Stan's World - Embracing change (and pastrami)
December 31, 2021
Since moving to Westfield more than 15 years ago, Pearl and I have celebrated New Year’s Eve the same way. We start with elegant hors d'oeuvres (think cocktail franks), attend a concert at the high school by the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, and conclude with a dinner that would be appreciated by any transplanted New Yorker.
And what does a New York City emigre enjoy? Pastrami, coleslaw, potato knishes, green pickles, deli rye, and Dr. Brown’s soda. If you weren’t born and raised in the City, I can’t explain this to you, but my mouth is watering as I’m sitting here typing. Trust me; this is my heavenly way to end one year and start the next. (In truth, this is my heavenly way to end a Tuesday and start a Wednesday. From a cardiac perspective, however, once a year is more than sufficient.)
This year, the Omicron variant of COVID is running rampant in New Jersey, so we decided to pass on the symphony. Rest assured, I did, however, make it to Livingston Bagel shortly after its 7 am opening time. I can still order pastrami through my N95 mask. Unfortunately, it seems like I’ll be ordering through my N95 mask for a while.
As a financial planner, the consequences of the pandemic pose more than a passing interest because there are potential ramifications to clients. Specifically, will those of us who are doing less and spending less continue to do so? If that occurs, do we need to save as much to retire?
Or, is this merely a 21, 24, 36-month blip that will eventually end with a tsunami of buying as we’ve seen in the housing and auto sectors? Will workers have visions of early retirement with scaled-down lifestyles as they relocate to less expensive regions of America?
Think of all the new businesses that have (and will) evolved to carry us through the pandemic and beyond. In and around Westfield, for example, there is a company called Wonder that prepares your pre-ordered dinner in their on-demand gourmet food trucks. The truck parks in your driveway so the chef can cook your meal, carry it through your front door, and place the food directly on your dinner table. Each Wonder truck prepares a different type of food, which can all be ordered through the Wonder app.
Based upon the number of Wonder trucks that I’ve seen, it looks like the business is growing nicely. That’s not surprising when you consider that the CEO is Marc Lore, the former CEO of Walmart.com. (Lore sold his previous start-up, Jet.com, to Walmart for $3.3 billion, so start-up capital is probably not an issue.) I suspect you’ll hear a lot more about Wonder in the months ahead.
If you’re entrepreneurial, the possibilities for new businesses are endless. The opportunities have probably always been endless, but technology is driving change at a breath-taking pace. And there are many more changes unfolding.
By example, I recently spoke to an employee of a large company who is currently working from home, along with thousands of her fellow employees. She told me her company is bringing staff back to the office in rolling shifts, beginning in January. She’s been with the company for years (though she’s only 34) and she told me she’s never going back to the office. She said she’s as productive at home as she is sitting at her office desk, and she’s not going to subject herself again to the expense and time of commuting.
When I asked what she planned to do if they compel her to return, she didn’t have a concern in the world about what’s next. She sees endless possibilities for someone with her skillset (financial technology). As she knows job prospects in her field far better than I do, I suspect she’s right. If this young lady is representative of her generation, that means millions more thirty-somethings in white-collar jobs may be prepared to do the same.
At relatively young ages, a whole generation may have discovered there are things that are more important than long commutes and endless meetings. That begs corollary questions: What will the office workplace look like in 2022 and beyond? What happens to all those new office buildings scattered around New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Austin, etc.?
As we move into 2022, things are changing before our eyes, with potentially profound implications for all of us. Want more proof? Did you ever think you would sit at your kitchen counter and have a Zoom call with your doctor?
Embrace the changes. Learn to adapt to as much of the new technology as you can. (Here’s a tip: Use YouTube videos to learn how to do almost anything.) Technology is making our lives easier and making us all more efficient. Think of what you’ll do with the free time as a Roomba rolls around your house. (Oh, come on; Google it!)
That’s a lot to ponder, so I’m going old school and surrendering to a primal instinct. I’ve got some leftover pastrami, deli rye, pickles, and a potato knish. Between my sandwich and my NordicTrack bike, bring it on 2022.