There's never been a worse time to be in your 30s in Australia.

Watching businessman and marketing guru Russel Howcroft rattling off all the ways being a 30-something-year-old is hard in 2024, felt weirdly validating. 

He was on Gruen, the ABC show that delves into the world of advertising. The clip of Howcroft's spiel now has more than two million views.

"It's the hardest it's ever been for a 30-year-old in Australia, in Australia's history. It is true 30-year-olds are going to be less well off than their parents are — that's a fact," he began.

Then, he listed off some more facts. 

"When I was 30, a house cost me three times my salary. Now eight times plus for a 30-year-old is what it's going to cost you to get into the housing market.

"It's true that HECS has doubled in the last 15 years, from a $15,000 bill to a $30,000 bill. It's true that a Baby Boomer paid half the tax that a 30-year-old pays now when they were 30 years of age."

He ended with the statement, "it's extremely difficult to be a 30-year-old in Australia right now". 

Watch Russel Howcroft speak on Gruen. Post continues below.

Video via ABC.

Coming from a Gen X on the cusp of being a Baby Boomer at 59 years old, it felt refreshing to hear someone from that generation who actually gets it. Who didn't just roll their eyes and say something about 'all the avocado toast' millennials are eating.

Because as a 33-year-old with a good job, living in a dual-income household, I felt like I was going crazy. Even with everything in our corner, even with scrimping and saving and working really hard in our professions, my husband and I have accepted help from our parents in recent years to do things like buy property and have a wedding.

To be clear, the wedding we had wasn't big and extravagant. It was 40 people in a standing canapé-style reception at a local surf club in a regional centre. If we'd done it ourselves, we would have just eloped, but our parents chipped in so we could make our celebration a little bigger. 

In 2021 we bought a modest two-bedroom apartment in Sydney within a commutable distance from our inner-city jobs. Again, we received help from our parents.

Could we have moved regionally and rurally and bought something without assistance? Perhaps. But I work in journalism and my husband in tech sales; to earn good money and actually progress our careers, we need to be in the city. We have a toddler, while child-less me might've been prepared to commute more than an hour each way, it's a sacrifice we're not keen on while we have a young child.


When I spoke about this topic on Mamamia's flagship podcast Mamamia Outloud on Monday, commenters were quick to tell me to watch my privilege. I was told that I should be willing to "sacrifice" more. That I was a "whinger" and "pathetic" and that I shouldn't expect to "have it all".

But as one commenter wrote, in my defence, "I don’t believe they want it all and want it now. We have raised these children in economically strong times. They want to study and do well and buy a home for their future families. They don't want any more than our parents did or we did. Why can't they hope to have what we do?"


I don't expect to have it all. I don't expect to be living in a mansion, buying designer dresses and going on multiple overseas holidays every year. But by my mid-30s, I expected to not be counting my every penny quite as much as I am. I expected to be able to purchase property and celebrate my life milestones comfortably with the above-average incomes my husband and I bring home.

If I am struggling to do that, with my privilege, what about those with less? Single-parent households? More debt? An inability to work because of sickness or disability?

Sure, I could very well sacrifice more but that doesn't excuse the problem. The younger generations of today are poorer than their parents were at the same age — that's a fact. Numerous studies have proven that over the past few years.

Maybe I am selfish to believe it shouldn't be this hard. I am not asking for free money; I am asking for social policies to be altered to make it easier for my generation to keep their hard-earned cash in their own pockets.

To take one example from Howcroft's list, higher education was free in Australia until 1989. Now we're leaving with tens of thousands of dollars in debt before we've even started working. The politicians in power who have made those HECS burdens even worse in recent years mostly come from a generation that didn't have to pay one at all.


But it's not just things like less tax and less HECS that'll solve this problem. Even with more money in our pockets, things like home ownership are out of many millennials' reach. We need social policies to change to make it easier to break into the housing market, or at least find liveable dwellings in the rental market that we can afford.

Over the past 20 years, home ownership has fallen from 70 per cent to 66 per cent. As the ABC reports, "Today's 30- to 34-year-olds are the first generation in more than 47 years where most people don't own a house."

As Domain reported earlier this year, "The only way many first-home buyers can now hope to break into the housing market is with substantial financial help from their parents or grandparents."

The latest news for millennials is that we're apparently on the way to being the richest generation in history. According to The Wealth Report, millennials are poised to inherit $90 trillion dollars' worth of assets from their parents. But this will only be the case for those who already come from affluent families, which could potentially deepen wealth inequality further.

We don't want to rely on our parents. We don't want our parents' money. We certainly don't want them to die just so we can get ahead.

Bringing up this topic has opened a can of absolute worms of feedback. A lot of people are angry at me, at millennials for being so upfront about what we expect, what we hope to buy and attain in our lives.


Listen to the full conversation on Mamamia Outloud. Post continues after podcast.

Every generation has had its problems with money and wealth. Every generation has had to sacrifice. We're not trying to say the experiences of those who came before us were easier. We're simply asking for our incomes to mean something in our current economy. Perhaps we don't want to put up with what the generations before us did — the level of sacrifice they had to endure to succeed. 

Is it so horrible to ask that our hard work actually pays off?

Is it selfish to want to live in the city we've grown up in, or be able to afford a home with a backyard in our 30s?

"It's fairly brutal for younger people. And it's not just that buying a home is much more difficult — renting is unaffordable too," wrote one commenter. "The very least those of us who are Gen X/Boomers can do is acknowledge that. It's not imagined. It's not because they like coffees or avocado toast. It's not that they’re entitled. It's just honestly really damn hard."

Perhaps we are whingers. Maybe we are entitled. But most of us are living within our means and putting our all into building a modest life for our families. We just thought we'd have more to show for it.

Is that too much to ask? 

Feature image: Getty.