Photograph by Priscilla Du Preez

Knowing How Long You Will Live — and Live Healthy— Could Transform Retirement Planning

Selfies aren’t the basis of most retirement planning, but Jay Olshansky, a leading researcher in longevity and a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois, thinks they should be.

“The face is a biomarker for the rate at which we age,” says Olshansky, who helped develop technology for the insurance industry to analyze photographs for quotes and underwriting. “We can learn a lot more from a photo than you can imagine.”

The two most crucial questions in retirement planning—how long are you likely to live, and how much of your life will be spent in relatively good health?—have long been dismissed as unknowable. But thanks to facial analysis, gene testing, and other new technology, advisors and investors may finally be able to get answers that meaningfully change the way they navigate saving for and living in retirement. And it has as much to do with your health as it does your portfolio.

Lifespan is arguably the crux of all financial planning, especially how much an individual should save for retirement, and how much he or she can safely spend once retired. It can also influence decisions related to timing Social Security benefits, buying annuities, and getting long-term care insurance.

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