Life Expectancy Reaches a New High

That’s even more years of retirement you need to save for

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The typical life expectancy in the U.S. reached 77.9 years in 2007. Over the past decade the American lifespan has increased 1.4 years, up from 76.5 in 1997, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of death certificates in the United States.

Women continue to live longer than men. Males now typically live 75.3 years, compared to 80.4 years for females. But the gap between male and female life expectancy is decreasing. While women lived 5.1 years longer than men in both 2006 and 2007, that’s down from a peak gap of 7.8 years in 1979.

Life expectancy also varied by race. White men outlived black men by 2.1 years in 2007. White women’s longevity was 3.7 years longer than that of black women. But the life expectancy gap between whites and blacks narrowed by 0.4 years between 2006 and 2007. The typical lifespan reached record highs for both races and sexes in 2007. This was also the first year that black male life expectancy reached 70 years.

The typical lifespan is a somewhat useful tool for retirement planning. Assuming you retire at age 65, that means the typical male enjoyed 10 years of retirement and females had 15 years outside the workforce. But it’s also important to note that many people live far longer than average and life expectancy increases every year. About 2,423,995 people died in the U.S. in 2007, down 2,269 from 2006. Heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death, were responsible for nearly half of all deaths in 2007, the CDC report found. Yet, heart disease deaths have been declining steadily since 1950 and cancer deaths began to decrease in the 1990s. More recently, heart disease mortality rates dropped 4.7 percent between 2006 and 2007 and cancer deaths decreased by 1.8 percent over the same time period.

Most financial advisers recommend budgeting for at least 20 years of retirement and preferably 30 years in case you do live into your 90s. It’s better to leave something behind for your children than to use up your entire savings and have no income outside of Social Security.

For more information, see:

  • Countries With the Longest Life Expectancy
  • A Tricky Number: Your Own Life Expectancy
  • Still Working After Age 100