Kevin Kautzmann, CFP® Quoted in The Wall Street Journal

Posted on June 20, 2011

The possibility of living into my 90s seems like a gift on most days – one that, if I’m lucky, I’ve inherited from my long-living ancestors. But it can also feel like a burden.

At age 45, I can still call my grandmother to hear stories about the Great Depression. She turned 97 this year. More than half a dozen close relatives have lived into their 90s, and that’s just going back to my great-grandmother.

A long life, of course, can be a blessing. But financial advisers typically use a more-daunting term: longevity risk. It’s the reason that many develop retirement plans that assume their clients will live to at least age 93, reflecting the growth of the country’s oldest population. The number of Americans who live to age 100 or greater increased 43% between 2000 and 2010, to 71,991 from 50,454.

The concept of planning for my financial well-being in 50 years is so overwhelming, it’s easier just to ignore my family history. But there are tricks to thinking so far ahead. One is to break long- and short-term goals into smaller parts, so each seems more doable, says Lisa Kent, a Princeton, N.J.-based vice president and wealth-management adviser for Merrill Lynch & Co., a unit of Bank of America Corp.

What follows are some of the parts that go into planning for a very long life:

Don’t Play It So Safe

Investors typically retreat from stocks in the years before they retire, slowly shifting their portfolios from growth and income stocks to more conservative fixed-income bond portfolios. Some future retirees, for example, may decide to allocate at least 60% of their portfolios in high-grade bonds by age 60.

Funding a retirement well into my 90s, though, could require investing more in equities until age 70, says Vivian Groman, senior adviser at Starmont Asset Management in San Ramon, Calif. How much risk I accept should depend on how much I’ve saved, my lifestyle and the health of the economy at that time, Ms. Groman says.

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