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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 18-May-07


Friday 18-May-07

The mortgage mystery and global sustainability

When I was a young lad, the only way to get a mortgage and buy a house was by the grace of the local building society. I remember sitting with my new wife, virtual cap in hand and trembling outside the managers office, waiting until he was ready to see us.

Once ushered in by a disapproving secretary and deposited in low seats, we were then asked why the society should lend us this rather large sum of money. 'To buy a bloody house to live in!' I felt like shouting, but instead mumbled about settling down, being married and having a good, steady job. I had also been saving with the society for over five years (thus demonstrating my loyalty to them), as my parents had thankfully had the foresight to prod me in this direction in my teens. In the end we were dismissed and waited anxiously for days until a letter came with an acceptance of our application.

How different it is now! Offers of loans for everything from boats to buy-to-lets flood through every communications orifice. Debt, along the way, has become curiously less serious and a common response to financial difficulties seems to be to dig a deeper hole by borrowing ore money.

After the dot-com bubble of the 90s, we now seem gripped in a get-rich-quick housing boom, as evidenced by endless TV programming on everything from apartment conversions to buying foreign properties.

Where is it all going? House prices in London now are something like nine times average earnings, putting purchase way beyond first-time buyers. My daughter rents a tiny room for ?100 a week and considers it good value. She is well-qualified and works around 60 hours a week and one day may be able to afford something.

The spiral of personal debt is also going to hit the next generation at the end of their working lives -- if they ever can retire. They should be saving a third to a half of what they earn, yet many are spending what they earn and then some.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the next generation is sustainability. How will they sustain their own futures when consumer and economic pressures turn their heads so firmly towards today? When the cost of living and 'keeping up' exceeds their means into the future, where is the break-point when lenders pull back and demand their pound of flesh?

And beyond personal sustainability, it increasingly seems we are living beyond the means of the planet. There's a whole other can of juicy, black worms.

It's a depressing cycle of thoughts, and to reverse the thinking that is leading to darker futures will require widespread changing of minds. If there was one legacy that I would wish I could leave, it would be that someone can find the means through this site to make that change.

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