Some 2,000 workers in the 50 to 79 age range in the RAND American Life Panel were recently surveyed about factors that would affect their retirement age.
Researchers focused on respondents’ ratings of alternative work-to-retirement pathways, their current and desired job characteristics, subjective probabilities of working past age 70 and doing so if certain job characteristics were available to them.
The survey results, released in a working paper this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that about half the workers surveyed preferred traditional retirement paths — retiring directly and completely from full-time jobs.
Many others preferred a more gradual transition to retirement. About a quarter said they would first take a part-time job, 8% preferred to work for themselves before retirement and one in 10 had no intention of ceasing to work.
Women were likelier to prefer gradual pathways to retirement and less likely to say they would never retire. Part-time employees and those who were self-employed were likelier than full-timers to prefer gradual pathways.
The survey also identified differences among respondents by education, health, psychological factors and their Big 5 personality traits.
Workers decide when and how to retire for a wide variety of factors. These may include their health, abilities and preferences for job characteristics and leisure activities, as well as government regulations and employer demands.
According to the report: “Standard economic theory ignores psychological factors, but our results suggest that they may be useful to understand heterogeneity in the population that is not explained by standard economic variables.”
Researchers found that most respondents worried about health and job demands when they considered working longer, but relatively few were concerned that their employers would not allow them to remain in their jobs.