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The 100-Year Life – A Book Review

The 100-Year Life
Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott

It is always so rewarding when you come across a book, that by your own habitual way of choosing books, you would never have even considered in 100 years! The title would never have made me pick it off a bookshelf. It was only, as so often happens in my world, a recommendation from a delegate on one of my courses. It is one of those books that is easy to read, drew me in, and challenged convention, which is more than I can say about the book I am reading at the moment – alas!

I remember the discussions we were having as a group about working with different generations of colleagues and dealing with different generations of clients and customers – Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z, etc., – with me arguing between being a Baby Boomer or Generation X depending on whose definition you chose to read!

So, it was with my curiosity pricked that I ordered my copy of this book.

The headline is that people are living longer. In fact, children born in the West in 2016 are more likely to celebrate their 100th birthday and 50% of them will live until they are 105 years old. This has immense repercussions. We are beginning to experience this already as we will live longer than our parents, who lived longer than their parents and your children are likely to live longer than you.

In every decade since 1840 life expectancy has increased by 2 to 3 years. Life expectancy in the 1840s was mid 40’s which by the turn of this century was more like the mid-’80s. I sort of knew this, maybe not the figures but the trend, and the book goes into some detail as to the reasons for this, which again I sort of knew. Where the revelation that came for me is how we are set up globally, regionally, nationally, and individually to deal with what the authors call “the gift of a long life.”

“Millions of people can look forward to a long life, and this will create pressure on how they live and how society and businesses grow.”

Some of the issues include:

  • Supporting yourself during potentially an extended retirement
  • Maintaining beneficial relationships which over decades takes commitment, mutual trust, and planning
  • Staying healthy (which is testing us at the moment!)
  • Periodically updating your skills and knowledge as you may need to work longer than the generations before us. Maybe extending your youthful mindset rather than feeling elderly for a longer time. The choice is yours!

What we need to do is grasp flexibility.

“There are real opportunities to move…to a way of living that is more flexible and more responsive.”

Being an ex-banker the chapters on finance resonated and challenged my thinking about “saving for the future”, something that I can see my children rolling their eyes at as I type! Now it’s fair to say that there is a lot of detail in the book, with lots of facts and figures that may make your eyes roll, but it is easily digestible and easy to understand (or you can just skim through it and you will get the picture). The fact is that if we live longer and expect to have a longer retirement, we need to be able to fund it– that’s the bottom line. Let me add here that this is not only a personal challenge we face, but companies also face this, countries and governments face this and this is global – it is a big issue.

The longer you live, the more money you’ll need, either by boosting your savings or working longer. This presents substantial challenges. You see we have been used to and our social infrastructure is geared around a three-stage life:

  1. Education
  2. Work
  3. Retirement

Most people will be able to survive in retirement because of the pension savings they have made during their working lives and maybe a mixture of what they have invested, what their employer has invested, and what the government or state will provide. The issue we are facing is that we are seeing birth rates falling which means fewer people entering the workforce and therefore making fewer contributions (inputs) and people living longer which means they need to draw more (outputs), and you don’t have to be a banker to realize that if you take out more than you put in, there is an issue.

Whereas past generations may have worked for say 40 years (which is the premise that pensions were traditionally calculated) and retired for say 15 years, the equation was balanced.

Now if you work for the same number of years but you live longer and therefore spend say 25 years in retirement – your pension savings need to be stretched further – much further.

This three-stage life model also developed from the premise that when we joined the workforce after our education we joined for life. I can certainly remember my mother crying with joy when I got my first job in a bank – she was so proud and, in her eyes, and in mine at the time, this is what I would be doing until I retired 40 years later.

Unfortunately, this model is somewhat outdated in our increased longevity world. Viewing greater longevity through the lens of the three-stage life process feels overwhelming, unrealistic, and exhausting. An elongated work stage could be grueling and depletes your non-financial assets, including health and relationships. However, this is where the good news kicks in: longevity is more appealing for a life of multiple stages.

Rather than a job for life, people will experience a portfolio career which means more than one career choice. People will dip in and out of education at various points and on occasions completely change track. People will work longer but doing different things.

