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A Look Inside Generation Y’s Money War Within Vancouver

A Look Inside Generation Y's Money War Within Vancouver

Vancouver has been named as the second least affordable city in the world. It’s no surprise that the Generation Y, those born in the early 1980’s up to the 2000’s, are growing up in an economically unstable society which has promised that a higher education is the answer to a financially secure future.

Our generation, around the world but especially in B.C., is struggling against the inevitable and unpredictable technological revolution which, although has blessed us with the smartphone and Netflix, has become an enemy to a number of occupations we had hoped to one day seize including journalism, photography, accounting and the auto industry. Education inflation and the housing market has left the 20-somthings in Vancouver questioning their financial future.



Why buy one property in B.C. when you could buy 4 in New Brunswick? According to the Canadian Real Estate Association the average house in B.C. costs $611,688. To put this into perspective, one house in B.C. costs the same as two houses in Quebec or Manitoba or Saskatchewan or New Found Land and Labrador. Affordable housing has become a growing problem in our province. Our average, according to the CREA, is $200,000 above the rest of Canada. Our property value is up $81,766 from last year. For the upcoming generations it may be difficult and, in some cases, unrealistic to ever become home owners.

24 year-old home owner, Laura Pruim, has lived in her two bedroom, 1,200 square-foot town-house for almost three years. She purchased it after her grandmother gifted her with $25,000 as an early inheritance. “I’d been renting for almost four years and my grandmother had made a couple of comments about how I was putting money in someone else pocket. With the fact the amortization rates were changing, I could pay a little bit more and have something. Equity is a big thing and being able to be a 50 year-old person and have my house paid off is to something that a lot of people, especially in this day and age, aren’t able to do.”  BMO’s annual survey of first-time homeowners found that 40 per cent of respondents are receiving help from their parents or family for their purchase. Pruim isn’t surprised by this, she says that most of her generation will be unable to afford a house “unless they have extenuating circumstances like the fact that I got my inheritance early that was how I was able to make that happen.”

For the upcoming generation, the majority of whom will most likely have student loans and lack a $25,000 inheritance, owning a home in the lower mainland seems increasingly more difficult. “Using the phrase ‘in todays economy’ people are renting when they’re my parents age, which is not uncommon, because of the fact that the housing market is so crazy.” Her parents, who are currently in their 50’s, are still paying off their house after they re-mortgaged it.

Although she has a roommate, who pays $600 a month, about forty per cent of Purim’s paychecks go towards her $1400 a month mortgage. She has never perused a post-secondary education and works full-time as an accounts receivable clerk at Optimal Machinery making an income of roughly $26,000 a year. “Some days it feels terrifying, other days it feels like not a big deal” said Pruim. “It’s a lot of responsibility. Your money is not all yours and if you don’t pay your mortgage, they take your house away.”

Pruim is a few steps ahead of her peers when it comes to building a foundation for an adult life. “We live in an instant oatmeal society. Everyone wants what they want and they want it right now. So for me, looking five years down the road, looking ten years down the road, I’m seeing it as a investment whereas people our age are looking at it like ‘I have to shell out $50,000 right now and then I’m stuck in this place’ and you don’t know what going on in life and there are so many changeable variables that having something that constant is scary because your basically deciding where you want to be for the next however many years.”



About 25 years ago only a high school education and good interview skills were needed to apply for the majority of jobs offered. Now a masters degree seems to be entry level for some of the same jobs which were done without any experience just a quarter of a century ago. In the age of baristas with bachelors most graduates are over-qualified, under-paid, and really good at working for minimum wage.

Starbucks barista, Jenelle Beaubien, is a 25 year-old human kinetics graduate from University Of British Columbia.  She graduated in November of 2013 and since then she’s been searching for a job in her field, “I feel like there are not enough resources out there for entry level positions,” she said “There are a lot of job postings where it says ‘entry level’ but at the same time they want experience which doesn’t really add up.” Employers won’t hire you unless you have experience, but you won’t get experience unless someone hires you. This problematic catch-22 is discouraging to all those starting their careers. According to a Statistics Canada report, released April 2014, one third of humanities graduates (history, philosophy, literature) are working in jobs which require a high school education or less. Oddly enough, in 2011, this degree had the highest rates of graduation. This report proves that post-secondary grads seem to now be over-qualified for the jobs they work.

Stats Can reported that business, management and public administration has the most over-qualified work force. Social behavioral sciences and law came in second place. And third place went to humanities, “together, these three fields accounted for more than 60% of overqualified men and women aged 25 to 34.” Beaubien’s field of study has an over-qualification rate of 20.7 per cent. “It sucks. It’s really hard knowing that I know a lot of things and I have so many skills and I feel like I’m probably going to have to start out doing jobs that are like way below me just so I can get that experience,” said Beaubien.“I feel like a lot of people are not going into the field that they got degree’s in and so they’re kind of wasting their time.”

The number of post-secondly enrollment has been increasing steadily. Almost 2 million students were enrolled in Canadian postsecondary institutions during the 2011/2012 academic year which is an increase of almost two per cent from the previous year. Yet, Canada’s unemployment rate is at 7 per cent. According to the 2011 National House survey you’ll be worse off if to have a graduate degree. Those who have a masters are statistically more likely to be unemployed than those with just a bachelors. That may be for discouraging for Beaubien who is now planning to head back to school instead of searching for a job.

Beaubien, like most post-secondary grads, may be having a tough time finding employment but, fortunately, she has no regrets concerning her education. “I liked the subject a lot and I really liked learning it,” she said, “so in that sense I wouldn’t be too upset if I didn’t get a job in the field but just got to experience the education.”


Written by: Sarine Gulerian
Photo Credit: William Ness

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