We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
...there is no conceivable system that is going to allow the vast majority of the population to spend a full third of their adult life in retirement, at anything like the same standard of living they had when they were working.
Sure you can. If you are willing to put 25% or so of your income to retirement savings.
Of course, if you want to spend all of your money (plus everything you can borrow) right now, it isn't going to work. As the saying goes, you can have anything you want, but not everything you want.
The demographics just don't work. Even if you save like a squirrel and have a legitimate claim on the future through your savings, a population where one third of the people support two thirds (their kids and their parents alike) is going to have a hard time supporting everyone. Real investment helps but Social Security has sucked money out of investment and into forced government borrowing in order to pretend it was invested.
Since it's too late to have more kids working by the time I'm 65, my part of the answer will be working well past 65, I suspect.
I don't grudge anyone some time to themselves after spending their school years and adult years answering other people's beck and call. Personally, I'd probably enjoy a few years' vacation before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
When I made the post, I was thinking in terms of individual decisions made in the context of a fairly normal economy with fairly steady natural growth in population and productivity. (This is, of course, only normal in the last 200 years or so.) Rereading the original quote I realize Megan is referring to most of the population being retired for decades at no reduction of standard of living.
You are right of course that this is not going to happen. Not for the long run and not without damage to the cohesion of society. If it were based on an expanding base of our own children and grandchildren it might be all right. Here in Canada however, our population growth comes almost entirely from immigration, and whatever else they bring to this country they also, after a while, bring their parents and grand parents. It still leaves us demographically top heavy.