Millions of Americans who have quit their jobs in the las 20 months as part of the so-called Great Resignation are likely to find their early retirement will turn into “a premature sabbatical.” That’s the view of Ric Edelman, co-founder of Edelman Financial Engines, one of the nation’s largest RIA firms.

The Great Resignation should not be “a surprising outcome” of the economic and social environment but it is “unsustainable and unrealistic” for a great many Americans, Edelman said in an interview last week. The pandemic prompted millions of people around the world to “realize the fragility of life."

Covid-19 impacted wide swaths of the population. While older people, minorities and those with pre-existing health conditions were particularly hard hit, the disease did not spare any groups. “Young, fit people” were also victims as the disease “attacked people regardless of age and income,” he said.

It prompted many people to reflect on “what’s really important,” Edelman, who will be a keynote speaker at Financial Advisor's Advisor Growth Summit on March 23-24, explained. Often the answer was it is “not my job.”

The actual statistics are worth examining. In normal pre-pandemic times, about three million Americans quit their jobs every month. Over the last year, the “quit rate” has been running at about 4.4 million jobs a month. According to studies by the St. Louis Fed, retirements are up about 75% from the two million people leaving the work force annually before the pandemic.

Fanning the flames of discontent triggered by disruptions to everyday life was the “social and political unrest” that occurred, Edelman continued. Lockdowns, mask mandates and later vaccine mandates created an environment ripe for controversy.

In addition to that, there were other forms of widespread social unrest. The Black Lives Matter movement and the “challenges brought on by police killings of unarmed African Americans” drove some Americans to question the viability of our social structure, he said. Riots and demonstrations occurred in cities throughout the country at a level not seen since the 1960s and early 1970s.

If this wasn’t enough, government stimulus payments “generated massive amounts of money for tens of millions of U.S. households,” Edelman said. Many people received greater monthly income from state and local than they did from their prior jobs.

This combination of events “caused many people to say, ‘I don’t like my job, I’m not sure I’m immortal, [and] I’m concerned about my health and safety being in the open,’” Edelman said. The motivations to say “take this job and shove it” were plentiful.

Nowhere was job dissatisfaction more evident than among occupations that form the backbone of a nation’s social fabric. Surveys show that nurses, doctors, police officers and teachers are exhibiting the highest levels of stress and some of the highest quit rates.

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