Millenials. Generation Y. Whatever you call them, there’s a whole group of Londoners in their twenties and thirties who have one thing in common: they’re broke. It might not be immediately obvious: as a generation, they spend more on eating out and gyms than their parents, but look deeper and there’s a looming, sense of: ‘We’re fucked… what’s the point?’
Time Out’s City Index survey last year found that nearly a fifth of millennial Londoners were earning less than £20,000. Even those with seemingly secure jobs were worried about money.
It’s never been more expensive to buy or even rent a flat in London. Transport and food costs are rising. Those who grew up here face the reality that if their parents don’t already own a house, they’ll probably never own one. Newbies arrive in the capital already saddled with huge student debts and with little prospect of things improving financially for them in the future.
We asked four young Londoners who are all strapped for cash to talk to us as candidly about money. Their answers told us more about their lives than their bank balances. They’re career hoppers, adding up multiple freelance gigs to the sum of a salary. They’ll pick up odd jobs for freebies. They’re scared of annual rent hikes. They’re priced out of ever putting down roots. And even if they could: how expensive is living in London going to be in ten years’ time? No wonder a recent study revealed a generation who spend more on coffee than they put into their pensions. They’ve got nothing to save for…
Nathaniel, 24, works as a safety assessor and rider for Deliveroo. He earns around £1,500 a month (£400 from riding) before tax, and lives in a council flat in Ealing Common with two flatmates, paying £700 a month plus bills and council tax.
What's most expensive thing you own?
‘Probably my bike. My girlfriend gave me a bit of money to buy it before I started at Deliveroo. It’s electric and worth more than £1,000. I knew I was going to be doing long hours and thought it would be worth having.’
How much riding do you do for Deliveroo?
‘Almost every weekend. I start at about 4pm or 5pm and finish at 11pm. I earn £4 per delivery. It’s a good system: I can work when I like and I know how much I need to earn, so I know how much I need to work.’
I guess you don't have to shell out for gym membership, then?
‘Yeah, 12 hours’ cycling a week is probably enough. I like to say I won’t have to do “leg day” ever again.’
What do you think you spend the most on?
‘Food. Usually it’s because I don’t have much time between work and being at home so there’s a lot of eating takeaways.’
What's your favourite free thing to do?
‘Go to a pub and drink water. I try not to drink that much these days so I just go and have a pint of water and chill with my mates.’
Is there one thing you spend money on even though you know you can't afford it?
‘Amazon. I’m a big gamer so if there’s any new console coming out and I need it, unfortunately I have to sacrifice some food.’
Do you ever worry about money?
‘Yeah, it’s all I worry about. If I’m ever short, I’m ruined by rent for the month; and I’m already paying back a debt. It’s a £100 a month for the next few years and if I miss that, it’s really, really bad. So I have those two things at the back of my mind.’
How did the debt happen?
‘I lived in Southampton for a year or so. In that time I had to buy furniture for my flat. I used this website called Littlewoods – you get something for free at first then pay little bits back every month. I also went travelling and got a credit card and blew all of that. I couldn’t pay my rent. I had bailiffs on my back, then a debt agency got involved. I think it turned out I was £6,500 in debt.’
How did it feel when you found out?
‘Panic. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t even sure if the debt company I was using was real since I’d never dealt with one before.’
What makes you happy?