Cost of Living vs Cost of Leaving

Between the life people grew accustomed to over the past two years and the economic shifts afoot, the cost of leaving might have the cost of living beat.

November 29, 2021

By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP

cost When you swing a pendulum it never goes back to where it started, it falls just a little short. When you stretch a balloon, it never goes back to where it started. It loses just a bit of its elasticity. And that is precisely what we are seeing as we wrap up year two of “the pandemic”.

People still shop in stores. Society didn’t abandon the brick and mortar stores entirely. But, they are going to stores less. People still watch cable television. But, they stream more than they watch cable. People still go into work, but they go in less.

Society was already moving away from brick and mortar stores, cable TV, and 9-to-5 commuting. The Pandemic gave these trends the kick in the pants needed to be normalized and more than a novelty.

I’ve said before that I really am seeing a sort of creative destruction from this whole pandemic phenomenon. And there’s a sweet irony to it as well.

The more the governments around the world insist upon controlling people through the fear of pestilence, the more they squander the faith and trust equity the people gave them. The more the government distorts the truth, or poses ultimatums, the more people become independent and self-reliant.

Look at the schools in the US. Kids cannot attend schools without masks or vaccines. Parents are homeschooling their children now because it’s become more than they are willing to do.

While many companies, especially in the financial and tech sectors, are asking employees to return to the office, workers are not as eager to do so. There are also many employees refusing to follow vaccination requirements, and likewise find themselves out of work.

Being a digital nomad isn’t for everyone. I’d love it if it were, but that’s not how it works. First you need a source of income that allows you to be location independent. Second, even if you have that occupation, you need the will to be location independent.

Between those two things alone, you rule out quite a few folks. Reading about it online you’d think this is another nail in the coffin of social justice, but it really isn’t. It’s simply another way to live, enabled by technology.

By normalizing this, however, you do two things:

1. You put it on the radar of the younger generations, so they might make choices that align more with that lifestyle if they want.

2. You create and maintain a market for accommodating this lifestyle.

This will become a growing trend that puts pressure on employers to accommodate on some level. Like bringing pets to work was in the early 2000s, this will be the next big accommodation: flexible time to work remotely.

The trend is there, and to keep it going requires more folks to align on values and priorities.

First up is how people look at travel. Many people still see travel as either a requirement for work or a once-in-a-while treat. Part of this trend is people starting to see travel as just part of their lifestyle.

Next up is how people look at home. Many people see home as a symbol of being grown up and stability. Part of the trend is that “home” is becoming unaffordable, and it might mean that home becomes somewhere affordable. This might mean Thailand. This might mean an RV.

Finally, look at how people see vacations or holidays. People used to take a week or so to go somewhere and play tourist for a while. When times got tough, people took to the “staycation”, where they played tourist in their hometown. Now we have “workations”, where people go somewhere else, work their hours, and then live a different life for a while.

During the height of the pandemic, people were getting away but not doing the typical touristy things because many places were still on lock-down. It was more important that they just changed up the scenery and spent time with those whose company they enjoyed most.

Airbnb has been seeing more people booking for much longer stays than before the pandemic, for example. So whereas the average stay in 2019 might’ve been a couple of days, maybe a week at most, now they are seeing 4 weeks or more. In fact, 87% of Airbnb’s offerings are long term stays.

What’s the short term prognosis? Inflation and panic policies in first world countries will drive people, especially younger people, toward a more affordable lifestyle. They might not be able to fly everywhere all the time, but they can afford to go places that are more affordable for longer periods of time.

When the cost of leaving beats the cost of living, you find the market response inevitable. Likewise, remote work has made family life more manageable.

The long term prognosis is much better. Like any other novel thing, it catches on with early-adaptors first. More people are finding ways to make their occupations more conducive to remote work. The economic solution isn’t going to be printing more money or forcing companies to pay more. It will be people shifting away from underappreciated low-level jobs, toward either entrepreneurship or an internet based occupation.

Countries looking to get foreign money back into their circulation will find ways to lure them in with different visas and accommodations.

But the evolution is happening. We are not going back to the way things were in large part because enough people refuse to do it.

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