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Can we afford to live longer?
We're living longer than ever, but few of us will save enough to afford this historical boon.
- A person reaching 65 today can expect to live into their mid-80s, many into their 90s.
- A 30-year retirement requires a nest egg of more than $1 million, yet 77 percent of American households fall short of such savings and investments.
- Experts recommend several strategies for affording a longer life, such as pushing the retirement age back to at least 70.
If you are reading this, you are one of humanity's lucky few. You and your cohorts will live longer than any previous generation. Ever.
Estimates of pre-modern peoples put the average life expectancy at roughly 30. That's for all peoples the world over. That average began to rise steadily by the Age of the Enlightenment, and since 1900, the global average has soared to more than 70 years.
Today, the country with the lowest life expectancy, the Central African Republic, has nearly doubled pre-modern standards. Meanwhile, developed countries such as Japan, Spain, and Canada have pushed their averages into the 80s.
On its own, this is an incredible achievement for humanity, and science and technology may continue this uplifting trend to help us live even longer. In an interview with Big Think, Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof, said he believes he'll live to at least a 180 years old. (Just look both ways when crossing the street, Mr. Asprey.)
But Mr. Asprey is an independently wealthy entrepreneur, who claims to have spent north of a $1 million biohacking his health. Can the rest of us afford to be so enduring?
Retirement: an idea whose time has come
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law.
Retirement is a modern idea. To our ancestors, the thought that you could spend your twilight years enjoying hobbies, travel, and Country Kitchen buffets was untenable. Unless you belonged to society's upper echelon, you worked, you grew sick, and then you died with precious few moments of leisure between.
There were a few exceptions, such as pensions for soldiers, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that change began on a large scale.
In 1889, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck introduced modern pensions. American Express offered the U.S.'s first employer-provided retirement plan, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad created the first joint-contribution plan. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935, and a provision in the 1978 Revenue Act gave birth to the 401(k).
The problem is that our mentality surrounding retirement planning hasn't kept pace with our hard-won longevity. It remains based on calculations and assumptions we formed when people died younger. Retirements newly protracted costs mean many of us may not be able to pay. At least not comfortably.
The higher costs of longer living
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), an American man reaching 65 today can expect to live until he is 84, women until 86.5. But the SSA points out that these are averages. One out of every three 65-year-olds will live past 90, while one in seven will surpass 95.
So, Americans who retire on their 67th birthdays, maintain their health, and remember to look both ways when crossing the street have decent odds to live about a third of their lives in retirement. Again, our ancestors couldn't even imagine such recompense.
Dan Yu, the managing principal at Hillcrest Wealth Advisors, told AARP that many factors go into determining an acceptable nest egg, such as health, where you live, and your desired retirement lifestyle. However, conventional wisdom is to save 10 to 12 times your current income.
Here's one scenario: a household would need roughly $1.5 million to support a 30-year retirement at $50,000 a year. That's assuming interest rates stay relatively steady and inflation doesn't balloon.
But mercurial interest rates and bloating inflation aren't a retiree's only concerns. High administrative and management fees devour 401(k) earnings. Most of the benefits flow to the top fifth of earners, leaving households in the bottom half to salvage for the 4 percent of scraps that fall their way.
And some lack even scraps. According to a 2018 report by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), more than 100 million working-age Americans don't own any retirement account assets and the median retirement account balance for all working Americans is zero. If we include Americans who do have saving assets, a staggering 77 percent fall short of "conservative" saving targets. (Though, some commentators believe the NIRS's saving targets are more excessive than moderate.)
Preparing for your (hopefully) long life
None of this is to say we can't afford retirement or that we need to return to an era where working life immediately precedes the grave. But we will have to begin rethinking how we approach and enjoy retirement.
Be prepared to retire later. People working today should plan to shift their retirement past their 60s and into their 70s. The longer you work, the more money you can earn without dipping into your retirement assets. A report from the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Society of Actuaries analyzed different income plans. It found that a couple who waited until 70 to retire would earn nearly twice the annual income than if they completely retired at 62.
"Most older workers will fall short of commonly recommended retirement income targets, unless they can work in some manner into their late 60s or 70s," the researchers write. "Otherwise, they might need to learn how to live on reduced spendable income compared to their working years."
Begin saving now. If inflation is the eternal enemy of retirees, then compound interest is their patron saint. If someone invests $5,000 dollars a year between the ages of 25 and 35 and then stops, their $50,000 investment will equal roughly $600,000 by age 65 (assuming a 7 percent annual return). If someone else invests the same amount annually between 35 and 65, their $150,000 investment will amount to $550,000.
The earlier one starts investing, the greater their accumulated total will be. (The above example is from JP Morgan Asset Management; you can find a handy graph illustrating the difference here.)
