The 100-Year Life - a gift few of us are prepared for

LBS authors launch new book on implications of longevity

Many babies born today are expected to live for at least 100 years. A lifetime that lasts a century is an extraordinary gift. But you have to be ready for it. Without preparation the gift can quickly become a curse, two London Business School experts warn.

In their new book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, launched this week, Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, and Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics, London Business School, consider the implications of longevity. Everything will change, for people, businesses and governments.

Professor Scott says: “For the last two centuries, life expectancy has risen by around three years every decade. That adds up to a lot more time, approximately eight hours a day extra over a lifetime. As a result, the three stages of work, education and retirement as we know them will no longer exist. In The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, we start to explore what will come in its place.

“The key to a happy and successful 100-year life will rest in how we use the extra time we have. A longer life means we will all have to work longer. Retiring at 65 will not be an option unless we are able to save 25% of our income per year. That’s a long stretch; periods of rejuvenation, re-training and re-creation will be necessary.”  

Education is another aspect to consider. 

“The education we received in our teens is unlikely to see us through our career, especially as new technologies and jobs emerge,” says Professor Gratton. “A good and productive life needs more than just money; it depends on intangible assets too like family, friendships, good health, new knowledge, skills and experiences.”

So what does this mean? According to Professors Gratton and Scott, people are likely to try different careers, take breaks, re-train and move to new cities. Life will move from the three stages of education, work and retirement, to a multi-staged life, where activity and age become disconnected. Different people will do things at different stages; it will be the end of lockstep.

The authors’ top tips for preparing for a longer life include: 
1. Audit your tangible and intangible assets and start planning for the future. 
2. Use your free time to invest in fitness, skills and relationships. 
3. Think about the experiences you want to have and plan for these. 
4. Experiment – there are no role models to follow, just your passions. 
5. Be flexible and open to change – explore your options.

“Longevity isn’t just about getting older, it’s about being younger for longer. People need to start thinking about how they are going to put their extra time to good use,” says Professor Gratton.