How 3 people are using the Year of the Rabbit to reflect on work and money: ‘We all need to find balance’

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It's the Lunar New Year, and according to Asian folklore, the incoming Year of the Rabbit is a good time to slow down, reflect and strive for balance around work, money and life.

For people who observe the Lunar New Year across East Asia and among Asian Americans, the rabbit zodiac signifies hope, resilience and a sense of cautious optimism.

"In many Asian countries, when we talk about the Year of the Rabbit, we're thinking about a sense of calm and resiliency, like the literal bounce-back as a bunny hops," says Joey Ng, the chief marketing officer at Yami, an online retailer of Asian snacks and goods.

That's welcome news coming off the outgoing Year of the Tiger, or a period of "really robust action without much forethought," says Jonathan H. X. Lee, an Asian and Asian American studies professor at San Francisco State University whose research focuses on religions and folklore.

Nothing quite reflected that like the U.S. economy last year, when skyrocketing inflation led to the Fed aggressively raise interest rates, which was followed by sinking stocks, mass layoffs, a crypto collapse and a painfully competitive housing market.

"It was a consume, consume, consume kind of year. This year is the opposite, where if we act without thinking, there could be dire consequences," says Lee. "The coming year is a year not of acting for the short-term, but rather making plans for the long-term."

Planning ahead in your finances and career

To prioritize the long-term view of your career this year, it's probably a good idea to have a new job lined up before quitting an old one, Lee says. Given the volatile job market, it could make sense to keep a bigger financial cushion on deck.

Speaking of the money side, it may not be a great time to rush into any big financial decision without a ton of research and prep. If you're planning to buy a home, for example, make sure you can cover the rest of your bills along with a new mortgage and housing costs, Lee says.

For leaders in the workplace, economic volatility calls for "ruthless prioritization" not only in their operations but also in figuring out how to weather the economy without burning workers out.

"Instead of only pushing to do more with less, we all need to find balance," Ng says. "You don't want to lose the workforce that remains. You want to make sure their lives are well and balanced and not burned out so you can continue with your A-team moving forward."

Laura Lau, the co-author of "The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes," says the rabbit sign is one that prizes patience and diplomacy over confrontation. Lau urges people to remember that as they re-enter workplaces or work through difficult periods. "It's a time that will be hard for people to work together, deal with conflict and work in groups again," she says. "But the people who tend to manage that [discomfort] will be able to get ahead."

Lee recommends also recommends investing in your work relationships. "The rabbit is a sign of peace, so cultivating empathy in work relationships will lead to flourishing in one's profession," he says.

Balance in life and well-being

The search for balance extends to your personal relationships, Ng adds: "If you do get laid off, what are you left with? You're left with your family and life outside of work."

Lee says the sign of the year is a good reminder that it's not always a good idea to "chase the money" at the expense of your well-being. He recently advised his sister, for example, to reconsider taking on so much overtime work (and exhausting herself) in order to pay her mortgage down faster.

Concerned that overworking could lead to poor health, Lee suggested she "might want to slow down, because if you don't have good health but your mortgage is paid off, what's the point?"

Lee is taking that advice to heart and being more intentional in deciding where to invest his energy and resources, like by choosing where to volunteer his time.

In Chinese folklore, the rabbit zodiac embodies being able to ask for help, Ng says — a good practice coming out of the pandemic years of isolation. "If there's anything we learned in the last few years, it's that we can lean on others," Ng says. "If you're in the position to help, help others. And if you need help, don't be afraid to ask."

Despite all the signs pointing for this year being one of pause and reflection, there's still room for fun, Lau says. The rabbit zodiac strikes "a good balance between taking care of themselves and enjoying themselves with others," she says. "So I'm going to try and take more of that 'enjoying culture' part of the rabbit more seriously."

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