The Social Security Life Expectancy Puzzle

How long can one expect to live? It can vary according to the Social Security calculator.

How long can a 40 year-old male expect to live?  I went to the Social Security calculator and entered his 1973 date of birth.  Turns out males of his age can, actuarially, expect to live 81.8 years.  Hmm.

On a whim, I looked up a fellow born exactly 10 years earlier – he could look forward to a lifetime extending 82.2 years.  Slightly longer than the first guy.  Having nothing better to do, I tried a man born in 1953, 20 years earlier.  Lifetime of 83.4 years.  What?  Finally, I ended the progression with a man born in 1943.  Bingo!  He was due to last till age 85.4.

What is this?  In all cases, the older the person was at the time of calculation, the longer Social Security expected him to live.  Can this be right?  What is the cause?  While mulling this over, I decided to try the same thing with females.  Here is what I found:

Age at Calculation End of Life

40 85.3
50 85.4
60 86.0
70 87.4

It works the same way for women!  The older a woman is at the time of calculation, the older she will be when she passes.

Just to make things more confusing, the trend reverses itself at younger ages.

Sticking to the first grouping – age 40 and up, both genders – I have developed a theory.  As we move through life there are all kinds of hazards and risks we encounter that may shorten our lives.  Some are medical – like various germs and viruses – and others trauma related, like work accidents and injuries suffered in travel, recreation, what have you.  The younger a person is, the more of these hazards he will face over the coming years.  An older person, in contrast, has “survived” far more years of risks, and he/she is rewarded by a slightly longer life span.

That is my theory.  Do you have an alternative?  We would all like to hear it, I’m sure.

About the Author

Robert Benson served 35 years in various Federal agencies, as both a management analyst and IT specialist. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.