A white paper released by Allianz in May identified three "waves" of, or broad mind shifts in, retirement thinking over the last 70 years.
The first wave was the result of the greatest generation's experience in the Great Depression and World War II. Investors were cautious, and the experiences of that time, as well as the government's reaction, led them to seek "rock solid guarantees" in financial planning and careers.
Allianz noted that this is the genesis of the traditional "three-legged stool," a model that "worked fairly well for 30-40 years."
The stock market crash of 1929 had a long-term effect on that generation's investing habits – in 1952, just 4% of Americans invested in the stock market. By 1980, that number increased by just 9 percentage points.
That long-term reluctance to join the stock market is an indication of investors' limited interest in controlling their retirement assets, according to Allianz, and their willingness to rely on government-sponsored Social Security and employer-sponsored pension plans.
The second wave is made up of boomers whose financial experiences were vastly different from those of their parents. "Growing up in primarily favorable economic conditions and energized by solid economic growth for most of their early working years, baby boomers were mostly fearless and emboldened as investors," according to the white paper.