Adulting Lessons

The effect of “not working full-time until age 40” on Filipinos

I weigh in on the practicality of marathon careers in the Filipino context.

“Working when you know what you’re working for.”

This is the main reason for a Stanford professor who forwards a radical change for our working lifestyle.

Featured in various outlets in 2018 (this and this are good articles), the arguments of Laura Carstensen of the Standford Center on Longevity about marathon careers are interesting.

The proposed model recommends beginning full-time careers at the age of 40.

I weigh in on the implications of marathon careers in the context of Filipinos.

The Filipino context of marathon careers

“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”

The model proposed by Carstensen is contrary the existing mindset of the working population.

Education is the first step towards starting a career.

And, unless you are privileged to be able to take graduate studies or enter medical and law schools, – or go back to school at 40 like Lifehack suggests – you start generating “return of investment” after graduation! You start the climb up the career ladder!

In the Philippines, because of high living standards and few job opportunities, even high school graduates apply for entry-level jobs.

Low salaries in entry-level positions hinder Filipinos from adopting this work time frame.

Most Filipinos cannot afford “breaks along the way” because of the need to support extended families with relatively low income.

“full-time work begins at the age of 40, education and apprenticeships could stretch longer, gradual transition to part-time work in the later years, full retirement at age 80″

In the proposed model, education stretches through the years when many people are starting their families and have young children at home.

In essence, this makes “work” less demanding.

One may work only for 20 hours a week instead of the 40 hours (or 60 in the case of academics).

The recent adoption of the K-12 curriculum manifests the thrust of the Filipino culture towards employability in the youngest age possible.

The current model – where we pack all of our career and family obligations into a few frantic decades – fails to recognize all the other demands on our time.

Full-time work requires eight hours in the office, more if superiors demand overtime work.

In addition, an average Filipino may spend six hours a day for the commute to and from work.

After this, our bodies will demand at least six or seven hours of sleep.

The remaining time is divided to many obligations: that hobby you started, the series you want to be watching, chores you must be doing.

The least priorities, albeit important also, are discarded.

We are not in Sweden after all! There, workers are able to take a day off for a sick child or leave work for “daddy duties” without judgement.

The stress of juggling personal ambitions, present situations, and family and friends makes it hard to relish the early stages of one's career.

Juggling: personal ambitions, present situations, and family and friends Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Individual demands like rest, learning, and self-exploration take a backseat to career and job obligations.

Social demands of friends and colleagues tend to be dropped because “family comes first.”

After college, graduates are expected to start their independent life.

Even while living in the family home, graduates have the obligatory feeling of sharing with bills.

By late 20s to early 30s, questions about family life and marriage become more frequent. This is especially true for women.
A good response to questions about marriage. Photo from GeoffReview.

“Stopping work abruptly at retirement…is also not a psychologically healthy move because of sudden loss of status, social interaction, and purpose…We go at this unsustainable pace, and then pull the plug.”

Institutional knowledge is not transferred because retirees become isolated. The search for purpose is evident especially in the academe.

Professors seldom fully retire. They are awarded professor emeriti positions.

A 2016 study from the University of Melbourne, however, cautions about working full-time after the age of 40. The study cites levels of stress and fatigue which undid the benefits of working at this age to cognitive skills.

Purpose, finances, and social demands. I see these three things as fundamental to the proposed marathon careers.

The current model does not satisfy these things, but transferring to the proposed one will require a lot of moving parts.

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Whatever lifestyle one adopts, purpose seems to be a critical factor. Millennials are especially focused on working for purpose-driven firms.

The Bible tells how work becomes purposeful.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23

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