What retirement use to look like

Credit: By Michaeldoxsey via Wikimedia Commons

Historian Nancy Koehn on Rethinking Retirement

February 4, 2014

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said "I need to retire from retirement."   Though  her sentiment is  true for a lot of people who find retirement tiring,  to have a retirement to retire from is becoming a rare commodity.

Today baby boomers (whose parents set the gold standard for how to spend one's golden years) are realizing  that a retirement of leisure is out of reach. As the AARP finds, boomers are less secure financially and have a lower standard of living than their parents.  On average their homes are worth less than the generation before them, and they were hit the hardest by the stock market bust and the housing bubble burst. Boomers' life expectancy is also creating a financial strain since they're expected to live older longer.

Then there  are  those who don't want to retire.  According to a recent Gallup Poll, people who can afford  to leave the workforce are choosing not to.  To walk away from work that one loves --or even work that is tied in to one's identity --can be seen as a fast track to old age and isolation.  It's a reality that directly challenges John Piper's famous words "No man on his death bed ever looked up into the eyes of his family and friends and said, 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.' "

As we face a convergence of boomers who can't afford to retire, aging workers who don't want to, and  an infinite line of unemployed folks who are desperate to get back into the workforce, what can we do to avert a major crisis?

Historian Nancy Koehn joined Jim and Margery today on Boston Public Radio for her take on what we need to do--and can do--to survive this major societal shift.

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