Generations X (30-45) and Y (15-30) need to wake up and see the massive inter-generational theft happening before their eyes. Baby-boomers need to be shocked into knowing they are being shortsighted and will end up living in two retirement islands and having to visit their grandchildren overseas. Bernard Hickey writes Gen X and Y a letter. They can imagine it is a long email or text message.
Dear Generations X and Y
Did you realize the baby boomers running the country have just decided to make you poorer for decades to come so they can retire early with all the assets and high incomes?
Did you realise your taxes are going to rise and you won't be able to afford your own home? Did you know the baby-boomers are refusing to save their own money now for their retirements so they can live off your hard work?
Did you know you will be slaving away paying high taxes in your 40s and 50s to pay for their pensions and health care? Did you know you're wasting your time trying to build a family and life in New Zealand? Did you realise you have huge student loans while they received free tertiary education?
Do you realise they voted themselves Working for Families so they could have children and afford to pay the high mortgage costs of their borrowing to buy property? Do you know this cannot be afforded in the next 20-30 years?
You didn't? Let me explain.
There were two big decisions in last month's budget that guaranteed this intergenerational transfer of wealth, but they are not the only factor.
Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister chose to abandon contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (the Cullen Fund) for the foreseeable future. Yet they also guaranteed their fellow baby-boomers (they were both born in 1961) they would keep their pensions at 66 per cent of the average wage and could still retire at the age of 65. John Key has even promised to resign if he breaks this promise.
There is another unwritten rule that no baby-boomer politician will break and that will guarantee many in generations X and Y will never be able to afford to buy a house. John Key again ruled out this month that his government would ever introduce a capital gains or land tax. Any change to the massive tax break in favour of residential property investment would immediately reduce the wealth of baby boomers who were able to buy cheaply in the 1990s and early 2000s. They will never give this up voluntarily and they will continue to vote for politicians who support that view.
So the two budget decisions, the unwritten rule on capital gains/land taxes and the decade of slow growth forecast by Treasury will combine to cement in a massive transfer of wealth. There are other forces at work here. Our banks are congenitally conservative about lending. They will lend up to 100 per cent against the value of land and buildings, but are reluctant to lend to back the business ideas and entrepreneurial vigour of Generations X and Y.
The dream of baby boomers is to keep buying rental properties and renting them out to generations X and Y. They can even afford to make losses on them because they can claim the tax losses against their personal incomes and make their money back with capital gains. That baby boomer dream was looking wobbly earlier this year when prices fell 10 per cent from their peak. A smidgen of light appeared for Generations X and Y. But it seems those hopes are now dashed because the banks are back lending to the baby boomers, who are even more convinced now that property is their only hope because of the collapse of finance companies and the stock market.
Now you can look forward to steadily rising taxes over the next 30 years, particularly from 2020 onwards, to pay for the increased costs of an expensive universal pay-as-you-go pension scheme and much higher universal 'free' health care costs. You will pay as they go into the retirement homes.
You could try to overturn the baby boomer bias in our political system by voting them out, but you'll fail because there are too many of them and you don't vote much.
Your only choice is to migrate as soon as the global economy starts recovering and the jobs become available again.
This will be the best revenge you can get. They will have to watch their grandchildren grow up by email and the occasional flying visit.
I'm not kidding. Leave ASAP.
Bernard Hickey (42)
P.S. The other option is to leave and earn enough money working overseas to afford to come home to buy a house. That's what I did. But will your children be around to have their children (your grandchildren) here?