Life Portfolio

Questions for creating, and living, a Life Portfolio

Questions contributed by David Corbett on Sept. 25, 2009.

QuestionsForLiving: What were your core questions when you created the Life Portfolio Program?

Corbett: In 1986, I noticed that the higher men and women rise in the ranks of business or their professions, the less control they actually have over their lives and careers. I was looking at tremendously successful people and wondering, "What will those individuals do with their 'free' time when they start to reduce their work hours or step down from their careers? Some other specific questions included:

  • Once they make it to the top, then what? Where do they go next?
  • After they stop working, what will they do?
  • How will they invest their time, energy and knowledge?
  • How do you design a structured process for helping them figure out the answers to these big questions?

From a knowledge management perspective, all the wisdom these executives have gained over the years can be transferred to the next generation. Also, executives can start a new business and, as entrepreneurs, create new jobs that will benefit the economy. Recent studies show that most new businesses are started by people over age fifty.

QFL: What are your core questions as you advance the concept of the Life Portfolio?

Corbett: One of my biggest questions was: "If we don't call it 'retirement', then what do we call it?

Trying to come up with a new name for "retirement" was like trying to rework a concept that doesn't work.  "Retirement" is full of negative connotations like "withdrawing" or becoming less active. The purpose of the Life Portfolio is to stay actively engaged and advance or complete projects that are still unfinished.

I began thinking of life as being more like a financial portfolio. I asked "Why not use the same language for life as we do with finances and call it a Life Portfolio?" We started to work with this concept of a Life Portfolio, which individuals create throughout the course of their lives. The Life Portfolio, like a financial portfolio, is based on your own unique agenda. It is important to actively manage this portfolio because this is your life.

This new personal roadmap could include part-time income options, creative projects, more quality time for loved ones and leisure, and opportunities to give something back to your community, locally or beyond.  It could also include moving from business to leadership of a humanitarian agency or personal cause.  It could mean launching your own business or consulting practice.  Or it could mean completely reinventing yourself - from your current professional niche to pursuit of whatever lifelong dream you've been postponing.  

QFL: What is the primary question you ask yourself when working with an individual to help him/her create and implement new Life Portfolios?

Corbett: What information do I need to know about this person, to help them to create the optimal Life Portfolio?

To better understand an individual and help him or her create a personal Life Portfolio, I ask some of the following questions:

  • What were you doing when you were at your best?
  • What is your new "report card?" Usually the new report card relates to your values and goals and how close you are to achieving them.
  • What's missing in your life right now?
  • How comfortable are you with the concept of self employment? The concept of Life Portfolio is a concept of self employment. It is truly based on the individual's personal agenda.
  • How are you doing with your unfinished business?
  • What do you still want to get done?
  • How much do you want to live a life that may have been designed for you 50 years ago by your parents?
  • How are you maximizing your unique gifts?

Once you shift your portfolio from a career focus to a life focus, you can work on projects that may have been on the back burner but are more closely aligned with who you truly are, the gifts and strengths you have, and the legacy you want to leave.

QFL: What are the three - five primary questions that individuals should ask themselves when charting, or re-charting, their new directions?

Corbett: To "re-allocate" one's portfolio, there are three primary types of questions to ask: Self assessment questions; Team / Support assessment questions; Behavioral change questions.

Self assessment questions include:

  • What do I feel I'm doing that's in sync, and not in sync, with the realities of today's work world?
  • In the short term, where do I best fit, belong, and add value?
  • In the longer term, where do I best fit, belong, and add value?
  • Do I still fit where I am? Are things changing? If so, how?
  • Where am I going relative to where I want to be?
  • What are new sources of revenue?

Team/Support assessment questions include:

  • Do I have a support group /circle of family, colleagues that I trust?
  • Who are my friends? Who do I spend much of my time with?
  • Who would I like to include in my support group?
  • Do I make time to talk with my support group?
  • Am I able to talk with my support group for wisdom and guidance?

Note: Older people may be less likely to ask their spouse or adult kids to participate in a support group. However, these are the people who know them best and be able to help most. There's an old saying worth repeating: "I will know you by the company you keep." Surround yourself with smart people who are good listeners. The support group is very important in building a strong Life Portfolio.

Behavioral change questions may include:

  • Am I willing to make changes in my daily routine, in the way I think, in order to create my own unique portfolio life style?
  • Am I willing to adapt my behavior to execute my new plan?
  • How creative am I?
  • Do I see the opportunity and possibilities I have as part of my Life Portfolio?
  • If you do not perceive yourself as creative, are you willing to create the behaviors that enable you to design a portfolio life style?

Note: In a career portfolio, you typically look forward to landing an existing job or function. However in a Life Portfolio, you need to create your own brand new job or life mission, not necessarily join something that already exists. The willingness to see this change as an opportunity is a behavior that makes transition to post career easier.

QFL: What are the three - five primary questions that an individual should ask themselves when re-balancing their "portfolios"?


  • Who am I? Where do I want to go?
  • Do I have a strong support group?
  • Am I willing to make the behavioral changes necessary to execute my plan?

Mr. Corbett's book is available for more information:


Mr. David Corbett can be contacted at:

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