These People Quit Higher-Paying Jobs for Better Work-Life Balance. Inflation Is Testing Their Mettle. | Kanebridge News
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These People Quit Higher-Paying Jobs for Better Work-Life Balance. Inflation Is Testing Their Mettle.

Millions of Americans have taken new jobs that earn less than they used to make, either by choice or because of a layoff. Now they are contending with rising prices too.

Fri, Nov 4, 2022 8:47amGrey Clock 4 min

Many of the millions of people who switched jobs during the pandemic are feeling the bite of inflation especially hard, and for an often overlooked reason—they opted for pay cuts.

All around, it has been a good time for American workers and their earning power—if not their spending power. Labour shortages have driven up wages, and many in-demand employees have quit jobs for better-paying ones.

Yet a sizeable share of job switchers took pay cuts in the Covid-19 era, according to new research. In a survey of more than 2,300 workers, 32% of those who changed jobs since early 2020 said they made less money as a result.

Many have traded in a higher pay check by choice. While nearly a third of job switchers who now make less money said they had been laid off from their previous jobs, about 25% took a pay cut for better work-life balance, according to Prudential Financial, which commissioned the study. Others said they took a lower-paying job because they wanted to pursue a passion, work remotely or in a new location, or find an employer more aligned with their values.

Rising prices for everything from food and housing to vacations are now testing those decisions, pushing many to tighten budgets already trimmed when they opted for lower-paying jobs. Some job switchers say they are pursuing extra work—even if their original goal was to work less.

Many, including 38-year-old Mae Singerman, say they still have no regrets.

“I sacrificed savings for now to live a more balanced life,” says Ms. Singerman, who left her job as director of operations at a nonprofit last fall for a lower-paying administrator role at another organisation.

She made the decision to find a new job after her appendix burst late one night and she pinged her co-workers from the emergency room to say she was in the hospital but acted as if it were no big deal. “I was obsessed with the job,” she says she realised. “In retrospect, why was I emailing my co-workers at 3 a.m.?”

After her recovery, she took a new job that would let her spend more time with her two young children and help take care of her mother, who has dementia. The catch was it came with a 35% pay cut. Because her husband has a union job with predictable annual raises, Ms. Singerman says the couple didn’t have to make major changes to their lifestyle: She lives in a rent-stabilised apartment, and her youngest is no longer in daycare. But as other expenses have climbed, there have been adjustments, such as no longer contributing to her 401(k). The trade-off has been worth it, she says.

“It’s hard for me to imagine going back to what I had at this point in my life,” she says.

Some who quit jobs for lower-paying positions are now seeking extra work, as are many U.S. workers. In a recent survey of more than 1,000 working adults, 38% said they had looked for a second job and 14% said they planned to.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said it was harder to pay for living expenses than a year earlier, according to the business-software maker Qualtrics, which conducted the study. Inflation is running near a 40-year high, raising the cost of everyday needs such as car repairs and hair cuts.

Christopher Doran, a 32-year-old in northern New Jersey, makes 20% less than he did as a director of nursing at an assisted-living facility until about a year ago.He says he made the switch to nursing at a hospital after realising that his work affected his relationships with friends and family, and his mental health.

“I was missing events with church, or dinners with friends or family. I had to work holidays, so really, I didn’t have any opportunity to enjoy my life,” he says. “I was burned out.”

Mr. Doran says he is happy with his choice, but he feels the effect on his finances daily. He doesn’t go out as much because of gas prices. “I used to shop healthier,” he adds. “I can’t because it’s so expensive.”

To offset the salary difference and pay off his credit-card debt, Mr. Doran picks up extra shifts at the hospital, which gets him overtime pay. It’s fewer hours and less stress than his old job but still a lot of work, he says.

“I’ve been sacrificing my leisure time to pay the credit cards,” he says. “It’s still kind of taking time I wish I had away.”

For many who have lost jobs, a pay cut was the only option. Kimberly Allen, 38, has changed jobs several times during the pandemic, and her pay has fluctuated with each change. In 2020, she left a nonprofit and took a pay cut for a role in recruiting. A little over a year later, she left that job and almost doubled her salary by taking a contract role with a tech company as a talent sourcer. She was suddenly unemployed when the role ended a few months later.

“I took a leap of faith,” says Ms. Allen, who lives in Schererville, Ind.

Ms. Allen has since found another recruiting job on contract, but it pays 10% less than her last job. Meanwhile, everything from school supplies to sports-team fees and gas spent shuttling everyone back and forth is more expensive than it used to be. Ms. Allen says she and her husband have put a cap on the number of activities their kids can participate in and cut back on entertainment spending.

“We’re working on creative low-budget ways to have fun at home for the entire year and probably next year,” she says.


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At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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