An Illustrated History of Retirement and Pensions

04/25/2014 02:21 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2014
  • Reboot Illinois A non-partisan organization dedicated to involving Illinois residents in the state's political process

The website has put together a history of retirement in the United States, starting with the time when Americans didn't retire (but only lived, on average, to age 38) and looking ahead to 2050 -- when people over 85 will make up as high a percentage of the population as did people over 65 in 1930.

What's happened over time is a lot fewer active workers are helping fund the retirements of a whole lot more retirees.

For public employees in Illinois, of course, pensions became a problem largely because doing the right thing -- contributing more tax dollars to pensions (thus less to schools, public safety, etc.), rejecting the temptation to add pension sweeteners for political favor, seeking higher employee contributions -- was not politically expedient. That led to the turmoil of the pension reform bill that soon will begin working its way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

This big-picture view shows the retirment picture nationally is quite a bit more complicated. The Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, wars, the Baby Boom, advances in medicine that have us living much longer all contribute.  Underlying it all is the uncertain future of Social Security -- the sole retirement income for 35 percent of retirees.

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