Five Ways to
Create a Life Portfolio
By David Corbett
Life spans have increased
and will continue to edge upward, even as older
Americans are becoming more vital. That has yielded
a new life stage — the first since social
scientists identified adolescence a century ago.
It’s extended middle age, anywhere from age
50 to 90.
Old approaches to retirement are obsolete in light
of this change, and we have new opportunities to
make this new stage meaningful. The way to do this
is to adopt a life-planning model called a life
portfolio. It’s a “portfolio”
because, like a collection of stocks and bonds,
it is an integrated mix of personal holdings or
assets. But this one covers the gifts, values, passions
and pursuits that make you who you are.
How do you get a life portfolio? Here are five ways
1. Work for pay or passion, but on your own terms.
You’ve spent your career working for others,
and hopefully, you’ve enjoyed your work. But
now you have the opportunity to love what you do.
You might get paid monetarily for it, or the payoff
might be that you experience bliss. But you’ve
waited for this chance your whole life and now,
finally, the possibility is open to you.
2. Learning and spiritual growth. You may have missed
the opportunity to get a degree, or an advanced
degree, while you were getting established in your
career and rising through the ranks. Or you may
have had to say “no” to your inner voice
that wanted to connect with nature, pray, or meditate
more often. Well, now you have the time that you
always used as an excuse. You can get that degree
(or just take classes in whatever strikes your fancy).
You can hike, or go to your house of worship, or
explore your connection to the universe in whatever
ways feel right to you – and you don’t
have to wait for vacation time to do it.
3. Recreation or down time. If you’ve always
wanted to take more time for yourself, you finally
can. Activities that you always had to cram into
your two- or three-week vacation can now become
ways in which you occupy much of your time. Whether
you want to improve your golf game, become conversant
in current movies and other aspects of pop culture,
or travel to all the places you’ve never been
– now is the time when you finally can indulge
yourself. There’s nothing to stop you from
turning down time into your best ever time.
4. Connect with family and friends. Sure, you’ve
always loved your family and valued your friendships.
But you’ve never had the time you wished you
had to devote to building those relationships, because
you were so busy with your career track. The good
news is that it’s never too late to have the
relationships you’ve always dreamed of. Now
that you have the time to devote to your family
and friends, you can finally strengthen those bonds
and give the most important people in your life
the attention they deserve – and that you
deserve to give them.
5. Give back. If you’ve spent your whole career
accumulating wealth and material possessions, you’re
not alone. You’ve had bills to pay, and perhaps
you’ve had children and grandchildren to support.
But now that you’ve made it to retirement,
you can take the pressure off yourself. You don’t
have to acquire more wealth. Your kids can take
care of themselves, and your grandchildren have
their parents to rely on for support. You can use
your money, time, and energies in ways that please
you. Do you want to contribute money to your community,
house of worship, or an organization that matters
to you? It’s done – if that’s
Building your life portfolio is all about making
choices. it’s never too soon to create one.
All of this takes planning, of course, and a life
portfolio is indeed a strategic plan. It has short-
and long-term goals to keep us on track and set
realistic expectations for ourselves and our families.
But, fundamentally, it is an orientation to life
— one spanning yesterday’s accomplishments,
today’s goals, and tomorrow’s legacies.
To adopt it, you have to step back, question what
you may have learned about “retirement,”
and be willing to envision and plan new possibilities.
Because one can begin to weave a life portfolio
as early as one’s twenties, even as careers
are pursued, and because it may last thirty or forty
more years afterward, a portfolio can actually have
more impact in shaping adulthood than a career.
Careers, in short, have a shelf life; portfolios
can be timeless. Start yours today.
(David D. Corbett is the founder of New Directions,
Inc., in Boston, and author of Portfolio Life: The
New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50,
published by Jossey-Bass. Visit www.portfoliolifebook.com