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August 20, 2015

A glimpse of the typical American’s life from birth to death

By age 22, the typical American has lived 1,144 weeks — only a quarter of one’s life

In the midst of the day-by-day, sleep-eat-work-repeat routine, it might feel like your life is made up of a constant rotation consisting of a countless number of weeks.

But be it morbid or pragmatic, when you break life down by stages and milestones, you can (almost) number your days. 

Tim Urban, co-founder of the blog "Wait But Why" - which is described as an online “adult science and social studies classroom” - did just that, putting on the hat of a mathematician meets fortune teller meets grim reaper to paint a picture of our pasts and a peek of what likely lies ahead.

Using data from Gallup, Forbes, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Baby Center and the Pew Research Center, Urban created a mold of  the average American’s life, then dissected it into weeks and categories, including the early years, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, career and retirement.

Here's what that looks like: 

Wait by Why, Lifespan Chart
The life of a typical American broken down by weeks and stages. (

His findings are full of reflections - like how in high school, waiting to get a driver's license and graduation seemed like a lifetime, but in reality, Urban shows high school only accounts for about 4 percent of life.

By the time the typical American has finished high school, he or she has only completed 21 percent of life’s journey.

Or how a financial motivator pushing you to start jamming dimes and nickels into the slot of your piggy bank to save for retirement, the largest stage of life:

At age 62, after 3,276 weeks, the typical American is ready for retirement, which comprises about 30 percent of one’s life.

And forcing your kids to start doing the same:

While 312 weeks of elementary school and 156 weeks of middle school may sound daunting, they only account for about 7 percent and 3 percent of one’s life, respectively.

On a bittersweet note, Urban's findings may also inspire you to seize the day, since the typical American man will live to be about 76 years old, while the typical American woman will live to be about 81.

Read the full blog post at "Wait But Why."