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Pathways To Retirement: A Career Stage Analysis Of Retirement Age Expectations

Even as the labor force ages and a large number of baby boomers are entering their sixties, experts are not sure they can predict when these will exit the workforce. Yet, if organizations want to capitalize on their workforce investments and prevent skill shortages in the long run, they must adequately manage the retirement process, not just of but also of workers at mid-career.

In surveying the literature related to , we found that retirement researchers study primarily the experiences of retirees and older workers, but not the retirement expectations of mid-career workers. Careers researchers, in contrast, tend to study mostly early and mid-career transitions and put less emphasis on late career transitions. To address these blind spots, we integrated careers and to examine retirement age expectations of professionals at both mid- and late career and determine whether their retirement outlooks differed. We also wanted to find out if different factors predicted retirement outlooks at both of these career stages.

Using a sample of 441 professional workers, we found that those in late career expect to retire three years later than those at mid-career (65 versus 62). HR professional involved in workforce planning may feel reassured that, in the short term, older workers may seek to defer retirement. However, they should be concerned about the expectations of earlier retirement among mid-career professionals, as this may signal acceleration of the anticipated talent crisis.

Contrary to conventional wisdom among HR professionals, we did not find that job satisfaction was related to wanting to delay retirement for mid- or late career managers, thus improving employee job satisfaction will not be particularly helpful in retaining mid- and late career employees. Our findings suggest that enhancing the centrality of work for the employee would be a more actionable lever for delaying retirement, especially for those in late career. Mechanisms for increasing job centrality – thus delaying intentions to retire – include improving job autonomy and interest, task variety, and responsibility.

Retirement involves a set of institutional arrangements combined with socio-cultural meanings to sustain a distinct retirement phase in life course and career pathways. The articles outline that recent forces of change may lead to reinvention of retirement. There are factors that must be recognized as having a significant impact such as the fact that life expectancy and health status of adults over 60 has increased dramatically in recent years. Reinvention could involve change to one or more of the institutional arrangements supporting retirement. New financial risks and uncertainties loom large, as national and corporate pension arrangements are reconfigured to deal with ongoing financial turmoil.

The special issue considers the future of retirement and emphasises that understanding how retirement pathways are changing, and what is influencing them will remain a challenging research task. Institutional changes will be important, but are far from the only influences.

Human Relations, special issue on retirement


Post, Schneer, Reitman & ogilvie, Human Relations, special issue on retirement

SAGE Publications