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Unretirement

How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life

By Chris Farrell
13-minute read
Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life by Chris Farrell

Unretirement exposes the strain an early retirement puts not just on the economy, but on the individual. A more positive alternative is offered: “Unretirement,” where older workers reorient themselves to more pleasant careers, using this new phase in their lives to make a difference to the world at large.

  • Anyone approaching retirement
  • Anyone interested in the changing their career path
  • Anyone worried about our ageing population and its economic implications

Chris Farrell is a journalist and economics commentator. He began his working life as a merchant seaman, before attending the London School of Economics and later contributing to radio, TV and print media.

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Unretirement

How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life

By Chris Farrell
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life by Chris Farrell
Synopsis

Unretirement exposes the strain an early retirement puts not just on the economy, but on the individual. A more positive alternative is offered: “Unretirement,” where older workers reorient themselves to more pleasant careers, using this new phase in their lives to make a difference to the world at large.

Key idea 1 of 8

Retirement is a new phenomenon in human history.

What comes to mind when you think about ageing? These days, we often immediately think of our retirement. However, it wasn’t too long ago that the elderly didn’t have this option at all.

Until the Industrial Revolution, a retirement that involved receiving money after ceasing work was only possible for a small handful of groups. War veterans and widows received pensions, while all others without a family network to support them were expected to continue working or face poverty.

It wasn’t till the early 1900s that the first retirement options emerged, but even these were largely private and inaccessible, used as incentives by railroads and factories to encourage workers to remain with their company for as long as possible. If you left your company or went on strike, your retirement pension would be revoked, and could even be declined on other grounds, such as excessive smoking or drinking.

Retirement as we know it in America only developed during the Great Depression, a time when many people, let alone old people, were driven into penury and struggled to get by. In response, the Social Security Act was created in 1935, ensuring the elderly would receive at least some support from the US government.

But this helpful support network soon spawned idealistic visions of retirement, in which the elderly idled away their days in leisure. Communities such as Sun City in Phoenix emerged, essentially as amusement parks for the resident pensioners.

Yet even after the Social Security Act, retiring wasn’t so pretty for everyone, as many people were either uninsured or didn’t work for a company long enough to get all the benefits. And today, while we hold the same dreams of a retirement in paradise, we too may not be able to afford all that we hoped for.

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