Over the last 5 years or so, I have known a handful of co-workers in the final few years of their career.  I know they were eagerly anticipating retirement.  Once they announced retirement dates, they would occasionally (and sometimes, a little bit more than occasionally) comment on the parts of work they were not going to miss, not failing to point out the co-workers left behind would still be doing those jobs while they were out there running free.  Their retirement dates arrived, retirement receptions were held, and they said heartfelt goodbyes while very clearly looking forward to that approaching independence. However, when I ran into each of these three friends months later, each readily commented that retirement was less the desired. Far less.

What’s going on? These folks planned and sacrificed for years to enable retirement.  I know there are parts of work that they do not miss at all.  I also know that retirement opened up more time for activities they truly enjoy such as hobbies or volunteer work. There should not be any doubt or dissatisfaction in retirement, should there?

It turns out this trend is not at all isolated.  Research conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Association – EBRI Retirement Satisfaction – indicates that retirement satisfaction is decreasing. The study reports:

‘The cross-sectional results in this study show that the share of respondents reporting “very satisfying” retirements dropped from 60.5 percent in 1998 to 48.6 percent in 2012. On the other hand, the share of respondents reporting “moderately satisfying” and “not at all satisfying” retirements increased from 31.7 percent to 40.9 percent and from 7.9 percent to 10.5 percent, respectively.’

There are some pretty heavy numbers in there.  The proportion of people very satisfied with retirement declined by 20% over 14 years. Over 1 out of 10 finds retirement ‘not at all’ satisfying.

Why is this happening?  What does this mean for those us still employed looking ahead to and planning for retirement?  Can this tell us anything about job satisfaction for our current employees?  Does this speak for or against the emerging options to transition into retirement in phases or gradually?

Later this week, I am going to follow up and examine what factors are influencing this trend and what it means for employees and employers.  In the meantime, tell us what you think or pass on any questions or comments you may have and John and I will follow up. Have a Safe and Happy 4th!