“Why on earth would you want to live to age 100?”
My wife and I often hear this puzzled response when we tell our friends and family that we’re planning our retirement to last until age 100. They often cite examples of older relatives and friends who were quite frail and ill in their later years, and who were very dependent on their family for financial and logistical support. The last few years didn’t go very well for these older people.
We quickly make the distinction between wanting to live to age 100 and planning as if we’d live that long. We fully accept and understand that at our age, our time on the planet is limited and the end isn’t far over the horizon. We aren’t in denial about our ultimate fate, having watched our parents become frail and ultimately pass away. Instead, we realize that it’s highly possible that one of us could live to 100.
As a result, it’s only realistic and responsible to plan for that possibility. For example, while my wife’s mother was fortunate to live to age 94, we’re much more aware of the healthy behaviors that will help us do the same. We’ve done our homework and adopted the habits that will help us lead longer, healthier lives.
Our aspirational goal is to live well as long as we can, not live until some arbitrary age. However, the steps we’re taking to help reach our aspirational goal are the same steps we’d take if we actually planned to live to 100.
The fact is, however, it will take a lot of time and determination to adopt the steps to live long and live well. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the reasons for planning to live that long, so we can be motivated and inspired to carry out those steps. For us, there are both positive and risk-avoidance reasons. Let’s start with the risk-avoidance reasons.
We don’t want to be poor and a burden in our final years
The most compelling risk-avoidance reason to plan to live to 100 is that we don’t want to be poor and a burden to our family in our final years. We don’t want rely on our family for financial support—their financial resources should be focused on the needs of their own families.
We also want to live independently for as long as possible and minimize the demands on our family for daily logistical support. Of course, some dependence in our final years is realistic, such as helping with trips to our doctors, assistance with managing any help we might need, and helping us manage our finances. But since we have good relationships with our family members, we hope they’ll be glad to pitch in.
We plan to enjoy the next few decades
On the positive side, hopefully we’ll have a few more decades of vitality to experience adventure, joy, and fulfillment, aka to work on our “bucket list.” At the top of our list are to be a positive influence on our extended family and friends and to travel. However, to help us set more specific goals, we’ll use these two mind hacks to help motivate us to plan as if we’ll live to 100.
The first is this: “When I retire and have more time, I want to …” We often had such daydreams when we were busy raising our families and working at our full-time careers. Now’s the time to remember these daydreams and pick the items that still resonate with us.
“I wish I had …” A second mind hack is to imagine we’re on our deathbed and carefully consider anything we might be regretful of. We imagine that any barriers to carrying out our wishes would seem to be trivial from the perspective of our deathbed, so this thought inspires us to deal with any such perceived barriers today. “Die with memories, not dreams” is an inspiring bumper sticker we saw on a car during one of our travels that will help us address our hopes and dreams now.
Back to our puzzled friends and relatives: If I’m in a provocative mood, I’ve occasionally said, “I understand you may not want to live to age 100, but you might anyway, so then what will happen?”
Since we’re taking the time to plan as if we’ll live to age 100, my wife and I feel confident that we’ll have many more years of health and financial support to live out our dreams and not be a burden to our loved ones. It’s a small price to pay for the extra years of living a good life.