Lynda Gratton challenges the idea of retiring at 60, advocating instead for a multi-stage life. She argues that with increasing life expectancy and technological changes, we need to redesign work.
Gratton, a Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, proposes a flexible approach that allows individuals to customize their lives through lifelong education, diverse work options, and delayed retirement. She encourages self-reflection and courage to embrace this new paradigm, urging viewers to make work enjoyable, exciting, and a continuous learning experience.
The key message is to ditch the old idea of retirement, work longer, and create a life that fits individual needs.
LYNDA GRATTON: I know politicians are telling you you can retire at 60. But let me tell you, the economics are clear: We need to be working into our 70s. The idea of retiring at 60 is fine if you're gonna die at 70. But the truth is most of us aren't.
Every single decade, we live longer. So the thought that you might live to 100 is a possibility. And so the idea of retiring in your 60s I think is entirely outmoded. We need to think about working right the way through our life. But of course, to do that, we have to change the way we think about our whole life.
I'm Lynda Gratton. I'm professor of management practice at the London Business School and founder of HSM Advisory. I'm the author of Redesigning Work and The Hundred Year Life. I've been writing about the future of work for more than 20 years.
And frankly, I was beginning to get pretty frustrated. I wrote about how the world was going to change, and I was sort of surprised it didn't change because actually the forces against change are pretty strong. People were saying, "Well, we still need to come into the office. I know there's a long commute, but it's really important. You can retire when you're 60. That's gonna be okay." I knew that wasn't going to work, but I really couldn't see the forces that were going to change that.
The pandemic was an astonishing event. Suddenly 50% of workers could work from home. So what that did was to upend many of the traditions we had about work. For example, if you take a look at a typical life that your dad had, or that my dad had in the 40s and 50s, it followed 3 stages, which everybody did, by the way at the same time: full-time education, full-time work, full-time retirement.
You don't really have to have a great deal of self insight. All you have to do is to look around left and right and ask yourself, "What's everybody else doing at my age?" Because age equals stage. But that's not going to work for me. It's not going to work for you, and it's certainly not going to work for our children.
Think about the way that the world is changing. It's changing in the sense that we're living longer. So that means that simply retiring at 60 or 55 just isn't going to work. It's changing in the sense that there are huge technological changes coming up almost on a daily basis. For example, generative AI is a thing that we're all looking at now. Why are we so excited and frightened of that? Well, it replaces knowledge work.
In fact, there's an argument that it might even replace the creative tasks that we do. So technology requires us to upskill and re-skill every year of our life, and it's changing in the sense that the family structures that we have are also becoming much more individual. So if we're going to have different ways of living, different family structures, we need to redesign work.
So here's what I think's going to happen. We're going to start doing what I would call a multi-stage life. It's the idea that you can do all sorts of different things at all sorts of stages. So for example, education suddenly becomes something you do right the way through your life. It becomes a lifetime of learning.
Work becomes something that you dip in and out of. Rather than starting in a company when you are 20 years old and just going straight through, you could work part-time. You could freelance, you could take time off. And retirement also moves back, and it takes time.
The point that I want to make is it's very hard to work until you're 70 in one, long, never-ending streak. You have to break that up. And so you can make a life that works for you. Not the life that worked for your dad or for your mom. The life that works for you.
Now, what's exciting about a multi-stage life, but also frankly makes it more difficult, is that each of us lives our multi-stage life in the way we want to do it. So it could be that the age of 30, you decide to take time off for a year and travel the world. But as you look around, there's not that many other people who are gonna be doing the same thing. You have to have more of a sense of yourself.
The truth is, the 3-stage life is relatively easy. You don't need to think very much about it, you can just get on and do it, and do it the same way as all your peers do. Multi-stage life, the ask is that you do something that perhaps nobody else in your peer group has done. You become, in other words, a social enterprise, you actually do your own thing, and that takes courage.
The sort of questions that you want to ask yourself is, "What's important to me? What is it that I want to get out of my life? How do I want to live my life?" So there's big questions you need to ask yourself now in order to make the most of the trends that shape our work.
Let's ditch the idea of retirement. Let's all work as long as we can and make work fun, exciting, and a learning experience.