We are family: Getting back to old-school values

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Twenty years ago, geography and communication started to change the world in a big, big way. Everything was getting a hell of a lot quicker and faster and more expansive.

With the advent of ‘proper internet’ it was suddenly easy to work from home, operate businesses in several global locations, chat over Skype for free to your far-flung relatives and buy everything you’d ever need in life on Amazon and Ocado without ever leaving the house.

Bridge over troubled water
As a consequence, generations of families and local communities were becoming more distant, more remote. The notion of a family meal round the dinner table quickly became a 1970s hallucinogenic dream. But all that is reversing.

The importance of ‘family’ is on the rise once again. This is through necessity. Because of economic trends, virtually anyone in their 20s or 30s now has to rely on their parents for help. Help paying for their higher education. Help with the deposit on a house. Help with the kids. Help with the emotional strain of raising the next generation on a tight budget and in a demanding and transitory work environment.

Property is at the centre of all of this. The renters’ market in the UK is getting squeezed all the time, particularly in London and the big cities in the north. And young adults are struggling more than ever to get a foot on the ladder.

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Outright home-owners tips the scales
I was initially startled to read that, for the first time ever, more properties in England are now owned outright than with a mortgage. There are 22.6m households in England. 7.4m are owned outright. 6.9m have a mortgage and the rest are rented.

But after some lonesome pondering on the train home it all makes sense. This is merely a reflection of the vast wealth older generations have, compared to the Millennials. It’s simply evidence that the wealth gap between generations is immense and growing all the time.

Older generations are incredibly wealthy these days because they bought when a decent property was just a few thousand pound and have since owned outright for decades as their salaries have steadily grown. Meanwhile, their offspring can only dream of earning enough to scrape together a deposit on a one-bed flat within 10 miles of their workplace.

Young, free and single?
Hence the need for families to stick together, pass on their wealth through the ages and plan and live together as one solid entity. The prospect of financial independence in your 20s, which was not too long ago an almost expected, unofficial rite of passage, is now rarely seen.

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I love the thought of it, but fear the reality of it, to be honest. If all this binds together the fabric of society in a meaningful, deep, emotional way, and we truly see families and communities uniting to help and support one another through times of trouble, then great. But I suspect it’ll just led to more convoluted, resentful and complex relationships.

Why? Because at the end of the day we all want choice. We want to see our families and friends when we want. We don’t want to have to live through them or by their rules. Or feel we can’t make our own path without their say-so or on their budget.

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