Good news: You’ll live to 115! Bad News: You have to pay living costs for an extra 30 years

Scripps Florida's lab in Jupter

Scripps Florida’s lab in Jupter

Medical breakthroughs mean Americans someday can expect to remain healthy well past their 100th birthdays, said scientists from Stanford, the Mayo Clinic and other top-shelf institutes who gathered this week at Scripps Florida’s aging conference in Jupiter.

That’s great news. Now, for the not-so-great news: Americans already struggle with retirement savings, and an extra three decades of living expenses will only tighten the squeeze.

“A lot of people can’t afford to retire,” Will Maier of Mapi Group said during a panel discussion Wednesday. “They’re working themselves to death. All you’re telling them is they’ll be able to work themselves to death longer.”

Americans’ median 401(k) balance is just $22,683, according to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. And the maximum Social Security benefit for someone who retired last year at full retirement age was $2,639 a month, or $31,668 a year.

A big jump in life expectancies will have “a massive, massive trickle-down effect” on investments and the economy, said Robert Wolfe, managing director at United Capital Financial Advisers in Fort Lauderdale. Wolfe already runs savings scenarios for clients based on 100-year life spans, but even that might come to seem pessimistic.

“The greatest threat to retirement isn’t the daily, weekly or monthly fluctuations of the stock market,” Wolfe said. “It’s inflation.”

At 3 percent inflation, the total cost of living would double in 24 years, posing harsh challenges for retirees’ savings calculations.

Meanwhile, scientists say were’ poised for promising new breakthroughs in the next few years. The diabetes drug Metiformin shows potential as an anti-aging elixir, as does the antioxidant resveratrol.

The goal is not simply to extend life but to keep people healthy longer, scientists said.

“I am sick of prescribing better wheelchairs, walkers and incontinence devices,” said Dr. James Kirkland, a physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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