The 100-Year Life Summary and Review

by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott
  Has The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Would you live your life differently if you knew for sure that you would live past 100?? It might be difficult to imagine such a situation because, for most of us, the upward limit for aging is 80. But things are changing. We are starting to see a substantial improvement in human living conditions and medicine. These improvements are what led scientists to believe that soon enough living past 100 years will be normal. In other words, 100 is becoming the new 80.  Consequently, the way we live and the things that we plan for our retirement years will most likely change as well. From this book summary, you will learn about the implications that living longer lives might have and what we should do in order to be prepared for our centenarian retirement. Here are some of the things that we’ll discuss throughout this summary of Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s 2016 book The 100-Year Life:
  • how the pension plans will be affected if humans live longer;
  • How the way we view work will change due to the technological advancements; and
  • why there are “five big questions” that we need to answer.

THE 100-YEAR LIFE CHAPTER #1: We live longer because we have access to better sanitation, hygiene, education, and medical breakthroughs.

Havin happy and healthy children is the norm in our modern society. However, things were quite different in the past. Advances in the treatment of common diseases have led to a dramatic rise in human life expectancy. This, in turn. has resulted in a jump in the world’s birth rate. Medicine has made huge strides in preventing and treating health problems that affect humans in their first stage of life - infancy. Not so long ago, children would often die of common illnesses before they reached adolescence. Thanks to improvements in general hygiene, education, vaccinations and other medical breakthroughs such as the discovery of antibiotics a lot of childhood diseases that would often be fatal were mostly eradicated. It is now quite common for people to know about proper health care and to have an interest in good nutrition. All these elements combined mean that children have a better chance of leading healthy, happy lives. Take a child born in the 1910s, for example, his chances of living to 100 were one percent. On the other hand, a child born in the 2010s has a 50 percent chance to reach 100. The second stage of human life is the middle age, and many common illnesses that affect us during this stage are better treated and better understood. For instance, starting with the 1950s, medical science has developed more effective ways to diagnose and treat conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Around the same time, people started to receive a better education and researchers found new ways to improve the health of the general population. For the first time in history, smoking was finally seen as a major health risk and tobacco ads were regulated. The risks of smoking reached people’s ears through a series of aggressive, yet efficient, public health campaigns. Because the early and middle stages of life are now pretty much covered, scientists have directed their attention towards the third stage of human life - old age. Their breakthroughs will most likely produce a substantial increase in human life expectancy. One of the diseases that affect the length and the quality of life of people who are old today is Alzheimer’s. Doing diligent research into this disease and into similar ones will hopefully lead to results that will help elderly people live longer and healthier lives. In the 1950s, for instance, a 90-year-old person living in England had more than 30 percent chances of passing away within a year. In our day and age, however, his chances are 20 percent. Advanced medical technology, improved nutrition, and better sanitation are all factors that improve people’s chances to live longer.

THE 100-YEAR LIFE CHAPTER #2: Old-age savings and standard pension aren’t enough if the life expectancy rises.

You don’t need professional studies in economics to understand how dramatically the working world has changed over the past few decades. Our office jobs are extremely different from the jobs that our parents’ generation used to have. But why is life expectancy affected by these differences? For starters, our parents had straightforward careers that consisted of three main stages: school, work, and retirement. The people who were born between the 1940s and the 1960s would finish their studies around the age of 20 and most of them would live long enough to retire comfortably. Let’s look at Jack’s life. Jack was born in 1945 and when he was 20 years old, he graduated from college. He entered the workforce after World War II, during the American Golden Age. After 42 years of employment, at the age of 62, Jack retired and shortly after, at the age of 70, he passed away. Having received social security from the government and a pension from his employer, Jack had solid finances. Since he worked for more than 40 years, but only lived for eight more years after he retired, each of his final years was financed by five years of employment - a healthy foundation. But what would have happened if Jack had lived a much longer life? With the rising life expectancies that we see today, living to be 100 is not out of the question. But by living so many years of retirement, Jack’s original pension becomes insufficient. In other words, if people live longer, it becomes more difficult for them to fully retire and the former social model that had three main stages is no longer a viable option.   Here’s an example of a modern social model. Being born in 1998, Jane’s life expectancy is around 100 years old. She will probably live 30 years more than Jack did. If Jane were to retire after having worked for 44 years, at 65, she will spend 35 years in retirement. Simply put, the savings that Jane managed to accumulate during her 44 working years are not sufficient to support a 35 years retirement. Each year of retirement will be paid by just over one year of active work, meaning that from a financial standpoint, Jane will have a fifth of what Jack had. What’s more, since both private and government pensions are paying out less and less, Jane will need to make increased efforts towards supplementing her retirement savings. These examples clearly show that there are many serious challenges that come with an increased life expectancy. But as we’ll learn from the next chapter, working people are dealing with other issues, too.

