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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Taking stock of the longevity revolution

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“We are in the midst of a longevity revolution,” said demographer Ken Dychtwald. As recently as 1900, the average life expectancy was 47. By the end of the 20th Century, that number had rocketed to 78.

With improvements in health care, diet and exercise, the question you have to ask yourself is: “what if I live to 90 or beyond?” The natural follow up to that question, he added, is “will I outlive my money?”

Dychtwald, president and CEO of Age Wave, spoke earlier today at the 2008 MDRT Annual Meeting, being held this week at the Toronto Convention Center. More than 8,000 attendees are expected through Thursday, with representatives from 83 countries in attendance.

Dychtwald said this longevity revolution is uncharted territory, where we can approach it as either a “crisis of global aging or a triumph of longevity.” He sided with the latter and pointed to examples such as John Glenn, who went into space at 77. At his press conference to announce his intentions, Glenn told a dubious media, “Just because I’ll be 77 doesn’t mean I still don’t have dreams.”

While few people will blast into outer space like Glenn, more and more are sharing his philosophy of taking on new projects and exploring new dreams well into what we used to think of as retirement age.

Dychtwald said people’s attitude, in general, is changing. “They don’t just want to live longer, they want to be young longer.” This creates an opportunity and a challenge to advisors. This growing, aging population means more potential clients, but the extended length of time they’ll live means advisors must develop retirement plans that will last.

The problem currently is that “almost all financial modeling having to do with retirement are based on the ‘linear’ life model.” However, the life model is changing, expanding, not only with longer life expectancies, but with other dynamics, such as second and even third careers for many people, who no longer are satisfied retiring to the golf course. Now, they’re ending one career only to start a business or even go back to school to begin another line of work.

Women are another shifting dynamic. The first great wave of women in the workplace are hitting the traditional retirement age and their thoughts on saving and investing differ greatly from men. Regarding financial services, “women don’t want to worry as much. They don’t want to make a killing. They don’t want to be bears and bulls. They want more security and predictability. They want to be able to go to sleep at night and know that when they’re 71 they’re going to get a check coming in.”

Dychtwald studies both seniors and boomers and said their attitude towards money differs as well. When asked about retirement savings and advisors, seniors respond with words like “trust” and “security.” For boomers, those words don’t come up as often. “They want to be able to do what they want on their own terms.”


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