How long will my savings have to last in retirement?


One of the issues discussed frequently when completing a retirement planning session with a client is how long one expects to live.

Now, we all recognize that our life spans are not totally in our control. While we can extend the length of time we are likely to live by practicing healthy lifestyles, that is not a guarantee that we will live longer. Conversely, we see people every day who live very long lives yet not in a particularly healthy way. So, the question remains: How long should I assume my savings would have to last in retirement?


There are several ways to address this conundrum:


1. You can assume you will live to 100 and develop a savings accumulation and distribution strategy to support that assumption. This is the most conservative approach, since very few people live to 100 or more, so it is likely to generate the largest asset transfer to heirs but also requires the largest pre-retirement funding.


2. You can assume you will live approximately seven years beyond the life spans of your parents, which is the rate that each generation is exceeding the previous generation on average, and plan your accumulation and distribution strategy accordingly.  This is a less conservative approach than the age 100 idea; thus it will likely produce a smaller wealth transfer to heirs at death and require less pre-retirement funding.


3. Your independent financial fiduciary can project, using some of the latest planning software, your expected lifespan by factoring in your personal health status, family history, occupational and environmental factors and the age at which you expect to retire. This is a more sophisticated approach than the previous two. Yet there is not sufficient data to say with relative certainty that it will produce a more accurate result for the population at large. 

Over the years, my position on this issue has consistently been to err on the side of assuming longer life spans and planning accordingly. If you are correct, you will be less likely to run out of money in retirement, a situation we all wish to avoid.  If you are wrong, your spouse or other heirs will simply inherit more money than was expected – not an entirely bad outcome.  I hope this helps you think through this challenging issue.

Frederic “Ric” Schilling is a Florida native, born in Jacksonville, Fl. Ric is President of Senior Guardians of America, a local North Florida firm specializing in tax reduction, long term illness planning, asset protection, probate avoidance and life income planning. Ric is a National Speaker and Advocate on Senior Issues and has been featured by the Florida Times Union and WJXT, TV-4 in Jacksonville as an authority on Estate Planning and Retirement Issues. Senior Guardians has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member in excellent standing with the National Ethics Association.  Contact Frederic: 904-371-3302 or  888-891-3381   Please visit:

This article is not intended to give tax or legal advice. Securities offered through Center Street Securities, Inc. (CSS), a registered  Broker-Dealer & member FINRA & SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Center Street

Advisors, Inc. (CSA), a SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Schilling and Associates (d/b/a Senior Guardians of America) and CSA are independent of CSS.