Hitting the century mark is entirely possible—to make it happen, here are things to consider
Bob Hope did it. So did George Burns, Olivia de Havilland, Queen Elizabeth I, and until very recently, Kirk Douglas. All of them lived to the age of 100 years. For many that number still seems unattainable—yet our life expectancy continues to grow. Are we making plans just in case we actually hit the century mark?
A major concern, of course, is making sure we have enough financial resources for a meaningful late life. That may involve confronting some life realities that directly impact our economic status in the meantime. That’s always worth doing, no matter where we are on life’s journey.
Here are some areas of thought, concerns, and potential strategies for financial health in the drive to 100.
Life expectancy is longer now.
In 1960, the average life expectancy was 69.77 years (73.1 for men, 66.6 for women). In 2017, that average was up by almost nine years: 78.54 overall (76.1 for men, 81.1 for women).
Advances in medical science and more overall attention to health are most responsible for those rates climbing as high as they are now. But even with more care options and strategies are available to you, the upshot is obvious: You have to plan for longer late adult life than your parents did—even if you don’t plan on hitting the century mark.
Modern children can’t always take care of their parents.
This fact of contemporary life, sadly, is not as pleasant to consider: The old pattern of children being able to take care of their elderly parents is no longer as solid as it used to be. Today’s young people face more economic afflictions—student debt, rollercoaster job markets, deeper and more frequent economic recessions—than those in older generations.
The reality of taking care of their elders, therefore, hits younger adults like a surprise. Many of them simply aren’t able to do so while maintaining responsibilities for their own children or paying off their existing debts. As unfortunate as this is, it means the elderly must pay more attention to their current and future living situations than past generations did.
Take care of yourself now.
In many respects, the way we maintain ourselves now is a prime determinant of how comfortable we’ll be later on in life. Everyone—including, maybe even especially, young people—faces the prospect of aging. It’s the cause of a lot of fears both founded and unfounded. But it’s never too late to start adjusting our diets, activities and overall health profile to ensure we’ll have a long life.
The mindset of giving things up makes this expectation uncomfortable to think about. That’s why taking care of ourselves now should be thought of as gaining something, not losing. You’re not depriving yourself of comforts or gifts; you’re extending yourself to keep receiving good things for longer. You’ll still gain education, knowledge, and experience no matter how old you are.
Consider working longer.
Keeping employed after the typical retirement age has more than a few benefits. Economically, you obviously continue to generate income. You can also forestall applying for Social Security for a little while longer, which will increase your monthly payouts in the years approaching 100—potentially as much as 70%.
Although the job market is susceptible to occasional fluctuation, in general, there are more opportunities for older workers than ever before. Being able to sustain even a part-time career past retirement age not only improves your financial situation, but it also helps maintain a sense of purpose and fulfillment—or in the simplest of ways, just gives you something to occupy your time while continuing to earn money. Consider the possibilities of continuing your career into your older years.
Evaluate your spending.
It can be difficult, especially once we hit middle age, to keep ourselves from following a “live for today” lifestyle (or as your younger relatives and associates call it, “YOLO”). If there’s a comfort or experience that’s available, we might think nothing of spending a good sum of money to get it. In moderation that’s not a bad thing.
But every cent we spend has an impact that lasts beyond the present. Rather than insist you deprive yourself of something you really want, we just advise you to be objective and realistic as possible about your finances. That means simply analyzing where your cash is going. Find out what spending patterns may hurt your future needs and think about how to adjust them for future security. Because, as it turns out, your kids are right: YOLO.
Review your investment and retirement portfolios.
Many of us with long-term stocks, investments or retirement funds tend to leave them alone. Considering the volatility of the stock market and economic factors, that’s not a terrible decision, especially if we’re investing in dependable interest generators. But genuine opportunities to increase the value of a portfolio shouldn’t necessarily be ignored in the interest of avoiding all risks.
Stagnant earnings post just as much of a risk as reckless speculation or thoughtless investment. Take a look at where your investment and retirement portfolios stand, and try to identify ways to diversify your holdings, take on acceptable risks, and just possibly make that nest egg a little bigger.
Consider long-term care.
Long-term care is about more than just physical supervision or curative maintenance—it’s about helping one’s self to live as fully and enjoyably as possible for as long as one can. Some of us may fear to look into long-term care because we think it will compromise our independence. But for others, the tradeoff of having better health longer, even with professional assistance, helps to keep our best faculties and values around for longer.
As with anything we’ve discussed, approach the prospect of long-term care with a sense of good sense and purpose. Think about the kind of facility that will take care of your needs responsibly and compassionately—they’re definitely out there, and worth looking carefully into.
One hundred years might still seem like an impossible number to achieve. But it’s worthy to plan for how to live comfortably for a whole century. Give it some thought—you might want to stick around for a bit.