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Expand chart
Data: U.S. Census Bureau and PNAS; Chart: Naema Ahmed

The number of Americans in the workforce who are over 64 years old has tripled over the past 30 years.

Why it matters: Delayed retirement is a sign of health and affluence for some and a continued life of hardship for others. As society ages and people live longer, a 21st century idea of retirement is needed, Steve Vernon of the Stanford Center on Longevity tells Axios.

The big picture: Americans are working longer — out of choice or necessity. And the trend has broad implications for people of all ages, from younger workers mapping out their futures to older people planning their legacies.

  • 43% of Americans ages 45 years and older say they expect to outlive their savings, according to an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.
  • 31% of Americans ages 40-79 said they would continue working into retirement age even without a financial need, according to a recent Harris Poll for TD Ameritrade.

"[T]here is more and more incentive to work longer, because the more you work the more you're going to contribute to the [retirement] plan and the more you're going to get from the plan," Richard Johnson, Urban Institute's director for the Program on Retirement Policy, tells Axios.

The state of play:

  • On one hand, the average retirement age is just 63 years old.
  • Poverty rates among the 65 and older group have fallen.
  • Since the 1980s, Social Security benefits have risen along with wages, Vernon said.

The other side:

Reality check: The mechanisms that once ensured an easy retirement may be disappearing, but a small percentage of American workers ever really benefited from pension plans.

  • "This image that we have that the prior generation of workers had generous pensions, is largely not right," Vernon said.

What's next: By the 2030s, one in five U.S. adults will be 65 or older, the Census Bureau projects. Life expectancy at birth will have risen to 82 from 79 in 2016, according to U.N. data. This could put tremendous strain on the nation's social security and health care systems.

  • It could become even more necessary for older generations to continue working, but opportunities for them may dwindle, especially for low-wage workers as jobs are automated.
  • “People want to work longer, but do the employers want them to work longer?" Johnson said about the tough sell of retraining senior employees.

The bottom line: A comfortable retirement at 65 is disappearing — and may have been mostly myth all along.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Laurene Powell Jobs' $3.5 billion climate campaign

Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective, is investing $3.5 billion in her new climate-action group, the Waverley Street Foundation — all to be spent in 10 years, as a way to show urgency on the issue.

  • Then the group will sunset.

The big picture: The foundation "will focus on initiatives and ideas that will aid underserved communities who are most impacted by climate change," an official tells Axios.

R. Kelly found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking

Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Singer R. Kelly on Monday was found guilty of racketeering and eight counts of violating an anti-sex trafficking law, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Sexual misconduct allegations have surrounded R. Kelly's career, including a child sexual abuse image case in 2008 where he was acquitted. Multiple other victims have come forward to speak about the abuse in recent years.

German elections: After close result, jockeying to replace Merkel begins

Data: Preliminary results from German Federal Returning Officer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) pulled off a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s elections, 10 seats ahead of the Christian Democrats (CDU), which failed to finish top for the first time in 16 years.

State of play: SPD leader Olaf Scholz has said he’ll seek to form a government, but so too has Armin Laschet, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as CDU leader.