Increased longevity is challenging people to rethink the traditional three-step life path of education, work and retirement.
But one age group — individuals ages 40 to 59 — is more likely to struggle with this concept, according to new research from Transamerica and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab.
“That cohort based on the study really had the toughest time and was carrying the most stress and burden about managing this concept of longevity in a positive way,” said Phil Eckman, president of workplace solutions at Transamerica.
That comes as that age group — traditionally categorized as Gen X, as well as younger baby boomers — is likely most stressed about all things in life, from parenting and saving for their children’s education to caring for their own aging parents, Eckman said.
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At the same time, they must be mindful they may live to ages 85, 95 or even 100, and starting to plan for that now, he said. One step that can help is talking to a financial advisor, Eckman said.
The research finds while 74% of people in their 50s say it is extremely or very important to save enough money to eventually stop working, just 57% said they expect to be able to retire. Moreover, half of people in midlife are struggling to get by financially, more than other age groups studied.
Because midlife respondents also tended to be the least healthy, they may also benefit from prioritizing exercise and healthy eating to position themselves for better quality lives later, Eckman said.
“One of the best ways to deal with stress is to look at that notion of health and well-being and sleep and diet and exercise and the way that can reduce stress,” Eckman said.
Younger individuals focused on ‘here and now’
Younger adults ages 20 to 39 are focused on their current financial challenges, from paying student loans to saving for a down payment for a home or other goals.
Younger individuals would benefit by learning to balance those priorities with retirement saving now, Eckman said.
“If you can just start saving and get in a routine of saving a little for that long-term goal of retirement, you’re going to thank yourself loudly later in life, because it gets you that foundation,” Eckman said.
That younger cohort – including millennials and Gen Z – is anticipating a complex, multi-part working life, with perhaps more jobs and more careers, the research found.
Importantly, they are also making exercise a priority, including yoga and meditation.
Older generation move into next phase of life
Older adults ages 60 to 79 are now making the most of what they have, according to Eckman. Of all age groups, the research found they demonstrate the greatest financial stability and confidence.
Moreover, this age group is now exploring their ability to continue to work in some capacity, even part-time.
People in their 70s were more likely to exercise every day or frequently, showing new habits can be created even later in life.
Where to look for inspiration
For all age groups, taking action towards better financial or physical health today to prepare for their future selves may be a challenge.
A filter that recently trended on TikTok let people get a glimpse of what their older selves may look like.
“The role in simulation in helping us see that future self is incredibly powerful,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab.
“The challenge will be how do we remind you periodically to reinvigorate that desired behavior, particularly for health and wealth,” he said.
One effective source of inspiration may be older individuals who are living quality lives, Eckman said, like the 80-year-old uncle who has the active lifestyle of someone who is 30 years younger.
“We see these inspirational stories of people embracing their longevity and making the most out of a very long and fulfilled life,” Eckman said.