We’ve arrived at our final instalment in the Early Retirement series! If you are just joining in, take a look back at Part 1, to see the full picture of how you can better prepare for your transition to ER. If’ you’ve been following along – today is where we take a hard left turn in the content of this series!
By now you’ve planned out your transition to retirement, you’ve got your ideal day to day lifestyle all picked out (and even tried it on for size more than a few times), you’re prepped for the impact on your relationships, and you’ve done you’re research and optimized your health, nutrition and exercise regimens to ensure you take full advantage of the golden decades you are about to enjoy.
All that’s left when you retire is to enjoy the moment, and spend your money, after all, we can’t take it with us.
Well, the Egyptians certainly tried, but that culminated in a lot of tomb raiding and general grave desecration. Not exactly a desirable alternative to leaving your worldly possessions to your children or various charities.
But is there an option for extending your life far beyond the reaches of a healthy diet, daily exercise, or even new-age molecular supplements?
Some say Cryonics is exactly that. The opportunity to awake from the dead, and drink from the mythical fountain of life.
So What Exactly Is Cryonics?
Far from a being a futuristic sci-fi concept, Cryonics is a real thing. Happening right now.
More technically speaking, Cryonics is the science of preserving a human body immediately after its death, in order to afford the future opportunity to resuscitate that person, once it is medically possible to do so.
Preservation is achieved by slowly lowering the body temperature to a whopping -196 degrees Celcius, and injecting the body with anti-freeze compounds in order to prevent degradation at a cellular level.
(Frankly – the whole idea gives me visions of Han Solo being frozen in carbonite. Which I both enjoy, because I’m a huge Star Wars/Harrison Ford fan, and yet pains me, because it was so terribly sad when Lando totally backstabbed Han like that. So not cool.)
Currently there are 3 cryonic organizations worldwide, Alcor and the Cryonics Institute in the US, and a Russian company, KrioRus, with it’s lab based in Portugal.
While hundreds of people have physically been frozen already, (The first being Dr. James Bedford all the way back in 1967), thousands have since joined waiting lists to gain access to this exclusive club of dead people.
There are currently options to have your entire body preserved, at an all in cost of about $200,000 (USD) much of which covers the cost for proper transport of your body to the lab and initial preservation, with the remaining funds being placed in a trust that pays for the ongoing maintenance/storage of your body (theoretically in perpetuity).
For those on a tighter budget, there is the alternative option to have only your brain preserved, at the discounted rate of $80,000 (USD). This option assumes that we’ll also figure out a way to give you a new body in the future, maybe a bionic one, or maybe they’ll just upload your brain to a network? Second Life anyone?
While there is sometimes a small monthly/annual fee to be on a waiting list with your selected facility, the big fee’s are required when you become an “official client”, and therefore many people have elected to secure a life insurance policy naming the institute as the beneficiary in order to cover the rather pricey costs.
If you are interested, there are also options to have your pets cryogenically frozen, in case you really want to make this a whole family affair.
Where Things Get Tricky (Cause it wasn’t already?)
Breezing right past the many moral, spiritual, and psychological concerns that arise from this area of science (because those could be many many posts all unto themselves), there are also some pretty major financial/legal hurdles to be considered.
From a medical and legal standpoint, the commonly held definition of death in most jurisdictions is when there is an “irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or all functions of the brain“.
Ironically, the premise of cryonics is that the person will (one day) be re-animated, meaning that their current state of being frozen is reversible, just not yet. As it stands, people who are cryogenically frozen are still defined as dead and therefore issued a death certificate.
Under most jurisdictions, dead people cannot own property (and that includes bank accounts). So now what?
After working your butt off to reach Financial Freedom and retire early in your first go around at life, who want’s to wake up in a future where you are destitute without a penny to your name?
So if the idea of cryonics appeals to you, you’ve got a whole new area of financial planning to tackle. One with a LOT of gray area, and even more uncertainty.
Firstly, we don’t currently know when re-animation will be viable. Experts are all over the map with their estimates, with some saying it could be as early as a couple decades, and others saying a more realistic time frame involves centuries.
What we do know is that while the technology to place us in this frozen stasis exists now, the technology to achieve reanimation does not. So if it is centuries – who knows what legal, government, or general social structure will be in place if/when reanimation does become an option.
Secondly, its also very possible that for some people, re-animation will be attempted, but fail. At which point you’ll be really dead, like for real dead. So then what?
The best option for either outcome appears to be including a Cryonic Suspension Trust in your overall estate planning.
While historically trusts require a specific vesting date, upon which the trust would be turned over to the named beneficiary, many jurisdictions have now removed those limiting time frames, in theory, allowing the trust to continue in perpetuity, or until certain terms have been met.
The idea of a trust continuing into perpetuity is pretty appealing from the perspective of long term growth and compounding interest. Depending on how long it takes for reanimation to be possible, you could come back to life with Jeff Bezos-like wealth (pre-divorce!).
But, it also poses a major challenge in terms of selecting a trustee, the power of that trustee designation to be passed on, and selecting a third party measure for accountability in terms of oversight.
The intention of any such trust would be to ensure that you have funds available to you upon reanimation, but you would also need a back-up plan in the event that reanimation failed to work, or became medically unfeasible. Where would your money go at that point?
Likely to a named charity, but what charity to name when you are looking possibly hundred of years into the future? The Heart and Stroke foundation may no longer be a thing anymore? Cancer might have been cured – famine and poverty long resolved?
Who knows – but it certainly makes it difficult to select an outlet for the release of the money in the event you will not be able to receive it.
By all accounts your best hope is to ensure the terms and conditions of your trust are both specific to your individual desires, and strong enough to endure at least a few variables. Even then – there’s no guarantees the money will still be there for you down the line.
So What’s the Downside?
Well – other than potentially wasting a big chunk of change – there is no real downside. As it stands, it’s currently anyones best odds of escaping death.
And although I would never recommend shortchanging your current life in hopes of funding a second chance, if your financial planning has allowed for a surplus of cash when you die, or you are in a position to fund it via a life insurance policy, it could be a viable option.
The worst that can happen is you’ll stay dead. An outcome you’ll probably never be aware of anyway.
(Or you get reanimated by a future society or alien race that uses you like a lab rat, or maybe you come back as some sort of mutant zombie – setting off an end of the world apocalypse. Oops. Maybe there are some potential downsides.)
The Bottom Line
As many joining the cryonic’s trend have already stated, doing so is currently your only shot at increasing your existing zero odds of escaping death, and having another shot at physical life.
For most people the overall decision whether or not to pursue cryonics will likely come down to financial ability, in tandem with an array of very personal questions that only you know the answers to. From your belief structures and moral tendencies, all the way to whether or not you are an adventurous person who would even want to wake up in what could very possibly be an entirely different world?
If nothing else – contemplating the possibility of living forever presents an interesting philosophical and financial puzzle to ponder. One that will definitely keep your brain challenged in retirement – and provide a substantial area of literature to delve into!
It’s a concept I plan to follow, as I find the whole thing very thought provoking, but personally, for all that I’ve read about cryonics, and as intriguing as I find it to be, I expect I’ll pass on the whole attempt at living forever thing.
Knowing I have a best before date inspires me to make the most of every day, and waking up to a world devoid of my family and friends lacks any degree of appeal to me.
Unless I can get them all frozen – then maybe I’ll have something to consider.
What are your thoughts on cryonics? Is it something you would do?
Thanks for reading! Hope you’ve enjoyed the retirement series! Check back next week for a post all about why you should let your kids to fail.