A Centenerian Workforce?

Sadly, the oldest U.S citizen in our country died this month at age 114.  The Gerontology Research Group, which verifies age information for Guinness World Records, listed Mamie Rearden’s date of birth as Sept. 7, 1898, and her birth was recorded in the 1900 U.S. Census.  She didn’t spend much time in the workforce since she left her teaching job after having her third child, but she led an interesting life doing volunteer work. According to her daughter, Mamie always counseled that her 11 children should treat others as they wanted to be treated and that included never gossiping or speaking ill of others. We should all follow this motto if that’s what was the secret to her long life. 

While Mamie only spent a few of her 114 years working for a living, Loren Wade, dubbed America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker by Experience Works, has been in the workforce for 88 years.  Mr. Wade, who celebrated his 100th birthday last July, started working at his first job pulling weeds at a tree nursery at the tender age of 12 and he’s been working ever since.  Most pre-retirees joke about getting a job as a greeter at Walmart if they need extra spending money and that’s exactly where Mr. Wade landed in 1983 when he retired from the U.S. Postal Service, but he works in the pet supplies department. To him, age does not matter. Wade’s advice to people in the workforce today: “Do a good day’s work for your pay.”

Both of these stories provide examples of living (and working) beyond what we typically consider as the average life expectancy, which the Social Security Administration estimates to be age 83 for a 65 year old male.  Based on the Social Security life expectancy calculator, my own life expectancy is estimated to be upwards of age 88, and that didn’t take into consideration any of my health history or my lifestyle. The Living To 100 Life Expectancy Calculator goes much deeper and asks 40 questions related to your health and family history. Both of these calculators are great tools to share with your workforce since most employees I’ve talked to underestimate their own life expectancy and how long they may spend in retirement.  Understanding our own personal life expectancy estimate is very important because many retirement income calculators use the average life expectancy as a default when estimating income projections for retirement.

When I conduct our onsite workshop Retirement Reality Check, I always ask the audience if anyone has relatives who have lived into their 90′s and beyond.  I always have at least a few hands that go up, and an attendee just last month shared with her co-workers that her grandmother was still alive at 108.  For these employees, I typically suggest adjusting the retirement calculator to reflect either age 90 or even age 100 as an alternative scenario to make sure they aren’t at risk of outliving their retirement nest egg.  You can do the same by enlightening your workforce about Mamie’s motto for a long life and how to prepare financially to live to 100 or beyond.

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