Chances are that you’ve already started to financially plan for your future in some way, shape, or form. As you grow older, taking on the responsibility of building up your retirement fund is essential to guaranteeing a low-stress, enjoyable experience in the last years of your life. However, your individual life expectancy might be much higher than you suspect, and you may want to reconsider how you’re approaching planning for retirement.
The evolution of life expectancy
It’s no secret that life expectancy has evolved — as have the methods of measuring life expectancy — across the course of time. Before modern medicine, technology, and science, the life expectancy for the average American hovered around 47 years. These days, if you look up the average life expectancy for Americans, you’ll find the number 78.69, with women expecting to live a bit longer than men. That’s a pretty massive leap, right? Well, it still may be undershot. Although the average life expectancy on Google can give you a ballpark estimate of how long you might live, in reality, that number may be far larger. The average life expectancy calculated for a country or a region is often a general, blanketed number when it comes to estimating longevity. However, taking personal factors into account for how long you may live could give you a more accurate estimate of your actual life expectancy.
How does your gender impact your life expectancy? What about where you live? Or what your medical history is? What about the genetic history of your family? Or your lifestyle choices? Or your occupation? Or your age? Any disabilities? Drug use? Chronic illness? Doing some personalized research can help eliminate people who are closer to or more prone to death than you are, such as the elderly, the ill, and those in living dangerous areas or practicing risky professions. Through this research, you may find that your life expectancy is actually far larger than you previously estimated. For example, a 20-year-old female in America is expected to live to 90 years old. A 20-year-old male can anticipate living to 87. These results, which are based on cohort life tables rather than period life tables, create a more accurate measure for individualized testing of life expectancy. So, why does this matter? While a 9-12 year gap in estimates may not seem significant, those years are colossal when it comes to retirement planning.
How life expectancy affects your retirement
Living longer doesn’t just mean an elongated life. Careful planning and financial responsibility can also mean the difference between a longer retirement and more years spent working. Since you’re likely going to live longer than you’re planning, your current retirement plan and the savings you have packed away may not reflect your long-term financial needs to the fullest. You may be preparing to set aside money to last you a couple of decades, when in reality, you may end up living 30 or 40 years after your scheduled retirement begins. In order to ensure that you have a stress-free and financially-stable retirement (and don’t greet the pearly gates with more debt than your family can manage), considering how your current life-expectancy will impact your need for retirement savings is essential. Many retirement plans don’t consider those who survive to the upper-half of the life expectancy scale. However, people do, and you may be one of them.
On average, a retiree can expect to spend $45,756 a year on retirement costs. This includes necessities such as food, clothes, housing, and other groceries, and incidental purchases, such as movie trips, theme park outings, brunch with your buddies, and vacations. This stunning number makes every extra year seem a little more weighted, huh? If we were to apply this to the 20-year-old man and woman who could expect to live between 9-12 years longer than the average life expectancy, they would be forking up another $400,000-$550,000 to cover their retirement costs. If you’re only of the lucky ones who experience longevity in life, making sure your retirement isn’t miserable will be dependant on the extensive planning and mindful saving that you do now. While you may not feel as if though placing more money into your retirement savings is worth your time, it may be a better long-term investment than a new sofa or an updated iPhone. Additionally, if you don’t feel as if though you have enough saved for retirement, spending a bit of extra time in your occupation to bulk up your retirement funds may save you a decade or two’s worth of financial grief in retirement.
It’s also worth planning for the unpredictable events that may pop up during your retirement. One scenario to plan for is long-term health issues that may arise due to your occupation, genetic history, medical past, or age. Many chronic illnesses don’t have an inherently negative effect on life expectancy, yet keeping symptoms under control may require specialized care that can take a financial toll on your retirement savings. This is especially true of treating illnesses that may require care from a nursing home near the end of one’s life, such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Additionally, if you have children or grandchildren, risk factors that may eat at your retirement fund rise. Due to increasing instances of parental neglect and an inability for parents to care for their children due to drug/opioid abuse, many U.S. grandparents have found themselves raising their grandchildren. The number of custodial grandparents in the United States rose to a staggering 2.9 million in 2015. Considering events such as illness or taking on the financial responsibility of another person can help you create a reasonable cushion in your retirement savings for unsettling or life-altering events.
Plenty of people would love to have more time on planet earth, and with the increasing prevalence of new scientific and medical breakthroughs, it’s likely that our individual life expectancies will continue to rise. Still, taking into account how an increased life expectancy will affect how much money you need to have set aside for your retirement is essential for you to enjoy your post-work life without being pressed for money near the end.