THE 100-YEAR LIFE CHAPTER #3: The nature of work will be changed by artificial intelligence, but the human workforce will remain essential.

It is extremely likely that your parents are finding it difficult to understand what you do for a living. The modern workplace has changed a lot over the last decade. And as technology influences our jobs, things will continue to change. Work as we know it will see substantial changes as a result of the developments that happen in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). This technology is still in its infancy so we haven’t even seen the biggest changes yet but we can expect to see them in the near future. David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believes that the great majority of jobs that consist of doing routine tasks, whether cognitive or manual, will soon be performed by machines. For instance, Amazon already uses robots in its warehouses to move most of the company’s inventory. Tasks that follow strict rules and don’t make subjective decisions can easily be automated. In fact, a process can be as sophisticated as it gets, but as long as it follows a fixed set of rules, automation isn’t an issue. As a result, robots will soon be able to perform medical diagnosis and other increasingly complex tasks. But although many people will be replaced by intelligent machines (artificial intelligence), humans will still be essential for a lot of tasks. People will always be needed as they can make subjective decisions, they can come up with innovative ideas, and they can solve complicated problems. But the main differences between humans and machines are creativity and innovation, as these are the elements that create value. Apple’s iPhone, for instance, is assembled by Foxconn, a Chinese company. The manufacturing cost of the product is just five to seven percent of its market price. Since Foxconn makes the physical product, it would be natural to believe that they are also responsible for creating the product’s value. But in reality, the manufacturing company only produces a small percentage of the final value. a Foxconn employee, for instance, can only make $2,000 of value, since they can assemble a limited number of units. But an Apple employee can create ten times as much because they are responsible for the product’s design which applies to millions of units. Another type of tasks that only humans can excel at ar the ones that involve human interaction. Although this is a basic task, it is an essential one, as human contact is a basic human need. In other words, despite being able to solve complicated problems and can excel at repetitive tasks, machines cannot compete with humans in terms of mobility, creativity, innovation, and personal touch.

THE 100-YEAR LIFE CHAPTER #4: Non-physical assets such as self-knowledge and health are becoming increasingly important.

Are you someone who goes to the gym daily and who has a carefully selected meal plan? If you do then that’s great because in this day and age taking care of yourself might be surprisingly important. As our life expectancy rises, staying healthy becomes more and more important. For example, if you have a bad posture and you develop back pain at the age of 50, with a 70 years life expectancy, you will most likely have to deal with your back pain for 20 years, which is quite a long period of time. But what happens if you live to 100 instead of 70? You will then have to live with your back pain for 50 years? How do you feel about constantly dealing with this issue for five decades? So perhaps now is the time to visit a doctor or to start going to the gym and switch to a healthier diet. Interestingly enough, physical activity isn’t just good for preventing issues that are common for aging bodies. Researchers found that as we age, our lifestyle choices will impact our mental decline by 70 percent. This means that physical exercise can keep you in good mental shape, too. The same holds for eating plenty of fish and fresh produce and performing mental training exercises. Most people know that taking care of our physical body is essential for our general well-being, but do they know that being self-reflective is just as important? Our modern society allows us do decide who we are and we are no longer influenced by tradition or by our family tree. In this context, self-reflection becomes crucial. It is the only thing that can help us recognize our weaknesses, our strengths, and our core values. It can also help us determine how we see ourselves and the world around us. If we take the time to understand ourselves better, we can make better decisions and we have better chances of choosing a path that is suited for us. In turn, by choosing the right path we also become more productive.
Understanding yourself and choosing your own path are the first steps towards becoming happier. Read this article if you want to learn more about happiness.
Let’s imagine the following scenario - you have been working at the same job for years and you are not satisfied anymore. You probably feel that if you leave your job, your future will become uncertain. You might also worry about getting a lower income. But, if you are fully aware of your strengths and weaknesses and if you know what you are looking for, your chances of finding a better option will increase.


