Time changes perspectives, as perspective changes time. So it’s natural that millennials and baby boomers and Gen Xers would have different attitudes about living longer. Who would say they don’t want more years of life? Very few people. But when asked what it means, who wouldn’t also show anxiety?
Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America recently wondered about these questions, too, and conducted a study to see how different demographic cohorts are dealing with the idea of living longer from both a philosophical and financial standpoint.
According to the firm and its recent study, “The Gift of Time,” 70% of the 3,000 people the firm surveyed have some anxiety about what living longer will mean for them financially. It wasn’t just baby boomers, whose retirement savings are a well-documented source of stress. Seventy-four percent of millennials in the study said they felt financially unprepared for longer lives, while 79% of Gen Xers felt that way. Only 57% of baby boomers felt financially unprepared. Still high, but perhaps also reflecting the fact that they’ve had time to think about the subject.
The study of adults ages 20 to 70 found that more than half, 51%, thought that having enough money to live a full life to age 100 was a big problem. About 37% said they knew they would have to keep working or retire later to make ends meet.
Which is not to say that money is everything. For the most part, the respondents were optimistic, says Katie Libbe, the vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life. And quality of life is important. According to the study, 52% of the millennials said that if they had a longer life, they’d prefer a non-traditional career path in which they took breaks, stopped to volunteer, returned to school and did other things that reflected their unique lifestyles. Only 40% of the boomers said the same thing.
When asked what they might do with 30 more years of life, 36% of millennials said they might pursue a dream like starting their own business. Only 21% of boomers said they’d do that.
Libbe says the study is part of a longer project with videos about longevity you can find on the company’s website at www.allianzlife.com/TheGiftofTime. She says this information will be useful to advisors starting conversations with clients young and old about their goals.
“We had been approached by the Stanford Center on Longevity to partner with them and become one of the associate members of the center,” said Libbe. “And what we liked about Stanford’s approach [is that it] wasn’t about aging and it wasn’t about retirement. It was looking at if people are living longer, what are the kinds of things that society, business and academics can do to make that more meaningful? And they kind of have three pillars they focus on: mind, mobility and financial security.”
One of the things they said they realized is, “It’s hard to fund a 30-year retirement on a 40-year career.”
Ninety-three percent of the survey respondents said that living longer overall was a good thing and they were optimistic about it, but millennials and Gen Xers are somewhat frightened by what it’s going to cost.