The price of living forever

Posted by on July 16, 2010 @ 1:52 pm in Personal finance

The other day, I was preparing to record a podcast for Vanguard.com on life events and asset allocation. I decided to veer away from the predictable “retirement is a life event” theme and concentrate on marriage, children, and divorce as life events that should stimulate some serious consideration of your asset allocation.

Then I happened upon this Wall Street Journal article, which made me pause.

It seems every week or so we learn something new from the study of the human genome. As the WSJ notes, scientists have discovered a “genetic signature of longevity,” which could soon lead to a simple test telling people whether they’re likely to live to 100. Already, direct-to-consumer genetic tests distributed over the internet are proliferating. Walgreens recently came close to providing over-the-counter genetic testing kits, but has since backed away. Sensibly, physicians and the Federal Trade Commission advise consumers to exercise caution.

When I saw the WSJ article, I couldn’t help wondering—if you felt you had a good chance of living well past 80, would you handle your finances differently? Would you save much more today? Would you be willing to be more aggressive with your asset allocation—or more conservative? Would you take less risk in your personal life, and skip learning to skydive? Or would you not care?

Note: The links to wsj.com, washingtonpost.com, and ftc.gov will open new browser windows. Except where noted, Vanguard accepts no responsibility for content on third-party websites.

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