A number of people have commented to me recently that I have been very quiet on this site. Someone even wanted to know if I was still alive! Well, I am very much alive but have been devoting a huge chunk of my paid work time for the past year in working with my old writing partner Mike Scally in producing a free to use online learning programme now called ‘Live Happier: Design a Retirement that you Love’. This for us was a natural follow on from our last book written together in 2008 – The Rainbow Years: The Pluses of Being 50+. We created this online programme as we became increasingly convinced that ‘retirement’ was largely being reinvented by the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 – 1964). Their parents and definitely their grandparents simply would not recognise what retirement is starting to look like. 80% of the country’s wealth is owned by the boomers. Increasingly they are not stopping paid work at 60 or even 65. They are cutting down on the hours they spend in paid work but increasing the hours they spend in unpaid work. They are starting new businesses, going self-employed, starting new careers, experimenting with portfolio careers, travelling the world, learning new skills, supporting children and grandchildren financially and in caring roles. They are volunteering on a grand scale. And can you believe many of them are having Fun! They can do all of this of course as they are living so much longer and healthier.
Yes we know that dementia is increasing, care homes beckon, money might run out and then there are all of the other scare stories and statistics enjoyed by the media. But proportionately, this generation is the fittest, healthiest and wealthiest in history. And, by the way, as a society we know fundamentally what needs to be done to ensure that we minimise our chances of developing dementia, diabetes, heart problems, cancers and strokes. That is not to say that everyone knows this or indeed behaves accordingly but more of us are refusing to go ‘gently into that dark night’ without a hell of a fight.
An 87 year old lady we met a while ago announced that “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting – Holy shit …what a ride!” Actually I think we might wish to push for a reasonably well-preserved body but you get her point.
We have opportunities to develop lifestyles in retirement unknown and beyond belief to those living in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Over the whole 20th century life expectancy increased by 30 years. The whole concept of retirement is only just over 100 years old. In the pre-pension era people died largely when still working. Then in the 20th century a way of living developed that we like to call the 3 boxes of life. School was the first one and that was where you supposedly learned everything you would need in life. Then you moved to work – a job, any job and if you were lucky you liked your work. Then finally retirement – which usually was not very long and was associated primarily with leisure. A few years respite from a hard grind at work!
Now of course learning is crucial throughout life and we would argue needs to continue into retirement. Work is also something that people are starting to continue to do for many more years and many actually look for work that they love. And then finally retirement – a term that increasingly ceases to make sense. It is now an opportunity for combining some paid and unpaid work and everything else that our programme deals with. Our younger generations are already experimenting with ‘retiring’ from paid work at different points in their lives so that increasingly those 3 boxes are looking more like an overlapping sponge cake with those 3 ingredients – learning, work and leisure overlapping throughout the life cycle. Full retirement from paid work is and will be happening later and later in life. Partial retirement will increase considerably and of course unpaid work and leisure. Mike and I are replacing the term Retirement with Portfolio Living. A portfolio career was and is a great start to preparing for a portfolio life.
This should be launched through widespread advertising and promotion in July. It is being sponsored by a multinational who I am not allowed to name until launch. As soon as I can then you will be first to know here and if you are 50+ hopefully you will find it helpful. The first 6 modules are on Vision, Finance, Relationships, Work, Wellbeing and Leisure. The media, especially at the moment with the new pensions revolution, are totally preoccupied with money. Of course this is crucial but we know of so many people who have that sorted out but are unhappy, depressed and lacking verve and meaning in their lives.
My strapline continues to be Helping People Become Architects of Their Own Future. In later years it is just as important to remember that you can reinvent yourself at any age or stage. What was sometimes called the ‘twilight years’ increasingly are becoming the ‘highlight years’.