The problem with the dismal failure to prepare well for retirement isn't due to lack of discipline or character. The problem is that we are living our lives according to a model that was built for short lives, not long ones. We have an unprecedented opportunity to rethink work and retirement altogether.
With a little imagination, we can develop healthy models of work where we work many more years but enjoy shorter work weeks and longer vacations. We can institutionalize sabbaticals and retraining and we can modify stalwart institutions, like Social Security, so that they more flexibly provide the support Americans' need in ways that improve quality of life at all ages. It's this sort of retirement discussion that is long overdue.
Laura L. Carstensen is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University. She is author of A Long Bright Future: Happiness, Health and Financial Security in an Age of Increased Longevity.