Plan for more life than you think. Dan Yu advises saving 100 percent of preretirement income for at least the first 10 years. While some may recommend 70–80 percent, Yu points out that spending doesn't slow down in early retirement as people tend to enjoy niceties such as travel.
Live a healthy life. Health care starts long before you reach the hospital, and that's especially true for your golden years. Staying healthy reduces your risk of expensive illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, and injuries, such as fractured bones from falls. And the longer you can live independently, the less money you'll need to pay out for assisted-living care.
True, healthy people who live into their 90s will, in the long run, pay more in medical expenses than sick people who die in their 70s. But as the adage goes, you get what you pay for.
Consider an HSA. Speaking of health, a health saving account (HSA) allows you to set aside pre-tax money to pay for qualify medical expenses later. These funds can be used to pay for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and other expenses. Funds roll over year after year, and you may earn interest.
"Most financial advisers stand to make nothing on an HAS," Jeff Vollmer, managing partner at Hyde Park Wealth Management, told Time, "so it's generally not something that goes into their financial-plan recommendations."
Keep up-to-date on technology. Your retirement savings will take a major hit if you can no longer live independently. But big tech's move into health care may provide ways to assist retirees in living more independent and more comfortably for longer. Telemedicine, for example, could help retirees by offering remote-patient monitoring tools and allowing them to communicate with medical practitioners more easily.
It may go without saying, but let's say it anyway: These are just a few things to consider when planning your retirement, not a roadmap to affording the retirement of your dreams. To determine what approach works best for you, do your research and seek the advice of a financial advisor whom you trust.
We all won't live to be 90, let alone 180. But if we plan properly, we can at least enjoy this gift — this longevity boon — of the modern age.
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The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.
Minimoons<p>Scientists have confirmed just two prior minimoons. One was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_RH120" target="_blank">2006 RH120</a>, which orbited us from September 2006 to June 2007. The other was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_CD3" target="_blank">2020 CD3</a>, which got stuck in the 2015–2016 timeframe, and is believed to gotten away in May 2020.</p><p>2020 SO, the new kid on the block, is expected to arrive in October 2020 and pop out of orbit in May 2021.</p><div id="37962" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4c0fc8a2cba6536ea4cd960ebed3e6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307729521869611008" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture… https://t.co/F5utxRvN6Z</div> — Tony Dunn (@Tony Dunn)<a href="https://twitter.com/tony873004/statuses/1307729521869611008">1600621989.0</a></blockquote></div>
Identifying 2020 SO<p>The first clue 2020 SO isn't your ordinary asteroid is its exceptionally low velocity. It's traveling much more slowly that a typical asteroid — their <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank">average rate of travel</a> <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>is 18 kilometers (58,000 feet) per second. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rock" target="_blank">moon rocks</a> sent careening into Earth orbit by impacts on the lunar surface outpace pokey 2020 SO.</p><p>For another thing, 2020 SO has an orbital path very similar to Earth's, lasting about one Earth year. It's also just slightly less circular than our own orbit, from which it's barely tilted off-axis.</p><p>So, what is it? <a href="https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/" target="_blank">NASA estimates</a> that the object has dimensions very reminiscent of a discarded Centaur rocket stage from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveyor 2 mission</a> that landed an unmanned craft on the moon. Back in the day, rocket stages were jettisoned as craft were aimed toward their desired position. This stuff, if released high enough, remains in space. It appears that this Centaur rocket, launched in September 1966, is now making its way back homeward, at least for a little bit.</p><p>When 2020 SO arrives at its closest point in December, the rocket is expected to be about 50,000 kilometers from Earth. Its next closest approach is much further: 220,000 kilometers, in February 2021.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDk3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1MTQ1MX0.HGknDwqp0GmeuczKY_AS7vrPG7KMFUc_XO95tNoI2xo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e5cda" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85eb1f790d8c3ee5b261f7ba13eaa5e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Centaur rocket stage" />
Centaur rocket stage
What we may be able to learn<p>Earthly space programs being as young as they are, scientists would love to know what's happened to our rocket during a half century in space.</p><p>While 2020 SO won't get close enough to drop into our atmosphere, its slow progress has scientists hopeful that they'll still get some kind of a decent look at it.</p><p>Spectroscopy may be able to reveal what the rocket's surface is like now — has any of its paint survived, for example? Of course, being out in space, it's likely to have been hit by lots of dust and micrometeorites, so the current state of its surfaces is also of interest. Experts are curious to know how reflective the rocket is at this point, valuable information that can help planners of future long-term missions anticipate how well a craft out in space for extended periods will remain able to reflect sunlight.</p>
Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
- One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."