April 11, 2019

1:00-2:00 p.m.

Please note: This event is for invited researchers only.

Dreaming a Different Dream: Pioneering Notions of Money, Meaning, and ‘Free Labor’ in the Financial Independence, Early Retirement Movement

Talk description:
When navigating their careers, modern U.S. workers must grapple with culturally dominant paradigms to “make money” and “do what you love.” While these motives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, neither are they naturally compatible (hence the common expression “starving artist”). The tension between supporting oneself financially and spending one’s time in a personally meaningful way may, in fact, be an enduring human problem. However, new economic and social trends have exacerbated this dichotomy; Stable employment is increasingly rare, making it harder for modern workers to replicate the steady financial gain of their predecessors. At the same time, there is growing rhetoric that encourages workers to follow their passion and find their calling, raising expectations for what work ought to be and making fulfilling work a cultural imperative, even as ‘good jobs’ are decreasing. In what will become my dissertation, I explore the tension that is created by simultaneous pressures to accumulate wealth and to find deep fulfillment at work in the context of modern employment insecurity.

I am currently engaged in an inductive study of a social movement called ‘Fi/Re,’ which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. Its growing following aims to achieve financial independence and “retire” (i.e. cease to work for money) much earlier than societal norms dictate (i.e. in one’s 30s, 40s, or 50s) via an aggressive plan of minimizing costs, maximizing earnings, and investing savings to create a source of passive income. Members of this group have much to say about money, work, freedom, and a ‘life well-lived.’ At this incubator session, I will be presenting preliminary data from field observations, blogs, and interviews. Your participation and constructive feedback is much appreciated as I plan out my next steps for this early-stage research!

Laura Sonday is a 4th year doctoral candidate in the Management and Organizations Department at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. She studies social problems and social change related to contemporary employment, with a particular focus on how individuals navigate and cope with modern work life.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubator here and direct questions about individual sessions to Amy Young at baldwin@umich.edu.