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The famous line from The Who classic “My Generation” has rather negative connotations for the prospect of growing old. Longevity has been in the news again recently, and it is a subject of frequent conversations with our clients.

Whilst recent reports highlighted the fact that the rate of increase in life expectancy has slowed in the UK compared to other developed countries, we can’t escape the fact that it is continuing to rise.

The common issue when thinking about how long we are going to live is that all too often we fall into the trap of framing. By which I mean we base our own expectations on the experience of our parents and grandparents. However they lived in different times, with different lifestyles and different medical services.

By way of an example to show just how things are changing, here are the statistics for 3 generations of the same family (mine).

You can gain get the same information given in the table above, for your own circumstances by visiting the office of national statistics website here https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/articles/whatismylifeexpectancyandhowmightitchange/2017-12-01



Trevor (Father)

Darren (Me)

Luke (Son)

Current age




Average Life Expectancy




1 in 4 chance of reaching age…




1 in 10 chance of reaching age…




Percentage chance of reaching 100





You can gain get the same information given in the table above, for your own circumstances by visiting the office of national statistics website here https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/articles/whatismylifeexpectancyandhowmightitchange/2017-12-01

The most frequently quoted statistics is that of average life expectancy. For me this is 85, and quite interestingly 3 years lower than both my father and son at their current ages. The problem with average life expectancy is it is just an average and we all have a 50/50 chance of beating it. However, it doesn’t help with the issue that if we do exceed the average, how much we might beat it by.

Therefore, what’s far more telling is the probability or chance of surpassing this, i.e the 1 in 4 chance to reach age 94 or the 1 in 10 of making it to 99, in my case a full 14 years more than the average. I have backed and won on horses at longer odds than this in the Grand National, so I don’t believe it is beyond the realms of possibility.

Furthermore, the percentage chance of reaching 100 and receiving that telegram from Buckingham Palace probably demonstrates how things are changing. The difference in the 1 in 10 figures in the table above are not that great, just 6 years between my 78 year old father and 13 year old son. But the percentage chance of becoming a centurion is quite noticeable at 18.3% for Luke compared to 3.6% for his grandfather.

This table also highlights the fact that my son (maybe yours or your grandchildren of similar age) will in all probability have to prepare to fund either a longer retirement than me or face working much longer. Therefore installing good money habits early could be the answer as well as potentially giving them a helping hand along the way.

As planners by nature we have little difficulty in looking into the future 10, 20 or even 30 years ahead. This is something most people struggle with or perhaps prefer not to think about too much.

The big question that always comes up when planning and talking about life expectancy is “Will I outlive my money?” Clearly we don’t know how long anyone will live, we only know the statistical data, and therefore we take a maybe conservative yet prudent approach by planning for age 100.

This can sometimes be greeted with discomfort or even horror – “I wouldn’t want to live that long”, or “Oh I do hope not”. This makes me wonder whether there is an image or perception in this country, that Roger Daltry was hinting at back in 1965, of a negative view of our lives in our later years.  There seems to be a fear that life may become empty when, what might be considered inevitable,  either our mind and/or body gives out.

But does it have to be this way? There are various studies looking at places around the world where longevity is way above the norm. The stand out example is Japan.

In fact whilst the country as a whole enjoys a high average life expectancy, the place with the global highest number of centurions is one of Japan’s many islands, Okinawa. Here people live very full and active lives throughout their 80’s and 90s and beyond.

One study of Okinawa quotes 3 reasons for this: 

  • A greater sense of community and being part of that community. In fact 3 of the 5 top places in the world for centurions are islands. It’s thought that living island life when at times there is a scarcity of resources promotes a greater sense of community.
  • Not what you eat necessarily but the fact they adopt an approach of stopping eating when 80% full rather than overindulgence.
  • A sense of purpose. Their reason to get up in the morning.

I appreciate heading off to a remote island to live out your retirement might not be everyone’s ideal, but ensuring we feel part of a community, be it through clubs, church, groups or location can be achieved.

Being mindful of what we eat and the exercise we do is also something we can all achieve.

Finally the purpose. We all need a purpose and identifying that is key to a long and happy retirement as this will ensure our physical and mental wellbeing is maintained. See our previous post entitled “Have you got enough purpose to get you out of bed” 

In Okinawa the image of later life is not sitting around in an armchair in god’s waiting room. Active social and community life is encouraged by the local government. Central to this is volunteering and organising local community events.

In fact rather than following The Who’s sentiment and wishing for an early demise, the residents in Okinawa are more likely to be doing an impression of Roger Daltry at one of the regular karaoke evenings! 

A statute in the main town on the island has the following inscription:

A declaration from the town where people live longest

At 80 I am still a child

When I come to see you at 90, send me away to wait until I’m 100.

The older, the stronger; let us not depend on our children as we age.

If you seek long life and health, you are welcome in our village, where you will be blessed by nature, and together we will discover the secret to longevity.

How we choose to live and how long we live in retirement clearly has major financial implications. Fortunately we have a wealth of experience and insights in working with clients throughout their retirement  which helps them make informed decisions about their financial and non-financial lives.

If  you would like to plan for your hopefully long, healthy and happy retirement, and prefer not to die before you get old, please do get in touch.

Info@strategic.uk.net or 01732 760000