1 minute read

Transition Retirement

Passage To Retirement

Retirement was once assumed to be a one-way exit from a one-job work career of some twenty-five or thirty years’ duration upon eligibility for pension or Social Security benefits. Closer study of work and retirement patterns in the 1980s and 1990s revealed the growing variety of paths and job sequences by which workers can retire. One can stop altogether, or switch to part-time work, or start a new full-time job while drawing pension income. These transitions can begin earlier or later than the conventional retirement age window of sixty-two to sixty-five. The earlier they begin, the greater is the likelihood of a complex, multistep path to retirement. Workers differ considerably in their ability to control the form and timing of these transitions, however, and the choices may be limited in practice.

Being retired is also a matter of self-definition. Workers who are disabled or displaced can convert their nonemployment to ‘‘retirement’’ once they qualify for pension income. There are also former workers who, meeting all apparent criteria as retired, will deny that they are retired because they dislike that identity. Despite the variety of forms, most people understand retirement to mean full or partial reduction in work hours along with the initiation of pension income from public or private sources. By their own understanding, most older people can readily identify themselves as completely, partially, or not retired.

The temporal event of leaving a long-term job or career can be marked with a ceremony organized at the workplace or among friends. Employers’ ceremonies and parting gifts—the emblematic watch or other token—can strike honorees as impersonal if large numbers of people are involved. Ceremonies organized among coworkers or friends can be an emotionally satisfying way to recognize the transition, commemorate the career, and greet the future. That so many retirements are soon followed by long-deferred trips and travel suggests the need for symbolic and concrete ways to celebrate the break.

Table 1 Retirement attitudes of persons age 62 to 65 who say that they are completely retired. SOURCE: Adapted from: Juster, F. T., and Suzman, R. “An Overview of the Health and Retirement Study.” Journal of Human Resources 30, supp. (1995): S7-S56.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 4Transition Retirement - The Modern Norm Of Retirement, Anticipation And Preparation, Passage To Retirement, Adaptation, What Should Retirement Be?