Why You Need to Think About Living to 120

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Considering the Very Long Life Scenario

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Face it: you might live much longer than you expect. If you’re 40 years old, actuaries expect you to live another 40 years or so. But current lifespan projections don’t account for the likelihood of major advances in medical technology during the coming decades, possibilities like nanobots swimming through your bloodstream to clear plaque from your arteries and break down cancerous tumors, or genome-based treatments, or 3D organ printing. While we don’t know which future technologies will succeed, the multitude of possibilities—and the billions of dollars being invested—make it probable that a few home runs will lengthen the human lifespan significantly. If you planned to live another 80 years, what would you do differently?

The very long life scenario would make all investments in your future more valuable, changing your exchange rate of short-term pleasures for long-term gains, and altering your decisions about finances, health, and education. For example, at a conservative 5% rate of return, an investment of $1,000 now would yield about $7,000 in 40 years. Before reading further, can you guess what that investment would be worth in 80 years, in the very long life scenario? Due to the magical powers of compound interest, your current investment of $1,000 will equal $52,000 in 80 years. Do you think this very long life scenario might help motivate you to save a little extra? And do you think you might take better care of your body, if you knew it might last you 120 years with proper maintenance? And how might a very long life expectancy change your decisions about education?

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One of the most common regrets people tend to have is not having gotten more education. And many adults feel they’re too old to go back to school. But if you were going to live 80 more years, might finishing your degree be worth your investment of money and time? The returns to learning in the very long life scenario aren’t limited to a formal education. Investing in life skills is equally, if not more important. Financial literacy? Public speaking? Writing? Even a mundane skill like folding fitted sheets might be worth the time it takes to watch an instructional YouTube video, if you calculate the number of fitted sheets you might be folding before you reach 120. And if you estimate the number of Chinese people you might speak with before reaching 120, learning Mandarin might be almost a no-brainer.

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“If you planned to live another 80 years, what would you do differently?”

Others have said that the benefit of pursuing a goal isn’t what you achieve, it’s who you become in the process. If you set the goal of living to 120, would it help motivate you to be the person you want to become?

Could understanding our behaviors hold the key to financial security? We think so. Learn More at The Challenge Lab.

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