Life expectancy vs. Longevity in financial planning

Senior Law News | Feb 28, 2023 | Jennifer S. Rossettini

If you have been through the financial planning process, especially as it relates to retirement planning, you are probably familiar with the concept of your anticipated life expectancy.  The purpose of most retirement planning exercises is to make sure you do not run out of money prior to the age at which you are expected to die.  You may not be aware that there is a difference between life expectancy and longevity.  The difference could prove critical to your financial planning.

Life expectancy refers to the number of years a person can expect to live.  According to the CDC, males born today are expected to live 73.5 years and females are expected to live 79.3 years.  Using myself as an example, a white female born in 1973 was expected to live 76.1 years.  Life expectancy can be calculated at any given age and the result of that calculation will tell you the average number of additional years a person can expect to live.  Such a calculator can be found at  This calculator asks for your gender and your date of birth.  Using my gender and date of birth, I learn from this calculator that I can expect to live an additional 35.7 years for an estimated total years of 85.5.  This is already quite a difference from the 76.1 years estimated by the CDC for babies born in 1973.

Longevity, on the other hand, is a calculation of the probability of living beyond your life expectancy.  According to the Actuaries Longevity Illustrator, which can be found at,     based on my date of birth, my gender, the fact that I am a non-smoker, and my general health is average, I have a 29% chance of living to age 95!  Again, quite a difference from the 76.1 years estimated by the CDC.  The illustrator suggests that, to be cautious in my planning, I should consider that there is a 10% likelihood that my husband and I will both live longer than 26 years in retirement and one of us will live at least 36 years in retirement.  This means that we should plan for one of us to live until 103!  Even if we went with the less cautious probability of 25%, we should plan for one of us to live until 98.

Why is the difference between life expectancy and longevity in financial planning so important?  Quite simply, your financial plan could be too aggressive if only your life expectancy was used to determine how much to save, when to retire, and how much to spend during retirement.  A more conservative approach would be to determine the probability of living beyond your life expectancy.  For me, I just may consider working longer than I originally anticipated.

Pets corner: Ask Anya

Hook Law: Anya, this topic makes me wonder.  How long can I expect my furry friend to live?

Anya:  That is a great question and the answer depends on the type and size of pet.  A small dog is expected to live 13 years on average, while a large dog is expected to live 8 years.  An indoor-only cat is expected to live 12 to 18 years, while an outside cat is expected to live only 2 to 5 years.  As with humans though, beware of longevity risk – the oldest recorded cat lived to be 28 years old! 

Jennifer S. Rossettini

Attorney, Shareholder, CFP®
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
[email protected]

Jennifer Rossettini is a Shareholder of Hook Law where she focuses her practice in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate and trust administration, and financial planning. Her practice includes complex estate planning for clients with a net worth over $5 million as well as simple plans for individuals with very limited assets. Ms. Rossettini rejoined the firm in 2018 after spending ten years as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with the wealth management divisions of two regional financial institutions. She is a member of the Financial Planning Association, serving as Secretary for the Hampton Roads chapter and serves on the Board of Directors of the non-profit organization, PrimePlus Senior Centers. Jennifer lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two daughters. She is active in the Girl Scout organization, serving as both a troop leader and as the treasurer for the local Service Unit.

Practice Areas

  • Elder Law
  • Estate & Trust Administration
  • Estate Planning
  • Financial Planning
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