O'Donnell Kerr Financial Planners
  • 04 May, 2015

Longevity - only a risk for some!

One of the major concerns for people when they retire is, ‘how long will my savings last in order to support my lifestyle of choice’?

This is what we often refer to as ‘Longevity Risk’, or the risk of outliving our money.

My good friend and colleague PK has written about this issue in a previous blog and there have been many articles in the media about this subject… and I have no intention of adding to that list.

However, I would like to consider the risk from a health, rather than the usual wealth, perspective.

I fear that for a growing number of people, longevity will NOT be a risk.

We are constantly advised via the various media outlets of the importance of putting money away into savings or superannuation to ensure that we are able to enjoy our retirement – and this is certainly the major focus of banks, financial planners, industry funds and the like.

However, I would say that we all need to take one step back and remember our health in retirement is just as important as our wealth and, in the same way that we are diligent about saving for retirement while we are working, we need to also focus on our health during our working life.

I believe it is very clear that a person’s health experiences later in life are affected by their behaviours during their younger years.

So, you may well ask ‘what is the health experience that could reduce longevity risk’? It could have something to do with our growing waist-lines:

  • More than five million Australians are obese;
  • If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese;
  • Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia;
  • Obesity has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia; and
  • On the basis of present trends, by the time our kids reach the age of 20 they will have a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations simply because of obesity.


I recently had the good fortune to attend a conference were the nutritionist, Dr. Joanna McMillan was speaking. She also spoke about the obesity epidemic and emphasised the need and importance of a balanced diet and the dangers of a sedentary life.

A balanced diet is not rocket science – if we think about it, it is just common sense. You should include vegetables and legumes, fruit; bread, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and tofu, milk, yoghurt and cheese.

I am certainly not qualified to advise on the quantities. I will leave that to your own research but I do know that fizzy drinks, chocolate, energy drinks, wine, doughnuts and chips are not a separate food group.

Inactivity is the second silent killer which can contribute to a person’s shortened life expectancy.

Evidence is emerging that sedentary behavior, such as sitting or lying down for long periods of time is not good for your health.

Technology has made our lives easier, but also made us lazy. There are fewer of us doing manual work – we outsource. Many of us have jobs which involve very little physical effort. Doing housework and pushing a trolley up and down in the supermarket does not qualify as sufficient physical activity.

As a general guide, we should be looking to achieve 150 minutes of moderate intense physical activity in a week. What is moderate intense physical activity? It is an activity which raises your heart rate, leaves you still able to speak but not able to sing – which could be a blessing.

I am not qualified as a doctor or nutritionist but I believe most of what I am saying is very basic and common knowledge. But before you feel inspired and start your vigorous exercise program, please take the time to speak to your GP and get the all clear.

If this blog is not enough to make you stop and think about your own lifestyle then remember this little bit of extra, more enticing piece of information – all the research indicates that for those over the age of 65 who remain healthy and active, also maintain a healthy sex life – food for thought….maybe!

Realise your Dream

The Realise Your Dream blogs are written by Peter Kelly and Mark Teale. More information about the authors can be found here

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