February 24, 2023

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I have a long, proud history of mocking generational trends that continues to this day. It’s mostly in good fun, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder why we don’t just accept the fact that people can be incomprehensible. Let’s just get over it and do our best to respect everyone—no matter what stage of life they’re in.

Because, honestly, haven’t older people always been nagging scolds? Haven’t middle-aged folks always tried too hard to be cool? Haven’t young people always thought they’ve known everything despite their lack of intelligence or experience?  

Anyway, did you know that the thumbs-up emoji is now considered passive-aggressive, even hostile? And—mainly because they didn’t realize they weren’t missing anything—some Gen Z folks are romanticizing the office? And dating at work is fine now? As if unspoken communication, other people’s annoying enthusiasm, and sleeping with a co-worker haven’t always been part of navigating the world of work. 

Most recently, I’ve written about the Millennial generation’s apparent surprising behavior of starting businesses and buying stuff. I wrote at the time:

It’s funny how [Millennials have] managed to figure all this out. Next thing you know, they’ll start retiring! And getting old! And dying! I’m looking forward to the [Wall Street Journal] deep dives into all those things.

We’re not quite ready for the retirement and mortality deep dives yet, but for now, this Bloomberg article that covers Millennials’ take on the midlife crisis will suffice.

Now, as you may or may not know, the midlife crisis, as it’s historically been portrayed, mostly involves paunchy men who buy flashy cars, get a facelift, and leave their wives for younger women. The general idea is that these men were depressed about their age, their state in life, various decisions they’d made, etc. They coped with that depression by making some hasty decisions that were probably not wise on a long-term timeline. The whole premise is timeworn to the point of cliché.  

In any case, the Millennial midlife crisis is quite different. For starters, it’s getting a rebranding, naturally. It’s a “midlife crossroads” according to one expert, which implies that there is a choice to be made. And if you ask me, that isn’t helpful because it will inevitably lead to that most Millennial of emotions: FOMO. “If only I had taken the road with a Range Rover that led to Bali,” many a Millennial will lament. 

Likewise, the Millennial midlife crisis is different because 1) they’re poorer than their parents, 2) women make up more of the workforce than the previous, and 3) the best way to cope appears to be a side job: 

One managing director at a bank, for example, turned crocheting, a hobby she’d developed to lower her anxiety, into a profitable side hustle. Another, a nurse, started working part time so she could take an upholstery course and mull a switch to furniture making.

It makes sense. It wouldn’t be a Millennial midlife crisis without MORE HUSTLE. 

A couple of ways to look at this is:

  1. The cynical take: Capitalism is still capitalism. People are focused on career progression or achievement and so naturally that leads to doing more to cope with the perception of having less
  2. The hopeful take: Taking a hobby and turning into another way to bring some money is at least productive. It could genuinely result in sustainable joy, growth, and enjoyment. The same cannot be said for lavish, conspicuous consumption or blowing up your family unit.  

I lean cynical, but to be fair, if you’re in midlife—like me!—and you’re assessing what to do next with the time left, and the result is positive for yourself and those around you, that’s quite the opposite of a crisis. That sounds like maturity! The Millennials might be onto something here.

People are worried about accountants

Look, everyone, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe this newsletter should be called “People worry about accountants” or “Worrying About Accountants Weekly.” Dunno. In any case, my friend and old Going Concern colleague Adrienne Gonzalez is quoted by Marketplace on THE GREAT ACCOUNTANT SHORTAGE. Here’s Adrienne:

“It’s kind of a PR problem,” said Adrienne Gonzales. [sic] She edits the accounting blog Going Concern. “There is that huge stereotype about how boring accounting is.”

If the industry wants to compete, Gonzales [sic] said it needs to raise salaries and work on its reputation. 

“Nobody thinks about the accountants,” Gonzales [sic] said. “They think about the accountants on April 15 when taxes are due. But there’s this whole network that is the engine of the economy.”

And here’s another even longer article from Insider, with basically everyone talking about the exact same thing, worrying about accounting’s image, etc. And yet another report from the Wall Street Journal, which I think has an entire desk dedicated to the accountant shortage. “How Can We Make Accounting Cool?” it asks, and I think a good answer might be: “Stop talking about how uncool it is!” 

This is all very boring because, as I’ve written, the accountant stereotype is boring. But the stereotype persists, so I guess we chalk it up to marketing. And, in case you need a reminder: accountants aren’t great at marketing. The profession’s whole marketing strategy for the past five decades has been humblebragging about working long hours and weekends, foregoing sleep and time with loved ones, all the while tracking our activity in six-minute increments. 

It’s not hard to understand how accounting got itself into this situation when you think about it.

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Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
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