Why it matters: Delayed retirement is a sign of health and affluence for some and a continued life of hardship for others. As society ages and people live longer, a 21st century idea of retirement is needed, Steve Vernon of the Stanford Center on Longevity tells Axios.
The big picture: Americans are working longer — out of choice or necessity. And the trend has broad implications for people of all ages, from younger workers mapping out their futures to older people planning their legacies.
The state of play:
The other side:
- On one hand, the average retirement age is just 63 years old.
- Poverty rates among the 65 and older group have fallen.
- Since the 1980s, Social Security benefits have risen along with wages, Vernon said.
Reality check: The mechanisms that once ensured an easy retirement may be disappearing, but a small percentage of American workers ever really benefited from pension plans.
- Pensions largely don't exist anymore, replaced by 401(k) style retirement plans.
- But many small and mid-sized employers don't offer retirement plans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Boomers today also have more debt than past generations — an average of $120,000 for those in debt, per the Stanford Center for Longevity.
- 30% of them had nothing saved in a retirement plan in 2014.
- There's a growing number of elderly Americans reliant on Medicare and Medicaid.
This image that we have that the prior generation of workers had generous pensions, is largely not right," Vernon said.