How Did Americans Get So Lazy?

Authored by Jared Dillian via MarketWatch.com,

Nowadays people prefer easy schedules and time off instead of working hard and making money...

It’s estimated that the average person spends only 10% of their life actually working.

What? How is that true when you work 40 out of 168 hours in a week?

Well, you don’t work until age 18 or 21, for starters, and you don’t work after age 65. If you don’t work weekends and take four weeks of vacation a year … you can see how the free time all adds up.

What I find absolutely incredible is that we have built the society by spending only 10% of our lives working. Imagine if we spent 11%!

On a micro level, most people care about three squares and a roof over their head. Doesn’t matter the profession.

What I find super interesting are the people who don’t have a “number.” For example, I talked to a businessperson over the weekend who had received an offer of $50 million to buy his business. He turned it down.

Then you have people like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who could have sold stock at any point along the way and didn’t. Zuckerberg only recently sold stock, and Jeff Bezos is still max-long Amazon.

Bezos is now the richest person in the world, and he is still max-long Amazon. Why not sell 10% here? You can do a lot with $10 billion. Nope. He has no interest.

The Instagram guys sold for a billion, which looked pretty smart back in 2012. Now: Oops. You have to sell sometime. Or do you?

Relationship between work and money

I think we’ve lost track of the relationship between work and money. It’s a simple relationship: If you work, you get money. But somehow, we’ve come to believe that you can work less and earn the same amount of money.

This belief is widespread outside of Wall Street. I hear more and more stories of people who work shortened days on Friday, or maybe not at all.

As workers, we have become more and more productive, but instead of using that productivity to produce more wealth, we have used it to produce more leisure. And so, we are not really any wealthier, which we profess to be unhappy about.

But it is a choice.

Of course, investing is kind of a way to become wealthier without working more. I say, “kind of,” because it is still work. And lots of people say they don’t have time to spend on investing. That is also a choice.

Well, you can always sub it out to me — I spend way more than 10% of my time on it.

I am not quite like Bezos or Zuckerberg, but I have never been a nine-to-five guy. I work all the time, and I don’t generally say no to things. Years ago, I set an imaginary financial goal for myself, and sometime within the next few years, I will probably blow past it, and I have no plans to scale back.

Becoming European

I worry about the United States sometimes. We are developing attitudes about work and wealth that are similar to folks in Europe.

And it is those same attitudes that have resulted in historically low growth rates across the European continent, rates of growth that we used to snicker at over here in the States.

It’s been a while since we’ve consistently printed 3%-4% GDP, and we’re not likely to attain it anytime soon.

I think what I miss most about the old America is the crass materialism — houses, cars, boats, planes, jewelry and clothes — that people aspired to.

Now, people want “time with family.”

The irony in all of this is that we have a materialistic, hard-working president who doesn’t really spend any time promoting materialism or hard work.

Ronald Reagan did, and Calvin Coolidge really did. President Trump wants prosperity, but like most people, doesn’t make the connection between work and money.