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5 Tips for Living Well Longer

Our experts offer advice on preparing financially—and otherwise—for a retirement that could last 30 years or more

"IT'S NOT EVEN GOING TO BE 100. Scientists are talking about people living to 200 or 300," says Sarbjit Nahal, head of Thematic Investing at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. He made that startling prediction in Merrill Lynch's webcast, "Are You Ready to Live to 100? Ways to Help You Get (Financially) Fit."

With people all over the world living longer than any time in history, many of us may soon find ourselves at turning points we never saw coming. "It's incredibly liberating, but also a little scary," notes Andy Sieg, Head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. And the financial implications are huge, says Surya Kolluri, managing director of Global Wealth & Investment Management at Bank of America, moderator of the webcast.

Below you'll find just a sampling of the tips the webcast's panelists offered up to help you work toward your retirement goals.

1. Take the long view on longevity. "It's never too early—or too late—to start planning," says Dr. Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, which recently issued The Sightlines Project. This 2016 report, co-sponsored by Bank of America, identifies three pillars of a long and fulfilling life: healthy living, social engagement and financial security.

"We need to think not only about very long retirements, but also about saving for different goals," Carstensen says. "It might be saving to take a year off to go back to school so you can learn a new trade. Or setting aside money for your grandchildren's college funds before they're born."

2. Make the most of—and invest in—the "silver economy." "We're seeing $7 trillion in consumer spending by the elderly in America alone," says Nahal. This trend is likely to continue, offering investment opportunities, especially around technology that helps people age better, he adds. "Self-driving cars are going to become a game-changer for many older people who are no longer mobile. And as people live to 100 and beyond, virtual reality and augmented reality are going to ensure that they never get bored."


3. Volunteer for others, but also for yourself. According to Carstensen, research has shown that "feeling like you're alone in the world is as great a risk factor for dying as cigarette smoking." To combat isolation, one potential solution she recommends is volunteering to help in a favorite cause. "In addition to doing good, volunteers gain health benefits."

4. Plan for the health risks of aging. "The earlier we start planning for long-term health care, the better," says Ben Storey, director of Retirement & Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "It's important to think about how we're going to cover these expenses. For example, we may earmark certain funds that are going to be used, or even leverage insurance."

With Alzheimer's and other forms of cognitive decline on the rise, Storey recommends that families keep the lines of communication open. "At Merrill Lynch, we've recently introduced a client contact authorization form that allows our advisors to contact a family member if they notice some signs of diminished capacity." Another useful resource available to Merrill Lynch clients: a Preparing for Longevity Checklist outlining key planning considerations for your fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond.

5. Listen to your elders. "I've learned a lot from my father, who's about to turn 80," says Kolluri. "For 25 years, he drove a car two miles to work every day. Now that he's older, he's become more health conscious, and he regrets that he didn't walk those two miles to work. So I'm putting in my daily 10,000 steps on my fitness tracker."

For Storey, the best advice for enjoying a longer life came from his grandfather: "He used to say that our most valuable asset is time" —a useful reminder to appreciate the rich opportunities that longevity provides.

3 Questions to Ask Your Advisor

  1. What are some ways I might think about meeting potential health care costs in retirement?
  2. How can I see to it that I don't outlive my retirement income?
  3. I'm afraid I may have waited too long to start planning for retirement—are there steps I can take to catch up?

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