Why retiring at 65 won't be an option soon

MT at 50: Professor Lynda Gratton on what living to be 100 will mean for us and how to make the most of it.

by Ian Wylie
Last Updated: 06 Jun 2016

Forget retiring at 65. As people live longer – life expectancy at birth has increased globally by six years since 1990, according to the World Health Organisation – they will need or want to work longer.

The over-50s in the UK will grow from around 29% of the workforce to 35% within the next 10 years, and a report from the International Longevity Centre estimates that Britain’s GDP could increase by 12% by 2037 if the number of people over 65 in work continues to rise.

We talk to Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at London Business School, who turns her attention to this issue in The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, a new book with economist and LBS colleague Andrew Scott.

Why write this book now?

We wanted to start a conversation about the implications of living for 100 years. It will mean living through profound change, and technology will accelerate that change, affecting labour and job markets completely. For example, we’ll witness the hollowing out of work, where any task that is routine and can move into artificial intelligence or robotics, will do and the countries where labour costs are highest, such as Japan, are already moving fast in that direction.

What will be the implications at a personal level?

Even if you put aside 10% of your income for retirement, you'll still need to work past 80 if you envisage living to 100. Retiring at 65 just won’t be possible and the three-stage life of education, work, retirement is going to be blown apart. Until now, knowing someone's age has meant you know the career stage they’re at. Instead we forecast a multi-stage life, where everyone will manage their working lives differently, which means huge change for organisations and governments who won’t be able to do everything by age anymore. 

What will be the key to success in a multi-stage life? 

Lifelong learning – the longer you live the further you move away from where you started and the greater the opportunity to reinvent yourself. You don't have to be the same person for 100 years – portfolio careers will be perfectly viable at any life stage That’s a very exciting proposition, though it’s worth saying that richer people live longer, so we may see the inequality gap widening. We will need to be more goal-driven – people who can't do that are going to find themselves drifting for a long time. And since undergoing transformation is likely to mean stepping out of the labour market from time to time, the dual-income family is going to be more commonplace, if not an economic imperative.

What’s your advice to make the most of a 100-year life?

Keep an eye on your tangible and intangible assets. Social capital – quality of relationships – is very important. A 50-year-old friendship is one of my most valuable intangible assets. One of the reasons why we think our book is important is because we have defined and modelled tangible and intangible assets for the first time. Organisations will also have to think about assets such as productivity and vitality in a more sophisticated way, and learn how to hold more sophisticated conversations with their people about becoming more productive, remaining vital and how they can transform.

The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott is published by Bloomsbury Information Ltd, £18.99  





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