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?