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Retirement Savings Policy by Michael P. Barry

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Chapter 33 Coda

What is Retirement?

The story we told at the beginning of this Part III describes “what is retirement” in a subsistence economy. In those conditions, “retirement” looks pretty simple—it’s mainly a question of somehow staying alive when you are no longer able to take care of yourself.

In the 20th Century, in conditions in which we, as individuals, as families and as a polity-society-economy, were able to accumulate significant surplus wealth, retirement came to be seen as something different. Something like “a time of rest, idleness, and self-indulgence at the end of your life, as a reward for working most of your life.” That concept made some sense. We were getting wealthier. Labor in an industrial economy, with its emphasis ...

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