Nearly 7 in 10 Americans want to live to 100, study finds. Here’s how retirement is changing

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Despite fears of outliving savings, most Americans still want to live longer, a study on longevity and retirement shows.

Nearly 70% of Americans want to live to age 100, with 29 years as the “ideal length” for retirement, according to an Edward Jones and Age Wave report that polled 11,000 adults in the U.S. and Canada in January and February.

“We’ve been aware of longevity rising for some time,” said Ken Dychtwald, founder and CEO of Age Wave. “But in the last year, there’s been a lot more talk about it.” 

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While the U.S. life expectancy dropped by 1.5 years, to about age 77, in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists expect it to rise in the coming decades, Dychtwald said. 

“That could very well add another five or 10 or more years to the average life expectancy,” he said. “But the problem is we don’t live those years with abundant health.”  

On average, Americans spend the last 12 or more years grappling with illness, injury or cognitive impairment, with 88% of those 65 and older managing at least one chronic condition, the study shows.

What’s more, the average couple may need an estimated $445,000 to cover yearly medical expenses and long-term care, for which most retirees aren’t prepared, Dychtwald said.  

Three-legged stool 

In a shift from previous generations’ experiences, the so-called three-legged stool of retirement income — Social Security, pensions and savings — has become less common among today’s retirees.

Despite ongoing threats to Social Security and fewer pensions, many Americans still aren’t saving enough, the study shows. Most don’t maximize retirement savings, many take penalized distributions from retirement plans and 22% of eligible employees don’t contribute. 

On average, retirees began saving for their golden years at age 38 but wish they had started at 28, according to the survey. 

When asked about the purpose of retirement funds, “people talk about security for the unexpected and freedom,” Dychtwald said. 

A new chapter in life

While many older Americans view their parents’ golden years as having been a time for “rest and relaxation,” they see their own retirement as a “new chapter in life,” the report uncovered.  

Today’s retirees see their next phase as a time to explore possibilities, with many reinventing themselves, explained Mona Mahajan, senior investment strategist with Edward Jones. 

“There’s really an interesting dichotomy between the old generation and new generation,” she said.

Early and holistic preparation across the four pillars can have a really big payoff.
Ken Dychtwald
founder and CEO of Age Wave

Moreover, there may not be a clear line dividing their career and retirement years, with many older Americans continuing to work.

Nearly 60% of older Americans expect to be working in some capacity, whether it’s full-time, part-time or cycling between work and leisure, the findings show. 

However, the most successful retirees took steps decades in advance to prepare for what the report describes as “four pillars” of retirement — finances, purpose, family and health.

“Early and holistic preparation across the four pillars can have a really big payoff,” Dychtwald said.

Sophie Tremblay

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