On a scorching afternoon, a piece of news about the income of young people quietly climbed up the hot search list:
Nearly 70% of young people have a monthly income of less than 10,000 yuan
This is an online questionnaire survey conducted by Red Star Capital on young people aged between 20 and 30 living in first- and second-tier cities regarding “saving and consumption”.
According to 2,035 valid questionnaires, more than 70% of young people with savings below 100,000 yuan.
Among them, the majority of young people’s savings are mainly concentrated in the two intervals of 30,000 yuan and 30,000-100,000 yuan, and those over 500,000 yuan account for only 2%.
Looking at the monthly income of these respondents, nearly 70% of young people said that their monthly income is below 10,000 yuan, mainly concentrated between 5,000-8,000 yuan and 8,000-10,000 yuan, and only 1% earn more than 10,000 yuan.
For workers in first- and second-tier cities, such income is not enough to allow them to save more while maintaining a balance between income and expenses.
The reason is simple – renting.
According to data from the Maixi Research Institute’s “2021 China Undergraduate Employment Report”, in Beijing and Shenzhen, the housing cost of 2020 graduates has exceeded 40% of their salary, followed by Shanghai and Hangzhou, accounting for 38% and 32%, respectively.
Although the rental prices in smaller cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing, and Changsha are slightly lower, the average monthly income is far from being comparable to that of big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou.
Therefore, even after graduating from college for many years, few young people can truly save a considerable amount of money.
However, despite this, the vast majority of young people are still willing to work hard to settle down in their favorite cities.
In nearby South Korea, there exists a similar, if not more severe, problem. However, the young people in South Korea have made a choice that is almost completely different from ours – they don’t buy houses or have children, but instead spend all their savings and even take on huge loans to buy luxury goods. This has made South Korea the country with the highest per capita luxury goods consumption in the world in 2012.
The young people who are crazy about buying luxury goods almost all follow one philosophy: since life is hopeless, they might as well enjoy themselves while they can. The desire for a stable life and extra money is actually the hope of young people in all countries in the world, and South Korea is no exception. However, many young people in South Korea face a cruel reality as soon as they step out of university: they cannot afford to buy a house or raise a child.
As mentioned in “The Sportswoman Who Spent 500,000 Renting a House and Committed Suicide Over a 300 Yuan Water Bill,” since the sweeping reforms in 1961, house prices in South Korea have continued to soar, making it impossible for many young people to afford. At the same time, the upper limit of the housing loan interest rate of South Korean commercial banks has broken through 8%, causing many people who can afford to buy a house to be crushed by huge mortgage payments and unable to breathe. Mr. Lee, 34, has suffered from the high house prices and mortgage payments.
He lived in the center of Seoul and when he got married in 2017, he believed in the stability of housing prices and did not rush to buy a house.
However, housing prices have been rising at a sprinting pace.
What used to cost 200 million Korean won (1.04 million RMB) in loans to buy a house, now requires an additional 1 billion Korean won (5.2 million RMB), which Mr. Lee cannot afford.
Seeing no hope of buying a house, he made a choice that many of his peers have made – not to buy a house or have children.
“I just want to enjoy food and buy things that I couldn’t afford before, and enjoy life as it is,” said Mr. Lee, both carefree and helpless.
Mr. Lee’s decision not to buy a house or have children is actually a reflection of many young people in South Korea.
“If we can’t afford it, then we won’t buy it!” More and more people, like Mr. Lee, have given up the obsession of owning their own house.
As a result, in August 2022, the national housing prices in South Korea experienced the largest monthly decline since the 2008 financial crisis, having fallen for 9 consecutive months. In the first half of 2022, the transaction volume of apartments fell by 50.6% year-on-year.
In this environment, a lifestyle called “YOLOism” has quietly become popular among young people.
YOLO stands for “You only live once”, and its core philosophy is to live for oneself.
Today, YOLOism is mainly reflected in two ways: escaping from the city and enjoying life in a timely manner.
Some young people who are tired of the fast pace and high intensity of big cities choose to give up good job opportunities and high salaries and return to their hometowns or move to the suburbs.
On the other hand, some young people choose to enjoy life in a peculiar and distorted way.
Joo Yong-gu, 36, is one of them.
