The number 37.4 probably means very little to you. But to those who live with Cystic Fibrosis and their friends and family, the number is very significant because the life expectancy of someone with CF is 37.4 years. What impact would it have on your plans for the future if your life expectancy was rapidly approaching… or if you’d already passed it? How, for example, would you plan for retirement and allocate today’s material resources? In the course of writing The Financial Crossroads, I had the privilege of asking my good friend who lives with CF—and also happens to be a financial planner—these very questions.
From Chapter Fifteen: Retirement Fulfillment Planning:
A good friend and associate of mine has a unique posture towards retirement planning in the short, mid, and long term. Marcus Harris is a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and a board member of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. At the age of 35, he is a husband, father, financial planner and one who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that at this time has no cure. I asked Marcus how the knowledge of this disease has altered his view of retirement.
He told me that his personal financial planning philosophy took a serious turn about a decade ago. Up to that point, Marcus assumed that his life would be dramatically shortened—“in 2008, the median predicted age of survival rose to 37.4 years, up from 32 in 2000,” according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website—and, therefore, he had little need for saving for the long and even the mid term. He was a spender. But in his mid-twenties, Marcus made a conscious decision that he wasn’t going to live life in the shadow of this disease; that he was going to continue to enjoy life, but he was going to approach it as though the cure was imminent. And it may be. This realization opened the door to Marcus entering into serious relationships, and in 2003, he got married. Now, he and his wife have five-year-old twins, and Marcus is a saver.
I think that his is a situation that offers us all a profound lesson in financial planning. Especially because of Marcus’s condition, he is very motivated to plan for his family’s future so that it is secure even if Marcus is unable to enjoy it with them. At the same time, Marcus is reminded daily, with a host of medications that follow him, that he has a disease that could have already taken his life. You might not know Marcus personally, but you know someone, or you may have experienced something similar personally that screams out that we are all living on borrowed time.