Inconsistent Retirement Timing

Published in Journal of Human Resources, 2022

Recommended citation: Merkle, Christoph, Philipp Schreiber, and Martin Weber. (2022). "Inconsistent Retirement Timing." Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming.

We study the effect of inconsistent time preferences on actual and planned retirement timing decisions in two independent datasets. Theory predicts that hyperbolic time preferences can lead to dynamically inconsistent retirement timing. In an online experiment with more than 2,000 participants, we find that time-inconsistent participants retire on average 1.75 years earlier than time-consistent participants do. The planned retirement age of non-retired participants decreases with age. This negative age effect is about twice as strong among time-inconsistent participants. The temptation of early retirement seems to rise in the final years of approaching retirement. Consequently, time-inconsistent participants have a higher probability of regretting their retirement decision. We find similar results for a representative household survey (German SAVE panel). Using smoking behavior and overdraft usage as time preference proxies, we confirm that time-inconsistent participants retire earlier and that non-retirees reduce their planned retirement age within the panel.

Preprint manuscript

JEL codes: D14, D15, D91, H55, J18, J22, J26.

Keywords: Retirement Timing, Time Preferences, Hyperbolic Discounting, Social Security.