"Pensions" were this crazy system in which employers contributed money to an employee's retirement account, and when the employee retired, he would have this money, to live on, based on how many years he had worked and how much he made.
Well at some point (the '80s) someone decided it would be much smarter to a) make employees pay for their own retirement and b) to make them put all their money in the stock market. That was a great idea, for like 20 years! Now, hah, no one in America gets to retire anymore.
But on the plus side, there will never be a cure for cancer. (Hey, this will be a fun multi-part New York Times series, right? Richard Nixon declared war on drugs, and cancer, and now there is just as much of both of those things. What a prick.)