Retirement-Focused Workforce Means Work Ethic in Decline 

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The most important factor in work is having a strong work ethic—a force that drives our society, but one that seems to be on the decline, said the author of the new book “Full-Time: Work and the Meaning of Life.” Author David Bahnsen said he’s “against the idea of work-life balance.” Instead, he believes in a “work-rest paradigm”: a value on work over rest, while acknowledging the value in not “overworking” oneself. 

Bahnsen, the founder of a $5 billion private wealth management firm was Wednesday’s guest on “The Kevin Roberts Show.” He said that every person, from a busboy to a CEO, should find dignity in his work.

“I believe that the work has dignity because I believe the worker has dignity. And I believe the worker has dignity because he or she was made by God,” the financier said. 

He said that one proof of America’s lackluster work ethic is a retirement-focused workforce.  

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Bahnsen lamented that our culture tells 30-year-olds that the only reason they work is “so that one day I won’t have to do it anymore.” 

The financier elaborated on this point by saying that the loss of the older demographic from the labor pool has “sidelined some of our best talent.” Essentially, retirement has weakened our national productivity due to the loss of wisdom and drive from the workforce.  

On the flip side, Bahnsen said there is also a significant loss of jobs for high school- and college-aged people, the positions often taken by students after school or over the summer.  

He claims that a “high minimum wage” destroys many of these types of jobs. He says to raise the minimum wage is “an affront on high school employment.”  

The decrease in these “spending money” positions, as Bahnsen called them—jobs employees are not reliant on to make a living but rather to earn spending money—has a net disbenefit on society. As the numbers of these more entry-level jobs decline, young workers lose the opportunity to learn the necessary “resilience” and “job skills” that the workplace relies on everyone having.  

Kevin Roberts asked Bahnsen for a solution to these issues. The financier said there must be a “bottom up” answer. He said that there is a “limited ability” for government’s public policy to change attitudes about the dignity of work. The solution, Bahnsen said, resides in local communities, small businesses, and churches.  

The local community, he commented, has an “infectious” aspect that propels a healthy work ethic, a work ethic that often engages younger generations

“Gen-Z, I’m getting a totally different impression from,” he stated. “They want mentorship, they want the feedback.”

He said the younger generation’s desire for mentorship will create social cohesion that drives productivity.  Gen Z can “really bridge a lot of these things [social cohesion] together.” This, Bahnsen says he hopes, will create a more productive and dignified workforce. 

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