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August 17, 2021

Investment plans should factor in life expectancy

Although you might think life expectancy is the one number you’d try hard to get right, most of us tend to underestimate how long we’ll live, routinely making investment decisions that are at odds with our future needs.

According to recent Statistics Canada data, the median life expectancy at birth for Canadian men is approximately 76 years; for women it's closer to 82.

Don't forget, though, that by the time you're comfortably retired, many of your peers will have already died, thus increasing your personal odds of living longer.

Eliminating the 15 per cent who die prematurely and the 15 per cent destined to live the longest can give you a reasonable sense of the future. According to actuarial calculations, within the 70 per cent left, men will die at ages ranging from 74 to 94, while 70 per cent of women will die somewhere between ages 77 and 96.

If that's still too broad a range for you, a growing number of web sites can help paint a more personal picture with easy-to-use life-expectancy calculators.

In other words, if you, or perhaps a parent, has already hit 65, you'll probably make it to you mid-80s and could easily live well into your 90s.

Spend five minutes figuring out how many years you have left — statistically speaking — by doing the math using AARP's longevity calculator. You may be surprised.

For a more detailed estimate of what the future might hold, have a look at this life calculator.

Were you surprised? Given your family history, does your estimate seem reasonably accurate?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...