A few generations ago, people started work in their late teens or early 20s. They likely stayed at the same company until they were into their 50s or 60s, or they at least spent the majority of their working years with the same employer. That loyalty could be rewarded with retirement plans and pension programs.
When Grandpa retired, he likely had a pension to help fund his retirement years. And not to be callous or morbid, but those retirement years were probably shorter than what they are today. People who retired at 65 weren't expected to live too much longer, meaning they only needed to pay for a retirement that was 10 or 15 years long.
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You can start to see why traditional retirement no longer works for today's employees and workers. Pension plans eventually gave way to 401(k) plans that employees needed to contribute to and fund themselves, and many of today's employees don't even have access to those plans. In fact, just 14 percent of employers offer 401(k) plans or defined contribution plans to employees.
That means people increasingly are responsible for the cost of their own retirement, which is likely to stretch for several decades. Retiring at 65 today could mean your retirement fund or nest egg must cover 30 years of living expenses. All of these factors make it a much more costly undertaking than it used to be.