Live Long and Prosper
Children born in the US in 2016 can anticipate reaching their 100th birthday. The last two centuries have seen an increase in life expectancy of two years per decade. Unforeseen or unfortunate circumstances aside, you will live longer than your parents and grandparents, and your children will live longer than you. For some, long life is a burden. Others see it as a gift of endless possibility. In the future, people will continue to work into their eighth and ninth decades. The job market will change and evolve, requiring new skills and knowledge. While finances will play an obviously crucial role, nonfinancial assets such as relationships, health and happiness are equally important. People will move away from the traditional “threestage” life of education, career and retirement toward a life of multiple stages. In such a “multistage” life, people may have several careers, undergo various transitions, and take breaks to recharge or learn new skills. These life transitions evoke flexibility, discovery, new perspectives, wider networks and new relationships.
“Recreation will be more important than recreation,” as people invest in learning and skill development throughout their lives. A longer life journey will come with more forks in the road: times to choose among various options and take different directions. Rather than feeling elderly for a longer time, those enjoying a healthier 100year life should extend their youthful mindset, explore new options throughout their lives, stay flexible in their thinking and interact with people of all ages.
Clearly, having a working partner eases the financial burden of a longer life, but making relationships work over decades takes commitment, mutual trust and planning. Both genders will need to modify their attitudes and behaviours. Partners must synchronize their transitions and stages. Different types of partnerships and family units will continue to gain popularity, including cohabitation and single parenting. Greater longevity will compel people to forge new paths and develop new ways of living.
Beginning in the 1920s, child and infant mortality rates fell as science tackled the main infectious diseases, namely smallpox, tuberculosis and typhoid. The medical community turned its attention to afflictions of middle age, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Early diagnosis, new treatments, public education and government health care lessened the effects of these chronic issues. The next significant improvement will come from tackling diseases found in the elderly.
“Millions of people can look forward to a long life, and this will create pressure on how they live and how society and businesses operate.”
Many people fear living longer with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but research shows that most people can anticipate being healthier longer into their life spans. The “compression of morbidity” – the “healthrelated quality of life before death” – helps maintain good health. Already people are beginning to experience some diseases of ageing, such as diabetes and arthritis, later in life.
Today’s elderly people enjoy a higher quality of continued participation in the “activities of daily living” or ADL, which include such selfcare as bathing, dressing and eating. Healthier ageing does depend on location. In some countries, morbidity rates have increased or remained the same.
Paying the Bills
The longer you live, the more money you’ll need, either by boosting your savings or working longer. This presents substantial challenges. The usual threestage life of education, work and retirement worked for “Jack,” who was born in 1945 and died at age 70. Jack’s state and company pensions, supplemented by his 4.3% annual savings rate, paid for his short retirement. “Jimmy,” born in 1971, faces a life expectancy of 85. He has no pension, and his necessary projected savings rate is an unrealistic 17.2% per year. For “Jane,” born in 1998 with a life expectancy of 100, the necessary annual savings rate jumps to 31%, even if she works into her 80s. Viewing greater longevity through the lens of the threestage life feels overwhelming, unrealistic and exhausting. An elongated work stage is gruelling and depletes your nonfinancial assets, including health and relationships. Longevity is more appealing for a life of multiple stages.
Tech advances render some jobs obsolete while creating new ones. Since 1979, the labour market has “hollowed out,” meaning that the number of high and lowskill level jobs have increased, but the number of middlerange positions has dwindled. Technology replaced many mediumskill jobs and carved out more roles for skilled workers. The hollowing out of the middle will increase as computers take on more routine tasks, like driving or diagnosing medical conditions. However, technological progress and productivity will raise the overall standard of living, boosting consumerism and generating new industries. The future will feature entirely new sectors and jobs.
Jobs that require “uniquely human skills” are less vulnerable to technological replacement. David Autor’s article “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?” identifies two sets of uniquely human traits. The first is complex problem solving built on experience and inductive reasoning. The second refers to roles based on interpersonal interactions. People born at the turn of the century should choose career paths with an “absolute advantage” – as in a job humans will always perform better than robots – or a “comparative advantage” – a job in which people and machines work together.
Family, friends, health and learning are the intangible but necessary ingredients of a rich, fulfilling life. These intangibles strengthen your tangible assets. For example, learning and acquiring skills boost your earning potential. Intangible advantages can be “productive assets, vitality assets” or “transformational assets.” Productive assets like education and skill development build capabilities and career growth. Periods of learning may take place throughout a 100year lifetime due either to the obsolescence of existing skills or the desire for new knowledge. Developing your “professional social capital” through collaborative relationships boosts your longterm creativity and productivity. Building your personal brand – that is, a good reputation – grows increasingly valuable as you fulfil your responsibilities, seek opportunities or enter new fields.
