Review: Life Expectancy Calculators

I focus intensely on living a good life. I actively work on my bucket list, which has provided some crazy adventures. I focus on experiences over material possessions and have gotten my finances in order to support my larger life goals.

Sometimes, this focus inevitably leads to thoughts on how much life I might have left.

From a young age, I wasn’t spared the experience of death. I attended the funerals of grandparents and great grandparents, lost a friend in high school, and have lost many more since, unfortunately. I say this because not everyone has been this close to mortality. Some folks have never been to a funeral, for example, or are lucky enough to still have grandparents around.

I’m just laying the groundwork for what this blog post is about. To be blunt, it’s about life expectancy. But, in reality, it’s about living and living well.

For several years, I’ve been checking in with online life expectancy calculators. This time, I thought I would review each calculator and share the results, both the numerical calculations as well as the affects the numbers have had on my life.

Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator

Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator

The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator feels the most thorough, asking about education, family history, stress, physical activity, diet and more. Two years ago, my life expectancy was 88 years. This year, the number hasn’t budged.

What I like best about this calculator is that you can get feedback about specific ways to add years to your life span. For example, cutting back on coffee could give me 0.5 more years. (But would those six months be worth a life without the joy of coffee?) I could schedule more frequent check-ups with my doctor and that could get me 2.5 more years of life, an exchange I’m more than willing to make.

Wharton Mortality Calculator

Wharton Life Expectancy CalculatorThe Wharton Mortality Calculator was more brief than the Living to 100 calculator and it was interesting that they asked about income, what state I live in, and if the usual driver of my car is male or female.

I loved that they explained some of the calculations. For example, on the “general calculations” page, we’re told that:

1 hour exercise/week = 2*52/24 = 4 days longer life/year_lived


1,000 miles/year driven = negative 0.00365 days life/year

So, stop driving, stop smoking and start exercising.

With this calculator, I’m given a life expectancy of 87.52 years.

Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator

Social Security Life Expectancy CalculatorThe simplest tool I’ve found is the Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator, which is probably based on a simple actuarial table.

With just my gender and date of birth, I’m given 85.7 years.

Northwest Mutual

The last calculator I tested was from Northwest Mutual, which they kindly called a Lifespan Calculator.

This one’s a little more fun because your estimated life expectancy is displayed and calculated in real-time with each question. It spinned the numbers and made me feel like I was playing a strange version of the lottery. This one was the most generous, giving me 92 years.

Quick life expectancy reality check

Let’s be honest: none of these numbers are certain. You can’t, for example, calculate for the proverbial “got run over by a bread truck” mortality rate. And they don’t predict quality of life or even technological advances in the coming years.

Also, some older folks think I’m crazy for taking these kinds of calculator quizzes. I’ll be the first to admit that this thought exercise may be more exciting for younger folks than older folks, for a whole host of reasons.

Let’s just consider this a thought experiment.

If you have some numbers like these, and you subtract your current age, you get a number. Obviously.

If you want to live in denial, or haphazardly, you can just forget this number.

If you want to live in fear, you can let this number scare you. Maybe the number is too small. Maybe it’s too big and this whole exercise overwhelms you. Or maybe it’s another kind of reality check on what kind of time you have left.

If you’re like me, though, you want the hard data. Give me the reality, harsh or not, so I can work with it.

If I take the most conservative number from the four calculators, I’ve got 52.7 years left.

This has an impact on my:

  • retirement planning – I’ll need more money to last longer
  • work life – I may have to work longer, but I can think about my career in more realistic stages with this kind of data
  • bucket list – I can achieve a lot, but maybe not all of my goals. And the more physically strenuous ones should be front-loaded
  • health and medical decisions – can I stretch to make it to the 92 years Northwest Mutual gave me?
  • friendships – can I begin developing intergenerational connections so that I’m surrounded by friends at every stage of life?

I can understand why this exercise isn’t for everyone. It can be sad, depressing, worrisome or even harsh. But, again, as a thought experiment, I find it valuable, interesting, informative and even inspiring. It allows me to ask myself, again and again, that famous Mary Oliver quote:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
The Summer Day, Mary Oliver

Tell me, have you ever taken one of these quizzes?

What are your thoughts on the process?


Photo credit: Vinoth Chandar

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