Can you afford to live to

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ONE of the biggest fears of older Australians is running out of money before they die, but they perhaps should spare a thought for the younger generations.

As human lifespans rise rapidly over the coming decades, the youngest Aussies will have to think about making their money last beyond 100, or even 120, or perhaps much longer.

Its a daunting prospect for those who cant even afford to get into the property market like their parents and grandparents did.

Theres a lot of debate about how long humans are going to live amid a surge in medical and health advances.

Some longevity specialists have claimed that the first human to live to the ripe old age of 1000 already has been born. Some say our consciousness will be able to be downloaded into machines within 30 years.

I heard at a briefing a few months ago that the current crop of children are likely to be the last generation of humans to die from age-related problems, thanks to tiny robot doctors who will make running repairs inside their bodies.

Apart from feeling ripped off about just missing out on potential immortality, these youngsters and many of their parents face another big challenge: how to ensure their money lasts as long as they do.

Everybody really has two choices: either rely on the government or fund your future yourself.

Australias government option is a full pension and pension supplements currently paying almost $440 a week to a single person and $330 a week to each member of a couple. Thats not going to let most people live an enjoyable, active lifestyle, unless theyre really happy being really frugal.

Being financially independent is a noble goal but a more realistic future for the majority of todays adults is a mixture of the age pension and their own money from superannuation or other investments.

While super accounts will grow in value over the decades ahead, a majority of retirees will still rely on some pension income even if just to top up income from their own savings.

Relying on compulsory employer super contributions alone will not be enough to be financially independent. People will need to make extra contributions, or invest outside of super in growth assets such as shares and property.

Sticking all your money in the bank wont cut it. Interest rates paid on deposits today are just 2-3 per cent, which means your money is going backwards after the effects of tax and inflation. Economists dont see interest rates heading back to 5 per cent or higher any time soon.

Property and shares are scary for many people because they can have wild swings, but investors today have a huge range of options to diversify and protect their wealth.

Property isnt just residential houses and units. You can invest in offices, resorts, shopping centres, theme parks, factories, warehouses and carparks in Australia and overseas.

Shares are simply a slice of a business in Australia or overseas, while some prefer to run their own business.

If unsure, seek professional advice. Financial planners say owning some growth assets is the only way to build wealth that will keep expanding, no matter how long you live.

Healthier people spend more, so its likely that you will need much more money in the future than your parents and grandparents did.

Some say immortality is boring and they would not want to live forever. I say lend me your years. There will always be plenty to experience in our world, and beyond it, for those who can afford it.