Do you know people who have outlived their own life expectancy? People who break all of the rules but somehow keep living? Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones is an example – despite (or maybe because of?) his hard-living, he is now still rocking at age 74. I knew a man whose father passed at a young age and who himself was overweight, drank a lot, and smoked, yet he still made it into his mid-70’s.
Conversely, do you know people who did everything right but still died young, struck down by a heart attack or stroke well before their time? Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book of Running, and a healthy living advocate, had a heart attack and died while jogging at age 52. A woman I know lived a healthy life but was felled by a stoke in her 40’s. Very sad.
I am very proud to be a Certified Financial Planner™, but I am always uncomfortable in making the Life Expectancy assumption when trying to figure out how many years a client is going to live or how many years they will require money. It is a crap shoot at best. It is a guess. Its only purpose is to complete a financial projection. You don’t know when your time will be up; when your number will be called. Countless songs have been written about it, especially in the Country & Western genre. You can do all the right things, play by the rules, and still die much too young; or you can break all the healthy-living rules and still live a long life. It’s not fair.
What To Do?
The least helpful thing you can do is to worry about when you are going to die because it is unhealthy to do so. Worrying doesn’t help. Live your life, enjoy your job, family, community, country, children, and grandchildren. Go about your business. The Grim Reaper will come when he wants to, not when you want him to come, or when you have an appointment.
This next leads to the logical argument about the usefulness of planning. Why plan if you don’t really know when the plan will end? Good question, but there is much more to planning than making accurate assumptions about when you will die. Just the act of planning and the execution of that plan on a daily basis gives you something to work for, to live for. The plan gives you an arbitrary standard upon which to base the scoring of your life’s work. Your first column in the Excel spreadsheet of your life is Plan. The second column is Actual, and the third column is Difference. If you had planned to save $1,000 per month for the next year and you actually did so, not only do you feel good about the savings, you also feel good about having executed on your plan. What about dieting? Same thing. If your New Year’s Resolution is to lose 20 and you actually lose 20, you win in two ways: by feeling lighter by losing 20 and by accomplishing what you set out to do. Increasing your savings and losing weight are admittedly short-term plans, but they can lead to longer-term goals.
Planning and working with a Certified Financial Planner™ is important not because you are trying to predict accurately when you are going to die, but because it will help you gain a purpose for your life and its works, and it will help you feel better about yourself when you achieve your plan. If you don’t achieve your goals, maybe you need to reassess your goals, or maybe something happened in the interim to kibosh your goals, but at least you tried and can feel good about that. Please contact me if you want to set your financial plan so that you can feel better about yourself.