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By Alix Langone
April 10, 2019

Americans are optimistic about how long they’re going to live — so optimistic, in fact, that more than half hope they’ll live long enough to blow out 100 candles.

Some 53% of Americans say their goal is to live to 100-years-old, according to a new survey by AIG Life & Retirement. The main reason they gave was to experience deeper relationships with their family (39%), while 32% said seeing the world change was their incentive, and 17% cited wanting to stay productive.

Thanks to advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles, it’s more likely than ever that Americans will make it to the century mark, if not beyond. The centenarian population has grown faster than the overall population over the course of the last three decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, increasing 65.8% from 1980 to 2010. There is at least a 50% chance one member of a 65-year-old couple will live to 92, the Society of Actuaries reports. Women have a better chance of making it to 100 than men — 82.2% of the 53,364 centenarians alive in 2010 were female.

For most people, however, there’s a disconnect between their desire to live longer and feeling like they will be financially secure enough to do so. Only 9% of people say they’re “extremely confident” they’ll have enough income to last them through retirement, and 51% of people say they’re uncertain that their current retirement savings plan will allow them to go the distance, according to the AIG survey. Americans’ financial anxiety is real: Nearly six out of 10 are more afraid of running out of money in retirement than they are of dying.

Since lifespans are lengthening, people should think about preparing for a full four decades of retirement, says Kevin Hogan, CEO of AIG Life & Retirement.

“The way people have to think about aging and planning for a long-term retirement is changing,” he says. “The reality is that there is a lot of unpredictability [in retirement] and the longer you live, the more that lack of predictability increases.”

But it doesn’t have to be all money stress, all the time if you’re proactive in your retirement planning.

“Historically, people have focused on savings,” says Hogan. “Savings is important, but how you plan on using that savings is also really important.”

More than 8 in 10 Americans say they’re anxious about funding the entirety of their golden years through their retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs, according to the survey. Focusing on income is key to bridging the gap for a new generation of retirees, he notes.

Nearly a quarter of Americans say that being able to generate lasting retirement income was the “most significant” financial challenge they would face in retirement, tied only with the rising cost of health care. Historically, consumers have not embraced annuities, the simplest of which involve handing over a lump sum of money to an insurance company in exchange for guaranteed monthly income that starts immediately or in the future. But given their concerns, these so-called income annuities could be worth another look.

A 55-year-old who put $100,000 into a 10-year deferred income annuity today would receive monthly payouts of $781.46 a month starting at age 65, or $337,591 through age 100, according to an illustration run for MONEY by New York Life. In this scenario, men and women would receive the same amount; the payout is not indexed for inflation and would decrease slightly if the consumer chooses an option where their heirs would get some money back if they die.

And while Social Security is also a form of guaranteed lifetime income, it’s not enough for the average retiree to live on comfortably — you should always have more than one stream of income to safeguard your financial security in retirement.

If you feel especially anxious about being financially secure in retirement, consider working with a financial advisor, Hogan says. The AIG study shows that 45% of people who have a financial advisor feel “very or extremely confident” that they will be able to fund their retirement if they live until 100, compared to just 8% of those who do no work with a financial planning professional.

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