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Longevity of Railroad Retirement Beneficiaries

(The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board issued the following on December 1, 2009.)

CHICAGO — Every three three years, the Railroad Retirement Board’s Chief Actuary conducts a study of the longevity of its annuitants, as part of a valuation of future revenues and benefit payments. The following questions and answers summarize the results of the most recent longevity study.

1. What were the study’s finding on the life expectancy of retired male railroaders?

The most recent data reflected a continued improvement in longevity. Using data through 2006, the study indicated that, on the average, a male railroader retiring at age 60 can be expected to live another 21.3 years, or approximately 256 months. Studies done three, six and nine years ago indicated life expectancies of 20.7, 20.1, and 19.8 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary. The study also indicated that a male railroader retiring at age 62 can be expected to live another 19.6 years (235 months), while the previous three studies indicated life expectancies of 19, 18.5, and 18.2 years, respectively. A male railroader retiring at age 65 can be expected to live another 17.1 years (approximately 205 months). The previous studies indicated life expectancies of 16.6, 16.1, and 15.8 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary.

2. How did these life expectancy figures compare to those of disabled annuitants?

As would be expected, disabled annuitants have a shorter average life expectancy, but the difference decreases with age. At age 60, a disabled railroader has an average life expectancy of 16.4 years, or 4.9 years less than a nondisabled male annuitant of the same age; at age 65, a disabled annuitant has an average life expectancy of 3.6 years less than a nondisabled 65-year-old annuitant; and at age 70 the difference is only 2.6 years.

3. Are women still living longer than men?

In general, women still live longer than men. This is shown both in the Railroad Retirement Board’s life expectancy studies of male and female annuitants and by other studies of the general United States population.

For example, at age 60 a retired female railroader is expected on the average to live 24.5 years, 3.2 years longer than a retired male railroader of the same age; and at age 65, a retired female railroader is expected on the average to live 20 years, 2.9 years longer than her male counterpart. Spouses and widows age 65 have average life expectancies of 20.5 years and 18.3 years, respectively.

4. Can individuals use life expectancy figures to predict how long they will live?

Life expectancy figures are averages for large groups of people. Any particular individual’s lifetime may be much longer or shorter than the life expectancy of his or her age and group.

According to the study, from a group of 1,000 retired male employees at age 65, 920 will live at least 5 years, 791 at least 10 years, 607 at least 15 years, and 385 at least 20 years. Of female age annuitants at age 65, 532 will be alive 20 years later.

5. How do the life expectancies of railroad retirement annuitants compare with those of the general population?

While exact data were not available for direct comparison, data available to the Railroad Retirement Board did not indicate significant differences. The entire longevity study is available on the agency’s Web site at www.rrb.gov.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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