Retirement Plans for 1,000-Year-Olds

BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Medical strides have allowed people all over the world to live longer. According to one researcher, we are on the cusp of routinely living to 150, and the first person to blow out 1,000 candles on their birthday cake could be born within the next two decades.

Biomedical gerontologist Dr. Aubrey de Grey, of the California-based Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Foundation, made those claims in a recent research paper. His prediction is that the increasing ability of scientists to engineer replacement tissue will allow for customizable, replaceable organs in the not-so-distant future.

Living to 150 or even 1,000 may not be as far-fetched as it might seem. In the U.S., life expectancy has nearly doubled since 1900. More telling, the number of 100-year-olds in 1990 totaled roughly 37,000, but there are more than 84,000 now and, according to Census Bureau projections, by 2050 there could be more than 580,000 Americans older than 100.

If mega aging occurs as de Grey theorizes, it would have a monumental impact on society. Would natural resources be able to keep pace with the population? How would governments and global economies manage?

As humans reach 150 years old and beyond, financial playbooks would be thrown out the window.

With "aging workforce" taking on a whole new meaning, employee churn would be rare. As companies hold onto employees for many decades, how will a younger workforce earn their paycheck?

A big question would be how long a person could continue to work and how long a post-career retirement would last. Would dementia and other physical ailments add millions to the ranks of the disabled, requiring ever-escalating financial and medical support for decade after decade?

The insurance industry would be thrown into chaos, as actuarial tables and mortality credits prove no longer viable in an era of artificially prolonged life. An upside for the industry might come from all those added years of premiums they can collect before a life insurance policy is paid out.