Living to 100 used to be an amazing and rare accomplishment. If you were anywhere in the British Commonwealth, three-digit birthdays were worthy of a letter from Queen Elizabeth. But look around you. If you see any toddlers, five years old or younger, they 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. It is about how to have a career and manage financially over such a long life span.
Those of us who are already in the second half of our lives now have much better odds of surviving until or close to a century. We know that we cannot rely on any pension scheme to support us through a retirement that is 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 over these extended decades.
Their research is based on students in advanced business programs in London, England and Oxford. Their ideas about what long-lived people should do before, and while starting a career are no longer relevant to those of us who have already reached our prime. However, there is much good advice in this book about living a long and successful life, which is still very applicable to those of us who have reached the midpoint of a possible 100-year lifespan.
How to Achieve Your Century Mark
Mentioned in passing is taking care of one’s health. Living to 100 is no fun if mind and/or body are not 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’. We are likely to live that long. We know by now what we have to do: eat more veggies and get more exercise. Now it is up to us to actually do it.
The next rule that works at every age is 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, we must plan on funding ourselves through our long life. This includes supporting ourselves in our post working years, which Gratton and Scott see as not starting before age 85, and also funding a small business, self-employment, or other gig-economy work that we will be doing once traditional employment ends and before we are ready for the rocking chair.
Spending less than you make is very powerful advice. It keeps you out of debt. Debt can seriously limit your 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. Moving from a well-paid job, or professional fees, to a pension and/or savings usually means a smaller income stream.
Starting a business or doing contract work is something many of us do at this time of our lives. However, these options almost always mean that any funds coming in are both reduced and less regular. If we are already in the habit of keeping our expenditures below our income, this need not be a problem.
We do not have to become miserable and miserly. Instead, we can put more emphasis on the pleasurable activities in our lives that do not require large amounts of cash. Enjoying family, friends and nature are just some examples of the good life that involve little spending. Social connections help us maintain our wellbeing as does time in nature.
Networking is a very good idea for everyone and at any stage of life. Sure, it is what you know (your skills and abilities) that get you work. No one is going to pay you for what you can’t do. Thankfully, we now have the Internet on which any motivated person can keep their skills up to date at any age. But it is also who you know and who knows you – your network – that generates the customers, contracts and board appointments that help keep us financially comfortable in the second half of our lives.
Your close network of family and friends adds much to your happiness, but it is your wider network that is likely to generate the connections that get you income and earning opportunities, especially as you get older. It includes those you studied with or learned from throughout your career and also the people at your fitness center, your faith group, your book or service club and, of course, all those you have met in any capacity in your work life. Maintaining a wide social network not only helps us finance a long life, it also helps us enjoy our years in good health.
How does one become a successful networker? By putting at least as much into the network as one can hope to get out of it. If you are readily available to provide advice, ideas, contacts and letters of reference, or even just a listening ear for the people in your growing network, they will be there to do the same for you. You can then enjoy a very long and successful career, a financially independent retirement if and when you choose to stop working in any capacity and you will also have lots of people to invite to your 100th birthday party.