How the Recession Changed Baby Boomers’ Viewpoint of Happiness
During the 2008 Great Recession, our family civil engineering business took a nosedive. We went from 12 employees to two. The two remaining – my husband and my brother – both worked part-time.
Instead of moping about it, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the extra time and became full-time ministers, learned sign language, joined a sign language congregation, and started doing volunteer work with the deaf community.
You know what? We were never happier.
That’s why I found an article, Post-recession Americans Don’t Need Money to Find Happiness, written by Courtney E Martin for the New York Post, last week so fascinating. In the article, Martin pointed out that “the American Dream is being remade in the wake of the Great Recession.”
“Just as necessity is the mother of invention, a recession can be the father of consciousness,” she wrote. “More and more of us are becoming conscious of the ways in which money, and all of the stuff it can buy, doesn’t reliably lead to happiness.”
Does it remind you a little bit of the 60s, when many thought society had been corrupted by capitalism and the materialist culture it created? Although a more radical time, during that tumultuous decade it dawned on many young people that while pursuing “success,” people lost sight of the more meaningful experiences life had to offer.
Seems some of those attitudes are with us again after the recession, causing profound changes in the way people work, think, and live.
Changes in the Workplace
A recent article from Inc. “10 Ways Your Office Will Change in 2016,” pointed out that the top search term in 2015 at Monster.com was “part-time.”
“A growing number of white-collar workers are opting not to return to staff positions in the post-recession economy, working instead as contractors in roles that offer more flexibility but less security and benefits,” Beth Braverman wrote in the article.
And in many cases, less money, I would add.
Once again, I am one of those people. A freelance writer who, in fact, does much of my work through Upwork, I’m apparently part of a growing crowd. In fact, it’s estimated that half of the US workforce will be freelancing by 2020.
I’m not getting rich, but I like the flexibility and the extra time it gives me to concentrate on spiritual matters, volunteer work, the important people in my life, and my health and well-being. Turns out, I’m not alone.
The recession taught many that there is more to life than climbing the ladder, working around the clock, and accumulating things that collect in garages and storage units.
I hope that as the economy recovers we don’t lose that insight.
Changes at Home
You know what? Those people learned that life went on. Buying that home they always “dreamed of” turned into a nightmare and many discovered it wasn’t worth all the stress that resulted.
Turns out that owning a fancy home wasn’t the answer to finding contentment, satisfaction, and joy after all.
In fact, home ownership rates are at their lowest since 1995. in the years since the housing bubble burst, many have come to the conclusion that home ownership isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be and are now renting a less expensive apartment instead.
Others opted for home ownership, but decided to downsize. This idea spawned the whole tiny house movement.
These days, more and more people are choosing experiences, adventures, and seeing the world over a big house with a huge mortgage.
Our family fits into that category. For the past year, my husband and I have shared our home with our youngest son and his wife as well as our divorced oldest son and his three children.
Last spring, my youngest son and daughter-in-law moved up north. However, after an extended custody battle that left our oldest son financially devastated, we still live with him and his three children.
Yes, it was an adjustment after being empty nesters for a couple of years. But you know what? In the end, we liked the arrangement.
After losing my mother as well as my mother-in-law last year, it was nice to have a safe, secure, and loving cocoon of family around us. The grandchildren cheered us up and kept us young.
Three houses down and across the street, my sister and her family live in a main house and my brother and my other sister live in two casitas on the same property. Yup, we got a regular family compound going and you know what? It’s working for us.
We’re not alone.
This multi-generational trend has even reached the White House, with Michelle Obama’s mother living with the President and his wife and often spotted shuttling grandchildren to school. The fact is, studies show that people who live in multi-generational homes actually like it.
Of course, poverty doesn’t bring happiness either. After analyzing Gallup poll data, the Brookings Institute found that Americans who reported the lowest levels of well-being also made less than $2,000 a month, which coincides closely with the the federal poverty guideline level for a family of four.
However, wealth does not necessarily bring happiness either. An often-cited Princeton study from 2010 found that a salary of $75,000 per year was the level at which security and happiness reached a pinnacle, but that increases beyond that didn’t result in greater happiness.
Experts say being rich brings its own kind of suffering. Wealth can lead to sleepless nights of worrying as well as an unhappy family life and relationship problems. It can lead to comparing yourself to others, jealousy, or, in the language of the tenth commandment, coveting. The love of money can inspire greed and an insatiable appetite for more wealth which results in frustration and a lack of contentment.
Maybe that’s what some of us learned during the recession. Indeed, the old adage that money does not bring happiness turns out to be true.
Now that the economy is beginning to recover, let’s all resolve to remember that fact and I think we’ll all be a lot happier.
Do you agree? Has your attitude about life changed since the recession? Let me know in the comments below.
Images in order of appearancce, courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, scottchan, jk1991, jscreationzs, and Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net