Crossroads after 50: Improving choices in work and retirement

Donald Hirsch

A review of how people over 50 make choices, decisions and changes about work and retirement.

This report brings together findings from twelve research projects designed to improve knowledge of how people make choices, decisions and changes (‘transitions’) after the age of 50. The study reviews evidence on a range of older workers’ transitions, including their experiences at work, their reasons for leaving, and what they do outside paid work.

It explores the extent to which people are able to plan the changes that suit them best, or are constrained by circumstances beyond their control. It also looks at how far their decisions and actions are led by the relative financial attractiveness of work and retirement, or by factors in their lives and their jobs that would cause them to retire or continue working regardless of financial aspects. This has critical implications for shaping public policy, which is presently seeking to extend opportunities in later working life and needs to be informed by people’s attitudes and behaviour.

Commentators and policy makers worry in particular about the financial implications of people living longer, and leaving work younger, yet the findings of this report suggest it is unhelpful to restrict debate to whether we should all be retiring later or earlier. The key policy challenge is to open up better choices that allow each to select the most suitable direction.

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