Thoughts & Observations

The New Disparity Between Work and Life

There’s a new disparity between work and the rest of life.

In the past, the length of time that we expected to be in a job or a specific career was likely to match the timespan of the other commitments we wanted to make: we could plan to spend 30 years in a job, and also plan to spend 20 to 30 years paying for a house; 20 to 30 years raising kids; and 40 or more years in a marriage.

Planning in multi-decade increments felt comfortable because we could count on a job (and then some kind of retirement) to support us during that entire span of span of time.

Now, many of us still have those life goals (get married, own a home, have kids), but a lot fewer of us have a job or career that will be consistent over the same timespan. On average, people now stay in jobs for only 3 to 5 years, and that can be even shorter for Gen Y and for people involved in certain industries (like people in tech startups who seem to change jobs every six months to a year).

That leaves me with a question I haven’t quite found the answer to: how, exactly, are we supposed to go about making 20 to 30 year commitments to a house and raising kids when we can only see our future income six months, a year, or, at most, a couple years out?


3 thoughts on “The New Disparity Between Work and Life

  1. I hear you!
    Past generations didn’t have all these debates about having kids at the right time after fulfilling their goals; didn’t have all these doubts about whether they were ready or not and so on. They just went ahead and did it.
    Could this change in ways of thinking be due to cultural causes? or is it related to economical ones? As you point out nowadays is harder to make the kind of money they made and for the amount of time they did.

    • jessicahlawrence

      I definitely think that a huge part of it is economics – the cost of living has increased much faster than salaries have. People can’t just go ahead and buy a house and raise a family like they might have in the past because the numbers don’t add up. I think there is also cultural influence going on as well, with people putting off having a family to fulfill career goals because that is what they want to do, but even for people who have fulfilled many of their career goals and are ready to get married and have kids, they have a difficult time getting the equation to add up.

  2. Excellent question! Let me know if you find the answer. I lived in Charlotte, NC for 27 years. Seemed safe to buy a house after being there for so long, enjoying the work I was doing with local non-profits. Within a year of purchasing a condo in my favorite part of town, I pick up and move to Italy. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job and I love living abroad even more. But, now there’s the question of what to do with that cursed condo.

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