Monday, April 16, 2007

How much longer will you really live, redux?

Re: "Training to Be Old," NYT Business 4/10/2007

The number of remaining years of life is a critical parameter for insuring a happy and secure retirement, and yet it seems to be a difficult number to know, with much popular confusion. The workers approaching retirement in "Training to Be Old," NYT Business, 4/10/2007, at least seem to be erring on the side of caution in expecting a much longer retirement than their parents and grandparents had, which is wise.

But they seem to be receiving advice regarding their remaining years that is of varying quality. One statistic in the article, that there is a 40 percent change that at least one member of a married couple at age 65 will survive to 90, is quite accurate, based on Social Security cohort life tables. The first statistic cited, that retirees will live 11-13 more years than their parents or grandparents, is just wrong and probably based on the wrong statistics. Done correctly, the comparisons show that a male approaching retirement, say age 57, is likely to live to age 81, or 8 more years than his father probably did and 11 more years than his grandfather. Women are likely to live to about 84, only 5 more years than their mothers and 8 more years than their grandmothers. Why the discrepancy? Women's still large lead in life expectancy has been diminishing for some time now.

Rules of thumb are extremely important for planning. But it would be nice to use correct ones.