Living to 100 years old used to be an amazing and rare accomplishment. Three-digit birthdays were worthy of a letter from Queen Elizabeth.
But today’s children five years old or younger have a 50 percent chance of making it to 100. This amazing fact is pointed out in a book by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott called The 100 Year Life.
The book talks about how to manage a career over such a long lifespan.
Even those of us who are older than five now have much better odds of surviving a century, or at least getting close.
The thought of working for 60 or so years is daunting even if we could get and keep a job that long. We can’t rely on any pension scheme to support us through a retirement that’s likely to last as long as a traditional working life used to be.
Gratton and Scott offer several ideas on how to be successful and solvent in this new reality.
Their research is based on students in advanced business programs in London, England, and Oxford.
The sample is well above average in academic ability and family income, so their assumption that people can finish their first university degree debt-free may not apply to all.
The next phase is to take several years off before considering a serious career or more education. The authors refuse to call these gap years. In a long life, they say you can take this time to explore options and build networks. They optimistically assume you can find enough casual work during this time to support yourself without getting into debt.
The next step is even more optimistic: it’s now time to get serious, especially about finances.
This is where you land a well-paid job, work hard and make lots of money. You put much of that money aside for upgrading your skills, starting a business or whatever else you want to do once your corporate days are over but your working days are not.
If only it were that easy.
There’s still a lot of good advice in this book about living a long and successful life.
Mentioned in passing is taking care of your health. Living to 100 is no fun if your mind and/or body aren’t functioning. We all know old people who say, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Eat more veggies and get more exercise.
We’re also told to spend less than you make and avoid debt at all cost. Since no pension plan is calculated on people living into the triple digits, plan on funding yourself through a long life. This includes supporting yourself in your post-working years, which Gratton and Scott say won’t start before age 85. You also need to be able to fund a small business, self-employment or other gig-economy work after any traditional employment ends and before retirement.
Spending less than you make is very powerful advice. Debt can seriously limit your options in life no matter how long you live. Getting into the habit of keeping your spending below your income can be a life saver when income becomes low or sporadic, as it often does when starting a business or doing contract work.
Networking is a very good idea for everyone and at any stage of life. Sure, it’s what you know (your skills and abilities) that get you work. No one is going to pay you for what you can’t do. And we now have the Internet to help keep skills current.
But talk to anyone who has just completed a course and sent out 200 resumes to a bunch of strangers and is still without work. It’s often who you know – your network – that generates paid work.
Your close network of family and friends adds much to the happiness of your life. But it’s your wider network that’s likely to generate the contacts and connections that get you work – a job, a contract or customers for your business – especially as you get older. That includes those you studied with or learned from, people on your sports teams, your faith group, your book or service club and, of course, all those you’ve met in any capacity in your work life.
You become a successful networker by putting at least as much into the network as you hope to get out. If you’re generous with your time, support, information, contacts and letters of reference, others will be there for you throughout your very long and successful career.
And you’ll have lots of people to invite to your 100th birthday party.
Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.