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July 19, 2021 | Worries

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.

Yesterday this pathetic, paleo (fully dosed) blog suggested WFH won’t last. Alas, few believe it. Or want to. A year-and-a-half of pandemic has bent a lot of minds. Values have changed. This is not temporary, they cry. It’s the new normal.

Many think careers are kaput. It’s a gig world now. There’s no employer or employee loyalty. So being visible in the workplace is as silly as striving for a pay increase or promotion that’ll just land you in another tax bracket. It will still be impossible to buy a house. You still won’t have a pension. What’s the point?

Perhaps it’s this ennui with the structure of the world that’s led to current social passions. Instead of tackling about the Two Huge Things that are likely to make the future hellish for everyone now under the age of 50 (unrepayable private & public debt, plus an angry climate) we’re focused on gender issues, pronouns and bad things people did a century ago. The tail is wagging the dog.

Reading blog comments (ugh) one gets the impression most people believe their employer has a responsibility to provide a salary and benefits (and maybe a retirement income) but they’re not obligated to go to the workplace in return. Like this:

Everyone I know does not want to go back to work full time. Why waste 2hrs a day commuting (btw you aren’t paid for this). Why would anyone want to return to work full time. Being around other people is not required. Stay home guys, unless they incorporate your commute time into your working hours.

Covid did this. You stay home on your own sked. Walk the dog. Care for kids. Shop. You get paid as normal. You fall out of the routine of ‘going to work.’ And then, 16 months later, you don’t want to go any more. Ever.

Has the pandemic killed our work ethic? Feels like it. The expectations of most people seem to be drifting further and further from reality.

Over the weekend this note arrived from a couple in BC. “Kudos for being so good at what you do,” read the perfunctory MSU, “and trustworthy at the same time!” Then this…

We live in the greater Vancouver area. My husband and I have savings (200K) sitting in the bank as we decide what to do. I am educating myself and have learned that dividend investment is very tax efficient so I am looking into that. We’re maybe late to the investment game because I am 48 and my husband is 49 but we are now ready to take action asap as my goal is to retire at 55 if I can make the numbers work.

WFH and FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) have much in common. Both are the antithesis of corporatism, a linear career or the time-worn practice of taking personal identity from work. It’s looking at life as a collection of experiences rather than achievements or possessions. The pandemic reminded people of their mortality. That’s useful. Covid also led to the conclusion that income and financial stability are societal, human rights. That’s dangerous. They’re not.

So, here are a few things to chew on. (And no, the Van people with two hundred grand will not live out a happy retirement starting in six years. Sheesh.)

First, in a world sautéed in debt, neither your employer nor your country can be counted on to finance the rest of your life. The government largesse so much in evidence during the pandemic cannot last. Seriously, you need a Plan B. If you stop being an enthusiastic employee it could be at your own peril. If you withdraw from the workforce without a major pile of money, you will know regret.

Second, life is unpredictable. Look at what the markets were saying on Monday. The Trump legacy of anti-vax bravado is on full display with a new pandemic of the non-inoculated. Daily US cases have tripled in the last week with 98% of them among people who refused to be jabbed. Mr. Market is therefore concerned this could inhibit growth despite stellar corporate profits. So equities tumbled, bond yields collapsed unexpectedly and commodity prices fell. Just another reminder that boy scouts had it figured out long ago – be prepared.

Maybe it’s prehistoric to be grateful for a job, impress the boss, to crave advancement, put in overtime and build a career. Seems like it when employees eschew going back to the office. Or when the sole goal of investing is “not to work”. Or when people expect government to support them forever and scarcely glance at the fiscal storm clouds above.

But that’s virus thinking. Don’t fall for it. Unreal.

By the way, just heard the results of a corporate survey of my colleagues, nationally. Over 70% have voted to return to their desks. They must read another blog.

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July 19th, 2021

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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