In 17th century massachusetts, if a Plymouth colonist was wounded while defending the colony against Indians, he would receive a pension that would help support him and his family. Since the colonist was unable to perform manual labor due to his wounds, he retired. These pensions were funded by tax collections, which ironically were often performed by the “retired” combatant himself.
While it may not have been a retirement plan as we think of it today, the fundamental principle was the same: success in retirement equates to independence and financial security. Throughout the nation’s history, the pursuit of financial independence has been a paramount concern for Americans, but the parameters of retirement have changed as our demographics have shifted. The Centers for Disease Control estimates our current life expectancy to be about 77 years. In 1900, at birth we could have expected to live about three decades less.
How did we arrive at this 21st century notion of retirement?