Retirement - Factors Affecting Retirement Decisions

Factors Affecting Retirement Decisions

Many factors affect people's retirement decisions. Social Security clearly plays an important role. In countries around the world, people are much more likely to retire at the early and normal retirement ages of the public pension system (e.g., ages 62 and 65 in the U.S.). This pattern cannot be explained by different financial incentives to retire at these ages since typically retirement benefits at these ages are approximately actuarially fair; that is, the present value of lifetime pension benefits (pension wealth) conditional on retiring at age a is approximately the same as pension wealth conditional on retiring one year later at age a+1. Nevertheless a large literature has found that individuals respond significantly to financial incentives relating to retirement (e.g., to discontinuities stemming from the Social Security earnings test or the tax system).

Greater wealth tends to lead to earlier retirement, since wealthier individuals can essentially "purchase" additional leisure. Generally the effect of wealth on retirement is difficult to estimate empirically since observing greater wealth at older ages may be the result of increased saving over the working life in anticipation of earlier retirement. However, a number of economists have found creative ways to estimate wealth effects on retirement and typically find that they are small. For example, one paper exploits the receipt of an inheritance to measure the effect of wealth shocks on retirement using data from the HRS. The authors find that receiving an inheritance increases the probability of retiring earlier than expected by 4.4 percentage points, or 12 percent relative to the baseline retirement rate, over an eight-year period.

A great deal of attention has surrounded how the financial crisis is affecting retirement decisions, with the conventional wisdom saying that fewer people will retire since their savings have been depleted; however recent research suggests that the opposite may happen. Using data from the HRS, researchers examined trends in defined benefit (DB) vs. defined contribution (DC) pension plans and found that those nearing retirement had only limited exposure to the recent stock market decline and thus are not likely to substantially delay their retirement. At the same time, using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), another study estimates that mass layoffs are likely to lead to an increase in retirement almost 50% larger than the decrease brought about by the stock market crash, so that on net retirements are likely to increase in response to the crisis.

More information tells of how many who retire will continue to work, but not in the career they have had for the majority of their life. Job openings will increase in the next 5 years due to retirements of the baby boomer generation. The Over 50 population is actually the fastest growing labor groups in the US.

A great deal of research has examined the effects of health status and health shocks on retirement. It is widely found that individuals in poor health generally retire earlier than those in better health. This does not necessarily imply that poor health status leads people to retire earlier, since in surveys retirees may be more likely to exaggerate their poor health status to justify their earlier decision to retire. This justification bias, however, is likely to be small. In general, declining health over time, as well as the onset of new health conditions, have been found to be positively related to earlier retirement.

Most people are married when they reach retirement age; thus, spouse's employment status may affect one's decision to retire. On average, husbands are three years older than their wives in the U.S., and spouses often coordinate their retirement decisions. Thus, men are more likely to retire if their wives are also retired than if they are still in the labor force, and vice versa.

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