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Counting Chickens

Life is full of unknowns, and it generally pays to be wary of big promises. ‘Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched’ sounds like sensible advice. But when it comes to our time on this earth, counting our chickens before they’ve hatched can actually give us several advantages, some of them genuinely egg-celent (sorry).


It pays, so we’re told, not to count our chickens until they’ve hatched.

Egg-counting aside, it does seem like wise advice. If there’s the potential for something great to happen in the future, we should avoid ‘banking it’ until it takes place. That way we avoid disappointment.

And ignoring that advice could feel pretty reckless:

Paying the deposit on that property before you’ve been told you’ve got the new job.

Spending the expected but yet-to-be confirmed bonus.

Promising gifts to your team or relatives before the business sale completes.

There are circumstance where not planning can get you into hot water. And as with the proverbial frog, it may creep up on you so gradually that you don’t know about it until it’s too late.

And that’s life expectancy.

I’m here for a good time not a long time

Between 1860 and 2020, life expectancy (from birth) in the West has effectively doubled. Today the average life expectancy for women is 88. Factor into this future advances in medicine and longevity science, and life expectancies may advance farther still.

However in life – and especially around mid-life – many of us choose not to engage with the very real probability of living well into old age. It’s actually quite difficult to properly comprehend what living three decades following retirement actually looks like. How will you spend your time? What will your quality of life look like? And most importantly, what can you afford to do in that time?

Our future selves are major stakeholders in our lives today

Part of our rationale for not dwelling on the statistical likelihood that we will live long lives, is that we are hardwired to avoid counting those chickens.

Most of us find it desirable to live as long as we can in good health. However, stories we hear whether from friends or in the media don’t help matters: bad news tends to be more newsworthy than good news, which in turn can have a negative impact on how long we think we might have left.

Health, Wealth

This puts us in a rather difficult position when it comes to both the wealth conversation and the health conversation: emotive ones at the best of times. Discussing how long one might ‘have left’ is one half of the twinned and cheery topics of ‘death and taxes’ which tend to be spoken of in the same breath.

Time is a monumentally important factor when it comes to both health and wealth.

Time is a monumentally important factor when it comes to both health and wealth.

From the health perspective, time can be influenced by how we treat our bodies. If we are to remain as mobile, as healthy and as functional as possible into old age, the things that we have or haven’t done with and to our bodies in the preceding years will have an enormous impact.

And the state of our wealth in our later years is also closely related to our past behaviours. Time will determine how long we can leave wealth to grow, and along with the risk we take, it will determine how much we have in order to live well.

How much is enough?

Having established the purpose of your wealth, is our belief at Six Degrees, that it pays to answer this simple yet effective question at the start of your wealth journey. Establishing how much you need to last your lifetime can help us answer numerous useful questions, from how much risk you need to take with your investments, to how much you can gift during your lifetime, or what valuation you need to achieve with your business exit.

When it comes to considering how long we might spend on this earth and planning for our futures, the smart thing to do is to overestimate rather than undershoot. It might feel uncomfortable, but in this instance, planning for those chickens before they’ve hatched is egg-zactly the right thing to do.




This insight is for information purposes and does not constitute financial advice, which should be based on your individual circumstances. The value of investments may go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time. The value of any tax relief depends on individual circumstances. Please note that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) does not regulate some aspects of cash flow, estate or tax planning or trust advice.