Wall Street Journal Columnist Ron Lieber made an important real-world observation in the column discussed in yesterday’s blog entry. In a discussion of my argument that the best way to convince young workers to save is to point out to them that they will remain under the thumb of their employers until they accumulate some Freedom Dollars, he noted that: “If you are an employer, you might not put it quite like that.”
He’s pointing to something real with those words. It’s something that I find troubling. Employers don’t like to acknowledge that the most important sort of freedom that young workers should be seeking to obtain by saving is freedom from them. Still, it’s true. And I think it would be good if employers came to see that it really is in their long-term interest to communicate this truth to their young workers.
I am not anti-employer. All of my employers provided me learning experiences that were of value greater than the in-dollar-form compensation that I earned by working for them. The in-dollar-form stuff was nice too, of course. So I have no big beef with any of the companies that I worked for in the years before my Passion Saving plan permitted me to venture down a different path.
Here’s the thing. It was when I stopped looking to my employers to take care of me that I got serious about saving. Like Linda Rondstadt did, I’m gonna say it again. It was when I stopped looking to my employers to take care of me that I got serious about saving.
Many of today’s workers still think of their employers as part of the family. It’s not because they are too dumb to know better. Employers have long encouraged this sort of take on things.
And it has not been just words from employers that have caused many of us to think of our employers as our friends. Employers have paid our hospital bills when we got sick. Employers have provided us with recognition of our growth through pay raises and promotions and positive evaluations. Employers have provided us pensions when we got old.
These are the sorts of things that family members and friends ordinarily do. It is not so hard to understand why many workers have come to think of their employers as more than just employers.
There’s been a change in the nature of the relationship in recent years. Employers are saying that they can’t handle financing our old-age retirements anymore. They are saying that we need to contribute to our health insurance coverage. Employers are pulling back.
There are sound economic reasons for them doing so. The world is changing. To remain competitive, our employers need to be more businesslike in their relationship with us and that means being less friendly or family-like in their dealings with us.
When our employers become more businesslike in their dealings with us, we need to become more businesslike in our dealings with them. If we don’t, we are going to pay a big price somewhere down the road for failing to do so.
Employers should encourage us to assert a measure of independence from them. I don’t mean that they should become heartless. I don’t favor that at all. But employers should encourage us to focus on our own long-term self-interest in all our dealings with them. It’s not healthy for employers to encourage us to think of them as family when they know that they will need to become very unfamily-like in the next recession.
Employers need to shoot straight with us. That means making clear that, while they value our contributions, they are not family and they are not friends and we need always to keep the distinction in mind.
Workers should not abuse their employers. We should not expect them to provide us things that they are no longer able to provide us. We should work hard at the work we have agreed to take on for our employers. We should speak well of our employers when they do things that justify our praise. We should appreciate our employers. We should like our employers. We should be grateful for the opportunities offered to us by our employers.
We need to stop looking to our employers to protect our long-term interests. We need to accumulate our own Freedom Dollars to provide not only for our old age, but also for taking advantage of work opportunities that we want to create for ourselves long before we reach old age.
My six-year-old is well on the way to learning how to read. It makes me sad in a way because he will soon be far less dependent on daddy to tell him about the world than he is today. It makes me more happy than sad, of course, because it excites me to see him learning how to take on the world on his own without help from daddy.
That’s how employers need to think about their workers. Employers should be warning us that there may come a day when we outgrow them and they should be encouraging us to save the Freedom Dollars that will help us move to better paths when the time comes for doing so. Things need to move in that direction if the employer-employee relationship of the future is to be a healthy one.
Young workers really should be saving in part to escape their current employers. Employers need to get over feeling threatened by that new reality of the modern-day workplace.