Thursday, October 04, 2018

How Long Are the Golden Years?

Just how long are the golden years? If you are nearing retirement, how many years can you and your spouse expect to spend together? This is not an easy calculation. The answer is not simply the shorter life expectancy of the husband. Instead, the calculation of joint life expectancy requires incorporating the probabilities of both husband and wife surviving in each successive year.

It's a tedious job, say economists Janice Compton and Robert A. Pollack, but they did it. Their results are published in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, which examines trends in joint life expectancy over time and by race, Hispanic origin, and education. They illustrate their findings throughout the paper by considering a wife aged 60 married to a husband aged 62. "We focus on 60 year old wives and their husbands because these are ages at which many couples make crucial retirement-related decisions such as leaving career employment and claiming social security benefits," the authors explain. Here are some of the findings by race, Hispanic origin, and education based on life expectancy stats in 2010...

Joint life expectancy for wife at 60 and husband at 62 (and probability wife will be survivor)
Blacks: 15.45 years (63%)
Hispanics: 18.79 years (65%)
Non-Hispanic Whites: 17.66 years (63%)

Neither is a college graduate: 15.53 years (65%)
Only wife is a college graduate: 17.17 years (68%)
Only husband is a college graduate: 18.31 years (59%)
Both are college graduates: 18.99 years (63%)

Joint life expectancy has expanded over the decades as individual life expectancy has grown, the researchers find. For non-Hispanic White couples, joint life expectancy has stretched from just 12.06 years in 1950 to the 17.66 years of 2010. Black couples can look forward to 15.45 golden years, up from just 9.99 in 1950.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Life Expectancy of Older Couples and Surviving Spouses, Working Paper 25009 ($5)

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