Or is it?
Despite the impacts of Covid, life expectancy for Australian men and women continues to increase.
But many retirees can feel conflicted when they hear about increased longevity.
This is prompted by the worry that their money will run out. Whilst that’s understandable, it’s a shame the fact we may all live longer can seem like a negative.
Let’s delve into the facts and then consider how to treat your extra potential years as an unmitigated bonus.
Australians’ life expectancy is now third best globally
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), we’re now ranking just behind Monaco (1) and Japan (2). Our male life expectancy ranks second, with our female life expectancy fifth in the world.
A child born this year is expected to live to 81.3 years if male and 85.4 years if female.
The longer you live, the longer you live
If you have already reached 50, you are expected to live even longer, based on the maths that confirms that the longer you live, the longer you live. Today an Australian male aged 50 years can expect to live another 33.2 years to age 83.2, and a female another 36.6 years to age 86.6. This is longer than the above life expectancies at birth, because the 50 year olds have successfully made it through the first several decades of life.
ACT leads the pack, but the Northern Territory trails
The Australian Capital Territory has the longest life expectancies, highest for both males (82.7 years) and females (86.3 years). The lowest for both males (76.3 years) and females (81.0 years) is the Northern Territory.
Men still wear out first – but why?
Research reported in Time magazine from Australian academic Dr. Perminder Sachdev (University of NSW) suggests that testosterone and oestrogen are the factors at play here. Higher levels of testosterone mean males are more likely to be risk takers, with consequences for speed, alcohol and drug taking etc reducing their overall lifespan. Females, on the other hand, may actually get a protective benefit from higher levels of oestrogen. Interestingly Dr Sachdev says that the gender gap in life expectancy is true for all societies, including the great apes.
Does this gap really matter?
Yes, for following reason.
We spoke above about the fear of running out. Research shows this to be the number one concern for retirees.
But many retirees are basing their income projections on wrong numbers, using life expectancy at birth rather than life expectancy at their current age.
The best way to ensure you get the right answers is to use a free online calculator which takes into account your current age, your genetic and medical profile and any lifestyle habits which could lead to chronic illness. Then at least you can be comfortable that your income projections are based on most accurate forecast
Time to step up
Although the gap for life expectancy between men and women is narrowing (down from seven years in the 1970s to four years currently), it remains a fact that a male partner is more likely to die first. Dealing with grief, loneliness and all other aspects of losing a loved one is tough. But dealing with this as well as confusion over your financial situation is even tougher. The most recent ABS predictions are a handy wakeup call for all of us to ensure that we manage finances together if we are partnered, so neither one is left unaware and unsupported should the worst happen.
What can you control?
As always, we can only ever manage those things under our direct control. How long any of us might live remains in the lap of the gods. But knowing your likely life expectancy and using this information to carefully plan future income makes an awful lot of sense. As does being fully across any shared financial information and sources of income. As is keeping small individual savings accounts – rainy day money – so all access to funds is not frozen if a loved one suddenly dies.
Two final must-dos
The first is to take good care of your mental and physical health. Living a long life isn’t necessarily the aim – living a long, healthy life is a far better goal. There is a plethora of information available to anyone who is serious about living their best life. An annual check-up with your GP is a good first step, combined with healthy nutrition, regular exercise and staying curious.
And the other?
To follow the time honoured quote, randomly attributed to singer Ray Charles as well as the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius:
‘Live every day as if it were your last – one day, you will be right!’
What do you think? Are you happy to hear of longer lifespans or do you see a downside to this?
Are you comfortable about projecting income needs across a 30-year period – or does it all seem too hard?