The long and winding road : A life course approach to retirement behaviour

Abstract: Background: This thesis explores the retirement behaviour of older people approaching retirement decisions. The research questions in focus deal with the attitudes toward work, the retirement preferences and the subjective well-being of the "youngest old", i.e. people aged 55–64. The included studies analyse the social determinants of these subjective evaluations and how they predict the timing of retirement and post-retirement well-being.Methods: In the included studies, methods are used that allow us to follow developments over time. Repeated cross-sectional analyses are employed to examine general developments pertaining to the older work force. These include OLS and logistic regression analysis. Longitudinal analyses are used to follow individual developments over time. These include Structural equation modelling and Cox regression analysis.Results: The results indicate that subjective evaluations such as attitudes to work and retirement preferences, as well as subjective well-being, are closely related to the structural conditions to which individuals are exposed, i.e. class position and work environment. The results also indicate that subjective evaluations such as preferred exit age and subjective well-being reported while in the work force are determinants of both the timing of retirement (in the case of preferred exit age and pre-retirement subjective well-being) and post-retirement subjective well-being (in the case of pre-retirement subjective well-being).Also, results indicate that recent policy changes in the Swedish pension systems are reflected in the retirement preferences of the older work force. A comparison of two time-points representing the incentive structure of the old and the new pension systems indicates that preferences were delayed with pension reform.Conclusion: The thesis contributes a temporal perspective to a research field that is dominated by research studying retirement behaviour at a single point of in time. The included studies underline the value of understanding retirement behaviour as a process rather than an isolated event. The way people evaluate their work, their well-being and their retirement prospects is intimately intertwined with their earlier experience. These subjective evaluations affect future retirement outcomes. Life course approaches offer illuminating tools for examining and explaining the significance of the biographies behind retirement behaviour.