By November 2021 nearly 5 million Americans had left their jobs. Clearly a broad-based global shift in mindset is underway which has affected how we think about life and what we value. People are questioning fundamental assumptions and they are re-evaluating what truly matters most to them.
This change goes by many names. It has been called the “The Great Discontent”, “The Great Reflection” and even “The Great Reimagining”. Most commonly labelled as “The Great Resignation” this phenomenon describes the record numbers of people leaving their jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the unprecedented levels of people who quit their jobs during 2021, around 48% of America’s working population are still actively job searching or looking out for other opportunities according to recent Gallup analysis.
This same experience seems to be evident locally as has been reported by News24 in South Africa where 57% of people resigning stated that it was not purely for monetary reasons. Only 19% of resignations were the direct results of job switches related exclusively to remuneration.
At the same time, we have witnessed a global uptick in new business start-ups. The Economic Innovation Group reported that nearly 5.4 million applications were filed to form new businesses in the US in 2021 — the most of any year on record – and a 53% increase from 2019.
Are these about-turns the result of a global existential crises or are people’s sense of personal values taking centre stage in this sea-change resulting from Covid? The pandemic has indeed provided pause for thought. It has been an external intervention that triggered one of the largest recorded human social experiments in recent history. During the pandemic people did not have to commute. They could spend more time with their families. They experienced greater flexibility and freedom which enhanced their wellbeing in a positive manner. People are also seemingly not overly eager to return to the office.
The pandemic provided the opportunity for everyone to reflect and ask different questions regarding our work-life balance. “What makes me happy? Am I content? What do I want to do?”. It has afforded people the time and space to reflect on meaning, personal values and the authenticity of work. This reflection allowed many the luxury to reimagine their lives in a way that is redefining the way they look at working life.
According to Gartner research there is also a shift occurring purely from a focus on financial capital (money) to also include human capital (investment in yourself). Money is only one aspect of our investment capital. The other parts that deeply effect the quality of our lives are our social capital (networks and friends) and temporal capital (what we spend our time and attention on).
There is a growing awareness of what has arguably always been obvious, namely that our time is finite and our energy limited. As financial capital compounds in our favour, time compounds against us if we are not making lasting moments and memories. As the cliches remind us (and they become cliches often because they contain fundamental or universal truths) a moment in time will never repeat itself. If you missed a season in your child’s life due to working commitments you can never get it back again. In contrast, we can lose money and make it all back again.
We have multiple forms of capital that we can grow, save and spend. Every decision that we make involves a trade-off. Wanting more of one thing usually means having less of another. Furthermore the concept of personal wellbeing teaches us that every part of our being is connected. Financial stress touches every part of your daily life. It affects both your health and emotional state. It deeply impacts marital relations.
There is however seemingly a growing appreciation that sacrificing your health and time for money is a very dear price to pay. The truth is that we do need money. Even if it does not make us happy in isolation it certainly contributes to our wellbeing and happiness. Money is a store of value – it has no intrinsic value in and of itself. It is only a placeholder for the value which we potentially could obtain or unlock by exchanging it for something else. As such money is a means to an end, but not the end itself. It exists to be spent. It is merely a fuel source which, if correctly utilised, can potentially contribute to us having a more pleasant, engaging and meaningful life.
In order to transmute moments into meaningful memories we need to be mindful how you spend our money, our time and our attention. If we do not have time, then we cannot unlock certain experiences which otherwise would be accessible with money. It is also true that we do not necessarily need money to make lasting memories. Most experiences can only be created by being fully present.
It is true that our “best years” also overlap with our “career phase”. The role of work in people’s identity has changed. A greater awareness of this trade-off between time and money is causing people to question the sacrifice of working long hours in a job that they may not enjoy as opposed to living a simpler (and potentially more enjoyable) life.
There seems to be a very real shift in focus from accumulating financial wealth for the sake of it to that which truly matters, namely its utility value in terms of maximising overall well-being and happiness. This greater awareness will impact the conversations between financial advisors and their clients. Future guidance will have to extend beyond linear financial planning and investment management. This is a great opportunity for those advisors that want to move higher up in the advice value-stack.
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
- Mark Twain
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report”
Workhuman* – “ How the Great Resignation Will Shape HR and the Future of Work”
news24.com – “citypress/business/great-resignation-wave-hits-sa”
eig.org – “new-start-ups-break-record-in-2021-unpacking-the-numbers”
The above article was written by Marius Kilian.