With the real estate dream out of reach, a new type of aspiration among millennials is emerging: early retirement.
Pat Seyrak is a 30-year-old engineer and author of LifeLongShuffle, a lifestyle blog. He rents a house in Sydney with his partner and a flatmate, and has decided to forgo owning his own home in favour of retiring early — when he’s 35.
“Unlike my peers, buying a home is not a priority for me,” he wrote in a column for the ABC.
“Contrary to many people my age, who are driven by ever-rising property prices and the fear of missing out, I wasn’t willing to mortgage myself to the neck.”
Instead of investing in a house, he put his life savings into a share market portfolio, and says that by saving and investing aggressively he will have $1 million saved in five years and will lead to an ongoing income of $40,000 a year.
“My colleague Matt nearly choked on his coffee when I told him I had $250,000 in the share market,” he said.
“But I’ll tell you what I think is crazy: spending 30 years of servitude paying off a mortgage, just to own a very expensive material possession, when I could be doing other things like spending time with my friends and family.”
Given that Sydney has seen the greatest growth of property prices out of all Australian capital cities over the last five years, Seyrak says he and his partner will look to live in cities such as Cairns, Adelaide, Ballarat or Hobart which “offer extremely affordable real estate and idyllic lifestyles away from the constant rat race of the larger cities.”
He also plans to spend time travelling in developing countries like south-east Asia or South America, which he says is also a cheaper alternative to home ownership.
His advice for someone thinking about following a similar plan?
Instead of blowing the budget on the latest iPhone, or expensive meal at a restaurant, he’d rather spend “every weekend” filled with day trips to places such as public pools, the beach, hiking spots or free outdoor cinemas.
“While many imagine a life of poverty on $40,000 a year or less, I have found that you can have a truly rich and fulfilling life by ensuring you spend your money on the right things,” he said.
Seyrak explains it’s an easy thing to accomplish, as “none of this is much different to what a young couple would do to save a house deposit”, but knows this plan is not without certain risks.
“The prevailing risk is underperforming investments. The share market is an unpredictable beast in the short term,” he says.
“Another risk is the possibility that I come to need or want to spend more on living expenses than I had planned.”
His solution is to adjust his budget to be more flexible with spending, or take on “casual work in a fun, low-stress job.”
His ultimate goals are to avoid spending most of his life at work, and instead focus on doing the things he loves, like spending time with family and enjoying life.
“It’s all too common to hear people who, at the end of their lives, regret working too much,” he says.
“Like most, I don’t want to be one of those people. Unlike most, I’m willing to do something about it.”