Longevity literacy: Preparing for 100-year lives?

Insights Report

How long can you expect to live in retirement? Probably longer than you think.


A 2023 TIAA Institute survey found most U.S. adults have poor longevity literacy—they did not know the life expectancy of a 60-year-old. This matters because people with low longevity literacy also tend to be more financially fragile. To enhance understanding of this important topic, the author of this paper uses mortality data from several sources to explain life expectancy at birth and at retirement, as well as the likelihood of living past a particular age. He also outlines what these statistics mean for retirement planning.

Key Insights

  • The mortality table TIAA uses accounts for factors that tend to increase life expectancy—including education level, type of work performed, pay, and access to medical care—many of which trend positive for TIAA participants.
  • TIAA assumes a 67-year-old retiree will live, on average, to about age 90, with a 25% chance of being alive at 95 and almost a 10% likelihood of making it to 100.
  • The longer a retiree lives, the more savings they need to fund their retirement; so the earlier they start planning for this eventuality, the lower the cost and the better prepared they will be.
  • The negative impact of outliving income is much larger than the negative impact of over saving (and, at worst, leaving the remaining balance to a beneficiary or estate).

Having a basic understanding of life expectancy is key to long-term financial security.


The author, who is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, analyzes mortality data from the Social Security Administration and TIAA to outline the implications for retirement planning.

A view of male and female mortality curves derived from the 2019 SSA mortality table


Benny Goodman

TIAA Institute

Sign up for the TIAA Institute newsletter

Get the latest research and insights straight in your inbox

We are sorry.

The service that receives your request is unavailable at the moment. Please try again.