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Should 18-year-olds be saving for home ownership or travel?

View of the Machu Picchu archeological site in Cuzco, Peru Friday, Jan. 29, 2010.

Martin Mejia/AP

By Rob Carrick

Here's how crazy the housing market is in some Canadian cities these days. A 26-year-old who just bought a home with her husband in Toronto is recommending that people start saving for a house in their teens. Otherwise, she says, you'll have to ask your parents for money or not live in Toronto.

She's right. Housing is so expensive that you have to sacrifice the best years of your life – the years when you're young and free of responsibilities like mortgage payments – to save up. Poll results suggest millennials are keen to own homes, and why not? They've seen prices rise, and felt the pressure from their parents to get into the market.

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Let's not get complacent about millennial home buying, though. Though they may want to own a house, the reality is that some never will. Already, millennials are adapting. A Toronto couple named Andy and Amy have decided to raise a family in a condo. And then there's the counter-narrative of what millennials want. Rather than steady jobs and home ownership, some are choosing to travel.

My wife and I have two sons, aged 22 and 19. I'm suggesting they save in the near term for travel, not buying a home.

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Ask Rob
The question:
"How can I stop obsessively worrying about my finances? I have been working in a full-time contract position with a good salary for the past three years. My partner is looking for work and back in school part-time. We have built up an emergency fund, rent a moderate apartment in Toronto and live within our means. We have a budget that we stick to and review regularly. Despite all of this, I have the constant feeling that we will hit a financial crisis and crumble."

My reply: I often find it's the worriers who need to worry the least. But never mind that. You obviously need a full assessment of where you stand financially. I suggest you find a fee-only financial planner to answer your questions and design a roadmap to get you where you want to be. Fee-only planners charge hourly or flat fees that can be scaled to the amount of advice you want. If you can't find one of these planners, e-mail me at rcarrick@globeandmail.com, and I'll try to help.

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Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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