By Robert Powell, MarketWatch
Last Update: 6:40 PM ET May 16, 2013
Jason Gay, sportswriter extraordinaire for The Wall Street Journal, this week offered up 29 Rules for College Grads. And his first rule was this: Relax. Nobody expects anything from you for the first 80 to 90 years.
Now funny as that rule might be, there is some truth to it. Increasingly, we are all living longer than previous generations and enjoying what some refer to as the longevity bonus. Consider. Life expectancy at birth in 1960 was 69.77; in 1990the year some current college grads were bornit was 75.2. Thats an extra five or more years of life. (By the way, you can read Gays other 28 rules here.)
Now, truth be told, college grads cant really relax for their first 80 to 90 years. But they will get to enjoy a few more years of life than previous generations did. So, what should college grads do or consider given their longevity bonus? Well, heres what retirement and longevity experts had to say.
Prepare for multiple careers
College graduates ought to prepare for having multiple careers andyikes60 or more years of work, according to Joseph Coughlin, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab.
Others agree that college grads need to consider that they will have many more jobs and careers than previous generations. In regard to career choices, consider planning multiple or varying careers that represent your interests, said Michael Fossel, a biomedical and anti-aging expert and co-author of Immortality Edge.
Fossel noted too that career choices may well change over the multiple decades of an extended healthy life span and that college grads should expect to have time to engage in multiple career options.
Currently, according to published reports, Americans seem to have somewhere between seven and 11 or more jobs in a lifetime and work more than 40 years.
New college grads might also have work a wee bit harder than previous generations at keeping themselves gainfully employed, especially in light of the increasingly faster pace of changes in technology and the global economy. There will be a premium placed on keeping skills and knowledge current.
Invest in your career, said Steve Vernon, a consulting research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity, Financial Security Division. If you dont have strong earnings, you wont be able to save much money.
Erdman Palmore, professor emeritus at the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development and author of the Facts on Aging Quiz, also says college grads should think more about partial rather than full retirement. For most people, partial retirement is better than quitting work altogether, he said. It gives you continuing income, status, purpose, and activity which contributes to longevity. Its the best of both worlds.
Stay healthy and health-wise
As for your health, Coughlin had this advice: Manage your health like an investment portfolio; it will enable you to work longer and live better.
Others offer similar advice. Take pride in taking care of your healtheating right, getting proper exercise, and becoming an informed medical consumer, said Vernon.
Todays college grads who act on the latest longevity findings have a good chance of making it healthily to 100, said Vernon. On the other hand, those who succumb to poor nutritional habits, eating fast foods and slacking on exercise might live shorter, sicker lives than their parents, Vernon said.
Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, author of Ending Aging and chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation, also recommends that college grads stay current with the latest developments and breakthroughs in the world of medicine, aging and gerontology.
Aging is the set of precursor processes leading to all the diseases and disabilities of old age, he said. That means that treating aging is a medically plausible concept, synonymous with preventative medicine for those diseases and disabilities.
But is it feasible, and if so, how soon? College graduates need to know the latest information on that topic, in order to plan their lives around realistic expectations of their healthy and total longevityand also in order to put themselves in a position to hasten the medical defeat of aging and thereby increase their chances of benefiting from it, said de Grey. Everyone can make a difference here, whether as a researcher, a donor/investor, an opinion-former or any number of other career options.
Invest for the really long term
As for investments, the good news is that you can take a longer-term perspective as we extend, perhaps even double, the healthy human life span and hence the available investment time before retirement, said Fossel. But the bad news is that we can expect social and financial disruption that will markedly increase the uncertainly of those investments, Fossel said.
Given the uncertainty of your investments, Vernon suggests that you become as smart an investor as possible, and act on the latest academic findings on investing. Buy a low-cost index fund and hang on to it through thick and thin, Vernon said.
Be a smart spender
Long before you think about your investment time horizon and your investments, however, pay heed to your spending habits. Create smart spending habits, said Vernon. If you learn how to live within your means now, youll be able to save and grow a nest egg that buys your freedom in your later years. Dont make the mistake that your boomer parents are makinggetting to their retirement years with little or no savings.
Maintain a strong social network
There have been plenty of studies suggesting that maintaining a strong social network is among the keys to happiness in life. And so it should come as no surprise that many experts also advise college grads to do just that. Maintain a strong social networkreal people, not to be confused with virtual, said Coughlin. They will keep you connected, healthy and well for a lifetime, which for your generation is a long time.
Live a rich life
Another network that must be maintained is that of family. Be involved in the lives of your parents and grandparents as they transition into their elder years, said Vernon. It will make your life richer emotionally now, and youll learn invaluable lessons for when you reach those years.
Robert Powell is editor of Retirement Weekly, published by MarketWatch. . Follow his tweets at RJPIII. Got questions about retirement? Get answers. Email email@example.com.
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