What if you are 50 and drop dead?

If you are on your journey to FIRE (or simply better finances), you make sure you efficiently use you money. Whatever you can save from your income, you mindfully invest. This all seems rather logical to all of us that have that goal of (financial) freedom. But most people don’t see it this way. Many people have the feeling that “you only life once”, and you do! Is it then smart to live frugally? What if you are 50 and drop dead?

Dead Wrong

If you say you are saving a big part of your paycheck or that you live frugally, many people have an opinion. In many cases they think you are barking mad. Next they ask you: “What if you are 50 and drop dead?” or “What if you get hit by a bus (or car, or train, or any moving object really)?”.

We all know these people are missing the point (you could also say they are “dead wrong” 😉 ). But finding that balance between a good & comfortable life and financial security is a difficult one indeed. However, those questions did get me thinking, how good are my chances?

Disclaimer here, I was never any good at statistics, so I rely on other people’s data and interpretations here 🙂

This is what you get if you type in “death” on Pixabay

Causes of dying

There are many ways to not make age 50 (or any age that is). I found this (in Dutch) rather interesting summary from Belgium. It specifies the causes of death for various age categories. Some of the (relative) numbers I found rather disturbing actually. For my age category (35-39) the biggerst chance of dying is if I do it myself….. That’s a rather morbid idea (and shocking that so may people take their own life).

Other ways to not make it to the golden years are traffic accidents (here is that bus again 😉 ) and non-traffic injuries. It’s as of age 45-50 when you see that medical issues (as the main cause of death) are on the rise. Not really a surprise if you consider our collectively bad lifestyle decisions (too much junk food/smoking/alcohol/animal products, too little fruits/vegetables/nuts/legumes and working-out/being active). It takes time to wreck your body! But the effects can be lasting for decades (if you don’t die from them already). I personally rather get old healthy and am working on this hard.

Statistics of dying

This list was also interesting with various statistics (“odds”) of dying. These are all per year by the way and valid for this USA! Chance of being hit by lightning? 1 in 161,856. Chance of being attacked by a dog 1 in 112,400 (been there actually, just didn’t die!). Chance of dying on a motorcycle? 1 in 985. Chance of being shot: 1 in 370 (this is waaaayyy lower here in the Netherlands). Chance of dying by your own hands: 1 in 95. Chance of dying from cancer or heart & stroke disease: 1 in 7!

In short, the biggest risk of you dying before (and after!) the age of 50 is….uhmm….. YOU! Especially if you consider that you can significantly reduce that risk of cancer and cardiovascular issues by living healthy.

More “Death” on Pixabay

Your chance of living!

The Dutch statistics bureau (CBS) is keeping score of when and how you die (well the Dutch of you anyways). If you put the data of when you die into a graph, as you can find here, you get this:

What if you are 50 and drop dead? CBS-Statline data

I’ve also downloaded the CSV file to have a closer look. The chance of you making it to age 50 is a whopping 96.9% if you are a bloke and 97.9% if you are a lady. But that means that your chances of NOT making it to age 50 is 3.1% and 2.1% respectively.

For comparison purposes, the chances of NOT making it to age 68 (which is my guess of the age when I may formally “retire“) are 13.6% and 10% respectively. So, even your chances of making it to official retirement are pretty good! I just do not want to wait that long… and neither do you I’m guessing?


There obviously is a risk that you will die before you turn 50. But that chance is rather small and you can even reduce that riks to a fairly large degree! I personally don’t think it’s a good reason to live your life like there is no tomorrow and burn through all your hard earned cash. I do believe living a good life, and indulging yourself on occasion, is a good thing (heck, it’s good to make (financial) mistakes!). But the reward of massive amounts of extra time for you (or your family in case you do die) is a great thing to strive for. So got for it! Reach FIRE.


  1. If you already have kids and die at 50, you may help your kids more than never starting FIRE and dying anyway.

  2. Hi CF,

    I believe that most of us involved in the FIRE community have heard such a thing before. I see this as an excuse to continue the overspending and the way of life.

    Another one that I heard often, mainly between the 20’s folks around, is that they will not start saving by now because when they will get old they will make more money and then they can start to save. And then the ’30s came…the 40’s…and new excuses appear (“What if you are 50 and drop dead?”)

    All the best.


  3. The chance to reach 50 is even higher: the graph shows the chance for a newborn to reach that age. Most people that read your blog must be at least 30, so they already survived the chance to die at young age. If you correct for this, the chance to reach 50 is even higher.

    By the way, I could find the data you were using. Can you provide the link?

    1. You are (as always) correct, your chances are indeed higher! Actually there is also a relation between education leven and risk of death as well, generally speaking the higher your education the lower your risks are. I also found it interesting that the risk of you dying in any given year is the same for age 0 and 52! If you survived that first year, your change greatly improve to make 50.
      The data is linked in the first paragraph under the heading “Your chance of living!”. The first link is to the CBS with the link between risk of death and education. The second link has the graph with “overlevingskansen 2017”, here you can also download the CSV with the data.
      Thanks as always for the comment!

  4. Article title made me chuckle as the first thought that popped into my head was “Man is my wife going to be rich and single!”

    1. Well, it’s actually both below and above 50 that you are your own biggest risk. That being said, being healthy (physically and mentally!!!) is key indeed.

  5. Wow, I didn’t know the odds of making it to 50+ are that high! It’s so easy to use death as an excuse to splurge on useless stuff…

    Living healthy, saving and investing wisely can bring a lot of freedom and hopefully happiness! So thanks for showing the statistics and motivating me even more!

    1. It actually get’s better! These were average numbers, if you are highly educated (University) your chances are even better!
      Glad I could motivate 😉

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