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

Because of the social security and private pension systems, olderpeople are less likely to be without an income than any other group inAmerica. Older workers are also less likely to be unemployed than anyother group. The basic statistics on which these statements are basedmask the serious concerns of older people in America today. In their book, Life After Early Retirement: The Experience ofLower-Level Workers, the authors focus on the effects of inflation andlack of adequate private pension and social security benefit indexing,of rising health care costs, and the lack of life-long health benefitsfor the elderly.

This information is based on a survey of more than 800retirees of three corporations–a utility, a chain store, and amanufacturer. The authors’ survey presents evidence of all threeproblems, including supporting commentary by respondents in theirsample. The casual approach of this book keeps the interest of thenontechnical reader more easily than some of the more rigorous empiricalwork in the area of retirement behavior and policy. Many readers willfind that the cross-tabulations of the survey responses and theanecdotes provide insight into the effect of retirement on the lives ofworkers. Nevertheless, the work would have been considerably improved if theresults the authors obtained from their survey had been reinforced bynational statistic on activities of the older worker. For example, theauthors write that it appears that a great many of the elderly men intheir sample who chose to work moved into the self-employed status afterretirement. This phenomenon could have been easily confirmed for allmen in this country, age 65 and over, using employment statistics fromthe Current Population Survey, published regularly by the Bureau ofLabor Statistics.

There are many other instances where greaterattention to other research studies could have improved the book.Moreover, there is little indication that the authors are familiar withthe extensive literature in the field, and it is a rare occasion whenanother author is noted. An equally disturbing problem arose when the authors attempted tohypothesize at to what the results would have been to a question thatthey appear to have mistakenly left out of their survey, by mentallyextrapolating the results of a previous, but actually unrelated,question.

Because their work does not define the retirement decision withinthe framework of a model, the authors are not limited by the assumptionsof any model. Thus, many of the aspects of the retirement decision havenot been addressed by more scholarly analysts. As a result, the readersbenefit from a discussion of the social as well as the economicimportance of employment among the elderly. Retirement alternativesthat are addressed include flexible schedules for the elderly,advancement, retraining, and job reassignment.

Aside from some repetition, the work is clearly written andprovides the reader with a great deal of knowledge concerning retirementbehavior, its analysis, policy implications, and areas of future policyconcerns.


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