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Thoughts on how long you’re going to live…yes, you!

Financial Advisor Talking To Senior Couple At Home Signing Documents Sitting On Sofa

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One of the reasons we produced our new When should you start taking CPP? calculator was to help people plan their retirement so they have sufficient savings to last through old age. The vast majority of people take their Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits at or before 65, even though a significantly enhanced benefit is available if you wait as late as 70.

Delaying your CPP payments can be a smart thing to do if you expect to live a long time. How can you tell how long you'll live? I have always thought that family history plays an important role here, but some new research calls this into question. It suggests that genes determine just 16 per cent of the variation in people's lifespans, and that "good genes" might extend your lifespan by an average five years. More important in estimating your lifespan are environmental factors. Smoking, for example, cut can your lifespan by 10 years.

When I've written about how longer lifespans argue for taking CPP later, readers often reply by telling me about friends and relatives who died young. But the latest census numbers show that the fastest-growing age group in the country is centenarians, or people aged 100 or more. There were 8,230 centenarians in Canada as of the census date.

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The number of people aged 85 and older grew at nearly four times the rate of the overall population between 2011 and 2016 to 770,780. Census data also shows there are nearly two women aged 85 and older for every man. Obviously, it's particularly important for women to financially plan for a long life.

Financial planners often use 90 as a default age in helping clients map out their retirement, and some are starting to plan for even longer lives. Get an estimate of how long you'll live by using an online calculator such as this one, which is designed for Canadians. Note the lack of questions about family history. Booze consumption and diet are much bigger factors.

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Rob's personal finance reading list…

Thoughts for retirees on spending needs, annuities and more
A personal finance blogger reviews a new book called The Essential Retirement Guide by actuary Fred Vettese. The verdict: Four out of five stars.

The crimes of spoiled rotten rich kids
Ten stories about wealthy young people who tried to get away with crimes because of "affluenza," which means they had a sheltered, pampered upbringing and lost empathy for others.

10 common travel scams
Useful tips here for watching your money while on vacation.aff

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Try this rule for making tough decisions
Introducing the 10/10/10 rule – asking yourself how you will feel about a decision 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now? I think this might be well-suited for financial decisions, where it's important to consider the near- and long-term implications.

Today's featured financial tool
Here's a calculator for people about to retire or already in retirement. It's designed to show how much retirement income you can safely withdraw on a yearly basis.

Ask Rob
The question: "My fiancé and I are in our early thirties, with no debt, we rent our home and have secure, well-paying jobs. We have a financial adviser who manages our RRSP, TFSA and non-registered accounts and we are aware of and OK with the minimal fees incurred through this. For the last five years, these accounts have made 5 to 12 per cent annually. What is considered good and how do we know what is a good rate of return?"

The answer: "A lot depends on your mix of stocks and bonds, which your adviser would refer to as your asset allocation. Guidelines produced for financial planners suggest conservative investors (80 per cent bonds, 20 per cent stocks) should expect 3.25 per cent annually after fees, balanced investors (50-50) should expect just under 4 per cent and aggressive investors (75 per cent stocks, 25 per cent bonds) 4.75 per cent. So it sounds like you're doing fine."

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance stories
- Actor Christine Solomon on why saving was key to her early success
- How an average anxious investor can absorb volatile markets
- Young, self-taught and charging into cryptocurrencies (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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