Access over ownership

Millenials, the demographic cohort that followed Generation X, are a much maligned bunch.  Also sometimes known as “Generation Y”, millenials were born between approximately 1982 and 2000, with slight fluctuations depending on country of origin.  Each generation in human history has been noted for displaying certain values, trends or characteristics, and millenials are no different.  They have been characterized as: unusually narcissistic, close to their parents, and community minded.

Brian and I are both millenials, and I can sometimes see these traits reflected in ourselves at times.  We value living in a community where we can work, shop and play.

A recent article suggests adding another item to the list of stereotypes and supposed characteristics: millenials are the cheapest generation ever.  In particular, the article describes the apparent aversion that Millenials have towards buying a car and purchasing a home – two of the major milestones of “growing up”.

Daily life of Generation Y – Credit: Emilie Ogez via Flickr

In 2010, only 27 percent of new vehicles sold in America were sold to young and not-so-young adults between the ages of 21 and 34.  In contrast, 38 percent of new cars were sold to this age group back in 1985.  Similarly, the number of miles drive and the proportion of young adults with a license fell as well.  Sounds familiar right?  Brian and I don’t have a car and we get along quite well by using a Vancouver car sharing service.  We have access to a car, whenever we want.

On the other hand, we are quite willing to purchase property.  We have a condo that we rent out and we are looking for a second.  However, we are adverse to putting down roots (at least I am!) and we don’t tend to stay in one location for very long, regardless of whether or not we own it.  It’s good enough for me that we have access to a nice apartment in a nice neighbourhood.  I don’t need to own it (unless it’s part of our investment strategy!) and I don’t need to stay in the same place forever.

Which brings me to my favourite part of the article, a quote from Sheryl Connelly, head of global consumer trends at Ford: “Young people prize access over ownership.”  The Atlantic also makes reference to the notion of a “sharing economy” versus that of an “ownership” economy.  And it’s true, at least for us.

We don’t have a white picket fence and a yard, a nice car, or a house with lots of room for entertaining.  But we have a community garden, we’re walking distance to beautiful parks and we can drive all of the latest cars at a fraction of the cost – whenever we want.  Everything I could want, I have access to, and I don’t have to be burdened with owning it.  Instead, I can focus on owning things that make me money – my savings, my investments, and my properties.

Any other Millenials out there want to chime in?  Have you moved into the “sharing economy” or do you still want to own?

Posted in: Philosophy

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