How Much Longer Do People Need to Work?

TitleHow Much Longer Do People Need to Work?
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMunnell, AH, Webb, A, Chen, A
InstitutionBoston, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
KeywordsConsumption and Savings, Demographics, Employment and Labor Force, Health Conditions and Status, Retirement Planning and Satisfaction

Working longer is a powerful lever to enhance retirement security. Individuals should be able to extend the number of years they work because, on average, they are healthier, live longer, and face less physically demanding jobs. But averages are misleading when discrepancies in health, job prospects, and life expectancy have widened between individuals with low and high socioeconomic status (SES). To understand the magnitude of the problem, this paper, using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), specifies how much longer households in each SES quartile would need to work to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living and compares those optimal retirement ages with their planned retirement ages to calculate a retirement gap. It then uses regression analysis to explore whether the gaps reflect poor circumstances or poor planning that is, the extent to which the retirement gap results from health, employment, and marital shocks that occur before the HRS interview but too late for the household to adjust saving (between ages 50 and 58), as opposed to a gap resulting from inadequate foresight. The analysis shows that households in lower-SES quartiles have larger retirement gaps, and this pattern remains true even after controlling for late-career shocks. In short, the most vulnerable have the largest retirement gaps, and these gaps arise from poor planning rather than late-career shocks.

Endnote Keywords

retirement planning/labor Force Participation/retirement security/retirement security/socioeconomic Status/Standard of living/Standard of living/health shocks

Endnote ID


Citation Key5869