Squeeze Story: Russell Bonaguro

Russ-and-Dad.jpgMy father worked hard to live life on his own terms. I grew up in a house that my father designed and built himself.  We took family vacations every year to different places across Canada and the United States.  My dad helped our family live life fully, vigorously.  So my goal has always been to work as hard as my father did, and to enjoy a life that this hard work would yield. 

When I left university, I rented an apartment, and got a job based on my education, making me luckier than some.  However, I realized right away that approximating my parent’s life might not be possible for me.  Over time I taught myself to ignore conversations about purchasing a home, because this was beyond reach for me. 

Why did it seem I was failing where my parents flourished?  Was I simply not working hard enough?  Was I being naïve to think I could purchase a home in place I called home? 

I used to ask myself … “Am I the only one who feels this squeeze?” 

I’m not. 

Today in Canada it takes seven more years to save a 20 per cent down payment on a home (not necessarily a house) than it did a generation ago.  In BC, it takes 11 years more, and it is not because younger Canadians aren’t willing to work as hard as people did in the past.  It takes longer because hard work doesn’t pay off like it used to.  On average, those of us in our 20s, 30s and 40s have worked hard to get more education than previous generations.  We accept jobs that pay less for full-time work, after inflation, and then we labour longer to save for homes, pay for mortgages, or pay for rent. 

As Canadians in their 20s, 30s and 40s adapt to the new economic realities, I wonder why provincial and federal governments are not acting more urgently to support the younger generation.  Governments spend three times more annually per retiree than they do per person under 45 (approximately $33k vs. $12k).  Seniors deserve financially secure and healthy retirements. That’s why I support public investments in the aging population, and I don’t suggest decreasing their financial aid.  But the success of such investments should also inspire us all to ask: are we doing enough to adapt for younger Canadians?

The investments we make in seniors reflect in part that groups like the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) lobby successfully for policy change to help Canadians age 50-plus.  CARP shows that a united front can influence the world of politics to find solutions for problems facing entire generations. 

That’s why I joined Generation Squeeze.  CARP offers younger Canadians a road map to meaningful change, because governments adapt policy for those who organize and show up.  Keeping housing prices in reach for young Canadians can happen, if we get organized, urgently, now!

It is our choice.  We can hunker down individually and try to cope in a housing market that is broken for many younger Canadians – broken because it puts suitable housing out of reach, or weighs us down with frightening debts, or moves us far from where we work.

Or we can choose to learn how our parents and grandparents achieved policy solutions to their concerns by working effectively in the world of politics. 

I choose to learn from my parents and grandparents.  I choose to squeeze back against high housing prices.  I choose to work for policy solutions that give me and other younger Canadians a chance to approximate what our parents achieved through their hard work.  And I choose to do all this while protecting the medical care and income security on which my parents are counting. 

Ryan Vandecasteyen
A full service digital creative agency that's all about working with the people and organizations that protect our planet and make the world a better place.
Squeeze Story: Russell Bonaguro
Squeeze Story: Russell Bonaguro
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