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Longevity: Preparing Clients for Retirement


  • Longer life expectancies mean reframing the arc of life and rethinking retirement.
  • The key formula for retirement finances: Ensure income is greater than expenses.
  • Many retirees follow a predictable pattern that may not be the right fit for them.
  • Nationwide Retirement Institute offers resources to help with retirement planning.

People are living longer than ever, often well into their 80s or 90s.

This presents considerable challenges for retirement planning. Clients often underestimate how long they will live, which impacts their finances late in life, when medical and long-term care costs are likely to be at their highest.

Financial advisors can play a key role in guiding and coaching clients as they plan for what can be a lengthy retirement. The knowledge a financial advisor brings includes when is the best time to access Social Security, what Medicare covers and costs, and ways to think about the first part of retirement as a time of vitality, and not just traditional retirement.


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  • Steve Vernon Rest-of-Life Communications; Research Scholar, Stanford Center on Longevity
  • Carlo Cordasco National Field Director, Nationwide Retirement Institute®

Longevity: Preparing Clients for Retirement

In our recent webinar, Steve Vernon and Carlo Cordasco discussed the impact longer life expectancy is having and how people need to think differently about retirement to ensure they are well supported throughout their lives.

Longer life expectancies mean reframing the arc of life and rethinking retirement.

For Americans, the average life expectancy at birth is almost 791, with many people living well beyond that, into their 80s and 90s. Longer lives mean a longer retirement planning horizon, which must take into account the potential not just for 25 or even 40 years in retirement, but for disruptive events such as stock market crashes and increasing costs for medical and long-term care expenses.

The retirement phase is no longer one monolithic phase, as it was for much of the 20th century when people experienced childhood, became adults, moved into middle age, and then retired.

The 21st-century arc of life is different. Today, when people are in their 50s and 60s, most are still active and able to work. It is a new period that can be viewed as a second middle age, with even greater freedom and independence. In these second middle-age years, advisors still need to help people plan for retirement in their later years, when they are frailer, more dependent on others, and less willing or able to work.


“If you’re working with a client in their 60s, they might live another 25 to 40 years. That’s a long time to plan for, both financially and for what they’ll do with their lives.”

Steve Vernon, President, Rest-of-Life Communications; Research Scholar, Stanford Center on Longevity

The key formula for retirement finances: Ensure income is greater than expenses.

There is no magic number for a client’s retirement savings; retirement requires managing a client’s finances so that their income remains greater than their expenses. Understanding potential income and expenses can help clients make key retirement financial decisions.

Steve Vernon suggests thinking about retirement income as monthly “paychecks” that will last the rest of a client’s life, regardless of how long they live. These paychecks won’t be impacted if there is a stock market crash; they include Social Security, pensions, annuities, and tenure payments from reverse mortgages. They can be counted on to cover most, if not all, living expenses. He also suggests building a set of “bonuses” which are more susceptible to market fluctuations but provide the potential for growth. These bonus funds come from withdrawing invested assets, work, and other sources of income, such as rental income. Retirees should also have a cash stash, so that they don’t have to dip into the “paychecks” or “bonuses” when an emergency occurs.

Top 10 Financial Decisions for Retirement

  • 1. When and how to retire
  • 2. When to start Social Security
  • 3. How to build the retirement income portfolio, including savings and pensions (if applicable)
  • 4. How to make smart choices for medical insurance and Medicare
  • 5. Which living expenses to reduce
  • 6. Whether to deploy home equity
  • 7. How to protect against long-term care expenses
  • 8. How to protect against financial fraud and abuse
  • 9. How to provide for your spouse after you’re gone
  • 10. Planning for your financial legacy

Many retirees follow a predictable pattern that may not be the right fit for them.

Advisors can help clients navigate the technical retirement decision points that occur between the ages of 55 and 70.5. They can help clients understand the consequences of beginning Social Security payments at age 70, when the maximum benefit kicks in, as opposed to beginning as soon as they are able to. Advisors can also help clients understand Medicare decisions—not only what it covers, but what the out-of-pocket costs will be, which affect retirement expenses.

Advisors also need to understand their clients’ retirement risk perceptions, which fluctuate as the market changes. Top issues can vary over time from inflation concerns to healthcare cost risks, and these concerns need to be taken into account during planning.

While this may be the ideal pattern for some people, advisors can help clients determine the right way to plan for and approach retirement finances.

More than half of retirees follow a financial pattern of:

Taking Social Security as soon as they are able to (at age 62).

Withdrawing from non-qualified accounts.

Withdrawing from qualified accounts, such as a 401(k) or IRA, when necessary.

“The average person tends to underestimate their life expectancy. The financial advisor plays a role in helping them understand and develop the perspective they need when it comes to living longer.”

Carlo Cordasco, National Field Director, Nationwide Retirement Institute®

Nationwide Retirement Institute offers resources to help with retirement planning.

The Nationwide Retirement Institute advances the collective thought leadership of Nationwide to improve retirement outcomes in America. The Institute offers education and insights, actionable tools, and a team of specialists who provide consultative support to financial advisors.

The National Retirement Institute’s programs focus on Social Security, health care and long-term care, tax-efficient retirement income, women and retirement, and health savings accounts. Financial advisors can use tools, such as Nationwide’s Social Security 360 Analyzer® tool or the Nationwide Health Care/LTC Cost Assessment, to help identify the right retirement solutions for clients.

Retirees need to make a series of important decisions between ages 55 and 70 1/2.

Retirement Decision Points


Retiree Perceptions of Risk (% Expressing Major Concerns)


*Married respondents
Source: 2018 LIMRA Retirement Income Reference Book

Other Important Points

Life Portfolios
Advisors can help clients build a life portfolio, which considers how they will take care of their health and what they want to do in retirement, such as working or volunteering. Research shows that older people who are healthy, happy, and financially secure are likely to live longer.
Recommended Reading
Recommended reading. Read Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure, and Fulfilling Long Life by Steve Vernon. Also, download informative publications on longevity from the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Learn more about the Nationwide Retirement Institute. View the Nationwide Retirement Institute website for information on programs and resources. Call the Nationwide Retirement Institute Planning Team at 877-245-0763. Or, contact your Nationwide wholesaler.

Nationwide and Wealth Management are separate and non-affiliated companies.

Nationwide does not control any third party presenting information and is not responsible for their comments. Sponsorship of a third party does not imply endorsement of the information presented. Views and opinions are those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Nationwide.

Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, Social Security 360 Analyzer, and the Nationwide Retirement Institute are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

1 Dublin, L.I., and Lotka, A.J. Length of Life, and National Center for Health Statistics. “Health, United States, 2015.”

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