You Might Live Longer Than You Think. Your Finances Might Not. WSJ Article

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You Might Live Longer Than You Think. Your Finances Might Not. Financial planning tends to overlook longevity, a factor that can far exceed life expectancy.

Here are two numbers that people ought to know but often don’t: how many more years they are likely to live and the probability of living much, much longer.

The good news is that many Americans live a lot longer than they expect. The bad news is that this often leads to financial regret as they realize, sometimes too late, they might have claimed Social Security too early, passed up the opportunity to buy annuities or long-term-care insurance, or simply undersaved for all those added years of retirement.

Demographers and actuaries make the following distinction between life expectancy and longevity: Life expectancy refers to the average number of years someone will live from a given age, whereas longevity refers to how long he or she might live if everything goes well, typically expressed as the probability of living beyond a certain age such as 85, 90 or even 100.

A growing body of evidence shows that many people are ignorant of their so-called longevity risk—the probability of living a very long time—and the complications that presents. 

“A lot of people are thinking about life expectancy, but the extent to which people are asking questions about longevity is much lower,” said Abigail Hurwitz, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who studies pensions and behavioral finance.

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