In the future people will take a much more fluid approach to life and work. The traditional life stages, school, university, work, career ladder, retirement will be replaced by a more free-flowing arrangement where people take opportunities as they appear, and in a less predictable order.
Rather than staying in a 9-5 job for decades followed by an abrupt halt at retirement, people will intertwine periods of work and leisure. There will be an explosion in agile working. Flexible in time and location and portfolio careers will become the norm.
Not all will be so fortunate that they can pick and choose of course. I foresee a split between those who have to continue working to pay the bills, and those whose relevant skills and continued vitality mean they want to carry on.
This is happening today as many in their 70s are taking on non-exec or voluntary roles. In their minds, they have not retired, but simply shifted focus and that allows them to maintain a feeling of usefulness and contribution as well as enjoy the everyday interaction found in a workplace.
Younger workers are more open to moving from job to job, perhaps taking time out to study or travel. The number of start-ups is increasing too, thanks in part to this confident, flexible approach to work. Stefan Sagmeister, a New York based designer, is just one of many in this regard. He explained at TED talks how he takes time out to ‘live’ by closing his studio for one year in every seven, and then comes back refreshed.
This flexible approach to working requires an equally flexible approach to saving in order to fund these experiences. If there is no more retirement, there will be no more pensions. Instead, savings will be used throughout people’s lives.
To benefit from this fluid approach, people need to understand how to manage their finances more effectively. There are ways of generating a passive income from assets but there is very little education around it – Airbnb is a good example – although it will only benefit homeowners able to rent out their space.
Opening up the economy to agile working should bring huge benefits to the UK, including a fresher more engaged workforce.
It should not just be a model for white-collar workers. Having more financial management education should empower everyone to manage his or her work-leisure balance. As a result, I would hope more people would be able to embrace lifelong working rather than having no choice but to continue if they are to make ends meet.
Making every person count