Decreasing life expectancy could benefit US businesses

Economic Indicators FOXBusiness

(Reuters)

U.S. mortality rates have stopped improving, so noticeably that large corporations are beginning to factor Americans’ earlier-than-expected deaths into financial forecasts.

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While mortality rates from 2000 to 2009 generally improved each year by about 1%-2% for both males and females, according to the most recent report by the Society of Actuaries, throughout recent years that rate of improvement has declined. In the five year period that ended in 2014, those numbers dropped to an average of 0.6% for males and 0.42% for females. In 2015, the average life expectancy was 78.8 years of age, a slight decrease from the year prior.

Correspondingly, throughout the past two years, at least 12 large companies have cited the downward trend in life expectancy improvement as a reason to trim forecasts for how much they will owe retirees – by more than $9.7 billion collectively, according to a Bloomberg analysis. Among those companies was Lockheed Martin (LMT), which said in its annual report that it adjusted its retirement obligations down by about $1.5 billion.

“We used the revised assumptions indicating a shortened longevity in our December 31, 2016 remeasurement of benefit obligation,” Lockheed explained in its report.

General Electric (GE) and Verizon (VZ) have also taken reductions in mortality improvements into account when estimating retiree dues, Bloomberg said.

In fact, the Society of Actuaries forecasts that the current mortality trend could mean companies owe as much as 2% less in retirement benefits than forecasts based on earlier mortality improvement estimates.

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These estimates are generally based on how long workers are expected to live beyond the retirement age of 65 years old. And, as previously reported by FOX Business, as an increasing number of Americans work beyond retirement age – with the government estimating by 2024 older workers will comprise 25% of the workforce – a larger percentage of workers ages 55 and older are also dying in the workplace.

Between 2006 and 2015, the rate of fatal accidents among older workers was 50% to 65% higher than the rate for all workers, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal statistics.

The number of deaths among all workers dropped from 5,480 in 2005 to 4,836 in 2015. By contrast, on-the-job fatalities among older workers increased slightly, from 1,562 to 1,681. 

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