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What are longevity tables?

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Longevity tables, also called actuarial tables, indicate a person's life expectancy at a given age, according to the Social Security Administration. The tables break down the life expectancy of men versus women at every age, starting at birth and going to over age 100. Individuals can use the tables to estimate their expected life span and calculate the amount of money they need in retirement.

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Longevity tables usually estimate that females live longer than males. For an individual age 60 in 2011, men can expect an additional life span of 21.44 years, and women can expect an additional 24.37 years, the SSA estimates.

Companies and governmental entities that offer traditional pensions use actuarial tables to determine how to fund their pension plans, according to Goldstein & Associates. Actuaries also use the tables to calculate the value of a pension when the retirement fund is part of a divorce settlement.

Insurance companies also use the tables to determine rates for life insurance and guide investors so that their retirement income is sufficient. About 50 percent of those 65 years old can expect to live past age 85, requiring significant retirement resources, as stated by John Hancock. John Hancock insurance offers a life-expectancy calculator that also factors in personal information such as weight, blood pressure readings, cholesterol levels and exercise frequency.

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