Personal Finance

Note to self: Rethink plan to live past 85 unless you're this type of person 

Key Points
  • With longer life spans in sight, more than a third of U.S. workers say it would be a financial hardship to live past the age of 85, according to the newest Wells Fargo retirement study.
  • One kind of person isn’t worried, though. People who describe themselves as planners have more savings. They’re less stressed and they’re likelier to say they’re thriving.

We're all living longer.

Advisors commonly tell people to plan on 20 or 30 years in retirement, and an often-mentioned target sum for savings is $1 million.

More than two-thirds of people over age 21 say living that long would actually be a financial hardship, according to a Wells Fargo study on retirement attitudes.

Wells Fargo conducted an online survey in August of 3,563 working as well as retired Americans to find out their views on planning, saving and investing for retirement.

Most workers said they expect to live to age 85, nearly half said they could live longer and a small number (10 percent) said they could hit 95 or even older.

So that's a lot of stress for a lot of people.

But there is one type of person who is not bothered by the prospect of many decades of retirement.

People who plan.

This is how far $1 million in retirement lasts in U.S. cities
This is how far $1 million in retirement lasts in U.S. cities

Debbie Todd, 55 and a resident of Washington state, married into a family who tends to live into their upper 90s and early 100s. "This is a reality we have baked into the foundation of our spending, saving and retirement planning for over 30 years," she said.

Todd and her husband monitor costs for health care, mobility, assistance with adult daily living tasks and not being a burden on their children. For nearly 30 years, the couple has stuck to a weekly allowance system. Each can spend, save or give whatever they like from that amount.

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They'd like to keep on thriving as long as their mental and physical capacity allows. It helps that she is a licensed CPA and financial educator.

Todd's strategy is simple and commonsense. They spend less than they earn each year and take advantage of any available retirement plans. "We live life as treasure hunters, knowing what we want and staying positioned to get deals," she said.

The Todds paid cash to build a retirement dream home, which they built themselves. "Persistence and creativity can really pay off," Todd said.

Julie Starnes Rains, 58, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, isn't sure she'll live till 100 but she's planning to. "I've always planned to live off investment earnings, not to deplete investments, which has been or had been the model for many financial advisors," Rains said.

She intends to delay Social Security and use an annuity to address living for many years in retirement. "I'm observing how my dad lives, as he's 92 and has no plans to slow down," Rains said.

Wells Fargo found four statements that point to a significantly better financial life. That means lower levels of financial stress and better financial well-being.

People who describe themselves as planners have set a financial goal during the past six months. They're working toward a more distant goal. They feel good about planning their finances over the next couple of years. They prefer saving for retirement now – they are not waiting to set money aside for their future.