To my wife's constant dismay, I am a compulsive clipper of newspaper articles. I am also the type of person who stacks books and magazines on my nightstand in the expectation that someday I will get around to reading the material. More often than not, I don't, and these loose clippings and stacks just gather dust until they are replaced by a new stack. Sometimes, however, I actually get around to reading the old material. And it just so happens that this weekend was one of those rare times.
Inside one of these piles was an August article from NewScience about the Big Bang. The gist of the article is that scientists now believe our universe may be 15% older and 15% larger than they previously thought. This got me to thinking: If the universe can suddenly get a 15% increase in life expectancy, it is not possible that we humans might also experience a similar increase sometime in the not-so-distant future?
As a result of near-exponential advances in medical technology, I believe it is. I am, therefore, of the opinion that we will all have to save more, spend less, work longer, and invest smarter if we are to live out our retirement in the type of comfort that we expect.
I have written before about investing like you'll live to 116, but as I explained more recently in this article about how nanotechnology is aiming to win the war on cancer, there is now no shortage of emerging technologies that have the potential to radically extend life expectancy.
One way to address this issue -- especially if you are not inclined to save more, spend less, or work longer -- is to invest smarter. One way of doing this is to tap into the collective wisdom of the Motley Fool investment community through CAPS. And yet another way is to look long and hard at the very companies that are making longer life expectancies possible and consider making some strategic investments.
For instance, recently there has been much discussion about the promise of RNAi technology for gene therapy. It is why Merck (NYSE: MRK ) just acquired Sirna Therapeutics (Nasdaq: RNAI ) and why Novartis (NYSE: NVS ) and Isis Pharmaceuticals are partnering with Alnylam (Nasdaq: ALNY ) .
Another investment that has great promise is venture-capital firm Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY ) . One of the companies it has invested in is Kereos, which is developing advanced nanoparticle-based therapeutics and molecular imaging agents that detect and attack America's top two killers -- cancer and cardiovascular heart disease.
If the latter is effective, the technology suggests that Americans -- like the universe -- can not only get 15% older but, to the extent that heart disease is linked to excess weight, also 15% larger without suffering significant health problems.
Now, I don't recommend taking it on faith that technology will allow us to expand our waistlines without consequence. Nor do I recommend that you should count on smarter investing alone to provide you the cushion to absorb a longer-than-expected retirement. But I do believe that technology can assist in both, and that investors should begin understanding how they can do both sooner rather than later.
Merck is a former Income Investor pick. Harris & Harris is a Rule Breakers selection. Check out these or any of our newsletters free for 30 days.