Americans Not Considering Longevity Risk

Eighty-seven percent of middle-income Americans ages 55 and older do not often contemplate or discuss their own longevity.

A study released by the Bankers Life and Casualty Company Center for a Secure Retirement (CSR) found 50% of respondents have discussed longevity with their doctor, 40% with a spouse or partner, 34% with their children, 21% with a professional adviser and 15% with no one. Despite their reluctance to discuss longevity, those surveyed accurately estimated average life expectancy for American adults. On average, respondents with a median age of 65 said they think they will live to age 86, irrespective of gender, income or health.  

When it comes to perception of common factors influencing longevity, two-thirds feel their life expectancy is out of their control, saying that genetics (65%) is the determining factor in how long they will live as compared to their own actions, such as eating right (46%), exercising (44%) or smoking (37%).    

Middle-income retirees say they are having experiences in retirement that they never imaged, such as travel, volunteering and community involvement. However, longevity also comes with risk. According to the study, the two primary concerns are declining health associated with age, and the ability to create a sustainable retirement income that may need to last 20 years or more.  

“Considering longevity and the risks of outliving retirement savings is a first step in developing and achieving heath, income and even personal goals for a satisfying retirement,” said Chris Campbell, vice president of marketing and business development at Bankers Life and Casualty Company, a national life and health insurer. “Discuss with loved ones or a professional adviser how life expectancy may affect decisions you make about your retirement years.”

Today's middle-income Americans, ages 55 to 75, find themselves in their "wisdom" years, but not yet in "old age." Study respondents believe that wisdom comes with turning age 56, but old age does not really start until age 78.  

When asked if their best years are ahead or behind them, the majority of middle-income retirees and preretirees are optimistic about the future. Six in ten (60%) middle-income Americans ages 55 and older say their best years are ahead of them. Respondents attribute this to their positive attitude or outlook on life and freedom from work.    

For the two-fifths (40%) of respondents that report that their best years are behind them, they attribute the realities of aging, their health and an overall negative outlook as the primary reason.  

The Bankers Life and Casualty Company Center for a Secure Retirement's study, “Longevity Risk and Reward for Middle-Income Americans, was conducted in November 2012 by the independent research firm The Boomer Project. A nationwide sample of 500 Americans ages 55 to 75 who have an annual household income of between $25,000 and $75,000 participated in the Internet-based survey.    

The full report can be viewed here.