Be happy, retire early? Don’t believe it!

New Worlds: Most early retirees felt pressured to leave work; Consumer choices may be affected by genes.

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December 19, 2010 04:02
4 minute read.
Be happy, retire early? Don’t believe it!

Retired couple. (photo credit: AP)

Employees who agreed to take early retirement probably would not have considered that option if it hadn’t been for pressure at the workplace. This has been revealed in a new study carried out at the University of Haifa’s gerontology department. “A policy of late retirement or cancelling compulsory retirement ought to be encouraged. This way, the “elderly” label will be done away with, and the hard feelings experienced by retirees would disappear, along with the stress that is felt as the time for the agreed-retirement approaches. Everyone would be able to decide whether to continue working based on his or her abilities and desires,” suggests Sigal Naim, who carried out the study.

This qualitative study, which Naim conducted under the supervision of Dr. Israel Doron, was based on in-depth interviews with men who three to five years earlier had consented to taking early retirement from governmental companies that had been privatized. The survey found that the retirees viewed retirement age as an artificial “finishing line” intended primarily for insurance companies’ actuarial balancing: none of them considered himself old, and they all felt they have a long life ahead.

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According to the researcher, even though they willingly took early retirement – as opposed to forced early retirement – the main feeling expressed by almost all the participants was of profound disappointment in the workplace. She added that the centrality of employment in their lives, even quite a while after retirement, was expressed in the way they described themselves. When asked to tell their life story, most of the interviewees described themselves in terms of their working career, only a few choosing to talk about family – and even then it was in only one or two sentences.

The study also reveals that even though participants expressed satisfaction with retirement, and chose to retire because the work did not suit them anymore, this is in fact just a cover story intended to bridge the difficult reality that has been forced upon them – a reality of disappointment, a sense of insult and understanding that if they had refused to retire, their pension rights would be harmed. “This is in fact a sort of mask for themselves that helps them build a new reality they can live with,” the researcher said.

After reaching these conclusions, Naim recommends that a policy of late retirement or cancelling compulsory retirement ought to be encouraged. “This would make the transition from a work-based life to retirement living smoother and less abrupt, and only those truly interested would opt for early retirement. This would enable compensation for employees who continue at work, and when they do decide to retire, they would be guaranteed better financial conditions,” she concludes.

GENES AND PREFERENCES

If you love chocolate or prefer hybrid cars, your consumer choices may be affected by your genes, according to a new US story recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research. “We examine a wide range of consumer judgment and decision-making phenomenon and discover that many – though not all – are in fact influenced by genetic factors,” write authors Drs. Itamar Simonson of Stanford University and Aner Sela of the University of Florida at Gainesville.

The authors studied twins’ consumer preferences to determine whether certain behaviors or traits have a genetic basis. “A greater similarity in behavior or trait between identical than between fraternal twins indicates that the behavior or trait is likely heritable,” the authors explain.

The authors discovered that people seem to inherit the following tendencies: to choose a compromise option and avoid extremes; select sure gains over gambles; prefer an easy but non-rewarding task over an enjoyable challenging one; look for the best option available; and prefer utilitarian, clearly needed options (like batteries) over more indulgent ones (gourmet chocolate). They also found that likings for specific products seemed to be genetically related – chocolate, mustard, hybrid cars, science fiction movies and jazz. The researchers also found that some tendencies did not seem to be heritable – for example, a preference for a smaller versus larger product variety and liking ketchup or tattoos.

“The current research suggests that heritable and other hard-wired inherent preference components play a key role in behavior and deserve much more attention in marketing and decision-making research,” the authors write.

They think their work may reveal some important information on the genetics of “prudence.” Some people may be born with a tendency to “be in the mainstream” whereas others tend to “live on the edge,” the authors conclude. Years ago, Prof. Richard Ebstein of Jerusalem’s Herzog Hospital discovered risk-taking genes that may be related to this phenomenon.


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