Understanding how long a client may live is a key factor in financial planning, and this should influence how much and what type of life insurance is recommended by agents. Most individuals may think about their longevity when they first purchase insurance, and then they forget about this aspect of their plan and leave their life insurance on autopilot. They see monthly payments being debited from their account, knowing that they are protecting their loved ones, family members or other beneficiaries.
We encourage policyholders to appraise their life insurance policies, so they understand the value of the asset. As they age, it's critical to also have a solid understanding of how long they will live and what factors impact longevity.
For many, computing longevity is less a calculation and more of a history lesson. We look at how long our parents or grandparents lived and then make a guess as to how that will play out for us. Maybe we take a quick peek at our current health and try to add that into our “back of an envelope” calculation.
While family history and our current health play major roles in longevity, there's a lot of data out there about the other factors that also have an impact on how long we will live.
Let’s talk BMI
The first factor to review in a longevity calculation is a client’s current body mass index (BMI). They can visit the National Institute of Health website at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm and calculate their BMI. Here’s what the BMI number means:
Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
Managing weight is something that almost everyone struggles with, but for clients outside the normal range, they could be shortening their life expectancy.
How’s the cardiovascular history?
The cardiovascular health of one’s parents is another big factor in longevity calculations. If parents made it to age 55 without any cardiovascular problems, then a client is probably in a better position.
How’s the BP and how what about stress?
High blood pressure decreases longevity as does how a client manage stress. If they are under stress and don’t handle it well, it can negatively impact their life expectancy.
Diet and exercise always seem to go together
Regular exercise, such as walking 4-5 times a week, has a positive effect on longevity. Couch potatoes beware.
Speaking of potatoes, how’s your client’s diet? Do they eat plenty of fruits and veggies? Or are they a fast-food or processed food sort of eater? It’s easy to guess which is better for longevity.
How one drives impacts how long they live
If a client get into accidents and is deemed an unsafe driver, then they will likely not live as long. And don’t forget to wear a seatbelt. Regularly buckling up adds to a client’s time on the road – and on Earth.
Bum a smoke?
We all know smoking is bad and it’s usually the first question on a life insurance application. If a client wants to live longer, put out the cigarette right now.
Where’s the party?
Drinking alcohol more than a couple of times per week (and more than a glass or two), puts longevity at risk. The same goes for recreational drugs. Keep it clean and live longer.
Following the doctor’s orders?
Another factor in longevity is how frequently one visits the doctor. If a client goes for regular check-ups, they are more likely to be around longer. Skip the doctor at your peril.
All these factors contribute to how long your clients will live, and you can’t have a solid financial plan unless you understand the longevity calculation. We counsel clients to know the value of their assets, and order a life insurance policy appraisal. Knowledge is power. We believe that all financial advisors should recommend longevity calculations for their clients.
As part of our policy appraisal services, we include longevity estimates based on your client’s rating at the time the policy was issued, and the Society of Actuary’s 2015 Valuation Basic Tables (VBT). Be sure to get a free evaluation today.