By 2050 a million Americans will be 100 years old … or better. That’s the kind of demographic shift Peter Drucker admonished us to pay attention to. What should we do with our 30 extra years? Recently I’ve read two books that try to answer that question.

The 100-Year Life

The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott is based on extrapolating 200-year trends of life extension. A friend of mine calls this, “connect-the-dots futurism.”

The authors also base their analysis on some wonderful assumptions which I think are quite unlikely. Here are two examples.

The authors assume that all people will become more skilled, more disciplined, and more self-reflective, i.e., wiser. They also want business and government to reorganize so that more people could not only live longer but be more fulfilled.

Two useful tidbits were in the ton of verbiage and fantasy.

The first useful reality was that high-income or wealthy, or self-reflective, disciplined, (wise) people will have far more and far better choices than poor folks, those who have unhealthy habits, or those who make bad choices. My hunch is that with passing decades, America will increase tax rates on higher income and or higher wealth households to transfer funds to the lower income portion of our population. Our voters are tending to put more emphasis on diminishing inequality even though higher taxes will decrease relative incentives for high earners.

The second nugget from 100 Year Life is the idea of “transformational assets”. “Transition skills” might be a more appropriate description.

Many people find life change hard. Yet some people think deeply and make major life pivots in a better direction. It is hard to give up what you know in hope of something which might go well or horribly. The people who can navigate those transitions develop skills or calluses or have strong enough hope to brave the uncertainty. Those mentally or emotionally flexible or robust or brave people do things many others consider but don’t act on. Pioneers might end up with an arrow in the side or an unbelievable fortune.

A Long, Bright Future

A Long Bright Future: An Action Plan for a Lifetime of Happiness, Health, and Financial Security by Laura Carstensen takes a somewhat different approach. Dr. Carstensen’s central questions are, “How will we use our wisdom, perspective, and energy in our second half? What is a long life for?”

Those questions resonate with me. Here’s how I think they apply to you.

Enhance your legacy: Set the next generation up for success. You may retire, but don’t let your capital fall into accidental retirement. Ensure that your real estate equity is prudently invested, gives you good cash flow, and shelters your income. Prudent leverage and a bigger asset can expand your beneficial impact now and for following generations.

A fresh project can be good for your mental health. Working with the next generation on another property, maybe your wisdom and some of their energy could enhance your legacy. Your adult children don’t have your decades of investment wisdom. Most of us can make at least one more trade-up and obtain better cash flow and more tax shelter. In the process, we can help the younger folks become wiser investors.

Live a full life until you check out.

My life experience and the research tell me that simply living a long time is not enough. We should strive for a quality life, no matter how many years we live.

Do things that make living a full life more likely. Active, engaged seniors do much better for themselves and their families compared with those who just wait around to die. Exercise. Maintain strong, active social relationships. Support your activity with sensible eating and sufficient sleep.


What’s your plan for the next thirty years?

What books have you read about these issues?