Most people and most organizations consider the present to be a good model for the future, and base long-term plans on present trends. They are always surprised by change, despite living in an era characterized by rapid change driven by technological progress. The present slow upward trend in remaining human life expectancy at age 65 - perhaps a year every decade - is not the result of any deliberate effort to intervene in the aging process. It is a byproduct of general improvements in the medical technology that is used to attempt to patch over the consequences of aging at the late stage: efforts to keep a damaged machine running without fixing the damage, in other words. This is challenging and expensive, but nonetheless as biotechnology advances small gains are achieved. How very much faster and more effective will this be when the research community redirects its attention to the causes of aging? That is the question, and it isn't hard to see that there is a world of difference between repairing the damage that causes dysfunction and ignoring that damage.
Yet most people don't pay attention to what is going on in the lab, to what is under development in startups, or to what the scientific community is saying, but rather only to existing products that are widely available and well advertised. As a consequence they will be surprised, and potentially unprepared to take advantage of new options that can actually achieve rejuvenation to some degree. Retirement will be transformed radically by rejuvenation biotechnology within our lifetimes. New therapies that collectively add decades to life by repairing the damage that causes aging - an option unavailable today - will certainly be a reality in the 2030s, since the first are in clinical development today. You won't hear any of this from the mainstream of financial planning, as illustrated in this article, but as it is reasonably priced rejuvenation therapies and continued participation in the workforce may be the only good option for many people given the absence of savings in most societies today:
First, you were supposed to die at 85. Then 90. Now 95 and even 100 are common defaults when financial planners tell people how much to save for retirement. Except that's nuts. In the U.S., the typical man at age 65 is expected to live another 18 years. The typical woman, about 20. Yet many financial planners contend we should save as if we're all going to be centenarians. That notion so offends adviser Carolyn McClanahan that she confronted a speaker at a financial planning conference who contended that death at 100 should be the default assumption. "Even when you have a 350-pound guy who smokes?" says McClanahan. Advances in medical science "aren't happening that fast."
Some saving is essential. Obviously. But saving for a retirement that ends at age 100 means you'll need a nest egg that's about 40 percent larger than what you'd need for a normal life expectancy. While there's a 70 percent chance that at least one member of a married couple will make it to 85, the odds are only 20 percent either partner will make it to 95, and even lower that anyone will see 100. "Most of our improvements in life expectancy are coming from the decline in child mortality. The actual survival rate of people in their 80s and 90s is not increasing very fast."
If a 35-year-old wanted to replace 60 percent of her current $60,000 salary at age 65, she would need about $1.2 million at retirement age if she expects to live to 85. Stretch that to 100, and she'll need about $1.7 million. (These figures assume 3 percent average annual inflation and a 7 percent return on investments. Your mileage may vary.) Currently most workers (54 percent) have less than $25,000 saved for retirement. Uncertainty about longevity is just one of many unknowns in financial planning, says Bob Veres, a financial planning industry consultant. So-called "safe" withdrawal rates of 4 percent annually may actually be too conservative in most markets. Also, people often spend less as they age, which makes planners' typical assumptions that spending will increase with inflation each year too conservative. Cautious assumptions may stave off lawsuits, Veres says, but they "diminish the spending capacity of people who retire today."