Is 100 the New 70?

Eating well, exercising, getting plenty of sleep and managing chronic stress can help make you a SuperAger. Funding that long life requires longevity literacy.

An older man spreads his arms wide as he swings through the air on an amusement park ride.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In this age of living longer, I ask myself an uncomfortable question: “How long will I live?” It’s a headscratcher, for sure. But in the interest of self-reflection, let’s spitball it.

  • Will I live past 70? I like my odds.
  • Will I live past 80? Why not?
  • Will I live past 90? My father did.
  • How about 100? Imagine that.
  • But do I even want to live to 100? Only if I have my health and all my faculties.

For those striving to lead a healthy lifestyle, the answer to the last question is likely a resounding “yes.” It is fair to say most of us hope to live a long life. The good news is science is cooperating, and living for a century is increasingly possible.

Centenarians are on the rise

While centenarians remain rare, they are second in growth only to the over-85 set, which is the fastest-growing age group. There were more than 100,000 people age 100 and older in the U.S. alone in 2019, a number more than triple the 1980 figure of 32,194, according to the Administration on Aging. And the number of Americans in this population segment is expected to quadruple over the next three decades, per the Pew Research Center.

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Longevity expert Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and a New York Times best-selling author, told the Christian Broadcasting Network that by the early 2030s, we will see an increase in the average lifespan of around 30 years, making 100 the new 70. That’s less than 10 years from now.

David Sinclair, a molecular biologist at Harvard University, whose research team successfully reversed aging in mice, told CNN, “We have the technology today to be able to live into your 100s without worrying about getting cancer in your 70s, heart disease in your 80s and Alzheimer’s in your 90s.”

Modern science confirms time-tested advice

Scientific breakthroughs in medicine and technology have been significant over the past several years. Couple this with growing knowledge about health and lifestyle choices and their effects on aging, and we have arrived at a new frontier of optimal aging, or SuperAging.

Solid evidence shows that one of the best ways to increase our chances of living a long and active life is by following four basic suggestions we received at an early age. These SuperAging fundamentals are simple in theory but often difficult to execute consistently. The time-tested formula includes eating well, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and managing chronic stress, which can affect adults at any age.

Consider the impact of stress alone. Researchers at Yale University found that young and healthy subjects who scored high for chronic stress traits aged faster than those who lacked these traits. My father lacked them and reaped the benefits. He lived to age 91 but was not a practitioner of most healthy lifestyle choices. He was an insomniac, generally only walked if he had to get somewhere, and to be honest, he didn’t eat a lot of vegetables.

Yet my dad had a successful, fulfilling work career, was a lover of life and family and kept his stress under control. You could say he checked only one out of four boxes from a SuperAging perspective, but he lived a long and happy life, free of chronic illness and disease. He also was financially secure through the end of his life. This is notable because financial worry can be a top stressor.

Funding a long life requires longevity literacy

The financial angle raises a key point: There’s more to SuperAging than merely living longer. To ensure our quality of life is high, we need to reasonably estimate how long we will live and ensure we have enough money to fund a protracted retirement. However, many investors lack the necessary longevity literacy.

This is clear from recent research conducted by Jackson with the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College focused on longevity risk — the potential to outlive one’s savings. Among other unreliable methods many investors use to estimate how long they will live, more than 40% surveyed rely on the age of a parent at death to predict their own longevity. Yet with life expectancy increasing over time, attaching to the age of a parent alone is not a reliable predictor. In fact, it’s estimated just 25% of longevity is determined by genetics, according to the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus.

In the Jackson study mentioned above, most investors anticipate an average lifespan of 87 years, while most financial professionals recommend planning for income to last at least until the age of 90 and often longer. This reflects a more cautious approach by financial professionals intended to ensure clients don’t outlive their assets.

How to try to predict your longevity

While there is no crystal ball to predict the future, there are tools to help make an evidence-based estimate, including a wide range of longevity calculators that adjust national average life expectancies based on personal data. Using one can be an important early step in planning for the financial risk inherent in a long retirement. A financial professional can help with finding the appropriate planning tools and financial products.

Here are links to some popular longevity calculators, arranged from simple to more complex in terms of user inputs*:

Sufficient income with a healthy dose of gratitude

Rapid advances in the science of aging and related fields, coupled with evolving attitudes on what retirement can look like, send a clear message — it is essential to prepare mentally, physically and financially for very long lives, and having sufficient retirement income will be even more important.

Perhaps this is one reason research consistently shows many Americans fear not having enough income in retirement. In a recent Allianz Life study, an amazing 61% of respondents said they were more afraid of running out of money than death itself. And the American Academy of Actuaries calls acquiring sufficient lifetime income “the single most important step needed to improve the retirement security of older Americans.”

How do we really feel about living to 100? Sixty-three percent of U.S. adults who fear aging consider the scariest aspect to be a potential decline in health, according to a Forbes Health survey. This reinforces the value of applying evolving science and focusing on the basics of moving more, eating well, getting plenty of sleep and managing stress.

Or consider the secret weapon of Norman Lear, the award-winning television producer and creator of the show All in the Family. Lear, who lived to age 101, would add another SuperAging fundamental, and that is gratitude. In describing this key to his healthy aging to AARP The Magazine, he cited the “feeling of appreciation for the gifts with which we are born or have and the ability to accumulate.”

Just imagine the many possibilities today’s modern retirement holds with the gift of longevity.

* Jackson provided the longevity calculator links solely for informational purposes and as a convenience to you. Jackson makes no representations concerning the content of the Third-Party Sites. The provision of a link to a Third-Party Site does not constitute an endorsement, authorization, recommendation, sponsorship, or affiliation by Jackson with respect to the Third-Party Site.

Jackson, its distributors, and their respective representatives do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. Any tax statements contained herein were not intended or written to be used and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal, state, or local tax penalties. Tax laws are complicated and subject to change. Tax results may depend on each taxpayer's individual set of facts and circumstances. You should rely on your own independent advisors as to any tax, accounting, or legal statements made herein.

Jackson is the marketing name for Jackson Financial Inc., Jackson National Life Insurance Company® (Home Office: Lansing, Michigan) and Jackson National Life Insurance Company of New York® (Home Office: Purchase, New York). Jackson National Life Distributors LLC. CNC106744 03/24

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Phil Wright, Certified Fund Specialist
Vice President of Marketing Communications, Jackson National Life

Phil Wright is Vice President of Marketing Communications at Jackson National Life Distributors LLC (JNLD) and an award-winning financial writer. He started with the company in 1994 and focuses on the development and creation of marketing business content. He is a Registered Principal and Certified Fund Specialist (CFS®).