Traditionally, Americans could look forward to a comfortable retirement. After four decades in an office or a factory, sometime in their 60s they would lay down their burdens and enjoy a final couple of decades with time to relax, spend time with family and friends, and reflect on their life. But since the financial crisis, older Americans have been increasingly staying in the workplace.
Some see this as a positive trend, because it adds to the economy. But others rightfully view it with trepidation, because there’s the distinct possibility that many of these elderly people just can’t afford to retire. Whether their nest eggs were wiped out in the housing crash, or they just didn’t save enough, or whether their kids don’t make enough money to support them, the decline of retirement seems like an ominous development.
The pressures on older Americans to work will likely only become greater in the coming years. This is because the young, working population needed to support retirees will see slower growth, and possibly outright shrinkage.
As recently as 10 years ago, the U.S. had unusually high fertility rates for a developed nation. The total fertility rate — the number of children a woman can be expected to have over her lifetime — was about 2.1 children per woman, which is the level required for long-term population stability. But since then, the rate has fallen to 1.8 in 2016, implying long-term population shrinkage.