The Downside of Longer Life

sandWhat a cheery Struming. Downside of longer life? Oy vey.

We all want to be Peter Pan and never grow up, but alas that’s not the case. We do age, and I know I feel it every day. More aches and pains. Sprains that take longer to heal. I see it on the basketball court (yes I still play, though not well)–Shots that clank off the rim, tired legs and less running the floor are all the result. I feel like I am merely managing the slope of the decline of my skills (good thing is that I was never very good, so the slope of the decline is not steep).

But from an overall life expectancy basis, given the wonders of modern medicine, and greater information and proactivity, a healthy 65-year old can expect to live another 20 years or longer. All good news for a grandparent looking to cut the challah at their grandchild’s bar/bat mitzvah.

Life is a blessing and it’s up to all of us to appreciate the days we all have. But there are 2 “downsides” to longer life that need to be considered:

1. Will you “outkick your coverage”?

By that I mean have you figured out the cost of living into your 80s and 90s and how it will be funded. No one really “works ‘til they drop” despite the bravado. Either their employability diminishes and/or their physical or mental ability to work is gone. Or at best they work less than they used to. But assuming an income stream that diminishes, it’s important for everyone to lay out assumptions of drawdown assets and required distributions from IRAs/401ks (PS don’t forget the taxes owed and RMDs). And then compare the drawn down assets to a realistic expectation of expenses to determine if/when the money runs out or, for those who seek to leave money behind, how much is left for heirs.

2. The second hidden issue is that the odds of needing costly nursing care are dramatically increasing.

And it’s not cheap. Not a happy thought but one which wise planners need to come to grips with.

Those that think they’ll be able to shift their assets to their children and then get Uncle Sam to foot the bill for nursing care are in for a shock. Not gonna happen. Furthermore, most people wrongly think Medicare covers long term nursing care. It doesn’t.

The cost for nursing care can be steep, roughly $80,000-100,000 annually and increasing. And the likelihood of needing a nursing home care, or minimally a caregiver who comes to your home, for a 65 year old is now roughly 50%.

So here’s a thought, particularly relevant to those who are in the earlier stages of their back nine (in their 50s). Buy long term care insurance. 13% of people do, though the need is far greater than those who pony up for the coverage. If you buy in your 50s, the cost can be modest and obviously premiums spread over a longer time keep costs under control. And if you do, read the fine print. It’s complex and there are many moving parts including exclusion periods, length of coverage, inflation riders, shared coverage for married couples etc. Far too much detail for a blog post and beyond my pay grade in any case.

But my overall point is this: Expect to live longer and plan for it. Stay healthy as long as you able and have a good time while you can.

No one knows what the future holds. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan.

More Strumings


  1. Don Sherow says:

    Although an important subject for us “older” folks (I know age is only a number), please return to “fun” subjects, top 40 hits, Grateful Dead stories, etc. Thank you Lonny.

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