actionMany Americans aren’t fully grasping the financial and lifestyle implications of living longer lives, and as a result, they’re not taking the steps they need to take now to prepare themselves for the distinct possibility of living a long time. Being fully informed about the implications of long life may help Americans make better decisions to build lifetime financial security, health and fulfillment.

A number of surveys reveal that Americans of all ages often don’t plan very far into the future—often just five or 10 years. The odds are great, however, that most Americans will live much longer than 10 more years, with the majority living for several more decades.

There’s a serious disconnect between Americans’ beliefs about their longevity and the decisions they’re making today. This disconnect is highlighted by the results of a survey completed in conjunction with the Sightlines Project, a landmark study conducted by the Stanford Center on Longevity (SCL). The survey, conducted jointly by SCL and Hart Research Associates, reveals that more than three-fourths (77 percent) of Americans want to live to age 100, and more than one-third believe they’ll live beyond age 90.4 Unfortunately, only about one-third of Americans report that they’re happy with their current financial situation and body weight. Furthermore, more than 40 percent of people currently under age 65 believe they won’t have the financial resources needed to live to age 100.

Experts agree that living long and well means arriving at old age physically healthy, mentally sharp, financially secure and living independently. Compelling scientific evidence indicates, however, that living long and well is most realistic for individuals who adopt healthy living behaviors, are socially engaged and are able to build financial security throughout their lives.

Within each of these three domains, SCL pinpointed specific action steps people can take to improve their current situation. Taken together, these steps can serve as a checklist for people who want to increase their odds of living a long, healthy life. It may be best to make progress on these steps as early as possible, however, because it could be very challenging for those who arrive in their later years already in poor health, with little or no savings, with inadequate insurance protection against high medical bills and disability, and with a meager social support network to make any headway on this list.