“The Highlander” is a movie about a small group of immortals who must duel each other with swords until the last one standing (with his head still on) wins “the prize,” which, as it turns out, is mortality.
The movie has become a cult classic partly because of its story line, but mostly because of the musical soundtrack containing only songs written specifically for the film and performed by the hugely popular band Queen. One of the songs — “Who Wants to Live Forever” — is a ballad sung as background to a sequence of scenes in which the hero immortal’s lover ages and finally dies in his arms. Living forever has its downsides. While we humans don’t face such immortality problems, we do have to deal with the complications of living longer.
Over the last 50 years, life expectancy in the U.S. has increased steadily to about 80 currently. Moreover, the number of people living to 100 or more has risen by some 40 percent in the last 10 years alone. Living longer can be a blessing in many ways (all those great, great, great grandchildren) but the key to enjoyment will be the combination of health and wealth. Health is not the purview of this column, so let’s deal with the wealth factor.
Retirement, according to the Social Security rules, now comes at age 66. That would mean about 14 years (living to 80) of collecting Social Security benefits. No financial advisor, however, would advocate living off of those benefits alone. So planning for retirement involves creating additional income streams and savings.
The age factor is the big issue in planning. If you know precisely how long and how you want to live, the income expenditure calculations are relatively easy; you can plan to die free of debt without a penny in the bank. However, since few of us know our specific life expectancy, what is required is a guess. And that guess should err on the optimistic side.
Unfortunately, the longer your personal life expectation, the earlier you need to start saving. For retirement planning you should start saving significantly in your middle 40s. If you expect to live to 95, that’s a 50-year forward view. That’s a daunting task. Imagine if you wanted to live forever.
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