In 30 years, the number of people reaching age 100 in the U.S. is projected to quadruple, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. The center projects that by 2054, the U.S. will be the home of 422,000 centenarians, up from 101,000 in 2024. And the percentage of the total population that is age 100 or older will increase from 0.03% today to 0.1% in 2054.

The projected increase in super-agers is one sign of the increased health and prosperity of the nation. However, the proportion of these super-agers will be overwhelmingly white, reflecting the recent “life expectancy inequality” that’s been conferring longevity gains mostly to people with above-average educational attainment and wealth. That’s a disturbing trend that should cause concern among our nation’s policymakers.

How Should Individuals Plan For More Centenarians?

So, how should today’s pre-retirees and retirees plan ahead for the possibility of more centenarians? While some people might say they want to live to age 100, it will be no small feat to still be financially secure at that age and reasonably healthy to enjoy being alive.

On the other hand, many people say they don’t want to live to age 100 because of the serious financial and health challenges that can arise. While most people won’t actually live to age 100, many people will make it to their mid-90s, even if they don’t want to live that long. This will create essentially the same financial and health challenges as living to age 100.

As a result, regardless of your life expectancy goals, it’s smart to plan as if you’ll live a long time in retirement, even to age 100. That will require making some smart decisions about your finances, health, and lifestyle.

Working Longer Is An Important Part Of The “Live To 100” Retirement Plan

The three most important decisions of your “Live to 100” retirement plan are when and how to retire and when to start your Social Security benefits. For example, if you retire in your early 60s and live to your mid 90s, you’ll spend 30 years or more in retirement—about one-third of your life. It’ll take a boatload of retirement savings and financial resources to live that long. As a result, it really doesn’t make sense to retire full time in your early 60s, unless you’ve saved at least several million dollars or have earned a very generous lifetime pension.

Instead, you’ll want to look for ways to work part time doing work you enjoy throughout your 60s and maybe even into your 70s. You’ll also want to delay starting Social Security benefits for as long as possible, preferably even to age 70 (the maximum age at which to start Social Security). This will maximize those valuable benefits that protect you against longevity risk, investment risk, and inflation risk.

Be Serious About Your Health

You’ll also need to be determined about taking care of your health through your diet, exercise, and sleep habits. At the very least, you’ll want to maintain a healthy weight, reduce your stress, and not abuse alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.

You’ll also want to take steps to stay mentally sharp for as long as possible. While there’s no known cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s, research has shown that regular exercise is the best method to reduce your odds of experiencing these debilitating conditions. Stimulation is good for your brain, so you’ll also want to remain engaged with interesting activities and social contacts throughout your life.

Plan For A Period Of Frailty

The larger number of centenarians will strain our country’s caregiving resources, which will become increasingly expensive. As a result, you’ll want to consciously plan for a time when you’ll be frail and dependent on others for help with daily living needs. Many people might also experience diminished decision-making capacity and need help with managing their finances.

Most people don’t want to become a heavy burden on their families and society. To minimize this possibility, you’ll want to plan ahead for the time when you may need a support system of relatives, friends, and paid caregivers or daily money managers.

These steps can all be a lot of work, but they’re necessary for setting plans in place to help you if you live a long life. While nobody promised it would be easy to live until your 90s or all the way to age 100, if you take the right steps, you can do it!