Creating and Investing in a Portfolio Life

Jann FreedSage-ing Leave a Comment

According to David Corbett, author of Portfolio Life:  The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50the portfolio life is a life-planning tool adapted from the financial services. The point is to view life as a mix of elements that take our time and energy.  We should be thinking about diversifying, balancing risk and return, and making intentional decisions–rather than living life on “default” mode.

Corbett identifies five key elements (imagine a pie chart)

  1.  Work or income production
  2. Intellectual stimulation and spiritual self-development
  3. Recreation
  4. Cultivating connections to family and friends (relationships)
  5. Giving back through humanitarian or community engagement

Through a process of assessment and self-discovery, Corbett advises a process of “experiencing the space.”  This is a time for finding the right combination among the five elements that lead to fulfillment and contentment.  Balance is about what is “right” for YOU.

When trying to find the “right” combination (that should be revisited because it can change with age and more life experience), Corbett also identifies internal drivers that inform decisions we make:

Internal Drivers

  • Passion
  • Energy
  • Purpose
  • Calling
  • Skills 
  • Experience
  • Credentials
  • Wisdom
  • Values
  • Motivations
  • Legacy

We should also keep the external realities in mind as they also should inform and influence our decisions:

External Realities

  • Financial
  • Health and Well-being
  • Caregiving
  • Spouse/partner/significant others
  • Locations

I find Corbett’s model valuable in working with business people because most understand the concept of portfolio analysis and how it must be reviewed and rebalanced from time to time.  I often say “My mission is to retire the word and concept of retirement.  We are not retiring, we are moving on … But we need to discover to what/where/why we are moving.”  

Corbett states it this way:

“Retirement used to be an event.  Portfolio is an adaptable process that goes on as long as we do, which I why I say it replaces retirement … I see it more as a lifelong way of thinking, not something bound by age or a certain stage of life … People need to think about the meaning and purpose of what they are doing with their lives all along the way, rather than saving it for a kind of retirement project.”

One of Corbett’s conclusions was that colleges and universities need to be helping people think about their postcareer years while they are still young.  As a result of the research for my book Leading with Wisdom:  Sage Advice from 100 Experts, I started integrating these concepts into my undergraduate courses and students valued thinking about life and careers in a holistic way.  I, too, concluded the sooner people understand these concepts the better!

I have leadership students at the undergraduate and graduate level write their eulogies and share them aloud with the other students.  After about a decade of this assignment, this has been one of the most moving and meaningful exercises for everyone involved.  The process of writing one’s own eulogy and sharing it with others incorporates many of the aspects lifelong thinking.  It is legacy work at any age.

We all make a difference. 

What difference are you making?

What difference do you want to make?

Are you making decisions intentionally or are you operating on “default” mode?

Are you aware of what is driving you?

Are you clear on your external realities?  

Now is it time to live a portfolio life on purpose.