Welcome to this section on retirement.
How we plan for retirement, why we retire, and how we experience retirement
years greatly influences how well we age. The success we perceive as we
age depends in large part on the process of retirement.
How employment is experienced and perceived
influences how retirement takes place. To learn more about employment,
Most Americans view retirement as "no work
and all play" -- a lack of activity, a rocking chair on a porch with the
world passing by. By today's standard, retirement is a very complex issue.
Ekerdt (1996) shows some of this complexity with his identification
of four types of retirement.
1. Complete retirement from work
2. Change of job
3. Semi retirement with part-time work
4. Work for oneself
Any of these four types of retirement may be
an end goal, a transition, or in combination with each other.
The Busy Ethic: Ekerdt's "busy ethic"
applies here. The current generation of older adults hold the work ethic
in high esteem. The values and benefits of work cited in that section attest
to the significance work holds for older adults. Hence, once retired, the
older adult relies on activities and staying busy to create a new role
and fill the time formerly taken by work. This serves to "justify" his
or her retirement and insulate the retiree from feelings and accusations
of lost skills and abilities.
How one adjusts to retirement will influence
the quality of life and how successfully an individual views the aging
process. Understanding the complex factors and issues of retirement will
add dimension to our understanding of what it takes to age successfully.
History and Projections:
There are a number of public actions that bear
upon retirement.In 1884 Chancellor Bismarck set the arbitrary age of 65
years for retirement which was formalized with the Social Security Act
in the U.S. in 1935. Reaching 65 years then was an exception.
Mandatory retirement ended in 1977.
In 1950 each Social Security beneficiary had 16.7
workers producing resources. Today there are only 4 workers per beneficiary.
This is likely to decrease to 2.5 by 2030.
Depletion of the Medicare Trust Fund is likely
by 2010 and Social Security at 2030.
Facts We Know:
Social Security Amendments of 1983 will extend
retirement age from 65 to 67 by the year 2027, reduce early retirement
benefits and increase credit for delayed retirement by 2007.
Health decline is related to age or previous health
problems, NOT retirement
Retirement may improve functional health by reducing
the demands on the individual
Widowhood in retirement, NOT retirement itself,
may cause isolation
Society now views retirement as an earned opportunity
Leisure opportunities may be limited due to duties
such as household work
Most retirees do not feel economically limited
The overwhelming majority of retirees do not relocate
Differences in timing of retirement for spouses
do not significantly affect the overall life satisfaction of retired couples
Most couples today have both been employed before
In one third of households, only one spouse is
retired while the other works
does NOT appear to be significantly affected by retirement
Some reassignment of household tasks occurs after
retirement with more sharing of the responsibilities
There is greater opportunity and time for couples
to share activities
Certain circumstances, such as parent care, children
or grandchildren returning to the home, disability and widowhood are likely
to change retirement lifestyles
Many factors may prompt retirement by themselves
or in combination
One's perception of how he/she will be able to
adjust to retirement
There are many facets of an individual's life
that will influence how satisfied one may be in retirement. Answers to
the following questions may suggest how well one will adjust to retirement.
Social status before retirement
What choices or option does he/she have to continue
In what kind of work was he/she engaged prior
Is there sufficient income to support retirement?
What is the health status of the individual?
What rewards did the employment give to the individual?
How well did he/she prepare for and perceive retiremen
The way one adjusts to retirement has much
to do with the circumstances surrounding retirement. Research has shown
that if one is forced to retire (due to poor health or a down sizing of
a company) he or she is likely to feel the job separation as a crisis and
may be at greater risk for substance abuse, depression or suicide.
(Ebersole & Hess, 1998)
To the contrary, the Kaiser Permanente Retirement
Study found that those who planned for retirement and did so voluntarily,
were found to be less stressed with fewer substance abuse problems and
more likely to exercise regularly.
Retirement implies inactivity to many, with
no compensation and often intangible outcomes. For some, self esteem and
pride wanes. For others value, expertise and relationships change.
In 1975, Robert Atchley identified seven phases of retirement that remain
appropriate to understanding retirement.
There is anticipation with little planning for this future event.
Preparation for retirement and some fantasizing about it occurs.
3. Honeymoon: A state of euphoria
occurs with a testing of fantasies.
There is boredom, depression and a let-down in general.
A more realistic and satisfactory lifestyle is explored.
Activities become a more more important part of the individual's daily
life and routine.
There is a loss of role and/or return to work
(Atchley, 2000; Ebersole & Hess, 1995)
Brandeis University developed
The National Policy and Resource Center on Women and Aging (NPRC). Through
this effort they published many resources and conducted studies
relative to women and retirement.
Their research found that women of the cohort
over 65 were less aware of financial matters, investments, and more likely
to mistrust and not seek out help from financial planners. Their information
on retirement plans were apt to come from family, friends or the media.
"Itís never too early and never too
late." The NPRC publishes a newsletter, The Women
and Aging Letter, with many practical strategies for older women such
as the following four tips for retirement planning:
Don't expect Social Security to do the whole job
Control your finances and be prepared to adjust
you plans through stages of life
Invest early and keep saving
Itís never too late to start
Resources relevant to retirement from the
National Policy Resource Center include:
Women of Labor Speak Out on Retirement Finances,
Health Care, and Caregiving
The resources above may be ordered through the
or write to :
Financial Challenges for Mature Women: Creating
Financial Plans and Evaluating Financial Planners
Director of Publications
in retirement plans likely to occur in five years:
Heller Graduate School
Waltham, MA 02254-9110
Phone: (800) 929-1995
Greater investment choices for participants
Increased employee communications
More portability for employee job changes
Greater simplicity in retirement plan design
Supplemental plans for benefits beyond statutory
Linkage of retirement plans to company financial