It was 1982, and many of today’s baby boomers were listening to the song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” that was on The Clash’s album, Combat Rock. According to NME, Mick Jones, the lead guitar on the song, wrote it about singer Ellen Foley, who sang the backing vocals on Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell LP. The lyrics seemed to reflect the ups and downs of their relationship and whether to stick with it or end it.

Now let’s fast forward some 25 years later. Many of those boomers are asking the same question, “Should I stay or should I go?” But the relationship in question is with their employers. Should they continue to work or should they retire?

Watson Wyatt, the international consulting firm, provides insight on this important matter affecting not only employees but also their employers in the firm’s recently published Technical and Policy Paper, Predictive Factors for Retirement Timing. Here are the key findings:

  • Increases in all categories of wealth accumulation (e.g., retirement plan, housing equity and other financial wealth) increase the probability of retiring while good earnings prospects, implying high opportunity cost for retirement, induce continued employment.
  • The type of retirement plan available to workers has a significant impact on when they retire. Workers entitled to traditional DB plan benefits are more likely to retire than those who are not, while workers with significant assets from DC plans tend to significantly delay their retirement.
  • New evidence supports the hypothesis that business cycles (stock market booms and busts) increase the probability – and thus timing – of retirement for DC plan participants.
  • Health insurance (HI) has a large effect on the retirement decision. HI, if conditional on employment, strongly discourages retirement, while alternative sources of health insurance, such as employer-sponsored retiree HI, spouse’s HI or public HI, facilitate or encourage labor force exit.
  • The retirement behavior of older workers is significantly linked to Social Security policy. The ongoing increase in the normal retirement age for Social Security and the cohort-specific actuarial adjustment of SS benefits, as defined by the law, will encourage younger cohorts to work longer.

Here is a link to the page to download Watson Wyatt’s Paper (PDF, free registration required).