Life after early retirement: the experiences of lower-level workers Essay

Because of the social security and private pension systems, older
people are less likely to be without an income than any other group in
America. Older workers are also less likely to be unemployed than any
other group. The basic statistics on which these statements are based
mask the serious concerns of older people in America today.

In their book, Life After Early Retirement: The Experience of
Lower-Level Workers, the authors focus on the effects of inflation and
lack of adequate private pension and social security benefit indexing,
of rising health care costs, and the lack of life-long health benefits
for the elderly. This information is based on a survey of more than 800
retirees of three corporations–a utility, a chain store, and a
manufacturer. The authors’ survey presents evidence of all three
problems, including supporting commentary by respondents in their

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The casual approach of this book keeps the interest of the
nontechnical reader more easily than some of the more rigorous empirical
work in the area of retirement behavior and policy. Many readers will
find that the cross-tabulations of the survey responses and the
anecdotes provide insight into the effect of retirement on the lives of

Nevertheless, the work would have been considerably improved if the
results the authors obtained from their survey had been reinforced by
national statistic on activities of the older worker. For example, the
authors write that it appears that a great many of the elderly men in
their sample who chose to work moved into the self-employed status after
retirement. This phenomenon could have been easily confirmed for all
men in this country, age 65 and over, using employment statistics from
the Current Population Survey, published regularly by the Bureau of
Labor Statistics. There are many other instances where greater
attention to other research studies could have improved the book.
Moreover, there is little indication that the authors are familiar with
the extensive literature in the field, and it is a rare occasion when
another author is noted.

An equally disturbing problem arose when the authors attempted to
hypothesize at to what the results would have been to a question that
they appear to have mistakenly left out of their survey, by mentally
extrapolating the results of a previous, but actually unrelated,

Because their work does not define the retirement decision within
the framework of a model, the authors are not limited by the assumptions
of any model. Thus, many of the aspects of the retirement decision have
not been addressed by more scholarly analysts. As a result, the readers
benefit from a discussion of the social as well as the economic
importance of employment among the elderly. Retirement alternatives
that are addressed include flexible schedules for the elderly,
advancement, retraining, and job reassignment.

Aside from some repetition, the work is clearly written and
provides the reader with a great deal of knowledge concerning retirement
behavior, its analysis, policy implications, and areas of future policy


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