Americans are dying younger and working longer

We’re not living as long as we used to, according to the National Health Center for Health Statistics. This federal agency found that Americans’ life expectancy, which has stalled since 2011, has now begun to drop. In 2015, the average American could expect to live 78.8 years, a 0.1-year decrease from the previous year.

That may not seem like a huge difference, but a new Bloomberg News analysis found that these mortality projections have had far-reaching consequences on 12 large companies’ pension plans. Looking at company filings, Bloomberg News found that when mortality expectancies drop, so do employers’ pension costs. Twelve companies, including Verizon and General Motors, have reduced their pension spending by a combined $9.7 billion in the last two years.

It’s unclear what exactly is causing the hold-up to us living longer. Some experts have linked our mortality rates to our declining health. A 2017 study found that more working-class white Americans are dying from “deaths of despair,” which the researchers defined as deaths by drugs, alcohol, and suicide.

Living less, but working more

But even as Americans are living less, and in some cases, getting paid less retirement money by employers, many are pushing their retirement further back. A recent Gallup survey found that most U.S. workers plan to keep working past the traditional retirement age of 65. Two in three Americans said that they planned to keep working after age 65, though they only planned for it to be part-time.

Although the majority of those surveyed said they would work longer because they “want to” and not because they “have to,” the Gallup survey also noted that not everyone is working after retirement out of choice.

The survey cited Americans being “overly optimistic about their retirement finances” as one reason why Americans will keep working more years than their predecessors. That makes sense. Many of us are dying with little in savings. A 2012 study found that about 46% of U.S. senior citizens have $10,000 or less in financial assets when they die.

So whether you want to or have to work longer, it’s important to recognize that your health and your finances will play a significant role in how you spend your final years.