Don’t get too comfortable with the repertoire of financial services you offer your clients.

If you’re going to remain relevant in this dramatically changing IA world I’ve been telling you about in recent columns, you’re going to have to add a new service for your clients.

This addition pertains to retirement planning, but before I explain what it is, think for a moment about the retirement model that dates back to the late 1940s and early 1950s. Back then, workers retired at 62 and received a gold watch, a pension and a Social Security check. The income was small but enough to support a couple through retirement.

That retirement model, a 20th century innovation, is fading fast. Soon it will disappear completely as we advance further into the 21st century.
You know why. Life expectancies are lengthening. Just a few months ago, the Society of Actuaries updated its mortality tables; men 65 and older in good health are now expected to live 86.6 years on average, while women of the same age and health status will live an average of 88.8 years.

And continuing advances in medicine and biotechnology will keep improving morbidity and extending longevity. Living well into one’s 90s and 100s will be commonplace.

Clearly, it won’t be possible for most clients to retire at 65 and live to 110, depending almost entirely on their investments for financial support for 45 years.

Fortunately for these millions of Americans, the future isn’t grim. That’s because, even though many will live to 110 and beyond, they won’t spend nearly so many of those years in retirement.

This is because the American lifeline will change dramatically, thanks to exponential technology.

Previous generations experienced a linear lifeline—they were born, went to school, got a job, retired and then died. This was a sequential process, with each segment completed before the next occurred.

But that’s not how our lives will be in the future. Instead, our lifelines will be cyclical rather than linear. Many are already living this way.

Those leading cyclical lives will not experience the life of school-work-retirement-death. Instead, the norm will be school, work, then back to school, followed by entrance into a completely new career. This will be followed by a short retirement, more accurately a sabbatical, that will be temporary rather than permanent. Upon completion, clients will go back to school and then back to a new job.

Even today, the average worker has eight jobs by age 35, according to the Department of Labor. This trend will continue for everyone. Clients will go back and forth through school, work, education and leisure, often doing several things simultaneously rather than sequentially. College degrees will be replaced by lifelong learning. This is already happening: At George Washington University, for example, nearly a thousand full-time students are over age 50.

Cycling within and through life segments means schoolteachers will take time off and never return to the classroom. Pilots won’t resume flying, and accountants will leave paperwork behind. Early retirees (who used to be called beach bums and ski bums) might take classes to learn about subjects that have always interested them—and then turn those interests into income-generating careers or businesses. Social, charitable and civic activities will pepper one’s resume, as will frequent participation in classes online, at community colleges and universities. Many people will have multiple employers simultaneously, working part-time for each in ways that produce full-time incomes.