An unrecognized barrier to retirement income security: Poor longevity literacy

Insights Report

Planning, saving, and preparing for retirement is complex and a key factor in that complexity is the inherent uncertainty regarding how long one's retirement will last.


The TIAA Institute and GFLEC coined the term "longevity literacy"—an understanding of how long people tend to live in retirement—in a January 2023 report. That report used a single question in the 2022 P-Fin Index survey to gauge longevity literacy levels among U.S. adults. This report expands upon that initial research using three new questions that were added to the 2023 P-Fin Index survey. Each new question measures a different aspect of life expectancy among 65-year-olds.

Key Insights

  • 12% of U.S. adults have strong longevity literacy— they demonstrate an understanding of how long 65-year-olds live on average, as well as their likelihood of living to an advanced age and the likelihood of dying relatively early.
  • 31% of U.S. adults have weak longevity literacy—they demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the distribution of life expectancy at age 65.
  • Workers with strong longevity literacy tend to be more confident they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement.
  • Retirees with strong longevity literacy are more likely to report that their current lifestyle meets or exceeds their pre-retirement expectations.
  • Poor longevity literacy cannot be improved by simply providing individuals with information—terminology is an obstacle.

The vast majority of U.S. adults lack longevity literacy, which is associated with retirement readiness.


The 2023 P-Fin Index survey was completed online in January by a sample of 3,503 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older. Asian, Black, and Hispanic Americans were quota-sampled for at least 500 respondents each, as were Gen Z adults. The data were weighted to be nationally representative.

Longevity literacy among U.S. adults


Paul J. Yakoboski

TIAA Institute

Andrea Sticha

GFLEC, The George Washington University

Annamaria Lusardi

GFLEC, The George Washington University

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