She said that the book's aim is to review the last 10 years of research by multiple entities on what she calls the "liminal" period of a person's lifetime.
"You know, between 55 and 70 when policymakers think they know what a life course looks like," said Ghilarducci, "that you work up until 62 and then you have to be instructed by experts to tell you how to invest your money and to claim Social Security later."
"Then the experts say, 'Well at 62, let's do a look back. Oh, you didn't have enough savings. Too bad. You didn't save enough.' Right. But they have a pretty good idea about what that period of 55 to 70 looks like," she said, "And they're wrong. The experts and professionals and policymakers are wrong."
What they're wrong about, she said, is the idea that one should approach retirement savings with the premise that should expect to work longer is deeply flawed.
Instead, Ghilarducci said, most Americans are forced out of the labor market earlier than they want, so all the advice from experts like financial advisers or policymakers that you should save a certain percentage of their paychecks and then claim Social Security later does not speak to the lives of most Americans.
"Most Americans were forced out because of layoffs, because of age discrimination, because of skill obsolescence," said Ghilarducci.
As she says in her book, the nation should "not depend on people working longer to make up for inadequate retirement-income security. Doing so only exacerbates inequalities in wealth, health, well-being and retirement time."
The data that Ghilarducci cites in the new book provides a harrowing argument that there is indeed a retirement crisis in progress by mining the data from various sources, including an Urban Institute study showing 61% of households with people aged older than 65 had debt in 2016, up from 38% in 1989, and the cost-of-living Elder Index developed by the University of Massachusetts' Gerontology Institute that says about 50% of older adults living alone exist in "precarious financial situations."
"Much of the loss of their security came from the loss of defined benefit plans for ordinary people," said Ghilarducci. "That it's like that 40-year experiment with 401k's and do-it-yourself, now the results are coming in, and it was a failure, right? Too bad a couple of generations have to live with that failure."
"Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy" is published by University of Chicago Press and will be released on March 8.