These adventurers are choosing mile markers over milestones.
Many Americans are putting money aside for travel, rather than using it to pay for weddings, buy homes or have kids. Cali Hlavac, a wedding videographer from Florida who owns her own business, has opted to roam before putting down roots. “I have chosen not to buy a house because I didn’t want to feel tied down to any one location. I also work in the wedding industry, and for me, weddings are overrated,” Hlavac, 33, told Moneyish, adding she’s visited more than 40 states, France, England, Mexico and the Caribbean.
When it’s her turn to tie the knot, “we will elope, on a Wednesday afternoon, in a foreign country when we are ready — but for now, our priority is seeing the world,” she said. “I believe traveling changes a person. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, and you learn how others live; different viewpoints and cultures. This growth is more important to me than owning a home.”
And when Stefanie O’Connell’s beau proposed to her last summer, she decided to return the engagement ring and use that money to fund their travels. (The writer wouldn’t share the full price of the ring, but hinted her husband makes six figures working as a stage manager on tours, and she said that she “had a heart attack” when she found out how much it cost.) “I asked him, ‘How would you feel if we return this, and we use the money to pay for a honeymoon and some trips?’ And he was like, ‘No problem,’” O’Connell, 32, told Moneyish.
“We estimate that forgoing more traditional milestones like an engagement ring and a home down payment will enable us to spend around two to three months this year traveling and taking time off for ourselves,” she added. They’re living in a one-bedroom walk-up in Harlem, and use travel rewards points to stretch their vacation budget even further. “We also fully fund our retirement accounts, emergency savings and investment accounts to ensure we’re not forgoing our options in the future should our priorities change,” she said.
And they’re not the only ones embracing different priorities than their parents and grandparents might have done at this point in their lives. A new survey of 1,000 men and women ages 30 to 49 released on Monday by the Flash Pack online travel company found that “traveling the world” is the No. 1 “bucket-list” goal among 30- and 40-somethings over marriage, children, career and owning a home. And 54% said they would rather invest in experiences while they’re still young over saving for a house. What’s more, 84% of respondents wouldn’t think twice about spending $4,000 on the trip of a lifetime — but two-thirds (66%) hesitated at dropping $33,391 on average for a wedding.
This backs a 2018 Suntrust Bank survey which found that almost half of adults (45%) were saving their money for travel over padding their emergency funds, retirement, or purchasing a car or a home. In fact, the travel industry is expected to hit a record 2.4 billion international trips by 2030, and travel to or within the U.S. grew 3% in November 2018 from the year before. That’s somewhat alarming considering that four in 10 U.S. adults can’t cover a $400 emergency.
This stems in part from a societal shift. American women are having children at the lowest rate on record, with the number of babies born in the U.S. last year dropping to a 30-year low last year. Consumers (spurred by millennials) have been valuing experiences over material goods for the past couple of years. And new research released last week suggests it actually makes more sense to rent than to buy in 2018, as in more than half (59%) of housing markets nationwide, renting a three-bedroom property is now more affordable than buying a median-priced.
Flash Pack co-founder Lee Thompson told Moneyish that growing uneasiness over the future is another reason why so many adults say there’s no time like the present to take a trip. “With U.S. pensions in decline (as highlighted by the Washington Post), it’s perhaps not surprising that 55% of those polled fear that they won’t have enough money saved to travel post-retirement,” said Thompson. “This, coupled with a tumultuous few years in politics, is creating a climate of uncertainty — and that’s actually a driving force for this group of 30- and 40-something professionals. Rather than wait for retirement to fulfill their dreams, as their parents’ generation did, they’re acting in the now, and seizing the moment.”
Which is a reason why this isn’t just another millennial trend. For instance, Lori Osterberg, 53, and her husband sold their Colorado home five years ago to become “nomads” or “slow travelers,” as she puts it, living around a year at a time in a different location once their daughter went to college. They’re both fortunate enough to able to work from home. So they began by spending a summer in Spain and Italy, and are now exploring Portland and the Pacific Northwest. Next up, they’re going to New Zealand for a month in the spring.
“I can’t imagine buying a home ever again. Our ‘forever’ home was such a burden,” Osterberg told Moneyish. It drained their money for the decade they lived there because they had to replace the roof, furnace and water heater. “Especially after the 2008 economic downturn, the whole American dream looks different now,” she said. “My parents made big increases off of their housing investment, but (my husband and I) didn’t, and I’m not sure how much home values are going to increase over the next 10 years. I’ll probably get more out of travel.”
O’Connell, who returned her engagement ring, has also found that her 30s are an even better age to travel than the 20s were. “It took time for us to get to this point in our careers where we are able to do this, from a both an earnings standpoint, and also being able to negotiate the time off in our jobs,” she said. “When I was 22 and just starting out, I couldn’t go away for six weeks and expect my job to still be there when I came back. Now we have leverage.”
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