What happens when you live 100 years?

This is a summary of the short talk given by Pr. Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, at the Future of the Workforce event 2016.

Lynda is a Professor of Management Practice at London Business School where she directs the program ‘Human Resource Strategy in Transforming Companies’ – considered the world’s leading program on human resources. For over 7 years she has led the Future of Work Consortium which has brought executives from close to 100 companies together both virtually and on a bespoke collaborative platform. Over the last 20 years Lynda has written extensively about the interface between people and organisations.


100-year life is not just about how life will be when you are 99…

When thinking of 100-year life, people focus on sickness, dependency, homecare… but in fact, they are missing the whole point.

Of course these elements are important, but 100-year life is about how things work over your entire 100 years!

1) Old model

Jack was born in 1945. He found a job after college and worked for the same company until he reached 62. When he retired, having saved 4% since he had started, he managed to retire on a 50% pension. He enjoyed his pension a couple of years but sadly passed away two years ago. He was 70.

2) Current model

Jimmy is Jack’s son. He was born in 1971. He thought he could reproduce his father’s model, but in fact he is already feeling the impact of increased life expectancy. He will have to work until he is 70 if he wants to retire on 50% pension to make-up for the increased savings he requires to finance his retirement until reaching 85 (probably outliving his father by 15 years). As people realise that they will have to work longer, this results in lower motivation levels. The nature of the deal has changed between the time they entered the workforce and now.

3) Future model

Jane is Jimmy’s daughter. She was born in 1998. She will probably live until she is 100. She is not impacted by this change, because she has already integrated the fact that she will live longer than her parents and much longer than her grand-parents. However she has yet to realise what this means for her working life and that, if she is not saving enough from the start of her work life, she will have to either retire on much less income or work longer to make up for the funding gap.


100-year life is about the profound impact extended-life has on traditional working lives and the need to invent new models.

Emergence of a multi-stage life

The traditional life was a 3-stage life:

  • Full-time education
  • Full-time work
  • Full-time retirement

This model can’t exist anymore. It is completely broken and has several significant implications for governments and companies who need to think of different models.

The work-stage is becoming from fragmented, built out of different shorter stages, and not just one big monolithic block, as it used to be.

With an extended life, we will have more time, more hours to work, so we will need to be productive otherwise these additional hours will be boring and hard to fill.

4 phenomena are emerging that will direct how a multi-stage life will be organised.

1) generalisation of “gap year” in the workplace

This is not just among students, but also at later stages in the work-life. People will want to make “breaks”. They will want to explore new horizons and be exposed to new cultures, meet people from diverse background.

This will bring them diverse networks which will be replacing their existing modulus networks (same age, same education, same role). This will bring transformation power and creativity.

2) Technology is destroying jobs but also creates new opportunities

Automation is destructing middle skilled man jobs, but creates jobs in service industry (resulting in significant problems for governments as those new jobs are not attractive/suited for those persons).

But technology is also making the creation of your own activity easier. Countless platforms on the internet allow you to market your skills and your IP.

So, why work for a company selling your hours, when you could build an independent business and companies will buy your IP instead?

3) Running a portfolio of jobs

Rather than holding the same job from start to finish of work life, people will now have several jobs during their career, potentially holding several jobs at the same time.

Productivity skills are being eclipsed by transition skills, where workers who succeed the most are those who are able to transition between jobs.

4) Transition skills

How you learn to change and transform yourself will become a critical skill to allow people to draft their working life.


Tangible vs intangible assets

In the “old scheme”, employment was a deal about tangible assets: your hours worked against a salary payment. Your salary allowed you to save, buy property, invest in a pension and retire when drawing on these tangible assets.

The “new scheme”, symbolised by extended working life, sees the emergence of intangible assets, a new asset class, that people can acquire and retire on, but in a different way. These new assets do not allow you to buy tangible assets, like money does. They are intangible assets that help you work longer, i.e. prolong your ability to generate tangible assets as you grow older.

It comprises:

1) Increased productivity, which is acquired through:

  • keeping up building valuable knowledge as you go along
  • developing peer groups around you who can push you, mentor you and coach you
  • building your reputation

2) Vitality, which is maintained over time by:

  • keeping in good health (balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, …)
  • having a balanced living (home/work)
  • nurturing regenerative relationships with close friends, built overtime (you can’t “buy” such relationships, you have to create them and make them grow)

3) Transformational skills, which are developed through experience:

  • knowledge of yourself
  • diversity of your networks


So the question you should ask yourself is what are you doing with your intangible assets?

  • Are you depleting them?
  • Are you maintaining them?
  • Are you building them further?


The following website 100-year life offers the opportunity of a free diagnostic to think more deeply about your tangible and intangible assets over an extended-life.

Try it now and decide how you can improve your future and make 100-year life a gift not a curse!


More articles about developing your intangible assets:


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