Skip to main content

Is Retirement Over?

Has the concept of retirement come to an end?

Background
Retirement, in human terms, is a new concept.  Until the industrial age and the massive shift from farms to factories, there really wasn’t retirement.  One worked the family farm or ranch until unable to work.  At that point one hoped that his children would take care of him during his short remaining life.  Industrialization changed much of that.  While manual farm work was back-breaking labor (and, even with today’s highly mechanized farms, remains so), coal miners, steel-mill-hands, textile plant employees, slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant workers and millions of others had it even tougher, with serious workplace injuries and fatalities common.

Bismarck is credited with the first old-age pension in 1889. The industrial age was dawning, and Germany needed an incentive to convince young workers to leave the farm for factory jobs in the cities.  This was a part of that plan. It became widely copied in form and substance.  It is generally agreed that the qualifying age of 70 was set above the average lifespan at the time, making it more of a lottery than a retirement guarantee.  When the Roosevelt administration came up with Federal Insurance Contributions Act - e.g. Social Security – in 1935, it too set the retirement age above the average lifespan at 65.  At that point in time, the expected lifespan was 61.7 years.

Living to 80 and Beyond
Today, life expectancy in the U.S. is pushing 80.  I would project that to climb steeply and remarkably.  While there are a couple of negative factors for longevity in the U.S. , e.g.- obesity and an increasing number of antibiotic-resistant infections- there are far more positives: a general awareness of the benefits of exercise, a decline in smoking, a variety of engineering improvements in cars (air bags, seat restraints, crumple zones) and roads (replacement of anchored light posts and highway signs with breakaway posts; light reflectors), statin drugs, widespread availability of food for even the most indigent, hip replacement surgery, cancer treatments, stents, pacemakers and much more.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey believes aging is a disease and can be treated as such.  Resulting in lives that are really long.  Really, really long.  If he’s correct, some readers of this might live far beyond 100.  If there is a return to the Biblical age of Methuselah, you are going to work for a long time.  Very, very long.

Equally important, much of the most physically destructive work has been eliminated by automation and engineering changes.  Fewer bodies are being worn out by  lifetimes of strenuous labor compared to seventy-five years ago.

Household Net Worth
As someone who has been let go after a business sale, fired after a hostile takeover, and fired in a restructuring, I understand the difficulty in accumulating sufficient financial assets for a comfortable retirement.  Having said that, I’m appalled at just how little many of my generation have saved.  According to the analysis of household wealth in the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report, the median household financial assets for 55-64 year olds is a meager $41,000, a long way from funding a comfortable retirement.  Some of those households of course have traditional corporate pension plans, and others may have military or government pensions, making retirement much more attractive. And that report was prepared shortly after the recession reduced the value of most financial assets including balances in 401(k)s.  It is reasonable to assume that the long market rally would have increased these values.  Nonetheless, for many that is a bleak outlook.  But only if they stop working.

U. S. Fiscal Challenges
With the accumulated debt of the U.S. approaching $18 trillion, and ongoing budget deficits, the key social safety net programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will remain under pressure.  It is very unlikely that benefits will become richer in the future. 

Concluding Thoughts
At Jobs Over Fifty, we’ve been recommending that everyone develop a plan for the “2nd 50”, that is, a plan that assumes that individuals turning fifty today have a real probability of living to 100.  Given that, we suggest that the retirement that most envisioned in the 1960’s and 1970’s is unlikely to materialize.  Instead, we predict that many, if not most, will work into their seventies (given that some of that  might be part-time).  The evidence is strong that the most important determinant of whether or not one outlives savings is how long one works.

www.jobsoverfifty.com supports experienced workers seeking new employment or ideas to assist in maintaining their current employment.

For action-oriented ideas to achieve and maintain work performance at a peak level so that employers beg you to not retire, may we recommend Survive And Prosper, Fifty Steps to Job And Career Security?


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: What Matters Now by Gary Hamel

Interview of Eric Schmidt by Gary Hamel at the MLab dinner tonight. Google's Marissa Mayer and Hal Varian also joined the open dialog about Google's culture and management style, from chaos to arrogance. The video just went up on YouTube. It's quite entertaining. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Cover of The Future of ManagementMy list of must-read business writers continues to expand.Gary Hamel, however, author of What Matters Now, with the very long subtitle of How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation, has been on the list for quite some time.Continuing his thesis on the need for a new approach to management introduced in his prior book The Future of Management, Hamel calls for a complete rethinking of how enterprises are run.

Fundamental to his recommendation is that the practice of management is ossified in a command and control system that is now generations old and needs to be replaced with something that reflects an educat…

7 Ways to Fix Your Gut and Help Your Brain

Author Peter Andrey Smith titled his article on the relationship of the brain to the intestines, and, in particular, the tiny creatures that live in our intestine beautifully: “The tantalizing links between gut microbes and the brain”. If the human brain is the frontier of medical science, the microbiome, those tiny creatures that live in our intestinal tract, is Jupiter. The linkage between what goes on in the gut and the brain is indeed tantalizing, and the subject of research worldwide. There are over 1,000 different kinds of those things living inside us. There are hints that having the wrong mix of gut microbes, or the absence of any particular type, is linked to asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and more. Further, antibiotics, illnesses and other factors can deplete the population. Here are seven things we can do to help keep our little creatures happy and healthy.
Eat the right stuff. There is evidence that the right diet helps keep …

Get REM Sleep; Manage Fear

A good night’s sleep may help you manage fear and risks better.

A study just posted in Journal of Neuroscience describes the importance of a good night’s sleep to controlling strong emotions, especially fear. Previous studies in this area attempted to discover what happens in the brain after a frightful experience.  These prior studies, for example, show how Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects sleep. A team at the Rutgers University Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, led by Itamar Lerner, has taken a different approach. They wanted to see if there is a relationship between adequate sleep and prevention or management of the brain’s reaction to subsequent stressful events. Research Team Lerner is a Postdoctoral Fellow in sleep research. Along with fellow researchers Neha Sinha-also doing Postdoctoral research-in her case in brain imaging, Shira Lupkin and Alan Tsai, they used new technology that allows mobile tracking of sleep habits over a period of time, not j…