Financial Planning

Winning the Longevity Lottery 

Iwona Nicastri
CFP®, CLU
October 13, 2023

Plan on Living Past Your Life Expectancy” — this is the headline of a recent article in the popular press that suggests many of us will live longer than we expect.1 In fact, many of us systematically understate our chances of living to age 75 by 10 percentage points or more.2 Yet, according to longevity researchers, those of us alive today have won a longevity lottery. We have been handed an extra 30 years of life compared to just 100 years ago.  

In 1921, the average life expectancy was 57 years; today it is around 84. Reaching the esteemed 100-year milestone is no longer a rarity. As many as half of those born today can expect to become centenarians. The good news is that we are living longer and healthier lives. The not-so-good news is that some may realize too late that they have claimed government benefits too early, passed up the opportunity to buy insurance or annuities or have simply undersaved for these additional years. 

What is the possibility that your life might last much longer than you believe — will it change your perspectives on the present moment? Of course, this means a whole new set of issues — notably, those relating to our wealth planning to ensure a good quality of life over an extended period. As advisors, we make retirement planning and beyond a key focus in the wealth planning process. Whatever your plans, you should have the necessary financial means to enable you to make choices freely.  

Some will not have that choice. With the increasing cost of living, coupled with greater longevity, some retirees will need to consider work in some form. A recent survey suggests that over two-thirds of those who retired during the pandemic have considered returning to work, with more than half citing financial need as their main motivation. We may be on the verge of what has been referred to as the “Great Unretirement.”3 Yet, there may be a “silver” lining. The growing population of contributing seniors may spur a demographic dividend, accelerating growth per capita, driving economic expansion and enhancing social development. This “longevity economy,” in which the anticipated economic contributions from older adults will be higher, is expected to benefit everyone. Yet, it’s not just those who need to work to support themselves. Others are challenging the traditional notion of retirement: No longer is it a time for rest, and some will choose to reinvest themselves in different roles to share their wisdom or to enjoy income-generating hobbies. 

What about you? What is your vision for retirement and beyond? Regardless of your aspirations, make sure to give your wealth plan the attention it deserves today. Even small contributions can build wealth down the road. Consider that an extra $250 per month invested at a rate of return of 6 percent would yield over $250,000 in 30 years — not an insignificant amount, by any means, for those “extra” three decades we’ve been granted. By recognizing the current opportunities, even in more challenging times, and committing to them, investors can share in the growth that lies ahead to make that vision a reality. Continue to invest and plan for tomorrow to build your flexibility. And, above all, continue to look forward with confidence. 

  1. “Plan on Living Past Your Life Expectancy,” Josh Zumbrun, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11, 2023, page A2; 2. www.wsj.com/articles/death-finances-and-how-many-of-us-get-our-money-needs-wrong-51a660a2; 3. https://weforum.org/agenda/2022/10/great-unretirement-older-people-working-longer/

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