I was prompted back to thinking about the present cultural norms of retirement and long-term financial planning by a couple of posts encountered while browsing the blogosphere:
What happens as we approach Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, and beyond that, The Singularity? I think the short answer is that, at first you'll need a lot more money, and later not so much.
First of all, when SENS gets going, it will not be cheap. Intelligent people have already made the lifestyle changes necessary to add years to their lives, so when SENS comes along, they'll want to have it. Even now, clinics that specialize in hormone treatments with growth hormone and testosterone and the like can cost up to $10,000 a year or more, and the clinics are growing. Plenty of customers available who will spend that kind of money. SENS will likely cost a lot more in the beginning. And if you're chugging along on a Social Security check you won't be able to afford it. What this means is that not too far into the future, having an adequate amount saved for retirement can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Some time ago, I laid out guesstimates and rationales as to what you should be prepared to spend on the first generation of rejuvenation therapies that actually work. The numbers are intimidating until you realize that most people in a country like the US could, in fact, save and invest enough over a lifetime to afford it.
In 25 years, I'll be in my late 70s, right at the limit of current life expectancy for an American man, though by the time I get there, conventional medicine and scientific progress will no doubt have increased that somewhat. So the challenge is to make it that long in reasonably good health in order to be alive to take advantage of [robust human rejuvenation (RHR)]. As I said before, you're going to want to have a nice little pile stashed in your retirement accounts to be able to afford the first manifestations of RHR. It won't be cheap, although no doubt the prices will rapidly decline. On the other hand, new forms of therapy will continue to be discovered, and none of them will be cheap to begin with. And as I also said, those without sufficient funds and just on the wrong side of the aging curve will... die.
What else? Don't retire. Retirement can cause serious deterioration in mental and physical health. Now is not the time to consider it. Sorry. I know that if you're like me, you've dreamed and planned of retirement, getting away from that boring job, hitting the beach etc. A better plan would be to find a job that you like, and if that takes retraining, then do it, because after all you're going to live a very long time. Right?
It is a positive development to see more folk pondering these questions; the truth of convictions lies not in what people say, but rather in their long-term financial plans and actions. Growing awareness of the potential for gains in healthy life span and support for healthy life extension research will translate into changing investment and retirement planning when people are really, truly sold on this future.
As I've pointed out before, the medical technologies of decades to come are far from a sure thing for those of us old enough to have long-term financial plans in progress. They only surity here is that the more you save - and the better care you take of your health now - the more likely it is you'll be able to take advantage of the first real anti-aging medicine when it arrives. Fail to save, and you'll have pushed back your access to these technologies for the time it takes to go from first (expensive) entry into the commercial market to (cheap, reliable) widespread availability - which seems to be about 20 to 30 years these days.
I'm sure you can run the numbers on your life expectancy and just what a 20 to 30 year delay would do to your chances of using ever better medical technologies as stepping stones to an era of radical life extension. Fail to save and you're all too likely sentencing your future self to greater suffering and an early death.
Once you get there, however, why retire? Retirement as it presently stands is forced upon us by increasing frailty and the depredations of age-related disease. If you're healthy and active, why quit at a point after you've finally engineered your working life into something you enjoy and profit from? As things presently stand, people compress a lifetime of vacation into their final years precisely because they become unable to further grow their wealth through wages, entrepreneurial activities and other work.
The economic realities that drive the present culture of savings and retirement will be up-ended in the decades ahead, provided that medical science advances rapidly towards healthy life extension therapies. You are likely to have amazing options awaiting you in terms of exchanging comparatively modest invested wealth for additional healthy years of life - options that are presently unavailable even to billionaires. You should take a careful look at your financial plans for the future, and make sure you are prepared to catch the wave as it rises.