Technology and in particular advances in technology will make this possible as some jobs become obsolete and others created. You can guarantee that those roles that require “uniquely human skills” are less vulnerable to technological replacement. David Autor’s article “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?” identifies two sets of uniquely human traits:

  1. Complex problem solving built on experience and intuitive reasoning
  2. Roles based on interpersonal interactions

Family, friends, health, and learning are the intangible but necessary ingredients of a rich, fulfilling life. These intangibles strengthen your tangible assets. For example, learning and acquiring skills boosts your earning potential. Intangible advantages can be “productive assets, vitality assets” or “transformational assets.” Productive assets like education and skill development build capabilities and career growth. Periods of learning may take place throughout a 100-year lifetime due either to the obsolescence of existing skills or the desire for new knowledge and how exciting is that.

Developing your “professional social capital” through collaborative relationships boosts your long-term creativity and productivity. Building your personal brand – that is, a good reputation – grows increasingly valuable as you fulfill your responsibilities, seek opportunities, or enter new fields.

“Periods of work become more extensive, savings more central and, across the passage of time, major transformations occur in industries and jobs.”

Vitality assets include your mental and physical well-being, which you should proactively maintain and improve. Healthy eating habits, regular exercise, stress management, and nurturing relationships are crucial for a long, happy life.

The outdated three-stage life model creates many imbalances for people. For a more workable arrangement, look toward the multistage life with a longer education stage and a fragmented work stage as people shift between working and taking time to renew themselves and build fresh skills.

“The acquisition of new skills and new specialisms will become a lifelong endeavour.”

These transitions require transformational assets that build your ability to change throughout your life. Pursue three interrelated characteristics of transformation:

  1. Attaining self-knowledge through a frank assessment of your present self and what you might be like in the future
  2. The ability to create diverse networks of people drawn from a wide social circle
  3. Openness to new experiences and ideas plus the willingness to experiment and change your behaviours

So, as we move towards a multi-stage life, three new life stages emerge:

  • The Explorer
  • The Independent Producer
  • The Portfolio

A particular mindset determines these stages, more than a particular age. Stanford literature professor Robert Pogue Harrison describes this mindset as “juvenescence, the state of being youthful or growing young.” Maintaining a youthful mindset enables people to experiment, play, change and grow.

“The gift of a longer life is ultimately the gift of time. In this long sweep of time, there is a chance to craft a purposeful and meaningful life.”

They observe their surroundings, figure out their likes and dislikes through trial and error, and discover their natural talents. Throughout their lives, they examine their values and develop their identities. Amassing a range of experiences prepares Explorers to make choices that align with their values, interests, and skillsets. Picking a suitable educational direction, finding a fulfilling job, working for a company that mirrors your values and falling in love with the right person affect the course of your life. Making the right choices takes on greater significance if you live a century or longer; the impact of poor choices lasts longer, too.

Independent Producers
People may choose to become Independent Producers at various times in their 100-year life. New forms of entrepreneurship will emerge as people leave traditional careers to engage in independent work such as producing a product, providing a service, or pursuing an idea. Rather than trying to build a company to run or sell, independent producers exploit the opportunities of the moment.

The Portfolio
The Portfolio stage is not age-dependent, although people in their later years may find it an attractive option. People in the Portfolio stage engage in a combination of activities, such as working, volunteering, and pursuing their hobbies and interests.

As I have mentioned, this is not only us as individuals who must make changes, corporations also need to do this, and the authors suggest six areas where corporations need to re-design their policies:

  1. Expand the employer-employee relationship beyond tangible assets, and design jobs to enhance people’s intangible assets such as productivity or vitality.
  2. Support personal transitions by providing training, helping employees develop diverse networks, and offering constructive feedback.
  3. Shift practices built on the perspective of a three-stage life to a multistage life model.
  4. Consider people’s varying needs at different stages in their lives, and provide flexibility in their hours, scheduling, and deadlines.
  5. Shed policies, both written and unwritten, that promote ageism.
  6. To encourage people to take time for experimentation and renewal, stop penalizing applicants for time gaps in their résumés.

At a national level, as I see governments have some real issues with regards to funding and an aging population, which they will need to address along with all the other issues they have on their plates.

On a business level, I am seeing more and more companies trying to evolve and embrace a workforce with so many more different requirements and skills to offer.

On a personal level, I am seeing and experiencing these new stages, and this is exciting and liberating although challenging my natural cautiousness. What this book has taught me is to take more control over those things I can control – my development, my health, my wellbeing, my relationships, and my finances to fund all of this. If I fail to provide for my future, I run the risk of depleting my resources too early. I need adequate financial planning along with plans for the future.

So, if I want to live long and prosper during my 100-year life and enjoy “the gift of a long life”, I need to take steps to have my best life yet.

Author – Julio Arquimbau


About InteraWorks

InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent, and energy to produce results that matter most. 


We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team, or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.