Think for a moment about the path your life is taking.
Chances are it’s similar to the road your parents traveled. You have a job, and it’s probably one you trained for in college. Maybe you have a spouse and children. You’re likely looking forward to working for a few decades, and then, if all goes well, enjoying an active and/or peaceful retirement.
This is a common timeline, and for most people, it takes them to age 75 or 80.
Now consider how your plans for work and life would change if you knew you would live to be 100. Or even 110.
That’s not such a far-fetched possibility, according to a 2016 report from Allianz Life Insurance Co., “The Gift of Time: The Allianz Longevity Project.”
The report is based on the Stanford Center on Longevity’s finding that the average life expectancy in the United States is now 30 years longer than it was a century ago. Allianz sought to find out how people feel about those 30 extra years, and what they’d like to do with that time.
Not surprisingly, work flexibility plays a role in their responses.
To collect data for the report, Allianz contracted Larson Research Strategy Consulting to field a nationwide online quantitative survey of 3,006 U.S. adults ages 20-70 with a minimum household income of $30,000.
It found, for starters, that 93 percent of respondents had a favorable view of living 30 extra years, according to a press release about the report. But those positive people also said such longevity would make them rethink major life choices, the paths they may take, and alternative possibilities for their future.
A full 32 percent of Americans said they regretted the major choices they made in their lives, such as when and where they went to school, the profession they chose, and when and where they worked, according to the press release.
As you would expect, the Allianz report also offers considerable information about the financial implications of a longer lifespan. Respondents of all ages commented on the need for more money to help fund those extra years.
However, thinking about three extra decades made people hopeful that they could change the course of their lives in ways that would make sense for them economically and emotionally.
“While most survey respondents (56 percent) said they would ‘travel extensively’ or ‘live in a different place’ (35 percent) with their 30 extra years, nearly a quarter noted they would ‘take more risks in life,’ a common theme among the one-third of Americans who said they regretted many of their major life decisions,” the release said.
“Included among those top regrets are not following their dreams (39 percent), not taking risks with their career (38 percent), and not taking risks with their lives in general (new jobs, going back to school, etc.) (36 percent). More than a third (35 percent) also said they wish they’d been more gutsy in their choices and done things they really wanted to do.”
One can imagine that choosing a career that offers more flexibility would be one of the things people “really wanted to do.” The report seems to support that.
For example, when asked to design their ideal longer life, 49 percent of respondents said they would prefer a non-traditional model that might include work punctuated by career breaks, returning to school, volunteering, and trying different things in no set order.
“For many Americans, having more time opens the door to new opportunities,” the press release said. “Respondents confirmed a desire to explore different life paths: pursuing a dream like starting a new business (29 percent), having a second career doing something they truly enjoy (21 percent), volunteering/supporting the environment (19 percent), or retiring later by working fewer hours but for more years overall (16 percent). Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents feel a longer life can enable a totally different view of how and when major life choices are made.”
Furthermore, 21 percent of boomers and 21 percent of Gen Xers responding to the survey said they wanted to spend more time with their children.
In other words, if they consider 30 extra years of life, people focus on flexibility.
“As extended lifespans continue to become more prominent, they could influence the acceptance of new models for work in our society,” the report said.
Furthermore, it said: “Americans are clear about what could stand to change in the workplace—including greater support for individualized lives and choices. Forty-nine percent of all respondents would be likely to take advantage of flex time between work and home. On a similar note, 47 percent of the total sample believe older people should be allowed to remain in the workforce if they choose, and 42 percent call for options and full benefits for permanent part-time jobs.”
These results show how valuable flexibility will be as lifespans grow longer. And that should lead more businesses to consider offering flex options to their workers, both now and in the future.
Which part of this Allianz report is most surprising to you? How would your life focus change if you knew you were going to live to be 100? How important would work-life balance and flexibility be to you, and why? Please share your ideas in the comments section.
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