
With this in mind and returning to the question in hand, I think parents should support their kids financially if they can; but then how much? If your parents have the means to pay for as much as Becca & Eddie’s did then why should they not offer their support? It’s difficult to say and I think it’s very much circumstantial. One thing’s for sure, if parents want to give money to their children when they get older then I’d much rather they pay for uni rent and part of a house deposit than just give them a trust fund when they hit 18.
On the other hand the parents have had to work for that money, and they’re not teaching their kids to be careful with money and work hard to earn it if they just give it to them for nothing, right? Arguably, yes, but I’d say that’s more relevant to younger kids than adults, e.g. not just dishing out huge amounts of pocket money on a regular basis for little to nothing in return.
I’d say your situation truly dictates how you decide what is fair and what isn’t though, because if you’ve had it harder then you’ll feel like these kids had a free pass. You might feel like I had one too actually. I would say that’s fair. But I know how hard I worked for what I have now, and Becca & Eddie do too. It might not be as hard as the next guy but we’re all in different boats.
Becca and Eddie had a plan and stuck to it. What they did isn’t hard, but they fully took advantage of the position they were in. Should their parents have given them so much support? Yes, I think so, why not? ‘Bank of mum and dad’ gets floated about a lot these days, and for all we know they’re treating it just like a bank and gradually paying back what they owe with interest! Whether or not Becca & Eddie are doing that they still deserve credit because whether you want to believe it or not, there are plenty who would still not be anywhere near their position as home owners with the equivalent financial support. Thanks for reading, and thanks to my sponsor, mum and dad, for buying this domain. Jokes. We have a good laugh.
End note: this topic is very much up for discussion and as always I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please do comment below – replies on Facebook/Twitter are welcome but if you can [also] comment on this actual blog post then it keeps all the thoughts together which is helpful for me and creates more of a conversation too. Thanks and much love.