Members in the Media
From: Quartz

A Stanford researcher says we shouldn’t start working full time until age 40

For people smack in the mad mid-life rush of managing full-time careers, dependent children, and aging parents, nothing feels so short in supply as time.

But there is time to get it all done, says psychologist Laura Carstensen, the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. The only problem is that we’ve arranged life all wrong.

A woman who is 40 years old today can expect to live another 45 years, on average, while 5% will live to see their 100th birthday. The average 40-year-old man will live another 42. For many people, most of those years will be healthy enough to continue work that doesn’t involve intense physical labor. So why are we still packing all of our career and family obligations into a few frantic decades?

Rather than a four-decade professional sprint that ends abruptly at 65, Carstensen argues, we should be planning for marathon careers that last longer but have more breaks along the way for learning, family needs, and obligations outside the workplace.

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): Quartz

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There is a lot of sense in this article, but I don’t see a way our capitalist system could support it. Part time work doesn’t pay people well enough to buy homes or provide health insurance or to put away money for their children’s educations, and one’s success in many professions tends to be dependent on how hard one worked in one’s thirties.

This is a reality already faced by many women who focused on family during their thirties and then seek more lucrative employment in their forties.

Another issue about the push to work into one’s seventies and beyond is that it’s easy to forget that people usually living into their eighties nowadays doesn’t mean people in late middle age and beyond are as mentally sharp or physically energetic as they were when younger.

I’m in my mid fifties, and I already find my job (part-time teaching at a college) to be more physically and emotionally draining than it used to be. I love what I do, but I come home with an aching back and feet. I don’t know if I could start a full-time career doing this at my age and sustain it into my seventies or beyond.

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