How to Plan For a 100-Year Life

18 August 2016

London Business School Professor of economics  and prominent keynote speaker, Andrew Scott, has co-authored The 100-Year Life with Lynda Gratton . With life expectancy increasing by an average of two years per decade, children born in 2007 are now expected to live to 103. In the age of increasing life expectancy, Andrew and Lynda urge us to innovate for longevity. The typical structure of education, work and retirement is no longer suitable. Whatever age we are we need to start making financial, educational and social changes to ensure longevity will be a gift. Andrew and Lynda assert that if we continue the way we are, we will not be able to afford retire when our parents did, or we will have to work for so long that our bodies and minds will have suffered mentally and physically by the time we can afford to retire. We caught up with Andrew to interview him about the new book and to get some advice on how we can prepare for a 100-Year life.

Andrew and Lynda's book published at the start of June

Q: Your new book The 100-Year Life looks at all factors in life to determine what we will need to succeed in a time where longevity is becoming more frequent. What responses have you had when people realise a 100-year life is a very real prospect?

Andrew: I have never had such a strong response to any topic that I have discussed. For many people, it raises a whole bunch of issues that affect them directly and very personally regardless of their age. People are eager to know what it means for their career and finances , their family and children. The corporate issues then come to mind - HR and employment  issues as well as how it will affect the product space. Much marketing  is predicated on demographics which may no longer make sense and financial markets will be transformed in ways which are not yet fully appreciated.

Q: Longevity disrupts retirement age, pension plans, finances and accepted life structure;  what is your best piece of advice for people trying to plan their finances for the possibility of a long life?

Andrew: For those planning for a very long life there is some simple advice - save a lot and save regularly and try and make these decisions automatic rather than ones you have to choose. However, critically with a longer life and a longer career you no longer need to save to finance your pension but also for a multi-stage life. You will need money at different points in your career to retrain, take time off or deal with layoffs between careers. Financial planning is now much more about lifetime planning rather than end of life planning.

Life expectancy is increasing by two years every decade

Q: If people are having to work longer in their lives, by the time they get the chance to retire in most cases their bodies will be tired and infirm, will it still be possible to enjoy all this extra time post-work?

Andrew: Yes. People are on average living a lot longer and on average are much fitter for longer. In some sense it's true that 70 is the new 60 etc. For many people, the arc of ageing is being extended. That means not that we are older for longer but that we are older later and, as a result, we are in some sense younger for longer. Of course to benefit from good health and longevity you have to spend time investing in yourself and your health. As a 60 year career is both impossible and undesirable you will need to plan for a multi-stage life with transitions and some stages of your career with a different work-life balance. One metaphor for what is happening is that like is going from a 10km race to a 15km race. You need to run it at a different pace, will hit milestones at a later time and need to design a different strategy. The result will be a fundamental redesign of life and work.

Q: Do you think governments will respond to citizens living longer lives by putting provisions and help in place in their future policies?

Andrew: Governments  are slowly responding but mainly through increasing the retirement age and reducing pension entitlement. Too much of this is about end of life issues whereas we need to embrace the fact that having more life will lead to a change in how we live our whole life. You can already see that in the behaviour of those in their 20s. Governments will increasingly respond by shifting from a simple three-stage view of life (education/work/retirement) with gateways at specific ages by offering individuals greater flexibility and awarding them lifetime allowances to be used and cashed in when they wish. There will also be a major growth of legislation as individuals demand greater work placed flexibility and we redesign workplace practices and career paths.

The traditional three-stage model of life won't work anymore, so we need to reconsider how we plan our lives

Q: What practices can individuals adopt on a daily basis to help them innovate for a longer life?

Andrew: A long life requires more investment - in your finances, your productive skills, your health and vitality  and your ability to deal with change and transformation. Using leisure time for investment and not consumption will become increasingly important e.g. learn something and not just watch Netflix. Leisure will be needed for re-creation as well as recreation. Ageing young is also important. Making sure you don't become limited by habits or become too closed down in your friendship networks and ideas.

Thank you,  Andrew, for that fascinating insight. To survive in this time of longevity we need to plan and invest in our finances and ourselves to ensure we treat these extra years as a gift. We need to prepare for a new multi-stage life that breaks down traditional work and retirement plans.

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