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Irresponsible Aspirations?

Most youngsters these days are cursed endlessly for their irresponsibilities. Give them a bag full of cash, they would first spend the money on useless stuff like latest gadgets (smartphones, earphones, media players, LED televisions) and accessories (some sheep leather wallets and briefcases, watches etc.), instead of saving them in Bank Deposits or investing in Gold, Land, Properties etc. They are cursed for opting for a depreciable motor vehicles as against investing in an ever appreciating landed properties.

Typically, the receiving end of these curses are happy go lucky young chaps in their mid twenties earning bagful and in the giving end of those curses are people aged twice that much. The people in the middle would busy managing their lives, and spouse, and mostly wouldn't be in any mood for any of this nonsense. Or may be they are preparing for the fifties syndrome. Since, as you age, your own sense of importance, and your assessment of self keeps on increasing. Typical symptoms of any person turning senile.

Why would an youngster who prefers mobile phone be branded irresponsible or immature? Does the act of acquiring the latest gadget in any way define the quality of person that he is? The answer is a resounding no. One has to really understand what makes them buy these gadgets, and what could be termed as irresponsible.

Most often, its the only aspirational thing that they can afford. Let's take, for instance, the scenario, twenty odd years back. Motor Cycles without gears were sold for around ten thousand, and those with gear for around twenty thousands. The Maruti was priced more than a lakh, and the mobiles phones were no where to be found. A better car would be priced twice or even thrice the money. But one could actually manage to buy a decent house in a decent locality for a good two lakh rupees. 

It was around these times, that the typical fifty something now, who would have been around thirty then, would have purchased all the landed properties. The cost of living wasn't as bad as it is today. The school fees paid would not have been more than five percent of their annual earnings. You could still buy a weeks grocery and vegetable for less than one hundred rupees. And the price of Idli was still less than a rupee. The highest of aspirational purchase was barely thirty or forty times the monthly salary. And more importantly there were very little to choose from in most things.

Fast forward twenty years to now, what do we have? The average earnings has increased by around five or six times. But the value of rupee has depreciated even further. The property prices have gone up by around twenty times in most places, and in some places even higher. The commuter range motor cycle ranges from thirty thousand plus to around a lakh of rupee, and you still have some premium motor cycles to choose from in the next one lakh bracket. Fuel prices have ballooned from around twenty a litre to more than seventy a litre. The motor car range starts at around two lakhs and the commuter range hatchbacks go upto around rupees eight lakhs. And you can't get two idlis for a ten rupee note! And more importantly, you have a lot to choose from in almost everything except the so called "wise investments".

What would a typical youngster aspire and yearn to have? 

House? Yes. But he would find it rank unaffordable. With price of the house going for a good two hundred times his monthly earnings, that too some good twenty odd kilometres away from civilisation, he can't really be expected to buy a property. Can he be?

Land? He would like to invest in land, but the trouble is that he doesn't have any money even for this. Even if he had, he has seen his own parents and uncles and friends and relatives often being clueless about the exact location of their land, with most of the identification stones being ploughed out, and often their piece of land being usurped by somebody. Why should he bother all that trouble by investing in land which he can't monitor?

Bank Deposits? You must be seriously kidding. With significant lifestyle changes, extended working hours, resulting in more eating outs, onions and tomatoes costing your life, where would he find the money to save? Remember, he thinks of saving only when some of his "aspirations" are actually fulfilled. He would save only for his aspirations.

What those aspirations could actually be, considering that everybody definitely spends their hard earned money first only to meet the basic human needs? Motor Car or a Motor Cycle, most often, are those aspirational purchases. He tries and saves and borrows to satisfy his aspiration, and the fuel prices, and interest rates and prices of the vehicles, and the propensity of people to borrow and abuse your vehicles, results in him dropping these as well from the list.

What is the one thing left? Mobile phones. And again, you have choices, ranging from sub thousand rupee mobile instrument, and going up to around fifty thousand rupee instrument. Fact of the matter is he can't really afford the really high end mobile phones. He chooses something in the middle for around twenty grand, and feels proud of his possession. He uses it knowing very well how exactly to use it. And he uses it thoroughly, and with all the happiness that he can find. And what does he get?

He looks around to find that old hog holding on to a mobile priced significantly higher and cursing him for being irresponsible, without realising that the lack of means doesn't make you irresponsible. 

What really could be termed as irresponsible is that old hog buying that mobile phone for a good forty grand, and holding on to it, and flaunting them to show his success without having an iota of clue as to how to use it. And that act of buying things that you don't actually understand, and investing the money on unproductive barren lands would be irresponsible.

The bottomline: Aspirations have changed primarily because of every expanding difference between the mean earnings and mean prices of aspirational things. Domestic or social things such as wedding and kids are also getting delayed due to this. 

Admittedly, this isn't good in the long run. He must necessarily save for the future. His optimism on the future is no excuse for living a kings life now. The youngster needs to realize this. 

But the point is that you can't really brand him "irresponsible" merely because he desires to live a kings life, without acknowledging the ever worsening earnings to cost of aspirations ratio. And thinking that we have lived the most ideal life, done the most right things, is a thought, which everybody has. And that "thought" doesn't give the fifty something any moral authority to make such comments on the aspirations of youngsters these days, most of which exposes their anachronistic mindset.


Krishna said…
Actually I was thinking about investment profiles of people around 20-30years ago and now, some days back. When people used to invest in land earlier, it used to be affordable. They saw it as a place to live. Since, The income to price ratio has skyrocketed . Now even if ppl earn a lakh, I find people still having the same standard of living as earlier due to EMI's eating their hand..And what is responsible for the increase in price points?? Greed. When you tend to see land not as a place to live but only as an 'investment' or the place where greedy want to make ultra quick buck, it is really a sad state of affairs.

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