Life spans have increasedand will continue to edgeupward, even as olderAmericans are becomingmore vital. That has yieldeda new life stage—the first sincesocial scientists identified adolescencea century ago. It's extended middleage, anywhere from age 50 to 90.
Old approaches to retirement areobsolete in light of this change, and wehave new opportunities to make thisnew stage meaningful. The way to dothis is to adopt a life planning modelcalled a life portfolio. It's a "portfolio"because, like a collection of stocks andbonds, it is an integrated mix of personalholdings or assets. But this onecovers the gifts, values, passions, andpursuits that make you who you are.The following are five ways to begincrafting your life portfolio for extendedmiddle age:
1. Working on your own terms.You've spent your medical career helpingothers, and hopefully, you'veenjoyed your work. But now you havethe opportunity to love what you do—volunteer, consult, or work part-time.You've waited for this chance yourwhole life and now, finally, the possibilityis open to you.
2. Learning and spiritual growth.You may have missed the opportunityto study a field outside of medicinethat you find interesting. Or you mayhave had to say "no" to your innervoice that wanted to connect withnature or meditate more often. Well,now you have the time. You can takeclasses in whatever strikes your fancy.You can hike or explore your connectionto the universe in whatever waysfeel right to you—and you don't haveto wait for vacation time to do it.
3. Recreation or down time.Activities that you always had to craminto your 2-or 3-week vacation cannow become ways in which you occupymuch of your time. Whether youwant to improve your golf game,become conversant in current moviesand other aspects of pop culture, ortravel to all the places you've neverbeen—now is the time when you finallycan indulge yourself. There's nothingto stop you from turning downtime into your best-ever time.
4. Connect with family andfriends. You've never had the time youwished you had to devote to buildingthose relationships, because you wereso busy practicing medicine. It's nevertoo late to have the relationshipsyou've always dreamed of. You canfinally strengthen those bonds and givethe most important people in your lifethe attention they deserve.
5. Give back. If you've spent yourwhole career accumulating wealth andmaterial possessions, you're not alone.You've had bills to pay, and perhapsyou've had children and grandchildrento support. But now that you've madeit to retirement, you can take the pressureoff yourself. You can use yourmoney, time, and energies in ways thatplease you. Do you want to contributemoney to your community or anorganization that matters to you?
Building your life portfolio is allabout making choices. It's never toosoon to create one. All of this takesplanning, of course, and a life portfoliois indeed a strategic plan. It has shortandlong-term goals to keep us ontrack and set realistic expectations forourselves and our families.
But, fundamentally, it is an orientationto life—one spanning yesterday'saccomplishments, today's goals, andtomorrow's legacies. To adopt it, youhave to step back, question what youmay have learned about "retirement,"and be willing to envision and plannew possibilities.
David D. Corbett is the founder of NewDirections, Inc., in Boston, and author ofPortfolio Life: The New Path to Work,Purpose, and Passion After 50, published byJossey-Bass. Visit www.portfoliolifebook.com or www.newdirections.com. This article is beingreprinted with permission from S.J. Miller Communications.