The recession hit Gen Y especially hard. Now, this demographic faces some tough economic choices, especially when it comes to housing. And that's a subject Nicole Lapin, a former CNN and CNBC anchor, knows something about.
Lapin is now the CEO of Nothing But Gold Productions, a multimedia company that creates accessible financial content across multiple platforms. In her role, she's seen firsthand some of the financial challenges Gen Y is facing. She recently shared her thoughts on the subject with Multifamily Executive, and discussed the age-old question: Is it better to rent or own?
MFE: What are some of the biggest financial challenges Gen Yers face today?
Lapin: The numbers are scary. The number of young people looking for jobs is higher than ever: The unemployment rate for young people is currently upward of 20 percent. Student debt now totals up to $550 billion—a significant part of the nation's debt. College costs have risen 1,000 percent in the past 30 years, outpacing health care, which has risen 700 percent, and inflation, which has risen "only" 300 percent. Minimum wage in the last 10 years has increased negligibly compared with the increase of student debt, which has risen a whopping 511 percent just since 1999. We're creating a true "lost generation" of overeducated, overleveraged, underpaid young people, and I truly believe that this is the next major fiscal bubble to burst.
MFE: How are finances influencing where Gen Y lives (in terms of their housing options)?
Lapin: As much as pop culture jokes about "moving back in with the 'rents," it's become a reality for many young American women and men—especially the latter. While the share of women living with their parents has remained a fairly steady 10 percent since 2007, the share of men living at home has increased from 14 percent to nearly 19 percent in the same amount of time.
A recent report found that more than one-third of young people rely on their parents for financial support. Even for those who are gainfully employed, 69 percent say they don't make enough money to live the lifestyle they aspire to. So for those not living at home, we're seeing a lot of cramped living situations, or long commutes to and from work—which, let's remember, means even more money spent at the pump!
MFE: Are micro units the answer? Should cash-strapped Millennials consider moving to smaller living spaces in core markets?
Lapin: Again, it's all about location here. If you get a place that's cheaper, but really far away from the nearest subway or work, you could wind up spending more in commuting costs. Remember that "newer" doesn't automatically mean "more expensive": Many newer units feature energy-efficient appliances and in-apartment laundry, both of which can save you on utility bills in the long run. Pay attention to the smaller details: If the apartment is on a lower floor, or in back of the building, chances are the rent will be lower, too. And use your best negotiating skills: In this market, anything goes!
MFE: For recent graduates entering the housing market for the first time, is it better to rent or buy?
Lapin: It used to be that putting a down payment on a house or apartment was the surefire way to boost your net worth, but in this market, it can be more beneficial to look at renting. Buying a house comes with tons of additional costs—transaction fees for the broker, maintenance fees, renovations—while many of those costs are included when you rent an apartment. Remember that down payment is typically about 20 percent of the mortgage. You don’t get that money back like you do a security deposit. And today's Gen Y is so mobile: Renting allows you greater flexibility to take any troubles (or opportunities!) that might come your way.