“Identity will be based more on what you do than on where you started, and the more roles you take, the less useful any one role will be in determining your identity.”
Vitality assets include your mental and physical wellbeing, which you should proactively maintain and improve. Healthy eating habits, regular exercise, stress management and nurturing relationships are crucial for long, happy life. The outdated threestage life model creates many imbalances for people such as Jack who focus on work and career development for long periods of time and put their vitality assets on the back burner. For a more workable arrangement, look toward the multistage life with a longer education stage and a fragmented work stage as people shift between working and taking time to renew themselves and build fresh skills.
These transitions require transformational assets that build your ability to change throughout your life. Pursue three interrelated characteristics of transformation, starting with attaining selfknowledge through a frank assessment of your present self and what you might be like in the future. The second element is the ability to create diverse networks of people drawn from a wide social circle. The third is openness to new experiences and ideas plus the willingness to experiment and change your behaviours.
The Multistage Life
For most of history, people lived only two life stages: child and adult. The 20th century saw the emergence of two “agelocated” stages: teenagers and retirees. As the threestage life becomes unworkable, three new life stages will materialize: “the Explorer, the Independent Producer and the Portfolio.” A particular mindset determines these stages, more than a particular age. Stanford literature professor Robert Pogue Harrison describes this mindset as “juvenescence, the state of being youthful or growing young.” Maintaining a youthful mindset enables people to experiment, play, change and grow.
Explorers observe their surroundings, figure out their likes and dislikes through trial and error, and discover their natural talents. Throughout their lives, they examine their values and develop their identities. Amassing a range of experiences prepares Explorers to make choices that align with their values, interests and skillsets. Picking a suitable educational direction, finding a fulfilling job, working for a company that mirrors your values and falling in love with the right person affect the course of your life. Making the right choices takes on greater significance if you live a century or longer; the impact of poor choices lasts longer, too.
People may choose to become Independent Producers at various times in their 100year life. New forms of entrepreneurship will emerge as people leave traditional careers to engage in independent work such as producing a product, providing a service or pursuing an idea. Rather than trying to build a company to run or sell, independent producers exploit the opportunities of the moment. The Portfolio stage is not agedependent, although people in their later years may find it an attractive option. People in the Portfolio stage engage in a combination of activities, such as working, volunteering, and pursuing their hobbies and interests.
The Language of Finance
Most people don’t understand the language and basics of finance. If you fail to provide for your future, you run the risk of depleting your resources too early. Adequate financial planning relies on “efficacy” – the belief in your ability to accurately assess your finances – and “agency” – the selfcontrol to follow a savings plan. People face three common financial planning pitfalls: the belief that you can live on less than a 50% pension plus savings, assuming the equity you build in your home will support you in retirement and trying to outsmart market averages with a superior investment strategy. Develop financial literacy through research and study. Manage your portfolio by diversifying your risk instead of investing heavily in a few specific companies or your employer. Reduce risk as you near retirement age, and safeguard your income during retirement.
Time is either the gift or the curse of living a longer life. In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that equally distributed prosperity would create greater leisure time for more and more people. Keynes was correct that prosperity begets leisure, but he miscalculated the massive increase of consumerism in the 20th century. People want more material possessions and will work longer hours to get them. Keynes failed to foresee that lowerskilled workers would gain a shorter workweek, while higherincome earners would work longer than ever before.
Yet, even people working fewer hours feel “timepoor.” Outside work, they rush from one activity, chore or obligation to another. People may have more discretionary time but they feel they have less spare time. A multistage life requires flexibility and restructuring your time so you can work. The current threestage life model makes it impossible to take time to retrain or renew. The Industrial Revolution standardized the work week and led to changes in government and society. Increased longevity will challenge existing societal constructs even more.
Some companies will resist meeting the demands of the longerlived workforce, but businesses will need to redesign their policies in six areas:
1. Expand the employeremployee relationship beyond tangible assets, and design jobs to enhance people’s intangible assets such as productivity or vitality.
2. Support personal transitions by providing training, helping employees develop diverse networks and offering constructive feedback.
3. Shift practices built on the perspective of a threestage life to a multistage life model.
4. Consider men’s and women’s varying needs at different stages in their lives, and provide flexibility in their hours, scheduling and deadlines.
5. Shed policies, both written and unwritten, that promote ageism.
6. To encourage people to take time for experimentation and renewal, stop penalizing applicants for time gaps in their résumés.
Edited by : Palak Ranga