Research indicates significant roles for gradual transitions to full retirement and for coordination between spouses in the typical retirement experience. However, there is little research exploring the potentially important interactions between the two. This paper addresses this gap in the literature and provides a more robust understanding of retirement decisions by examining joint work-to-retirement trajectories. We analyze 12 waves of the Health and Retirement Study to develop detailed descriptions of couples' realized joint retirement trajectories. We use two strategies to classify joint work-to-retirement trajectories. First, we use simple researcher defined rules or heuristics to categorize trajectories that share common features. Second, we use an algorithmic sequence analysis method to identify trajectories that share common properties into clusters, creating a statistically derived typology of retirement pathways. A key finding of our research is the vast variation in retirement sequences followed by couples; our sample includes over 2,600 couples and over 1,400 unique retirement trajectories. We document the frequency of couples' joint work-to-retirement trajectories observed in the data and the characteristics of these joint trajectories. We also explore the extent to which couples' personal and employment characteristics correlate with their joint work-to-retirement transitions and trajectories.
Brown, Kristine M., Katherine Grace Carman, and Kathryn A. Edwards, Alternative Pathways to Retirement in a Household Context. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2020. https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WRA822-1.html.
Brown, Kristine M., Katherine Grace Carman, and Kathryn A. Edwards, Alternative Pathways to Retirement in a Household Context, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, WR-A822-1, 2020. As of July 28, 2021: https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WRA822-1.html