Every year I would always get excited for my birthday. When I was 12, I couldn’t wait to turn 13 so I could class myself as a proper teenager. Similarly, when I was 15 I counted down the days until my 16th birthday, because 16 sounded so grown up to me. I wanted to get a job, earn money, and be able to vote; I was in a rush to get on with my life. I was excited to turn 17 so I could learn to drive and then, of course, to be 18 so I could go out, drink alcohol, leave school and go to university.
However, that changed the year I was turning 20.
As a teenager, I looked at people in their twenties and thought of them as adults. Adults who had their stuff together and knew what they wanted in life. I was dreading turning 20 because I knew I didn’t exactly have a “life plan” – I didn’t know what I wanted to be doing at 40, and although I had my stuff together, it wasn’t a fit “long term” solution.
The day after my 20th birthday – after celebrating, of course – I was thinking to myself “Right, Paige, you need to get your life together now.” I made a list in my head of all the things I felt like I needed to do to be a proper woman in her twenties. That list included things like saving money, and then saving enough to look at moving out in a few years; consider when I wanted to settle down and decide if I wanted to have kids and start a family or not; choose what part of journalism I wanted to specialise in; make a plan on finding a career job after graduating university; etc., etc..
You get my point. All of these things lead to proper-grown-up decisions that would set the course for the rest of my life.
Man, turning 20 was a blow.
It wasn’t until I was talking to my friend about it, and she told me, “Calm down! You’re 20, not 35! You have the rest of your life to plan all that stuff. You’re young now so enjoy it.”
I instantly felt better, because I do have a tendency to make a mountain out of a molehill. Feeling assured, I relaxed. But I did remind her that when my parents were in their early-to-mid twenties they were married, living in a house and paying a mortgage with a one-year-old and another baby on the way.
“Relax,” she said. “That was, like, a totally different era.”
That could not have been a truer statement – enter the Peter Pan Generation.
The Peter Pan Generation is what everyone is labelling today’s society and people in their twenties and thirties. This idea that people are in denial about their age and as a result, behave in much the same way as they did ten years ago, spending money today rather than putting it aside for the future.
For example, because the thought of saving up the deposit for a flat is so daunting, they choose to throw money away on rent or still stay at home, instead.
This may sound reckless, irresponsible and even immature, but the Peter Pan Generation is definitely a thing. This group of 25-to-40-year-olds who exist in a state of extended adolescence and avoid the trappings of responsibility — marriage, mortgage, children — for as long as possible.
If we take a look at some numbers, we can see this this isn’t actually as far-fetched as it first sounds.
Currently, the average age at which people marry is 30 for women and 32 for men, whereas back in in the 1970s, woman typically married at 22 and men at 24.
And rather than starting a family at 23 (as it was in the 1970s), woman are now starting a family at 34, and even more so than ever at 40 because of fertility treatments and IVF.
As for taking on the commitment of buying a house, the age of first-time buyers back in the 1980s was, on average, 29-years-old. Now, people are, on average, 38 before they buy their first home. A report from LV Insurers suggests that by 2025, the average age of a first-time home-buyer will be 41.
Also, three million people between the ages of 20 and 34 still live with their parents, and even those who don’t, still rely on their parents. According to a report earlier this year, more than 13 million parents paid out more than £34 billion in loans to their children who were well into their forties.
So, yes, our parents’ generation is, like, a totally different era. But why?
Today’s economy could take part of the blame. Taking those first steps of growing up would be moving out and buying your own place, but in today’s society that is harder than ever. We constantly see and hear the stories of those who need to move back home with their parents just to save for the insurmountable deposits needed now to buy a property.
Also, people growing up in our generation can be afraid to do these things – scared to think of themselves as proper adults. Or it could simply be that people in their twenties and thirties have convinced themselves that they don’t need to grow up (or settle down) just yet.
People in our generation don’t feel as though they need to start work and start a family as soon as they leave education and hit their twenties the way previous generations used to. And that little window of opportunity means we can play around with youth a little longer.
Despite all of this, there are plenty of young people who aren’t a part of this “Peter Pan Generation.” One of my good friends who lives down south, Ali, has recently gotten engaged to her fiancée Matt, and they have moved in together and bought a puppy – they’re both in their early-to-mid twenties.
Not to forget my childhood friend who is currently living with his girlfriend of many years in their new house, and both of them have only just turned 21 by a matter of months.
And let’s not get started on the amount of teenage pregnancies that force young people to grow up, get their own place and provide for their child.
Although it’s alright to look at today’s society as a whole, it’s important to remember that this is not everyone. There are people who are not living in today’s “Peter Pan Generation,” even though it undeniably exists.