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Economic Crisis Transforming the “All or Nothing” Work+Life Mindset

Listen to Cali on Wed 11/19 at 4:00 pm ET talk with Maggie Mistal about Work+Life Fit in a Recession on Sirius Radio’s Martha Stewart Network!  “Making a Living with Maggie” inspires, educates and entertains listeners so that they feel empowered to make a great living doing work they are passionate about that fits into the lifestyle they desire.  Join Maggie every Wednesday at 4pm eastern/1pm pacific on SIRIUS 112 and XM 103.  For a free trial of SIRIUS visit http://www.maggiemistal.com/radio.htm

Listen to Cali on Wed 11/19 at 4:00 pm ET talk with Maggie Mistal about Work+Life Fit in a Recession on Sirius Radio’s Martha Stewart Network!  “Making a Living with Maggie” inspires, educates and entertains listeners so that they feel empowered to make a great living doing work they are passionate about that fits into the lifestyle they desire.  Join Maggie every Wednesday at 4pm eastern/1pm pacific on SIRIUS 112 and XM 103.  For a free trial of SIRIUS visit http://www.maggiemistal.com/radio.htm

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Now back to the blog…

More people are moving beyond the traditional “all or nothing” choice about whether or not to work when they experience a major work+life transition as a result of the economic crisis.  Out of necessity, more retirees are “working” in retirement; more mothers are seeking alternatives to opting out; and eldercare providers are trying creative ways to work and share care responsibilities.    

As I discuss in my book, seeing all of the possibilities that exist between the two extremes of “all work” and “no work” is not easy because it’s not how we typically respond to work+life challenges.   When I give speeches, I ask the audience, “You’re having a bad day trying to manage work and your personal life, what’s your first thought?”  Everyone laughs, because they all have the same first thought, “I’m out of here!”  All or nothing.  You can’t see the work+life fit possibilities if your default response is, “I’m out.”  But the economic reality is making it increasingly difficult to stop working even for a short period of time.  As a result, more flexible and creative ways to retire, be a mother or father and care for an adult relative while working are emerging.   

Here are some of examples of how the economy is driving people to rethink the “all or nothing” mindset: 

Reinventing Retirement:  According to a number of surveys, more and more “retirees” are working in retirement, either in paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time positions.  In other words, either out of choice or necessity, the decision to retire is no longer “all or nothing.” 

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a group of 300 New York Federal Reserve Bank retirees.  As I walked in the building, the security guard asked who I was.  When I said, “I am the speaker at the retiree luncheon and I am talking about work+life fit in retirement,” he laughed, “Well, I’m a perfect example.  I retired from the New York City Police Department three years ago, and am now working full-time for the Fed as a security guard.” 

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Later at the luncheon, I asked the 300 retirees to raise their hands if they were as busy or busier with some form of paid or unpaid work now that they were retired.  A large majority of the group raised their hands.  Clearly, they were not experiencing their parents’ retirement of a gold watch and golf.   

Mothers Rethinking Completely “Opting Out”:  The economic ramifications of “opting out” in terms of job re-entry and earnings capacity are increasingly a topic of discussion as the economy forces more mothers (and fathers) to start thinking differently and more flexibly about how they can work while caring for their children:

  • In September, an academic symposium at Columbia Business School examined the heavy earnings penalty women experience when they leave the workplace even for a brief period of time.
  • In her last Life’s Work column for the New York Times, Lisa Belkin reflected on how the moms she covered in her “Opting Out” article would fair if they tried to re-enter the workforce and had to compete with laid off workers for increasingly scarce jobs.
  • And on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Suze Orman told a mom who was pregnant with her second child and worked four-days a week that she couldn’t afford to stay home full-time unless she dramatically reduced her family’s budget.  She explained that, even with the cost of child care factored in, the extra money she made every month was critical for her family to pay their bills, save for retirement and college.  (Interestingly, before Orman shared her verdict about whether or not the mom could stay home full-time, she presented her financial reality and asked the audience to vote.  A majority of the audience—including me watching from home—voted “yes.”  So it was surprising and thought-provoking for everyone, including the mom, when Orman’s answer was “no.”)

Creatively Managing Eldercare and WorkNew York Times Columnist, Jane Brody, discussed the ways caregivers for adult relatives are trying to creatively manage their care responsibilities because most can not afford to quit working. 
 
Retirement, motherhood and eldercare are just three examples of how economy is forcing us to move beyond the traditional “all or nothing” mindset of “I have to quit” in response to a major change.  Out of choice or necessity, more people are seeing the work+life fit possibilities and flexibly rethinking how, when and where work is done, because economically, not working at all is not longer an option.   

What do you think?  Are you or people you know “working” in retirement, rethinking whether or not to “opt out” when they have children or need to care for an aging relative?    Is so, what are they doing?