Retirement quality may hinge on how long you live

Personal Finance

No one knows how long they will live. Yet how realistic your estimate is can make or break your retirement plans.

When you decide about claiming Social Security retirement benefits, one of the first questions you need to ask is how long you may live. And when you decide how much you will save toward retirement, your longevity is a key factor you need to consider.

But the problem is that a lot of people fail to hit the mark.

“Whenever we do our surveys, we always ask people, ‘How long do you expect to live?'” said Jamie Hopkins, professor of retirement planning at The American College. “What we always see is people underestimate how long they’re going to live.”

In 2016, life expectancy at birth in the U.S. was 78.6 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For men, it was 76.1 years, while for women it was 81.1.

The leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer and accidents, according to the agency.

But once you live to a certain age — say 65 — that increases the likelihood that you will live into your old age.

But if you have not planned to live that long, you could end up broke.

“What we don’t want to have happen is wake up on our 95th birthday or 100th birthday and find out that we’re out of money,” said Catherine Collinson, president and CEO of the Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

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