The Portfolio Life
Both my parents retired in their late fifties. After leading an active life for nearly forty years, they sank in the emptiness of retirement. They did what others of their generation were doing – lead a life of leisure. Unfortunately, it had an adverse effect. Their health deteriorated and their minds got stagnant. They lost a sense of purpose which led to boredom and eventually various illnesses.
When I ‘finished working’ early last year (I hate to call it retirement) almost at the same age my parents did, I was determined not to make the same mistake. I planned to use the third phase of my life doing things I always wanted to do, a concept well described in David Corbett’s groundbreaking book The Portfolio Life.
David Corbett, a thought leader on life transition, worked with senior executives from corporations, professional services, education, and government for many years. He observed that his clients often set their sights on “one more job” or career to set them up for a comfortable retirement but had little to say about what might happen when that goal was met. He found that people didn’t pay attention to their longevity track.
He wanted them to think long term.
The much-heralded gift of living longer in good health has opened up a whole new arena, a new adventure that could last for three or four decades after initial careers are done.
In his book The Portfolio Life, he shows a new way of thinking and living in extended middle age.
“Portfolio Life” offers a compelling alternative to traditional retirement.
Retirement was once relegated to winding down, but now it holds the promise of our most significant and passionate years, a time when we can be ourselves and contribute.
This new stage of life is made more meaningful when people crate a balance of work, learning, leisure and family time, giving back, and whatever else has been simmering on the back burner of their hearts and soul during their careers. The balance can be tailored to one’s personality and situation. I call this a life portfolio because it holds an intentional combination of passions and pursuits. Those who do best at it step back early on, question whatever they may have learned about “retirement,” envision new possibilities, and plan ahead.
If you are a lifelong learner and have a desire to make your life count in a deeply fulfilling way, you ought to consider leading a “portfolio life.”
Our life is not just the work, home and social commitments. It is a whole lot more than accumulating money and things.
Think of your life as a portfolio of activities, all of which make you who you are.
In a nutshell, a “portfolio life” is about who you are.
My portfolio, for instance, consists of writing, blogging, sketching, traveling, and teaching, not to mention the time spent with my family and friends, as well as on my hobbies and pastimes.
All of these things make me who I am, and without one, I’m not complete.
Thinking of my life as a portfolio of activities helps me embrace change and explore the possibilities that will come with an additional 20 to 30 productive years. I am living my life by design and on my own terms.
The so-called ‘retirement years’ are the best time to create a life expressly for yourself.
Once I had fulfilled my primary responsibilities of raising my children and looking after my parents I was free to devote the remaining years crafting a genuinely rich life doing things I always wanted to do.
Initially, I had just one passion – writing. I created a blog and started writing regularly. One thing led to another and I added sketching, cartooning, painting and teaching to my portfolio.
I am busier now than I was when I was in the workforce. I am working longer but looking healthier. I have never been as happy as I am now.
We are not only living longer and healthier lives but also tackling a life stage that did not exist twenty-five years ago. A new arena that could last three or four decades after our initial careers have ended.
According to Corbett, in the future, we will all be “portfolio people,” thinking of vocation not as a single career but rather as a whole body of work.
Instead of wasting the best time of your life in aimless activities, use it to create your “portfolio.”
So many of us have a career at the center of our lives for decades – probably since we left college. When we reach retirement we are often faced with the question, “What do I do now?”
The concept of ‘portfolio life” is a great way to find a new meaning for our lives.