PEOPLE are living longer than at any other time in history. In 1950, the global average life expectancy was approximately 48 years; by 2019, that number had risen to 73 years.
Individuals from around the world are living on average two to three decades longer than past generations.
While this longer lifespan is an incredible achievement in terms of advances in healthcare, it also poses new challenges and considerations for individuals, primarily how to finance these extra decades of life.
The World Economic Forum and Mercer have been working together to help uncover innovative solutions that address some of the biggest questions on the future of retirement and pensions in a rapidly ageing world.
Through a series of global workshops, virtual seminars and working group meetings, a consensus was reached on what is needed to ensure individuals enjoy longer lives – and surprisingly, it is not all about finances.
It has become clear that to help people plan a long, healthy, resilient and sustainable life, a holistic approach is required, one that emphasises more than just financial resilience, but also prioritises health, human connections, purpose and quality of life.
Longevity literacy empowers individuals to live a healthy and sustainable life with dignity and purpose, while building resilience to address the challenges of an evolving world. Individuals need to focus on three core principles: quality of life, purpose and financial resilience.
This report introduces the concept of longevity literacy, which empowers individuals to live a healthy and sustainable life with dignity and purpose, while building resilience to address the challenges of an evolving world.
As individuals consider what is needed to be successful in a potentially 100-year life, they need to focus on three core principles: quality of life, purpose and financial resilience.
To better understand how individuals view longer lives, the report also includes the results of a Pulse Poll asking respondents their views on longevity, including questions related to ageing, retirement planning, lifelong learning and caregiving.
The responses are fascinating and offer new insights into how individuals view a longer life. Finally, the report concludes with a set of concrete actions that every stakeholder — individuals, business and government — can use to address the three core principles of longevity literacy.
Ageing populations, and the social and economic transformations they bring, will affect every nation around the world.
Countries not currently experiencing significant ageing will inevitably face this challenge over time. However, this does not have to be a surprise or a challenge to be surmounted.
In fact, if all stakeholders, including business, government and individuals, take proactive measures to evolve and adapt to ageing populations, this can be a chance to innovate how people live, work, study, save and retire in the years to come. People will always try to predict the unpredictable. There are countless global issues with no clear answers: where will the next geopolitical crisis arise, what impact will climate change have on communities, and what lies ahead for the global economy?
However, there is one global issue with widespread economic and social consequences that we do know about and that we can act on now: changing global demographics as people live longer in nearly every country around the world.
While life expectancy increased from an average of 48 to 73 years between 1950 and 2019, the United Nations projects further increases, estimating that global average life expectancy will reach around 81 years by 2100.
These higher numbers are already evident in countries such as Japan, where over 28% of the population is aged 65 or older, and in European countries including Italy, Germany and Greece where 23% of the population is over 65.
As people are living longer lives, business, government and individuals need to reimagine how they view ageing and retirement and explore new approaches to address this emerging demographic transformation.
Failing to adopt a multistakeholder approach towards longevity will inevitably result in a significant portion of people retiring into poverty. This report focuses on several key issues: explaining the concept of longevity literacy as an essential element of a resilient and sustainable long life; providing new insights into how individuals perceive ageing and retirement; and offering solutions for each stakeholder to address the critical elements of longevity literacy – quality of life, purpose and financial resilience.
The audience for this report is diverse and wide-ranging. It is designed to reach individuals from any background from any part of the world, to help them start rethinking how they will design their longer life and, more importantly, how they will finance it.
The report is aimed at all generations, not just those nearing retirement age or considering retirement in the next few years. It is relevant for recent graduates in their twenties, professionals in their thirties and forties advancing in their careers, and individuals in their fifties and sixties, who may be approaching retirement with apprehension.
Moreover, this report provides a roadmap of the key factors everyone should consider as the world enters a new demographic era in which the three-stage life of school, work and retirement is giving way to a multistage life that includes a variety of different paths, including lifelong learning, career breaks and new occupations in later life.
Changes to the global population are coming. These will require new innovations and solutions to help address how people can stay financially resilient during a retirement that might be 20 years longer than it was for their grandparents.
This demographic transformation will offer individuals a chance to implement new approaches to longer lives and reassess how people studied, lived, worked, saved and retired in the past century.
The results of the pulse poll are subject to limitations, as the respondents’ profiles were homogeneous and predominantly included those who had undertaken higher education, were in more senior positions, were likely to be in employment at major global organisations and with a high level of individual agency and financial literacy.
With approximately 400 responses, the sample size offers 90% confidence that it is representative of the personal and financial challenges of millions of educated professionals likely to be employed in global organisations, with a 5% margin of error.
However, when examining certain demographic subgroups, the sample sizes become too small to be considered statistically representative.
Consequently, this report provides the sample size for results discussed so that the reader can discern whether to use and rely on the statistic presented. These limitations introduce sampling error bias into the results, especially if applied to the general global population.
Despite these limitations, the findings can help start a conversation about the challenges faced and can contribute to the development of solutions for the population this group of respondents represents. — WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM