Exploring Your Work-Life Balance Options In The "New Normal"

By: Robert E. Whitney, Jr., CFP®, Vice President, Senior Financial Planner
June 28, 2021

For many Americans already having a difficult time achieving a work-life balance, adding the unforeseen circumstances of this past year likely didn’t help matters – or did they?

Work Life
As our economy begins to recover and people rethink how they want to live and work in the future, the discussion around the advantages – and disadvantages – of working remotely vs. onsite has moved to the top of the list for employees and employers alike. Perhaps there’s never been a more opportune time to evaluate the lessons learned from our combined experiences and set a course for taking control of work-life balance in our “new normal.”

But now America is opening up again. Employers are calling employees back to offices and business locations. It’s time for everyone to figure out how, when, and where we go to work from now on – and our decisions are bound to significantly impact the quality and success of America’s work-life balance.

How America is getting the job done

‘LIFE’S TOO SHORT …’

Many affluent Americans have decided the best solution for achieving well-being can be summed up in two words: early retirement. After dealing with two major economic crises in the past 15 years, a growing number of Americans feel it’s an opportune time to quit their jobs, sell their businesses, and enjoy life.

Survey statistics highlighted in a recent Bloomberg article seem to support that mentality. According to data from the Federal Reserve, investors have plenty of money to take off
the table and retire early – investment assets for Americans age 55 to 69 rose by $4.2 trillion last year. Their real estate assets soared by nearly $750 billion.³

Additionally, a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey found nearly 2.7 million individuals age 55 and older plan to apply early for Social Security benefits. The number of people expecting to work beyond age 67 fell to a record low of nearly 33% in March 2020, according to a New York Federal Reserve survey.³

If you’re thinking about the possibility of retirement, ask yourself these questions:
  • Are you at a point in your career where you can afford to stop working?
  • How do your retirement savings stack up against your retirement goals?
  • If you tap into your retirement savings now, can you afford fewer years of income growth or less money to invest?
  • Do you have a sufficient mix of pre-tax and after-tax assets, pension income and Roth assets from which to access the funds to last throughout the 30+ years you spend in retirement? You could potentially spend as many years in retirement as in the work force!
It’s a good idea to seek the advice of your financial advisor to help you review your retirement plan and explore all your options before you make any decisions. Your advisor can help you determine if you’re financially in a position to retire early, as well as calculate the impact of reduced income and contributions to your retirement plan.


WHEN EARLY RETIREMENT ISN’T AN OPTION
Of course, not everyone is ready to retire right now. Many employees forced into working remotely because of government health guidelines and business restrictions are eagerly looking forward to being with colleagues and working onsite again. They’ve had their fill of non-stop teleconferencing, constant family interruptions, late-night urgent calls and emails, longer hours — and not being able to get away from it all at the end of the day.

However, for others, it’s a very different story. Numerous employees found a good work-life balance while working remotely and are challenging companies to restructure their mindsets and consider flexible work policies going forward.

In fact, The Business Journals cited a recent survey that asked participants if given the choice between a $30,000 raise or permanently working from home, which option they preferred. The report said 64% of respondents would take the benefits of working remotely over the extra cash.4

Additionally, a recent McKinsey & Company report found more than 25% of employees surveyed said they would consider switching employers if they require them to work fulltime at their company’s location. As employees look to the future, 51% of those surveyed long for a better work-life balance, with flexibility and well-being also named
as top priorities.²

It’s also not surprising that more than half of the employers surveyed reported an increase in the use of mental health resources since 2019. “Anxiety is known to decrease work performance, reduce job satisfaction, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues, among other ills,” the McKinsey report said. “For the global economy, the loss of productivity because of poor mental health – including anxiety – might be as high as $1 trillion per year.”²

As a result of all we’ve gone through this past year, many companies are taking a hard look at traditional business practices and exploring opportunities to promote quality of work over quantity for greater productivity and overall job satisfaction.

But let’s be honest. When it comes to our jobs, often our everyday wants and needs don’t match those of our employers. Now may be a good time to do some soul searching and ask yourself these questions:
  • If my current employer insists that I work onsite, can I afford to take a lower paying job with remote opportunities?
  • How would changing jobs impact my lifestyle and retirement goals?
  • If completely retiring isn’t in the cards, is now the time to take a less stressful lower paying job to reduce the amount you take from your retirement assets and/or to provide health insurance to bridge the gap until Medicare begins at age 65. Is now the time for your “Second Act”?

Once you’ve addressed these questions, talk to your financial advisor about the full impact of your choices. He or she can help you understand the implications of taking a cut in salary, the effects of having less money to invest for retirement if you scale back, or the added benefits a new career choice might offer.

And who knows – when all is said and done, perhaps you’ll be one of the many individuals whose companies are automatically giving their employees the best of both worlds. Every day we hear on the news how businesses across the U.S. are making remote working arrangements the standard rather than the exception going forward – and they aren’t reducing wages or hindering wage growth if employees choose to work at home.

WE’RE HERE TO HELP
Regardless of how you plan to move forward in the “new normal,” it’s important to address all your financial planning concerns so you can make informed decisions. Contact Commerce Trust Company today – our team of professional advisors will answer your questions and address your personal and family goals. We can evaluate your retirement plan and discuss income and cash flow options that can help support a healthy work-life balance as well as your long-term goals.

¹ Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup, “//U.S. Remote Workdays Have Doubled During Pandemic,” https://news.gallup.com/poll/318173/remote-workdays-doubled-duringpandemic.aspx, August 31, 2020.
² Emma Charlton, McKinsey & Company|World Economic Forum|The Jobs Reset Summit, “Four things workers want implemented by their bosses post-pandemic,”
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/05/employers-pandemic-covid-19-mental-health/, 07 May 2021.
³ Alexandre Tanzi and Michael Sasso, Bloomberg, “Affluent Americans Rush to Retire in New ‘Life-Is-Short’ Mindset,” printed in wealthmanagement.com, https://www.wealthmanagement.com/print/135182, April 30, 2021.
4 Andy Medici, The Business Journals, “Work from home or a $30K raise? Employees said it wasn’t even close.” May 13, 2021. https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/news/2021/05/13/wfh-work-from-home-raise-salary-google-facebook.html?ana=lnk.


The opinions and other information in the commentary are provided as of June 29, 2021. This summary is intended to provide general information only, and may be of value to the reader and audience.

This material is not a recommendation of any particular investment or insurance strategy, is not based on any particular financial situation or need, and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor or investment professional. While Commerce may provide information or express opinions from time to time, such information or opinions are subject to change, are not offered as professional tax, insurance or legal advice, and may not be relied on as such.

Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Commerce Trust Company is a division of Commerce Bank.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert E. Whitney, Jr., CFP® Vice President, Senior Financial Planner Commerce Trust Company 
Rob is a senior financial planner for Commerce Trust Company. He is a member of the financial advisory services team — a dedicated financial planning practice within Commerce Trust that provides objective financial advice to clients.

Following a thorough assessment of a client’s unique situation and thoughts regarding wealth, Rob develops holistic and coordinated plans to help clients meet their short-term and long-term goals as well as take full advantage of various planning, tax, and investment strategies along the way. With more than 20 years of experience, he specializes in building relationships with clients and providing comprehensive financial planning services to business owners and individual investors to help them achieve their goals.

He received his Bachelor of Administration degree in business finance from Loyola University in Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Delaware. Rob holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation. Additionally, he is an Eagle Scout. Rob enjoys spending time in the mountains or at the beach with his wife and two daughters.