Design Your Portfolio Life

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A combination of more flexible working arrangements, increased longevity, demographic changes, delayed retirement and the search for greater personal satisfaction is bringing about a shift toward what has been called ‘the portfolio life’. Charles Handy wrote about designing a portfolio life in 1989 in his classic book ‘The Age of Unreason’. He proposed that instead of basing our working lives around a single job description, we could choose to see life as a complex group of interests, passions and activities – some paid, and some not. Instead of working for a living we could work for a life.

When planning a portfolio life, as well as asking yourself what you are good at, you should ask yourself two very important questions – ‘What do I love doing?’ and ‘What does the world need?’ With a portfolio life, it is not essential that all activities are rewarded with money. Maximising income is not the aim. The goal is to achieve work-life balance and to maximise happiness.

You could argue that changes in the workforce are pushing people of all ages towards a portfolio life. The nature of work is changing. The skills in highest demand are for jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago, while many traditional occupations are no longer relevant. The rise of contracting, free-lancing and shorter working weeks helps to create opportunities to develop multiple careers and activity streams, some of which may be unpaid and purely for personal or community benefit.

The financial implications of a portfolio life are obvious. Income comes from multiple streams which can be highly variable. However, in a way there is less risk than being reliant on a single source of income which may be lost through redundancy. The rewards of effort in a portfolio life are not just money but satisfaction and happiness.

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