European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 207–219 | Cite as

Unexpected retirement from full time work after age 62: consequences for life satisfaction in older Americans

  • Philippa ClarkeEmail author
  • Victor W. Marshall
  • David Weir
Original Investigation


Recent policy shifts in the United States have resulted in an increase in the number of older workers remaining in the labor force. Increases in the retirement age for receiving full Social Security benefits coupled with declining pension funds and the erosion of employer retiree health benefits, mean that current cohorts of older workers may fully expect to work longer than previous generations. Yet, working longer may not always be possible due to health problems, outdated skills, economic insecurity, and competing obligations. We examine the consequences of unmet expectations for full time work after age 62 for life satisfaction in a nationally representative sample of older Americans. With longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (1998–2008), this paper uses repeated measures of expectations for later life work among a cohort of Americans (N = 1684) gathered prospectively over an 8-year period, and examines the effects of unfulfilled expectations on subsequent life satisfaction. Using generalized growth mixture modeling three latent classes of individuals were identified with distinct trajectories of later life work expectations (low expectations, high expectations, and neutral expectations for full time work after age 62). A majority of men had generally high expectations to work full time past age 62, whereas the majority of women reported a low probability of working full time after age 62. When comparing expectations to actual full time work past age 62, we found no effects of unmet expectations for women. However, men with less job stability (reflected by shorter job tenure and lower incomes) generally had high expectations to work longer, and their life satisfaction scores were significantly lower when these expectations were not realized. The hazards of missed expectations for later life work have consequences for subjective well-being in older adults.


Work Expectations Retirement Life satisfaction Subjective well-being 



The Health and Retirement Study is sponsored by the National Institute of Aging [NIA U01AG009740] and is conducted by the University of Michigan. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the American Sociological Association Meetings, in Montreal, Quebec, August, 2006.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippa Clarke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Victor W. Marshall
    • 2
  • David Weir
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Social Research, University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.University of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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