In writing our book in 2009 we were intrigued to discover research that suggested that the 2 groups most attracted by the notion of pursuing a portfolio career were the Millennials (under 28’s) and the 60+ group. Us ‘baby boomers’ have fundamentally changed every life stage we have lived through. Remember the 60’s? No of course you don’t. That is the whole point!

Our parents and definitely our grandparents simply would not recognise what retirement is starting to look like. Increasingly we are not stopping paid work at 60 or even 65 or 70. Latest stats show one in 10 of those aged 65 and over were working either full time or part time last year.

But isn’t that simply because we cannot afford not to? Many people mention this but it does not appear to be as important as doing work that you enjoy alongside people who are friends.

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 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 I 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! Lynda Gratton’s new book is simply called The 100 Year Life, in which she argues that increasingly we will live to be 100 and work until we are 80.

Now of course we know that just to live we have to continually learn about new things and develop new skills and research is telling us that this also helps us to live longer and staves off dementia. Work is also something that people are starting to continue to do for many more years and many now actually look for work that they love. And then finally retirement – a term that increasingly ceases to  make sense.  It now provides an opportunity for combining paid and unpaid work. 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. More people are finding it difficult to find a job that utilises all of their skills and that fits their life values. The over 60’s are flocking to start their own businesses and flirting with the gig’ economy. And suddenly I am reading articles from all kinds of occupational groups discussing the pluses of portfolio careers.

I am increasingly replacing the term Retirement with Portfolio Living.

And a portfolio career was and is a great start to preparing for a portfolio life.


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