What are you waiting for?

I know this sounds so trite.

But I’ve been arguing recently with a dozen young professionals I help, teach and serve – who are living for the future. Hanging on to it dangerously.

So I’ll put this rant out there, maybe it’ll strike a chord with someone.


I keep in touch with dozens of young people, in their 20’s who “can’t afford” to move out of their parent’s lush suburban homes.

They work in Toronto, the city I admire, love ( maybe lust over ) because of it’s endless ability to engage, delight, teach and BE in dialogue – BUT – they commute, for hours a day to come into and out of the city.

What are they living for? The sick dream of “owning” a shiny new 700 square foot condo – which will probably take them until their early 30’s. Doesn’t help that house porn like THIS and THIS and THIS is always on TV.

Now sure, many are the children of immigrants, so they have some ( weak ) excuse that it would break their parent’s heart to “throw away money on something you don’t own” – I believe this attitude is stunting the emotional and professional development of a generation.

My little argument, sure you’ll be paying down a mortgage, but I live by a code:


And so I ask leaders in my profession and life how they did it. The same baby boomers that preach prudence backpacked across Europe, hitchhiked across Canada and now they are telling YOU to stay home. To play it safe.

But the economy was different etc.. BS I say!
Change and uncertainty will always be the only constant for young people.
It’s about what you’re willing to give up, for what you want.
Yeah, cars, laundry, prepared food – these are the opiants of suburban life.

You are going to wake up one day, and the most vital dangerous time of your life – your 20’s – your opportunity to test ideas, different types of you, doing dumb things, knowing that you are going to eat or go out ( and you choose drinking or art, or service to another ) for you to choose LIFE on the edge – rather than go from your parents home, to your fiancee’s home.

I work in philanthropy, fundraising for over a decade.
It’s a profession that’s 80%+ women.
Talented, interesting, creative women.
Who are wasting their 20’s on buses, cars, transit – dreaming of condo life

Moving downtown, won’t be easy
Some times it won’t be fun
But as the economy shifts from the spoon fed to the self fed, you will find that you’re better equipped to hustle, survive, succeed.

I was watching a terrible vapid pop movie with Justin Timberlake called “In Time”
It posed a powerful question that made the movie worth watching.

IF time was life. How would you live?
If you woke up every day, with only a day’s worth of time to live then work would be your only aim, getting more time would be all-important

But we don’t live like that. Do we?
We can CHOOSE how we live.
Why ARE you alive?
What makes you alive?

Don’t get sold that your problems will be SOLVED by owning.
Life is not a problem to be solved.
It will never be “solved” if you’re someone who demands excellence

Love to chat about it sometime.
How about at the March 29
Young Nonprofit Professionals event?

That’s if you’re coming,
and not on your 2 hour commute home.


Ps. That whole hindsight thing? I did live downtown in my 20’s and it’s a big part of the secret of my modicum of success. But then I got swallowed the poison pill above and I owned a home for a while late in my 20’s and early 30’s, and yes it was kind of blissful but that mortgage eats at your soul. Phrases like “house-poor” and “cashtrated” were common in my peers. It was the unhealthiest part of my life, thousands of dollars in cash eaten up by the upkeep of this “investment” on which your life depended. Sleepless night, anxious days.

You want to see friends? Engage in life? Sorry, grass to mow, gutters to clean, work to do and maybe if you grew up in the suburbs ( I did, don’t know what’s wrong with me ) that’s the best part of life but it was living hell for me. Don’t want others to wake up to that reality unless they choose it ( which I respect, despite the rant ).

Owning = happiness is one of Toronto’s dirties lies.

And of course, if you haven’t seen this…

7 Replies to “What are you waiting for?”

  1. Hi Paul. My husband and I are intrigued by this post and I have some questions about your thoughts here. We own a house in the 'burbs (of Vancouver) and my husband commutes an hour each way to work, much like you describe. We have followed that model, much because of not knowing another way to feel "secure" (???) otherwise. I like what you say here about the heaviness of a mortgage, and I'm curious, as you've chosen to live otherwise, what you imagine in your future? I mean, our outlook includes eventually (!!) paying off the mortgage and having more money to throw at travel or whatnot. The argument that we always come up against is, "if we weren't paying a mortgage, we'd still be paying rent (although a little less) and so isn't it better to pay into something that we own?" I'm not sure how accurate that thinking is. Interested in hearing your thoughts!


