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How much thought have you given to your life expectancy? Many assume that family history and genes play a significant role in estimating how long will live, but recent studies reveal that isn’t necessarily true. While you may think it’s not crucial to predict the timeline of your death, being able to make an educated estimate can be useful in retirement planning.

Here are a few interesting life expectancy facts, based on research:

  • Only a quarter of one’s longevity is connected to inherited traits.
  • The genetic influence on aging is more evident at advanced ages. For example, in one particular study, when one parent lived to 100, his or her offspring showed less risk of developing certain age-related ailments compared with children of shorter-lived parents. They’re also less likely to need drugs to treat medical problems than other people.
  • If you use a life expectancy calculator to predict how long you’ll live, add five to 10 years to any result you find. Experts say many people expect they’re going to live a shorter period than they really do.
  • Your life expectancy has a lot to do with lifestyle. Exercise and a healthy diet are typically associated with longer lives, while smoking and/or use of other chemical substances are linked to early mortality.
  • The advancement of medicine can also have an impact. For example, while a family history of certain conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure may increase your risk for an earlier death, new medications can lessen its likelihood.

Consider universal financial strategies

While it can be beneficial to predict your life expectancy in order to better plan for retirement and decide how much to withdraw each year from your nest egg, don’t dwell on it too much. Instead, talk with a financial professional about financial strategies that will work, regardless of how long you live. Following are a couple of examples:


The use of annuities is a beneficial strategy for many retirees because of the steady stream of income it provides for the duration of their lives. While annuities have also received some criticism because of their sometimes high up-front costs, the benefits of these savings tools often outweigh the expense.

Here’s how an annuity works: you make an investment in the annuity, and it then makes payments to you on a future date or series of dates. You can decide if your annuity payments will come monthly, quarterly, annually, or even in a lump sum.

There are a few different types of annuities: variable, immediate, and deferred. The latter two annuities can be particularly beneficial for people concerned about outliving their retirement funds. Annuities are basically risk-management tools rather than investments, as they help retirees insure against living longer than they expect.

Delaying Social Security Claims

This is another good hedge against outliving your nest egg, plus it’s a guaranteed, risk-free rate of return that isn’t currently available with other investments. Each year past your full retirement age that you delay taking Social Security benefits, you’ll increase your eventual monthly benefit by an impressive 8 percent, with inflation adjustments. And those payments continue for your lifetime.

In spite of the above facts, I’ve personally always been a proponent of taking your Social Security benefit as soon as it is available for a couple of reasons:

–You never know when the Social Security program could be unfavorably changed. My personal opinion is that those that are already receiving their benefits will likely be less susceptible to future payout changes.  

–Tomorrow is not promised. My feeling is that if you can take the money now and enjoy it while you are in good health, you may want to strongly consider doing so.

The bottom line

Predicting your life expectancy can be difficult. Rather than solely focusing on this strategy for retirement and estate planning, talk to a financial professional about what strategies that can make your wealth last, regardless of how long you live.


Author Ron L. Brown, CFP®

Ron is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and President of R.L. Brown Wealth Management. He specializes in retirement, estate, and business planning for professionals and entrepreneurs. Ron assists his clients with creating a financial plan to ensure they are able to live their ideal lifestyle during retirement and leave a strong legacy for their family. Ron has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, US News, Yahoo Finance, Investopedia, and numerous other high profile financial publications.

More posts by Ron L. Brown, CFP®
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