Joo Yong-gu is an ordinary worker who earns only 700,000 Korean won per month (about 3,640 yuan) and lives alone in a rented small apartment.
Despite the shabby decoration of the apartment and the mediocre household items such as furniture and appliances, every corner of the room is filled with various luxury brands.
How can a low-income worker who can’t afford a house buy so many expensive luxury goods? The answer is simple: loans. In order to buy luxury goods, Gu Yonggui applied for four credit cards with a total limit of 40.54 million Korean won (210,000 yuan). With sufficient credit, he began to spend recklessly, traveling, buying limited edition sneakers, electronics, and high-end clothing from top brands. At first, he only wanted to treat himself to something nice to reward his hard work, without any plans for marriage or buying a house. However, after experiencing the joy of spending money, he couldn’t stop. In less than a year, all four of his credit cards were maxed out. Gu Yonggui didn’t dare to tell his family about his situation. In order to repay the loans, he had to work multiple jobs every day, paying off the interest while borrowing more money. He was constantly anxious and exhausted. Soon, his health began to suffer, and he was laid off by his company. Without a stable job or income, it became even more difficult to repay his debts. He had to falsify information and pretend to have a job, exploiting loopholes in the banking system to obtain loans. However, his lies were soon exposed. He couldn’t apply for any more loans, and his credit cards were overdue, leading to countless calls from debt collectors every day. He was on the verge of a breakdown.
At the same time, the family also found out about Gu Yongkui’s debt.
Feeling ashamed, he attempted suicide three times, but was saved each time.
It wasn’t until 2018 when he successfully applied for personal bankruptcy that he was able to be exempted from all his debts.
In South Korea, there are many young people like Gu Yongkui who have accumulated huge debts in order to buy luxury goods, but very few are as lucky as him to be able to apply for personal bankruptcy.
Some people are unable to repay their debts and cannot apply for bankruptcy, so they choose to end their own lives.
Many others end up dragging their families down with them.
Recently, an elderly Korean man chose to commit suicide by poisoning himself because his daughter had accumulated too much debt.
Before his suicide, he left a letter to the Korean president: “My daughter has no job, and I don’t understand why credit card companies would give her so many credit cards.”
These few lines were filled with tears and sorrow.
Most of us may not understand why these young people, who clearly cannot afford luxury goods, still go on a crazy spending spree.
The answer to this question was given by Cho Hyun-joo, the executive director of South Korea’s SDAK Corporation: “This is another syndrome in Korea – just like the diet syndrome and plastic surgery syndrome, it is now the luxury brand syndrome.”
Compared to other countries, South Koreans place a great emphasis on appearance and image, to the point of judging people by their looks.
The more superior one’s appearance and the more luxurious one’s clothing, the easier it is to gain respect in society.
Even the main reason for school bullying in Korea is that the bullies believe that the victims are poor and shabby.
To prevent their children from being bullied at school, many parents are forced to buy luxury goods.
For example, Mr. Park, who is 50 years old and earns only 1 million Korean won per month (5216 yuan), is just an ordinary office worker.
However, his son demanded that Mr. Park buy him a pair of sports shoes worth 690,000 Korean won (3598 yuan) just because he saw other students wearing branded clothing at school.
And this pair of sports shoes was just the beginning of Mr. Park’s son’s expensive purchases.
Nurtured in this environment, South Korean society has gradually formed its unique “luxury culture.”
In addition, the widening wealth gap in Korea and the high cost of housing make young people feel that buying a house is impossible, so they choose to live in the moment and be part of the YOLO generation.
Therefore, even if they have limited income, max out their credit cards, and live on loans, many young people are willing to pay for luxury goods.
If they can’t pay off their debts in the end, they may choose to commit suicide.
The phenomenon of “soul loans” has been dubbed by Korean society, referring to the use of one’s soul as collateral to purchase luxury goods.
Expensive housing prices, constantly rising interest rates, high unemployment rates, intense work environments, and abnormal social conditions have gradually worn down the motivation of young people in Korea.
“Working hard won’t change our fate, so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we can.” This mentality has led more and more young people to fill their empty souls with the luxurious goods found in high-end shopping malls.
The trend of young Koreans buying luxury goods may continue for a long time, but the tide will eventually recede. However, no one knows what kind of scene will be left on the beach when it does.