In a recent blog post on the Forbes.com website, financial planner and medical professional Carolyn McClanahan suggests that your health status may be a crucial input into your overall financial plan.
Why? Because it helps you know how long your money will need to last—in other words, your longevity. If you have significant health issues at an early age, then you can probably spend more during retirement and use up your nest egg faster than if you’re hale and your family history has close relatives living past age 100.
The default assumption has been that people will live to the age on a standard life expectancy calculator—which would say, for instance, that a person age 49 has a 50% chance of living past age 85. But people who live a healthy lifestyle probably have a proportionately greater “risk” of outliving their life expectancy, while a chronically overweight smoker might be expected to contribute to the other side of the statistics. In general, financial planning clients tend to be smarter and wealthier, which suggests that they’ll outlive the statistical averages.
McClanahan routinely estimates that her healthy clients will live to age 100. For people with health concerns, she asks that they visit livingto100.com, which is an online questionnaire/calculator that asks health-related questions and then tells you how long you can expect to live based on more than just the actuarial statistics. She tested it out with her “real” (healthy lifestyle) information and the site estimated she would need to financially prepare for living to age 102. When she gave different information—describing herself as an overweight, beer-guzzling junk food eater and smoker—her life expectancy shifted to age 63. What a difference!
And, of course, the lifestyle component is only part of it. If you have chronic conditions, if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or have other significant health concerns, you can throw the averages out the window. The point: your health and lifestyle can greatly affect the assumptions in your financial plan and should not be ignored.
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