A: We’re certainly a transitional generation. America is very young and is (in the big picture) in a constant state of change and flux.
Up to 1900, we were pioneers still venturing across the country in search of opportunities. Don’t forget the Wild West took place roughly 1880–1900. The early 20th century brought in the first stable factory jobs, WW I, the Roaring 20s, then The Great Depression. I don’t believe many folks at all actually retired to this point. And this was only 90 years ago.
My grand parents generation was raised in the Depression and then survived WW II. They knew the value of a dollar and having food on the table. They organized unions, held their jobs and families together. They stayed at home and made babies. They created our blueprint for the modern American Dream: Get a job, work hard, start your family, buy a home, retire.
From poverty to prosperity to entitlement in 3 generations
They led us to the most prosperous era in America to date. And like the stereotypical self-made millionaire, they spawned entitled idealists — the Baby Boomers. The largest generation of wealth-wasters to ever walk the earth.
I’ll walk that back a bit, as many of this generation, like my own parents and many others that I know, were raised very well by their sticker-shocked parents and practiced the hard earned lessons handed down. They secured their jobs, kissed ass as required to get the retirement benefits that they were guaranteed… but, this generation often divorced – squandering family security and money to indulge their mid-life crises. Today, you’ll even see them encouraged to blow the last of any nest egg through reverse mortgages.
I hope that what we begin to see as of Gen X and after, is a more balanced and awakened approach to our careers. Automation and AI are quickly taking away mundane jobs that people agonized through, leaving us with necessity and opportunity to find or create careers where we help each other (note the boom in consultancies and gig economy). And these opportunities are more creative than ever before.
Hopefully we’ll see a change in perception of the term “working”. So, no longer are most of us suffering thru a 40-hour work week to get a couple days to ourselves so that we can finally reach a finish line at 65 and hope we can finally enjoy our lives for a couple years as our bodies and minds begin to fail.
No. Hopefully we’ll finally begin to awaken to a shift where we can enjoy our work regardless of what day it is and in spite of how old we are. It gives us purpose and a reason to hop out of bed in the morning.
As our society becomes more automated more opportunity opens up in interpersonal occupations – counseling, consulting, authoring in all media… and speaking of media — look at the explosion of media available today: hundreds of network TV channels, thousands of online streaming channels, millions of blogs, podcasts and video channels. All proof of fun, intelligent and engaging things to do with our lives going forward.
Beats sitting on a coach waiting for life to end post retirement, doesn’t it?
The bottom line:
To answer the question more directly: there has been only a couple generations to embrace retirement as we’ve come to know it. It could be loosely defined as a mangled carrot at the end of a very, very long stick. Hopefully we’re evolving past the entire concept.