Saturday, October 8, 2016

Planning on Living to 98?

Do you want to live to be 98? My mother lived that long. She enjoyed almost all but her last year. Do you think you’d still enjoy life into your 90s?
I just took a very brief MetLife insurance Company test on the Internet, and based on that, I’ve got a 50% chance of reaching 93 and 25% chance of 98. Surprise! How about you? Here’s the link to the MetLife Life Expectancy Calculator. 
Interestingly, the test does not ask about health status directly, but it requests blood pressure, height, weight, gender, marital status, drinking, smoking, and exercise. Nothing about familial longevity. The test just gives estimates, averages. Its goal is to alert the user to how much longer he or she will live, and how much longer retirement funds need to last.

Even the Average Woman in Her 60s Will Live a Couple More Decades
If you don’t want to take that little test, you can note the numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their tables indicate that white women 60 to 70 years old now can expect on average to live to 85 to 86…and you’re above average, no? You are if you’ve been paying attention to your health, avoiding obesity, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising, and not smoking. These factors raised my own life expectancy from 86 for the average white male my age (73) into my 90s. Healthful practices could do the same for you.
Women tend to live longer than men. Race plays a role. Asian-Americans have longer life expectancies, African-Americans shorter. Family genetics also plays a role, as will your current health status.
Rather than its being “later than you think,” you probably will live longer than you expect. It’s time to consider these elements of a successful extended retirement: health, wealth, relationships, activities, adjustments.

Protect Your Health
The elements of the life expectancy calculator give you a heads-up on what’s important for preserving your health: weight, blood pressure, exercise, alcohol, and smoking. Nothing you can do about your genes. Make sure to get medical check-ups regularly and heed the advice of medical professionals. In addition, make changes to your home and habits to reduce the likelihood of falls. Improve your nutrition. Walk more.
If you live in the U.S., you’ll probably be getting Medicare after 65 [some with low incomes will have Medicaid] and you will likely add an insurance supplement. Note that “affordable” medical plans have significant deductibles, charges that you will pay before the insurance coverage kicks in, and there often are co-pays. Research this or get some professional advice or do both.

Don’t Run out of Money
You’ll want to supplement your Social Security and other retirement funds. Part-time work might be suitable. Work can make your week more varied and interesting.
Investments usually include savings, home ownership, stocks, and bonds. [I prefer Exchange-Traded Funds, ETFs, index funds that just move with market averages and have minimal management costs.] Diversification is key, as is getting advice from someone knowledgeable but who does not have a conflict of interest. Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand.
Withdrawing funds from a tax-deferred retirement account? The U.S. government requires its citizens to calculate the minimum yearly withdrawal based on a life expectancy of 100. Withdrawing more will have you run out sooner.

Maintain and Enhance Personal Relationships
Tend to your friendships and family ties. Perhaps there are little disagreements or slights you can decide to ignore. Sometimes I meet with friends and family by driving to a restaurant midway between our homes. I’ve just started to make “telephone dates” with too-distant friends and family members, setting mutually convenient times to chat. I wish I’d started that sooner.

Relish Your Free Time
Your free time can be a blessing or a curse. With health and wealth, your options will be many. Without both, you’ll need to be more resourceful. Poor health can be very limiting, but not having much money needn’t be. Inexpensive activities include volunteering, local travel, and most hobbies.

Is It Time to Hit the Road?
Traveling often requires both health and wealth, especially the farther and longer the trips. You may want to find a partner to share these trips with.

Consider Downsizing
Freeing up some of your money and reducing your home-maintenance time by moving to smaller quarters can make good sense. Keep in mind whether you are likely to need extra room for visitors or aides.

Provide, Provide
The good news: you may well live longer than you expect. You should heed the title of Robert Frost’s poem, “Provide, Provide.” Take steps now to enhance your health, wealth and personal relationships to enjoy these after-60 decades.

What is your life expectancy now? How are you planning to have enough free time, money, and health to enjoy it? Please join the conversation.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books via his His life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic for over a decade due to multiple sclerosis, receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.


Presented in a shorter, further edited form at

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