A new recipe for life stages
Our lives normally go something like this:
We are born. In our first years we are being taken care of. We go to school when we are 4 years old for around 20 years. Then we work another 40 till 50 years. At the end we retire where the last years we are being taken care again. Then we die.
Dividing a lifetime like this might seem a bit crude. Of course, we do a lot of nice things in every phase, but this division is the life course most of us follow.
Get on stage
Thus, as babies, we are being taken care of, but as soon we are getting more conscious we are expected to develop ourselves. First learning is still playful. At kindergarten, we slowly adjust to school life. Learning the ABC in playful exercises. Soon we are asked to perform simple tasks. We are being prepared to learn to read and write. The transition to read and write for real is still big.
Later transitions are even bigger. After school, we immediately work for 100%. When going into pension, we stop working right away. Are there any alternatives to these stages? Can we learn at an older age, can we have free time when we work, can we work when we learn?
These are a lot of questions, but we may first look at the underlying problems:
- School stage: Students do not have a lot of money during this stage. They live in small student rooms. There they learn a lot, but also have no idea what working means when they finish.
- Work stage: Working people are in their healthiest phase of their life. Still, they often get overworked and do not have a lot of free time.
- Retirement stage: Retired persons have on the other hand a lot of free time. When their retirement starts they often have no idea what to do with it. As they get older, they become physically and mentally weaker. They have time, but not the body and mind to do a lot.
Life stages and life expectancy
Historically the duration of the life stages changed. It wasn’t always that you need to spend the first 20 years of your life studying. Before 1800 it was more likely that you did the same as your parents. And that you start doing those things at an early age.
Most children were part of small communities. You learned from early age the job from your parents and others in the community. From early age you contributed to this community.
In the 19th and especially 20th century this shifted. This was because of economical and social changes. This happened mainly because of increasing of life expectancy. First children went to school until around twelve (for example my grandfather).
When life expectancy grew people retired when physical impairments began to be an obstacle to working. From the second half of the century there came official regulations. For example for military or railroad workers. It was only in the 20th century that there came general regulations. Mostly for people older than 60.
As life expectancy grew the duration of life stages were getting longer. My grandparents were at school for 10 years, my parents for 15 years, and I was at school for 20 years.
The working stage was often maximum 40 years. Now you work until you’re 68 years old. Some people who start at their twenties work almost for 50 years.
Retirement used to be very short and the quality of life was low. Nowadays people go into their pension relatively healthy, but because of their high age they quickly become limited to what they can do.
This is just how the ‘system’ works, but as we live longer and longer, every stage is getting longer and longer. There is a feeling among students, workers and retirees of being trapped.
Students think “how long should I study before really contributing to society?” or “When can I really make some money?” Workers often feel like they only work and have no free time. Retirees sometimes first don’t know what to do with the sudden free time and often feel disconnected and sometimes even useless.
All of us are trapped in the system of life stages.
I was born 1981. Until now, I had a more traditional life course. First I went to primary, then high school and then to university. I was around 24 when I finished the school stage
I started working for some pocket money in the family company at the age of thirteen and official jobs started from my 14th. So I’m working for 26 six years now. The retirement age is now linked to life expectancy, so probably it will take another 30 years to retire.
For millennials, you see that they sometimes take a different course. Already during studying they try to have a start up or work in the direction of their study (for example IT). After studying they travel in an intermediary year and do a traineeship. Working part-time or even abroad (as working remotely or on the internet is easy now). But even those quickly run into a burn out while working.
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There are some counter reactions. This means doing things unusual for the stage in life. However, this is more arranged on an individual level and are just temporary solutions. Some examples are:
- School stage: Team assignments, internships, startups, intermediary years.
- Working stage: Evening school, courses, switching branches, part-time job, sabbaticals.
- Retirees: Voluntary jobs, travel, hobbies.
Based on the fact that we live longer, our jobs aren’t fixed and our time is valuable, how could a real alternative look like?
As a starting point we should largely give up the stages. Of course, we could not start with retirement. What I mean is that the stages may overlap each other. So we can partly ‘retire’ at an early age. It also means that the transitions are very fluid.
A life course could be something like this:
- A bachelor study is 6 years long instead of 3. Working in a related field should start at the second year. We start with real assignments for real money. Students start learning 4 days a week. In the second year it goes down to 3 days a week with 2 days work. In the other days they will work and have real money. There is a transition from school to work.
- When working 2 years everyone has the right for a 1-year retirement and three year basic income with coaching for startups.
- After school there is a period with 4 days working (28 hours a week). This gives more time for family and other hobbies.
- Every 5 years of work there is a year with 3 days work and 1-day school and a sabbatical of three months.
- From 55 we get 3 days free days extra and work 3 days a week.
- From 65 five we work 2 days a week. This can also be voluntary jobs. At 70, you can retire completely. You can have basic income, but work further if you like.
This may seem financial not bearable, but so seemed the 40 hours workweek and retirements a century ago as well. These have also been arranged at the end.
I believe this is less a financial issue and more an issue how much do we settle for, what is socially accepted, what laws are there in place and what technology is available. At the end we want to live now and all those moments should make a satisfying life.
We Learn all our life.
We work all our life.
We retire all our life.
We live all our life.