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Thoughts around the multi-stage life

4 min read
multi-stage life

How long do we expect to live? And how do we want to live as we age? Coupled with questions about longevity and lifespan are also considerations about using the years wisely, and moving away from a traditional 3-stage life. We share some thoughts about the multi-stage life and how that relates to Fathers.

Even before we are done with the current pandemic, we are already seeing how it is shifting our mindsets towards various comfort zones we used to hold sacred. Comfort zones such as our daily commute, the work-from-office habit, the amount of social interaction we need and want. For some, we have started to entertain questions about our mortality, perhaps as we know or meet with family and friends who might have been impacted by COVID-19.

However, as we continue to wrap our heads around school guidelines on distancing (mask, face shield, study-from-home?) as well as social and work regulations (1 metre or 2 metres, crowded malls or deserted cafes, work-from-home but for how long?), it becomes inevitable for us to have to consider plans if we or our partners get infected, and the family has to deal with the outcome.

Mortality is a hard-to-approach topic, given how our culture has made the subject of death taboo. However, wrapped up in the topic, is also a cultural norm of the 3-stage life. This is the old paradigm where we start after education and graduation before building a full-time career and ending with retirement. The 3 stages are also convenient buckets binding us to age cohorts. You are between 20 – 65 years old if you are working, and those of us 65 (or 67 in Singapore) and above are counting our years left.

This paradigm is being challenged given the increase in lifespan over the past 100 years. Barring medical conditions (arguably, death is a medical condition), most of us can expect to live longer than the generation before us. In countries such as Singapore, the average lifespan for males is 81.4 years.

If we are going to live longer, what can we expect and how should we plan for it?

Enter the ‘new’ concept of the multi-stage life. This is where we imagine our life journey across many stages. Time is the resource to be redistributed and aligned with goals and achievements that matter to that stage of life. We can reorganise our time to activities such as learning, parenthood, career, sabbaticals and picking up skills across our whole life. This measures a life not by the money earned but by achievements made.

Many reports suggest that the traditional retirement could be bad for our health (read: mortality). Progress and rewarding work provides us with social interaction, money to spend and achievements that matter to our emotional and mental wellbeing whereas long periods of inactivity can have a detrimental impact across all our physical, mental and emotional states.

For example, taking time out to be a father. In many organisations, employees are penalised for taking a prolonged period of time off work. Parental leave (more so paternal leave) is typically short and carries intangible penalties such as less optimal increments to salaries, or a skip on promotions. Maternity leave is regarded as critical but the impact of an absent father is still being measured. A less-involved father could negatively impact a child’s development. Placed against the need for earning an income, many employees choose to toe the line and embrace the ‘sacrifice’ as their paternal duty.

multi-stage life

Some organisations ae recognising the mindset shift and starting to explain how the mechanics of a multi-stage life might look like.

Fathers can consider how fundamentals such as career, finance, healthcare, insurance and lifelong learning might look like for them.

Prudential has shared their Saving for 100 report that walk-through some basics of saving for an older age stage.

MoneySmart.sg has written an article about the FIRE movement as it relates to early retirement in Singapore

Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at London Business School authored the book The 100 Year Life : Living and Working in an Age of Longevity that covers and explains the different areas that will change as we start thinking about a multi-stage life.

Organisations such as Fujitsu shared considerations about how employees can be engaged better if the corporate culture embraces a multi-stage life.

With a multi-stage life, and supportive employer organisations and career trajectories, we can break away from a linear career and find ways of distributing time that benefits the father and their organisation. Given a longer career across stages, fathers can stay productive and creative for longer by making time for learning, training, re-skilling as needs and abilities change over time.


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Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash

Photo by Clement Chai on Unsplash

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