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The Timing of Retirement: A Comparison of Expectations and Realizations

In: The Economics of Aging

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  • B. Douglas Bernheim

Abstract

In this paper, I employ data drawn from the Social Security Administration's Retirement History Survey (RHS) to study the accuracy of expectations concerning the timing of retirement. The RHS is ideally suited for this purpose, in that it collects information on retirement plans, and follows respondents through time so that one can identify actual dates of retirement. The data are consistent with the view that, when asked to report an expected date of retirement, individuals name the most likely date (i.e. a mode, rather than a mean). Furthermore, these forecasts are highly accurate. There is very little evidence that individuals' expectations were systematically biased during periods in which Congress legislated large real increases in social security benefits. This suggests either that the benefit increaser were anticipated, or that unanticipated changes in benefits have little effect on retirement. The paper also describes differences in the accuracy of expectations by population subgroup.
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Suggested Citation

  • B. Douglas Bernheim, 1989. "The Timing of Retirement: A Comparison of Expectations and Realizations," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Aging, pages 335-358 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11587
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    1. Boskin, Michael J. & Hurd, Michael D., 1978. "The effect of social security on early retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 361-377, December.
    2. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Social Security Benefits: An Empirical Study of Expectations and Realizations," NBER Working Papers 2257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gramlich, Edward M, 1983. "Models of Inflation Expectations Formation: A Comparison of Household and Economist Forecasts," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 15(2), pages 155-173, May.
    4. Kathryn H. Anderson & Richard V. Burkhauser & Joseph F. Quinn, 1986. "Do Retirement Dreams Come True? The Effect of Unanticipated Events on Retirement Plans," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(4), pages 518-526, July.
    5. Arden Hall & Terry R. Johnson, 1980. "The Determinants of Planned Retirement Age," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 33(2), pages 241-254, January.
    6. Gary Burtless & Robert A. Moffitt, 1986. "Social Security, Earnings Tests, and Age at Retirement," Public Finance Review, , vol. 14(1), pages 3-27, January.
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