The Longevity Game Show: Stay Hungry for the Bonus Round

Mark Venning, Change Rangers

By Mark Venning, Change Rangers

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

If you thought that getting through the long 2015 federal election campaign — the “spin the wheel for tax dollars” game show – -was more than your attention span could handle; think again. The Longevity game show is in full swing! And by all accounts, we have barely begun to see the peak in audience participation.

As one of over 9 million Baby Boomers playing from home with your finger on the buzzer, your first question is – “What is your longevity expectation? Quick thinking might suggest to you, based on the last statistical survey you read, that you are an “average Canadian,” so your immediate answer could be 82.

Finger off the buzzer. Depending on what perspective you have from the perch you sit on in your age band, how you envision your life expectancy will depend on so many variables. Living beyond that average 82 may appear like a short or a long game. So the second question is: “How will you feed your longevity?”

Financing your longevity

Not all of the 9 million longevity players have a handle on this, but a frequent visit with an enlightened certified financial planner (CFP) is a significant card you need to play in this game: with a financial planner who hopefully starts without that word retirement and leads with “how are you going to finance your longevity?”

My accountant is a CFP who doesn’t sell product. This year we revisited the usual questions including How long do you intend to keep working? This is part of the trail mix for feeding my longevity. My intention to work longer may reflect a general trend, and for many the inspiration tends to be a combination of need and desire. His parting words were the best: “Stay hungry.”

Staying hungry goes beyond financial needs or the fulfillment work can bring. Staying hungry for activity, knowledge and conversation, social interaction and civic engagement. However you decide to figure it out, this all keeps you in the longevity game.

Making the bonus round

Let me share a longevity game show story. For many years, I was a POA [Power of Attorney] for a woman who lived to age 90. When she was 82, her health and general living conditions became, shall we say, precarious. She lived a very full, healthy life and continued relatively well under better care giving arrangements in her last eight years.

Over her life course, she learned to stay hungry. Yet when she faced the reality of her changing condition, it was tough. I took her to her doctor to assess her capacity to care for herself. Supportive of my role as her advocate, he was also empathetic but frank with her; it was time she let others help her. His last words to her as we left his office:  “Enjoy the life you have, you’re on the bonus round.”

She knew what that meant and I know she held back her laughter to save face. She kept her finger on the buzzer, continued to stay hungry and that included a good shot of rum and three square meals a day for 99.9% of those eight years.

Oh by the way, her accountant/CFP was the same as mine. She recommended him to me over twenty years ago. I’m still in the game.

Mark Venning works with non-profit and business leaders, providing presentations, research and advisory services on the Business & Social Aspects of Aging Demographics – and 1:1 with business professionals “leaving the corporate crow’s nest” to explore Entrepreneurship in Later Life.

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