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THE FACTS OF LIFE (AND DEATH)

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       Investor's Insight - Wednesday, February 8, 2006           
          "A Digest of Investment Opinion From the 
             World's Leading Financial Advisers"


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THE FACTS OF LIFE (AND DEATH)
by Scott Burns

Call it longevity angst. After thousands of years in which 
human life was "nasty, brutish and short," survivors of The 
Alienated Century have a new worry. Today we wring our hands 
about "living too long."

Of course, no one is very precise about when we will have 
lived too long. Generally, it is not today, tomorrow or next 
week. It is sometime in the distant future. 

For some, it is when they run out of money.

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The concern is no surprise: By the time we've turned 60 we've 
probably spent at least 40 years worrying about running out 
of money. Then, if we've been diligent savers and investors, 
we can worry about something else -- running out of mind, 
body or both.

As Gilda Radner said, "It's always something."

But let's get back to the fun worry.

We'll never know exactly how long we'll live, but we can 
measure the ballpark of life and death by studying what 
happens to large groups of Americans. That's one of the 
things they do at the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention. The table below is part of a life table for 
all Americans, which was produced in 2002. Life expect-
ancies have continued to improve since then, so the table 
can be viewed as slightly conservative.

The full table, called a period life table, starts with 
100,000 individuals at birth. It follows them year by 
year. It tells us how many are likely to die in any given 
year of life. It also tells how long the survivors can 
expect to live. Each year the number of survivors is small-
er, so the whole table looks a bit like the famous Charles 
Joseph Minard graphic depicting Napoleon's invasion of 
Russia and his retreat.

Many started, but few returned.

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In fact, the life table contains a lot of good news. For 
one thing, 85,911 of the original 100,000 survive to age 
62. And 82,607 survive to 65, the traditional retirement 
age. That means most Americans -- at least 85.9 percent 
of them -- have a future well beyond their working years.

If we take a closer look and start clocking survival from 
age 62, we find that 87.7 percent of those who live to 62 
will live long enough to start taking required minimum 
distributions from their IRA accounts at age 70.

Ten years after that, at age 80, six out of 10 will still 
be alive. And they will still be expected to live another 
8.8 years.

The next 10 years, from 80 to 90, are tough because two 
out of three who survived to 80 will be dead by age 91. 
Four out of five who lived to 62 will have passed on. 
Aging -- real aging -- isn't for sissies. 

ON THE WEB

Charles Joseph Minard's graphic display of Napolean's 1812 
campaign: www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/posters

(Investor's Insight reflects the opinions of experts. It does 
not recommend any specific investments, and no endorsement is 
implied or should be inferred. For more information, contact 
the individual firms cited).

COPYRIGHT 2006 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

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