NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Pensions, The Option Value of Work, and Retirement

James H. Stock, David A. Wise

NBER Working Paper No. 2686
Issued in August 1988
NBER Program(s):   AG

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2686

Published: Econometrica, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp.1151-1180, September 1990.

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