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How Long Will I Live?

This longevity calculator may help you decide when to claim benefits

En español | Q. I'm trying to decide when to take my Social Security benefits, and I've been told to think about how long I am likely to live. Is there any way to figure this out?

See also: What's the best age to claim benefits?

A. Not precisely, of course. But you can get a pretty good estimate of how long you're likely to live by using the Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator.

You tell the calculator whether you are a male or female and the day, month and year of your birth. The table that then pops up will tell you the average number of additional years you will have left at various ages, including your current age, at 62, at the full retirement age of 66, and at 70. The results are based on data compiled by the Social Security Administration.

According to SSA, a man reaching 65 today can expect to live, on average, until 83. A woman turning 65 today can expect to live, on average, until 85.

Here are two sample results from the Life Expectancy Calculator:

  • A man born on April 8, 1956. At his current age of 55, he can expect to live to 81.8 years. But, if he reaches 70, he can expect to live until 85.3 years.

  • A woman born on June 7, 1960. At her current age of 50 years and 10 months, she can expect to live until 84.5 years. If she reaches 70, she can expect to live until 87.5 years.

As you can see, the longer you actually live, the further out your life expectancy is pushed.

Social Security cautions that the individual estimates do not take into account a number of factors such as your current health, lifestyle and family history, all of which could increase or decrease your life expectancy.

As a prospective retiree, you should consider all of these factors when deciding on your retirement date.

For more information on life expectancy and retirement decisions, read "Other Things to Consider," which starts off by saying this: "There is no one 'best age' for everyone and, ultimately, it is your choice."

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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