The ‘YOLO Economy’ — How Millennials are Reimagining Life Post-Pandemic


The pandemic has been taking a toll, including an emotional one, on everyone. It’s fueled by anxiety around losses of loved ones, jobs or a sense of stability and normalcy, which pushed many millennials to reevaluate their professional priorities.

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The New York Times calls this phenomenon the YOLO economy, in which millennials feel more emboldened and risk prone. YOLO — an acronym for “you only live once” — seems to be the new mantra that has emerged from months of living in a state of anxiety and burnout.

“Some are abandoning cushy and stable jobs to start a new business, turn a side hustle into a full-time gig or finally work on that screenplay. Others are scoffing at their bosses’ return-to-office mandates and threatening to quit unless they’re allowed to work wherever and whenever they want,” The New York Times reports.

The article adds that this generation, feeling emboldened by rising vaccination rates, a recovering job market and bank accounts “fattened by a year of stay-at-home savings and soaring asset prices, have increased their risk appetites. And while some of them are just changing jobs, others are stepping off the career treadmill altogether.”

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Charles Jackson, President of Association for Entrepreneurship USA, tells GOBankingRates that millennials learned from their parents that hard work and sacrifice in traditional careers don’t always equal happiness.

“This pandemic has forced individuals to reevaluate their lives, careers and the goals they want to achieve, and millennials are finding creative ways to reach those goals without following the typical path in corporate America,” Jackson says. “From what we’ve seen, many who were unhappy in their current positions are now taking the initiative to start their own businesses, allowing them the freedom to live life in a way that’s fulfilling to themselves and their families. In fact, according to the U.S. Business Formation Statistics, 4.35 million new business applications were submitted in 2020, a 24.13% increase from 2019,” Jackson adds.

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A recent Microsoft survey finds that 41% of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, with 46% planning to make a major pivot or career transition.

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“With so much change upending people over the past year, employees are reevaluating priorities, home bases, and their entire lives,” according to the survey. “So, whether it’s due to fewer networking or career advancement opportunities, a new calling, pent-up demand, or a host of pandemic-related struggles, more people are considering their next move.”

However, not everyone has a financial safety net to be able to take those risks and reimagine their lives. While economic indicators have lately shown a reopening of the economy, there are still 8.4 million fewer jobs than pre-pandemic, according to White House economists.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a former full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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