Why “Healthspan” Trumps “Lifespan” for Clients

September 23, 2014

by Dan Richards

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Advisors spend a great deal of their time with clients who ask, “Will I run out of money?” As a result, few issues get more attention than the sustainable withdrawal rate in today’s environment.

But new research shows that an equally pressing question is, “How can I enjoy life in my 60s, before health issues creep in?”

Remarkable growth in lifespans

A couple of years back, I wrote an article titled “Will I be able to pay for a hip replacement when I’m 85?,” highlighting the boomer focus on withstanding the ravages of age. In another article, I described boomers as not your parents’ retirees. Compared to their parents:

  • 86% of boomers plan a more active lifestyle.
  • 84% say their retirement lifestyle will look different.
  • 72% expect a higher standard of living.
  • 70% plan to keep working.
  • 32% expect to achieve additional professional success.

Underpinning this paradigm shift is a remarkable expansion in lifespans that began in the 1880s and has slowed only slightly. Here’s a summary of historical life expectancies for Western Europe and North America:

Year

Life expectancy
at birth

1100

26

1800

36

1900

46

1950

66

2014

78

A recent article in The Atlantic asked the question, “What happens when we all live to 100?”It depicted the inexorable increase of three months per year in life spans since the 1800s in the chart below and then explored the implications of an aging society, using what’s happening in Japan (today’s “grayest” country) as an example.

Lifespan

Source: Atlantic MagazineThe article devoted considerable attention to current research on how our minds and bodies can say healthy as we age and suggested that, increasingly, boomers will be more concerned about their “healthspans” than their lifespans.

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