The world’s economy has changed significantly, offering many different working realities for each successive generation. While your parents may have found a job in their 20s that they stuck with until retirement, today your options as a working individual are much broader. Since young people today are no longer bound by the three traditional stages of schooling, work and retirement, there’s more room for exploration, which is important. Being an explorer can mean learning more about other countries, but it also means exploring your environment and finding your place in it. If we live longer lives, then the decisions that we make early on will have greater consequences. Thus, it is extremely important to explore all the options that we have, whether in life or at work and to choose the ones that are right for us. There are many stages in our lives when we need to self-reflect and to choose the path that we will follow: between the ages of 18 and 30, in our mid-40s, and again in our 60s. These are transitional times when our lives change and reflection is a great way to cope with these changes.   It is important to mention that although each person goes through a unique exploration process, the need for independence is a very common desire that most people have. If you crave independence, there are many paths that can offer you your much-needed freedom that a “normal” working life might not. Whether they build a start-up or work for an established company, most people focus on financial assets and money. But if you want to be able to focus on the process itself, be it launching a service or designing a product, you need to become an independent producer. A great way to start is by starting a blog and creating a product around your content such as an online course. It is important to remember that experimentation is the key to becoming independent. Failing is an important part of the process and there’s much to be learned from it. Additionally, it can also be something you can add in your CV, a way to build up your credentials and to jumpstart your career.

THE 100-YEAR LIFE CHAPTER #6: Smart financial planning and financial literacy are important aspects if we want to have a comfortable retirement.

Thinking about retirement plans without focusing on money is extremely difficult. We all know that a safe retirement is built through smart financial planning, but we also know that putting our finances in order can be a tedious process. In fact, making plans for retirement is a very complex issue and anticipating our future needs and in an ever-changing market is very hard. Yet there are certain tricks that can help us plan a comfortable retirement. First, we need to establish how much of our current salary we are going to need for our daily expenses once we retire. Is fifty percent enough or will we need more than that? To figure that out we simply have to think of our current expenses and how much money we need at the moment. Once we retire, some of our expenses can be avoided such as commuting, eating at restaurants, clubbing, buying expensive clothes, etc. However, we might have to pay more for health care and prescription drugs. But understanding our finances is not enough, we also need to be financially literate. Here is a 5-question test known as the Big 5 that will help us assess our financial literacy. Let’s take a minute to answer the following questions: Question #1: You have $100 in your savings account with an annual interest rate of two percent. How much money will you have in five years? Question #2: If inflation is two percent and your interest rate is one percent, would you be able to purchase more or less of the same type of goods after one year? Question #3 (Yes or No): Is buying stocks from a single company safer than investing in a mutual fund? Question #4 (Yes or No): If a 15-year mortgage normally requires higher monthly payments than a 30-year mortgage, will the total interest of the whole loan be less than that of a 30-year mortgage? Question #4: What happens to the price of bonds if the interest rates rise? If you can answer these questions correctly, then you are a smart saver and you can plan a comfortable retirement. Here are the correct answers: Question #1: Just over $110; Question #2: Less;  Question #3: No;  Question #4: Yes;  Question #5: They will fall.

THE 100-YEAR LIFE CHAPTER #7: Knowing who you are and finding the path that is right for you can enable you to get the most out of your life.

When we meet someone new, our natural instinct is to try to learn what they are like, where they work and what their hobbies and passions are. Oddly enough, when it comes to ourselves, we are considerably less interested and curious. In order to shape our lives in a positive way, we need to start asking a very important question: “Who am I?” This question has become more and more important as human civilization has become more advanced. Throughout the history of the human species, life was short and difficult, marked by struggles to find sustenance and shelter. Today, however, these aspects are not an issue, for large parts of the world at least. As a result, humans can now expect to live longer and happier lives and to have a greater measure of security. Because we live in a modern world, we are now free to shape our lives based on our personal values and sense of identity. But before we can do this, we need to focus on understanding who we are - which can be quite a difficult task. Historically, a person’s identity would normally be shaped by inherited family or social status and by traditional gender roles. But our society has evolved and these aspects have become less relevant. Now, people get to build their lives based on their ambitions, passions, and values.  Whether we are interested in personal knowledge, finances, or social networks, what’s important is being able to find the right path. Our modern societies are pushing people to experiment and to become more individualistic. The bottom line is that there are millions of different paths that we can take and we can explore many different options before figuring out what really works for us and what doesn’t. So it is important to remember that although living 100 years is an incredible privilege, it also comes with a lot of challenges. But finding their own identity and making their own choices will help people make the most out of their very long lives.


What is the key message of Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s 2016 book The 100-Year Life? Humans will live longer and happier lives filled with new and exciting opportunities. But, an increased life expectancy comes with many different challenges for society. The standard life trajectory of going to school, working, and enjoying retirement has become less relevant, while experimentation and self-knowledge are taking over. Valuable advice: Build healthy relationships. Healthy relationships, such as regenerative friendships are extremely important for our vitality and well-being. Meeting new people, whether it’s at the gym or in other contexts, is essential, especially if we plan on living a 100-year life. Complex social situations can strengthen friendships and can help us invest more energy and time into interacting with the people around us.
Suggested further reading: If you plan on living a 100-year life, you might want to find out more about happiness and what living a happy life actually means.