Older workers may have every intention of deciding when they’ll retire, but economic conditions can undermine their well-laid plans.
A new study investigating whether macroeconomic events “leave workers with less control over their retirement timing” found that various transitions from career jobs into retirement sharply accelerated during periods when more Americans, including more older workers, were losing their jobs.
The researchers analyzed whether periods of rising unemployment over the past 50 years have affected three specific retirement transitions made by older workers: 1) from full-time work to “bridge jobs,” which pay less; 2) from bridge jobs to full retirement; and 3) from full-time work to full retirement.
These transitions were tracked based on changes in individuals’ employment earnings documented in U.S. Social Security Administration data from 1960 through 2010. An individual was considered to have shifted to a bridge job after he experienced at least a 50 percent decline in his earnings with an existing or new employer – the earnings floor on this group was $5,000 per year. When earnings fell below $5,000, the worker was considered fully retired.
The researchers said that they focused on white men between the ages of 55 and 75, because their labor force participation patterns were more stable during the period studied than those of women and minorities.
They found that a 1-percentage-point rise in the U.S. unemployment rate increased the number of men moving each year from full-time work to bridge jobs by 7 percent.
Rising unemployment also pushed more men into full retirement. A 1-percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate increased the number of men who retired – either from full-time work or from a bridge job – by 5 percent each. …Learn More
When dementia enters an elderly couple’s home, it can bring financial mismanagement with it.
But since both spouses don’t usually become cognitively impaired at precisely the same time, couples have the option of turning over the household financial responsibilities to the person who’s not yet impaired. The question is whether this transfer of control happens quickly enough.
Most couples are waiting until after cognition is very low to make this change, according to a new study.
Economists Joanne Hsu with the Federal Reserve Board and Robert Willis with the University of Michigan found that 80 percent of married older Americans who had been in charge of their household finances continued to manage them after a test revealed they were approaching or already experiencing dementia. …Learn More
About 15 percent of Americans age 65 and over are poor, according to the federal government’s alternative definition of poverty, known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure, a yardstick that takes into account seniors’ out-of-pocket medical expenses, as well as income and tax effects not included in the standard measure of poverty.
A compelling new video profiles poor older Americans who live in Baltimore, rural West Virginia, and Los Angeles. In the video, produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit research and policy organization focused on health care, the seniors identify rising rents and medical expenses as major explanations of financial hardship, which can mean lacking enough money for food.
Squared Away also has interviewed seniors living in a Boston housing complex for low-income seniors. To hear their stories, click here. Learn More
If postponing retirement can improve one’s financial security in old age, why do so many people rush to retire when they reach age 62?
Much research has explored the financial and health reasons that explain why so few people choose to retire later. Taking a different tack, a new study found that individuals with higher cognition foresee a higher probability of working longer.
There were two steps to this research.
First, participants in an Internet survey were asked if they planned to continue working full-time after age 62 and, separately, if they expected to work past 65. Participants were between the ages of 45 and 61.
Next, the researchers measured each survey participant’s “crystallized intelligence,” which is the wisdom acquired with age. This type of intelligence helps to compensate for declining “fluid intelligence” – the ability to think quickly – which peaks in young adulthood. To measure their crystallized intelligence, participants took a standard psychology test in which they are shown pictures – perhaps a goat, maracas, a sextant (an astronomical instrument) – and asked to name them. …Learn More
When older workers are weighing whether to retire or carry on for a few more years, it’s unsurprising that the characteristics of their jobs are a big consideration:
Higher pay keeps workers in the labor force longer.
Workers who feel discriminated against are often the first to retire.
But personality also matters, says a team of researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and the RAND Corporation who analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, an on-going survey of age 50-plus U.S. households.
Consider two types of personalities – highly active and engaged, and passive and reserved. The researchers found that higher wages are effective in persuading more passive people to continue working. But monetary rewards are, for highly active workers “a less important driving factor for the decision to remain in full-time employment,” said Marco Angrisani, one of the study’s co-authors from USC’s Center for Economic and Social Research. Active workers will continue to work, simply because they like it or feel compelled to keep busy. …Learn More
Penny DeFraties, a teacher, shared her reaction to a 2012 article that appeared on this blog:
The day I hit my minimum retirement age, I’m gone. I look forward to traveling, gardening, spending time with my grandkids, and volunteering at church, the American Red Cross and USO. My first husband died of a heart attack at 49-years-old, and my current husband lost his first wife to MS at 50-years-old.
The notion that life is short is a valid reason to retire – to travel or enjoy the grandchildren before it’s too late. And the academic literature clearly shows that the age at which people exit the labor force is related to how long they expect to live.
Building on this research, a new study nails down how we arrive at our personal estimates of our life expectancy and provides new insight into the critical retirement decision.
Using data for individuals between the ages of 50 and 61, economists Matt Rutledge and April Yanyuan Wu with the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) and Boston College doctoral candidate Mashfiqur Khan confirmed that individuals estimate their own life expectancy based in part on how long their parents lived. (Full disclosure: the CRR supports this blog.)
They went on to link this “subjective life expectancy” with when older workers plan to retire, as well as when they actually do retire. …Learn More