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Why bother seeking gold in contemporary times?

Direct your attention to the ground beneath you; it conceals wealth far surpassing precious metals.

Amid the ongoing housing crisis, have you taken the time to explore the property trends in the suburb of your childhood home through a simple Google search?

Just a few weeks ago, a residence in my former neighborhood, a tranquil Sydney suburb in the north, changed hands for a staggering $2.6 million. Remarkably, it had previously sold for a mere $555,000 in 2006.

This type of substantial capital growth is not unique and has transformed our neighborhoods into lucrative gold mines, producing numerous paper millionaires.

However, what repercussions does this phenomenon hold for future generations?


Money, time, and labour

It’s a familiar refrain to hear warnings about the widening wealth gap between younger and older generations due to rapid property price escalation. Yet, there’s an underlying consequence at play.

According to researchers, the time required for a median income earner to save for a typical Australian property’s down payment has surged from six years in 1994 to a daunting 14 years today.

Consider the additional hours of work now demanded from first-time homebuyers just to reach the starting line. The property price surge is not only taking a financial toll but is also pilfering time itself from the younger demographic, with no input from them.

Reflect on the $2.6 million house in my childhood suburb. The 20% deposit needed to purchase that house last month would have amounted to $520,000. A mere 17 years ago, the entire property was priced at $555,000.

This deposit equates to a substantial chunk of time frozen in place.

Given the choice, would you prefer to invest that precious and finite time with loved ones or be tethered to your workplace, striving to accumulate the wages needed to eventually seek a loan from a bank?


The metaphor of “spending” time is fitting.

“Do you love life?” inquired Benjamin Franklin. “Then don’t squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

The evolution of societal dynamics

The imagery of Father Time, as illustrated during the 1850s gold rush, reflects an obsession with gold. By the 1880s, however, he discovers a more lucrative pursuit that demands less physical exertion: land speculation.

In Michael Cannon’s “The Land Boomers,” the laissez-faire conditions of Australian capitalism in the 1880s are exposed as highly corrupt. Melbourne’s political elite profited during the land boom, but the scramble for quick wealth involved individuals from all walks of life.

This period of property speculation ultimately led to economic devastation, contributing to the nationwide Depression of the 1890s. Melbourne’s population declined, and it took decades for property prices to recover.

In distinctly different circumstances from today, the quick riches enjoyed by the city’s residents came at a considerable cost — not only to them but also to the subsequent generations.

Cannon posited that there is a lesson to be learned from this historical example of the interdependence of all parts of the social order.