  2. And then there are some of us who have walked away entirely and come to live in a far away place…

    A person who was #1 in his industry gave me some wise words last spring. He lost his wife, his first family, his home in his race to the top years ago and he warned me to stop worrying about geography – If I couldn't make a good lifestyle in Toronto – one where there was time to see family and live life where the mortgage wasn't keeping me trapped and the car ride wasn't eating up hours a day – that it was a good thing to leave and go find another place to be. It seemed unimaginable at the time, but I took his advice.

    The rest of Canada (the mid and small cities especially) is hurting badly for good, young professionals – fundraisers are few and far between. If it were between a suburban basement apartment at my parents' place with a downtown job and my own apartment/condo/house close to work, anywhere I could afford to be, that's what I'd take.

    I agree with you, Paul, that financial independence is the only way to walk in your own shoes and not in someone else's shadow. Once your age no longer ends in "teen" it's time to stop waiting and start making it happen.

  3. Thank you Laura and Christina for your comments and an actual dialogue!!

    Now let me be clear, I see a child in your profile pic Laura and Christina I've met your little one. Being blessed with a wife, cat, dog, baby in that order I am talking about the youts!!

    Post-graduation, pre-marriage. The years when a drink after work is actually possible, when you have nothing to go home to which at that time in one's life should be powerful!!

    Sure staying up until 3am and talking is a University/College staple but doing it when you're 28 and standing on your own two feet, understanding rent, taxes, life downtown with homeless people so close you actually care about and get to know them… it's a magical time and important time. And I feel many young people are depriving themselves of that.

    Once you're married and have you no more use for freedom and the pursuit of the opposite sex ( that was a joke, mostly) by all means, this is the time to consider what else life has to offer….case in point you Christina are going to be a credit to your new community and teach Torontonians (with our head in our arse, speaking for myself) about other parts of Canada! – As such…I've added the classic wisdom video…Free to Wear Sunscreen – note the part about "New York" and "Southern California" substitute with Toronto and Vancouver…

    Actual conversation, I feel spoiled. Thanks again!

  4. "doing it when you're 28 and standing on your own two feet, understanding rent, taxes, life downtown with homeless people so close you actually care about and get to know them… it's a magical time and important time. And I feel many young people are depriving themselves of that"

    Totally agree with you on this point.

    Christina (@GPtekkie)

  5. I had the fortune to own my own home in my twenties, rent it out for a couple of years, and then moved in after the rentals. Granted my days of free spending and doing whatever I wanted diminished vastly after I moved in, but I never felt that my house owned me and I have many friends who feel the same. When you're young, you want to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented and not think that you've wasted the opportunity, but at the same time, you don't want to be the person who regrets not investing in a home/condo and later regret it. It's definitely a seesaw and we all try to get to that place where you're not constantly the person who is up in the air, or the one who is on the ground.

    Enjoy life! If you're not, something is wrong.

  6. "Cashtrated" — love it! I am so very lucky to own a house in my 20s. Although not downtown, as such, I am so connected by public transit to the downtown core, and close to some of the city's super awesome neighbourhoods (Little India, Leslieville, and the Beach(es)).

    It was hard to look at the houses in my budget. Because they were rough. And there was a sense of entitlement I felt that I worked hard, and I deserved better. Perhaps I shall blame MTV Cribs and Toronto Life's House of the Week. But I am so glad it worked out, and I got a small spot to call my own.

    I have friends who have much bigger houses that cost half as much. And they work in Toronto, but they live far outside the city. Similarly I have friends who want to move in to the city but would have more luck finding a unicorn than a condo that fits their expectations (in financial district, 1brm + den, parking included, low fees, mid $250,000s).

    Sure, I'm not stumbling distance from the bars downtown, but I am a 24-hr-streetcar away from it. But my husband and I also look around at the modest house we have, that we've personalized as our own, and marvel at the fact that we own it.*

    *The bank owns it. We owe it. But some day, we will own it.

    Different strokes for different folks, and what's good for some might not work for others.

    I definitely enjoyed reading your call to live life and renegotiate expectations to take advantage of all you can, regardless of your income and living situation!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.