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A Look At The Number, Part 3

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This is Part 3 in a series about The Number by Lee Eisenberg. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

The great thing about science is people are now living older and in better health in the past. From a certain point of view, a long lifespan may be a curse rather than a blessing. In Lee Eisenberg’s book, the author mentions historical information about lifespans:

… [I]n the 4,500 years between the Bronze Age and 1900, life expectancy rose a scant twenty-seven years. It increased that much again in the last century alone. In the Bronze Age people lived on average to be eighteen (which means that the Olsen twins, Lindsay Lohan, and Ashton Kutcher would have perished of old age before they could have done much damage to pop culture.)

The World Future Society believes that a lifespan of 150 years is not too far off. Eisenberg mentions Don Haas, a former musician who became a financial planner. Now seventy-five, he has decades of experience in finance. He has his clients take a longevity test, a highly detailed questionaire made to give an indication of how long the individual might live. Don believes that people now in their forties should be planning to live at least another sixty years.

I’ll be thirty next year. Perhaps I’ll retire in another thirty years. At that point, if I remain healthy, I may require a Number that provides income for another sixty years following retirement! As Lee points out throughout the book, the New Retirement is not going to look much like traditional retirement. With the uncertainty of how people will support themselves on investment income, perhaps we’ll see more septua- and octogenarians in the workforce. With medical advances over the next fifty years, this might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

When you plan for retirement, are you considering the possibility you’ll be alive much longer than your parents and grandparents?

Consumerism Commentary’s series on The Number by Lee Eisenberg:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Official Website | Official Blog | Buy the Book

Updated February 7, 2012 and originally published December 1, 2005.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

avatar 1 Anonymous

I thought it was crazy when my financial advisor set us up on a simulation that assumed we’d live to 98! That’s a whole lot of retirement to save up for, unless like you say, we begin to stay in the workforce into the 70s and 80s. The problem is, however, that a huge proportion of people in their 80s and 90s start to develop diseases like Alzheimer’s, which would render them unable to work. Even if life expectancy rises, I do not expect these types of problems to diminish. I suppose that’s why companies like Genentech are booming :)

avatar 2 Anonymous

For some reason, I don’t like the comment that those people would have died of old age by now. A life expectancy of 18 doesn’t necessarily mean that people are dying of old age. High infant mortality would drag the average life expectancy down.