Retirement: It’s Longer Than You Think

Written by Jeff Helms

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September 9, 2015

Retirement — we refer to it as the “Golden Years.” We imagine retirement as the sunset of our lives, the end cap on a long life that begins with childhood, continues with our journey through the education system, and which then culminates in our career. And then, we imagine, at the end of all that comes retirement, a brief period of well-deserved peace and quiet.

But for many of us, retirement may not turn out to be so brief. A new chart from WaitButWhy breaks down the life of a typical American by weeks. As you can see below, it vividly illustrates that if you retire early and live a long life, retirement can make up nearly a third of your life.


The chart illustrates the life of an average American who takes an early retirement at age 63 and lives to be 90 — longer than average, but far from extraordinary. This hypothetical person will spend 27 years in retirement — longer than childhood, adolescence, and the time spent getting their university degree, combined!

The average lifespan of an American man is currently 76 years, and for a woman it is about 81 years. But if you beat the averages — and who doesn’t want to? — will you have enough in your retirement savings to take care of yourself?

Outliving Your Retirement Savings

A study by Harvard, Dartmouth, and MIT found that nearly half of retirees had less than $10,000 in their savings the year before they died. That means that many Americans are spending the end of their “golden years” flat broke. All too often it seems that Americans save up relatively small amounts expecting it will hold them, despite the rising cost of housing and the astronomical cost of medical care. reports that the average length of retirement in major Western countries is now 18 years for men and 22.5 years for women. This is an increase of almost 8 years since 1970.

If you’re approaching retirement age, the question you need to be asking yourself is, do I have enough saved up to last me for one decade, or two… or what about three? As medical science improves, we can all hope to enjoy the benefit of longer lifespans. But those benefits will bring new challenges as retirees struggle to support themselves financially.

Getting A New Perspective on Retirement

It is time to rethink our view of the Golden Years. Instead of envisioning them as a short finale to a long life, we should view them as a new chapter of life all their own, a chapter that may be quite lengthy. And we should plan for them accordingly.

More and more people are delaying collection of social security, which can substantially boost what you collect. Many are also delaying retirement, picking up part time jobs, or even trying new careers. And the most successful are working with financial planners to create a detailed, written retirement plan.

Do you have a retirement plan that will last you thirty years? If you have questions about outliving your retirement, the experts at First Coast Wealth Advisors can help. Call us today to schedule your financial check-up.