- There is a big difference between life span and health span. It’s important to take steps to protect both your health and your wealth.
- Nicholas Vardy explains how the latest healthcare advancements could impact both.
So, do you really want to live to be 100?
Dr. Lynda Grattan, a professor of management at London Business School and author of the best-seller The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, assumes that you do.
In a recent presentation to Harvard alumni in London, Grattan discussed the often unexpected financial challenges of living a long life.
The statistics surrounding longevity are remarkable. Life expectancy has risen by nearly three months per year since 1840. It continues to grow at a rate of two to three years every decade.
That means more than half of the babies born in the West since 2000 may reach their 100th birthdays. This demographic tidal wave will change the way most of us live our lives.
The traditional three-stage approach – education, followed by work and then retirement at 65 – is on the verge of collapse. It will need to be restructured if people truly start living to 100.
The 100-Year-Old Elephant in the Room
Grattan focused on the economics and finances of living a 100-year life. But she missed the elephant in the room… The difference between “life span” and “health span.”
Sure, a 100-year life span sounds great in theory. But do you want to spend those extra decades of life physically disabled, wracked by dementia or as a financial burden to your family?
Living to 100 is worth it only if you also have an extended health span. That’s where the exciting new field of personalized medicine and the genomics revolution come in…
The 21st-Century World of Personalized Medicine
You may recall the popular TV series Mad Men set in New York City’s Madison Avenue advertising world in the 1960s.
In one episode, when the main character – Don Draper – went for his annual physical, it was also a look back in time. The doctor took his blood pressure, listened to his heart and told him to cut down on smoking.
The last time I went for an annual physical, a nurse checked my blood pressure and drew my blood. A week later, I discussed the results with my doctor. He told me his primary job had become interpreting data gleaned from blood tests.
So, in many ways, 21st-century medicine is already personalized.
The Miracle of Genome Sequencing
Tailoring treatments to the specifics of your genetics through genome sequencing takes personalized medicine to another level.
In June 2000, then-President Bill Clinton announced the historic sequencing of the human genome. Congress had first funded the project 20 years earlier, and it had cost $2.7 billion.
Just seven years later, in 2017, genome sequencing giant Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN) announced that it would one day be able to sequence a human genome in less than an hour for $100.
As a result, analysts project that human genomic sequencing will grow at a 200% annual rate between now and 2023. In a few short years, healthcare workers will sequence your DNA as routinely as they draw your blood.
How to Invest in the Genomic Revolution
As with any revolution, fortunes will be made and lost by investing in the right and wrong companies. Bet on the right horse and you’ll make a fortune. Bet on the wrong one and you’ll watch your hard-earned dollars go up in smoke.
That’s because investing in stocks focused on the genomics revolution is not like investing in the ordinary stock market. It’s much more like investing in a venture capital fund.
And here’s what an average venture capitalist expects his returns to look like:
- Two investments out of 10 will fail outright.
- Six will survive as the “living dead” and end up making little money.
- And two winning investments will make up for the losses.
So if you invest directly in genomics-related companies, expect a high failure rate. And understand that you are in for a wild ride.
Luckily, there is an alternative. Enter the Genomic Revolution Multi-Sector ETF (NYSE: ARKG). This ETF invests in 40 to 50 companies that focus on developing and harnessing the latest advancements in genomics.
Many of its holdings are early-stage biotech firms. These firms focus on everything from gene therapy to targeted therapeutics to molecular diagnostics to stem cells.
By investing in an ETF that spreads its bets far and wide across the genomics-related universe, you are betting that a handful of big winners will help you profit from – and perhaps even fund – your own healthy 100-year life.
P.S. Interested in hearing more from me? Follow @NickVardy on Twitter.