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Pensions, The Option Value of Work, and Retirement

  • James H. Stock
  • David A. Wise

The paper develops a model of retirement based on the option value of continuing to work. Continuing to work maintains the option of retiring on more advantageous terms later. The model is used to estimate the effects on retirement of firm pension plan provisions. Typical defined benefit pension plans in the United States provide very substantial incentives to remain with the firm until some age, often the early retirement age, and then a strong incentive to leave the firm thereafter. (This may be a major reason for the rapidly declining labor force participation rates of older workers in the United States.) The model fits firm retirement data very well; it captures very closely the sharp discontinuous jumps in retirement rates at specific ages. The model is used to simulate the effect on retirement of potential changes in pension plan provisions. Increasing the age of early retirement from 55 to 60, for example, would reduce firm departure rates between ages 50 and 59 by almost forty percent.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2686.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2686.

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Date of creation: Aug 1988
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Econometrica, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp.1151-1180, September 1990.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2686
Note: AG
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. Douglas W. Phillips & David A. Wise, 1987. "Military versus Civilian Pay: A Descriptive Discussion," NBER Chapters, in: Public Sector Payrolls, pages 19-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Michael D. Hurd & John B. Shoven, 1983. "The Economic Status of the Elderly," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 359-398 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan S. Blinder & Roger H. Gordon & Donald E. Wise, 1980. "Reconsidering the Work Disincentive Effects of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 0562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1983. "A Structural Retirement Model," NBER Working Papers 1237, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan Feinstein & Daniel McFadden, 1989. "The Dynamics of Housing Demand by the Elderly: Wealth, Cash Flow, and Demographic Effects," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 55-92 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1984. "Dissaving After Retirement: Testing the Pure Life Cycle Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 1409, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & David A. Wise, 1989. "Employee Retirement and a Firm's Pension Plan," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 279-334 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Jeremy I. Bulow, 1981. "Early Retirement Pension Benefits," NBER Working Papers 0654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Howard L. Frant & Herman B. Leonard, 1987. "Promise Them Anything: The Incentive Structures of Local Public Pension Plans," NBER Chapters, in: Public Sector Payrolls, pages 215-242 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Hurd, Michael D & Boskin, Michael J, 1984. "The Effect of Social Security on Retirement in the Early 1970s," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 99(4), pages 767-90, November.
  11. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1982. "Moving and Housing Expenditure: Transaction Costs and Disequilibrium," NBER Working Papers 1012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & David A. Wise, 1985. "Labor Compensation and the Structure of Private Pension Plans: Evidence for Contractual versus Spot Labor Markets," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions, Labor, and Individual Choice, pages 55-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Burtless, Gary & Hausman, Jerry A, 1978. "The Effect of Taxation on Labor Supply: Evaluating the Gary Negative Income Tax Experiments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1103-30, December.
  14. Richard V. Burkhauser, 1980. "The early acceptance of social security: An asset maximization approach," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 33(4), pages 484-492, July.
  15. Edward P. Lazear, 1982. "Pensions as Severance Pay," NBER Working Papers 0944, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Diamond, P. A. & Hausman, J. A., 1984. "Individual retirement and savings behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 81-114.
  17. Richard V. Burkhauser, 1979. "The Pension Acceptance Decision of Older Workers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(1), pages 63-75.
  18. Burtless, Gary, 1986. "Social Security, Unanticipated Benefit Increases, and the Timing of Retirement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(5), pages 781-805, October.
  19. Jeanne M. Hogarth, 1988. "Accepting an Early Retirement Bonus an Empirical Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(1), pages 21-33.
  20. Berkovec, James & Stern, Steven, 1991. "Job Exit Behavior of Older Men," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(1), pages 189-210, January.
  21. Hausman, Jerry A & Wise, David A, 1980. "Discontinuous Budget Constraints and Estimation: The Demand for Housing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 75-96, January.
  22. Jerry A. Hausman & David A. Wise, 1985. "Social Security, Health Status, and Retirement," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions, Labor, and Individual Choice, pages 159-192 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. John P. Rust, 1989. "A Dynamic Programming Model of Retirement Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 359-404 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1989. "Aging, Moving, and Housing Wealth," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 9-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Olivia S. Mitchell & Gary S. Fields, 1981. "The Effects of Pensions and Earnings on Retirement: A Review Essay," NBER Working Papers 0772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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