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Retirees’ perceptions of goal expectancy in five resource domains

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The way individuals envision, formulate, and strive to meet their retirement goals is poorly understood. Research to date has focused mainly on goals associated with the pre-retirement phase, although arguably, goals during retirement are equally important. In this investigation, a conceptual replication and extension of the Retirement Goal Process Model (RGPM; Hershey & Jacobs-Lawson, 2009) is carried out. This extended theoretically-derived path model posits that individuals’ perceptions of the consequences of failing to achieve a particular goal will determine the perceived importance of the goal. Perceived goal importance, in turn, determines the thought and effort individuals are willing to allocate toward achieving the goal (goal striving). Goal striving, in turn, is driven by the perceived adequacy of available resources, which predicts the perceived likelihood the goal will be achieved (goal expectancy). This path model was tested across five retirement resource domains identified by Wang and Shultz Journal of Management, 36(1). 172-206, (2010): financial, emotional, cognitive, social, and physical. For analytic purposes, the sample (N = 698, age range 66–94) was divided into four different groups: younger and older males and females. Findings revealed that the theoretically-grounded RGPM accounted for substantial differences in variability in retirement goal expectancy, both across retirement domains and across groups. On a theoretical level, this investigation provides a synthesis of the RGPM with Wang and Shi’s Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 209-233, (2014) Dynamic Resource Theory. From an applied perspective, the results suggest ways in which retirement intervention specialists might profitably intercede with older adults in order to increase the likelihood of goal attainment.

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  1. The interested reader is directed to the paper by Hershey and Jacobs-Lawson (2009) for further justification regarding the logical sequence of constructs in the path model.

  2. Perceptions for one resource domain—motivation—were not solicited from participants due to the technical psychological nature of the domain. The concern that led to this decision was that respondents would not readily be able to identify what it meant to possess or strive toward accumulating “motivational resources.” Instead, the other five domains identified by Wang (2007; Wang & Schultz, 2010) were relied upon, for which the meaning of each domain name was unambiguous.

  3. Results of pairwise slope comparisons from the models (across groups) are available from the authors upon request.


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The authors are indebted to William Tamulonis and the Acts Retirement-Life Communities for assistance with the data collection.

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Authors and Affiliations



All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Cindy E. Tsotsoros and Douglas A. Hershey, as was the first draft of the manuscript. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript, and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joanne K. Earl.

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This research was reviewed and approved by the ethics committee at Mcquarie University, Sydney, Australia. The authors certify that this study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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  1. 1.

    I possess _______ income to support me (my family’s) living expenses. (1 = very little or no; 3 = a moderate amount of; 5 = plenty of or excess). Financial domain.

  2. 2.

    I have _______ friends or family members who I interact with regularly. (1 = very few or no; 3 = a moderate number of; 5 = many). Social domain.

  3. 3.

    I experience _______ positive emotions (e.g., being interested, excited, strong, enthusiastic, proud, determined, alert, inspired, attentive, active). (1 = very few; 3 = a moderate amount of; 5 = plenty of/excess). Emotion domain.

  4. 4.

    I would consider my general health condition to be _______. (1 = extremely poor; 3 = average; 5 = extremely good). Health domain.

  5. 5.

    I have ______ ability to acquire new knowledge or skills. (1 = very little or no; 3 = a moderate; 5 = plenty of or excess). Cognitive domain.

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Tsotsoros, C.E., Mooney, A., Earl, J.K. et al. Retirees’ perceptions of goal expectancy in five resource domains. Curr Psychol 42, 5819–5833 (2023).

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