How Has the Shift to 401(k)s Affected the Retirement Age?
The trend toward earlier and earlier retirement has slowed and, perhaps, even reversed. A host of explanations are possible: the elimination of mandatory retirement, the cessation of the expansion of Social Security, the reduction of retirement incentives within Social Security, and the changing nature of the private pension system. This paper explores the latter issue – how pension coverage and the type of pension affect the timing of retirement.
Based on the first six waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the paper finds that pension coverage per se and the type of pension are important in each case. Pension wealth reduces the expected retirement age by 0.6 year, and the incentives in defined benefit plans lower the expected age by another 1.1 years. Pension wealth increases the probability of retiring in a given wave, and pension accruals reduce the probability. Other characteristics of defined benefit plans further raise the probability of being retired. Finally, with regard to the probability of retiring earlier than planned, a change in defined contribution wealth increases the probability, but pension coverage per se reduces it. That is, those with pensions tend to be more accurate planners than those without.