Recently, I was surprised, pleased, and sobered that a few online calculators estimated I could live to age 100. I’m currently age 70, so that would mean I’d be retired for 30 years!
While it was nice to think I still had 30 years to live, it was also a wake-up call that I should plan to live that long. Please bear in mind, I’m not really counting on living to age 100. However, since there’s a good chance it could happen, it’s the responsible thing to both plan and act as if I could live that long.
What does that really mean? The Stanford Center on Longevity expresses well the overall goal for living a long time—to be physically fit, mentally sharp, functionally independent, and financially secure throughout your life. Let me add that you’ll also want compelling reasons to live that long – “ya gotta wanna” to quote a few authors and singers. It’ll take time and effort to live long and live well, so you‘ll need to be motivated and inspired to stick with it.
For this post, let’s take a 30,000-foot view of the Live-to-100 Retirement Plan, addressing the goals summarized above.
As you continue aging, you’ll want to be sufficiently healthy to go about your daily activities and be able to do what gives you joy and fulfillment, all the way to age 100. Of course, it’s inevitable your abilities will change as you age, as will your daily activities. But for each age, you’ll want to be as healthy and vigorous as possible.
To achieve these goals, lots of research suggests adopting the following steps which you’ve probably heard before:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat nutritious food
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get sufficient sleep
- Manage your stress
- Avoid smoking and abusing alcohol and other substances
For many people, the challenge is to actually adopt and improve on many of the above steps.
You’ll also want to build your team of health care professionals, since your medical issues will inevitably be more complex as you age. One important aspect of your plan is to develop a series of health metrics that will alert you if you’re possibly developing vulnerabilities to a serious medical condition, so that you can take proactive and protective actions. Examples include regular testing of your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Americans fear Alzheimer’s disease more than cancer, stroke, and heart disease combined, according to a survey conducted by the Milken Institute. While there are no known cures or vaccines for Alzheimer’s, most forms of dementia, and mild cognitive impairment, there are lifestyle choices you can make that have the potential to delay, mitigate, or even prevent some forms of dementia and cognitive impairment.
Top of the list of these lifestyle choices is keeping physically fit with the steps outlined above, most importantly focusing on regular exercise. Building and enjoying a rich social life is also an important part of your Live-to-100 Retirement Plan.
You’ll want to address both the narrow view and broad view of longevity risk. The narrow view involves developing a portfolio of retirement income that lasts the rest of your life, no matter how long you live, one that will cover your living expenses throughout your long life. To do this, you’ll want to manage both sides of the common-sense formula for retirement security:
- I > E, or income greater than living expenses
The broad view of longevity risk involves considering everything that can go wrong during a long retirement. It includes managing your health care expenses, preparing for a period of frailty near the end of your life, and planning for unexpected house and car repairs that are inevitable over the course of a few decades.
As a practical matter, functional independence is the ability to live without needing much help from others to carry out your daily activities. As such, the foundation for functional independence is physical fitness, mental acuity, and financial security, which we’ve already covered.
However, here are a few more ideas that can help. You’ll want to consciously build a “convoy of support” of relatives, friends, and paid helpers and professionals who can help you navigate the inevitable bumps along the road to age 100. Another important aspect is to carefully select the home and community that can support you in your later years, which may not be the same home and community that served you best during your working years.
Compelling reasons to live to 100
As you can see, it’s going to take a lot of work to carry out your Live-to-100 Retirement Plan. To help you stay on task, you’ll want to reflect on the reasons why you might want to make this effort. For me, it’s a combination of positive and negative motivations.
On the positive side, my wife and I have potentially many years to enjoy our bucket list, so we’re happily working on it! We also want to help our grandchildren grow up and launch their lives, and make a positive impact on our extended family, community, and the world at large.
On the negative side, we want to minimize the odds of incurring debilitating and painful illnesses, and we don’t want to be poor in our old age. We don’t want to be a burden on our families or society at large.
Admittedly the strategies outlined here can seem daunting and intimidating. And of course, there are a lot of details to consider. Fortunately, we don’t need to do everything at once—we can take some time to work on our longevity “to-do” list, step by step.