Sixty-nine is the unenviable position where many Black men have found themselves entrapped. This is the average life expectancy of a Black male in some areas of the U.S. More generally, Black men, on average, live to be 71.5 years of age. Again, this is an average. If the current trends persist, the vast majority of us will live to be between 67 and 77 years of age. The higher bound life expectancy of 77 is, roughly, the average life expectancy for our White male counterparts.
Why does this matter? It matters because life expectancy is the backbone of a wealth creation strategy. A financial planner needs to know your work-life expectancy (WLE). Work-life expectancy helps a financial adviser estimate how many productive earning years you may have to save towards retirement.
Once your advisor has established your WLE, an advisor needs to know your retirement life expectancy (RLE). In short, this is how many years you expect to live after retiring. Knowing these numbers, amongst others, helps your advisor calculate your retirement need.
The life expectancy number matters because it suggests that Black men, in general, even if we were fortunate enough to amass wealth, will not have the longevity to enjoy it. We must recognize that everyone is not living to the ripe old age of 100. Doing so may set unrealistic expectations about our life expectancy and lead us to believe that we have more time to create and enjoy wealth than we do.
Now, some may argue that this is precisely why you don't save for the future - you can't take it with you. I hear you. But the elderly I work with say, " I wish I would have saved more and took better care of my health." and "I wish I had more time." People transition from "I'm going to die from something." to "I'm ready to live for something."
A lot of financial advice floating around the web assumes that longevity is something most people consider. As a result, you'll see guidance encouraging people to delay retirement until full retirement age. Other sources advocate that individuals try to hold out until they are 70. Based on what we currently know about Black men, these strategies are sub-optimal and come off as tone-deaf given the limited longevity of many Black men. Without good health, there is no wealth - or at least the type of wealth we fantasize about.
So, what can we do about it? Not financial advisors, but Black men.
The most obvious thing we can do is prioritize eating better. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Black men. This information isn't new. We all know that we need to eat better. We struggle with this for many reasons. One reason is that we may not associate good health with a financial benefit. Another reason might be that we grew up in a culture where comfort food, saddled with calories, is standard fare. Lastly, fast food is designed to be addictive - craveable as the industry likes to call it. Many of us don't realize that we've become slaves to food that lacks nutritional value and do not promote optimal health. I can go on and on. But what about the financial benefits of prioritizing good health?
Good health helps lower health insurance premiums, garners cheaper life insurance rates, helps us think more clearly, increases our desire to be physically active, improves our sense of life satisfaction, and boosts productivity. All of which are associated with cash flow creation and the longevity necessary to create and enjoy wealth. Health is wealth. Wealth is health. The two are interconnected. Meaningful connections matter too!
According to Susan Pinker, a longevity researcher, the top two causes of a long life are positive social interaction and close meaningful relationships. Fellas, we need to connect and stay connected. When is that last time you went on a guys trip, shot hoops with the boys, or confided in a trusted friend? We do not talk about this, but there is evidence to suggest that the quality of our relationships is vital for longevity. Men tend to isolate instead of seeking the life-giving power of congregating. We need to do a better drifting to and not away from friends and loved ones.
As the old African proverb says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." This applies to life expectancy as well.
If you are reading this, I am not asking that you make monumental changes at the drop of a dime to improve your health and social networks. Establishing new and sustainable habits takes a lot of time and energy. But I do want you to, right now, write down a number that is your #LongevityGoal. Mine is ninety. I want to be cognitively, physically, relationally, and financially abundant well into my nineties.
Now that you've established your goal, what do you need to do to make small changes to your diet, physical and psychological health, and social connections moving forward? There is more than one way to get there. Just choose things that you can do consistently over time.
If you need something to remind you of your longevity goal(s), click on the photo below to pick up one of our "Longetivty Goal" tees or hoodies. What you wear shouldn't just feel good. It should make you feel good!
Fellas, instead of focusing on what we are willing to die for, let's consider what we are eager to live for!