Pensions, Social Security & Retirement

Pensions, Social Security & Retirement


Older Men

Decisions about retirement were a main focus of the Older Men surveys. This section first discusses questions about the actual retirement and disability income received by Older Men respondents and their family members. It then describes the series of questions addressed to respondents still in the work force about their expected income and pension benefits after retirement. Finally, this section considers the wide variety of questions asked of respondents regarding their retirement plans, experiences, and attitudes.

Actual pension, retirement, and disability income

Some information about pension income in the previous calendar year was collected in every survey except 1968. In general, most surveys asked about income from a government pension and income from other sources, such as a private employer pension. However, there were variations in the amount of detail recorded and the family members in the household to whom the questions applied. Similarly, every survey except 1968 asked about receipt of Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, although the family members referred to in the questions varied across surveys. Tables 1 and 2 summarize the topics and universes of the Older Men pension and Social Security income data collection.

Table 1. Older Men Pension Income Data

Survey year Universe Data collected
1966 Any family member Total amount from federal, state, and local government pensions
1967, 1969 Any family member Total amount from government pensions
Total amount from all other pensions
1971, 1976 Any family member;amounts recorded separately for respondent, wife, and other members Total amount from government pensions
Total amount from all other pensions
1973, 1975 Respondent only Total amount from all pensions
1978 Respondent and wife;amounts recorded individually Total amount from all pensions; sources recorded but amounts by source not specified
1980 Respondent and wife;amounts recorded individually For each of following sources, amount received and whether it had increased, decreased, or remained the same in past 2 years: local government private employer
state government union
Armed Forces personal plan
other federal government other source
1981 Respondent and wife
Other family members
Same as 1980
Total amount from all sources
1983, 1990 Respondent and wife (or widow and current husband in 1990) Same as 1980

In addition to the information described in the table, the 1966 survey asked whether any family member was eligible for a pension from a source other than the government; actual income amounts from such a pension were not collected. For the respondent only, the 1971 and 1976 other retirement pension series included a series of follow-up questions that identified how many employer-provided pensions the respondent was receiving. For the pension providing the largest income, this series then gathered the age that pension receipt began, the number of service years completed when benefits began, whether retirement occurred voluntarily, and whether the pension would have been larger had work continued with that employer. Specific information on the type of pension plan (e.g., defined benefit, defined contribution) was not collected for this cohort.

Table 2. Older Men Social Security/Railroad Retirement Income and Disability Income Data

Survey year Universe Social Security/Railroad Retirement data Disability income data
1966, 1967 Any family member Total amount Amount in each category, recorded for respondent and for all other family members combined: Social Security Disability Veteran's compensation Workers' compensation Aid to the Blind/Permanently Disabled Other
1969, 1971 Any family member Amounts recorded separately for respondent, wife, and other members Same as 1966/1967
1973, 1975 Respondent only Total amount --
1976, 1981 Any family member Amounts recorded separately for respondent, wife, and other members Same as 1966/1967, but Aid to the Blind/ Permanently Disabled dropped
1978, 1980 Respondent & wife Total combined amount --
1983 Respondent & wife Total amount each received individually Same as 1976/1981
1990 Respondent & wife (or widow & current husband) Total combined amount if received combined check; otherwise recorded separate amounts Same categories as 1976/1981; amount of each type received recorded separately for respondent and spouse

A set of retrospective questions was fielded in 1983 that gathered information on whether the respondent and/or his wife had ever applied for or ever received Social Security Disability benefits, whether benefits had ever been or were currently being received, and, if not, the year such benefits were last received. The 1990 survey of living respondents and of widows of deceased respondents also recorded information regarding on whose work record Social Security/Railroad Retirement benefits were based.

User Notes

Researchers should note that imputed income values are available for 476 of the 503 respondents who were missing Social Security/Railroad Retirement benefit amounts from the 1981 data collection; see variables R05271.10 and R05477.10.

For all income categories, including pensions, Social Security, and disability payments, the 1990 sample person and widow questionnaires gathered information on total amounts received during both the 1989 calendar year and the month before the interview.

Expected pension and retirement income

Several surveys collected information about the income respondents expected to receive after retirement. The initial survey asked whether respondents would be eligible to receive Social Security benefits and whether they would receive retirement benefits from another source. If so, the type of source was recorded (e.g., government, private employee, personal plan, military).

Expected pension benefits for those respondents who were working for a private employer or the government were explored in more detail in 1969, 1971, and 1976. The 1969 survey simply asked whether the respondent expected to receive income from a pension provided by his employer. An expanded series in 1971 and 1976 elicited anticipated retirement ages when the respondent would be eligible for full and reduced benefits, as well as the corresponding monthly income amounts. The respondent was also asked if he would be eligible to receive a benefit and the amount if he were to leave his job today or to retire today. In addition to expected pension benefits, the 1971 and 1976 surveys collected information about the respondent's expected income from Social Security/Railroad Retirement. The respondent reported whether these benefits would be a source of income for him (and his wife) when he reached retirement age; if so, an expected monthly income amount was gathered. Finally, the 1971 and 1976 surveys asked respondents to report the total amount of monthly or yearly retirement income they expected to receive from all sources.

The 1981 survey collected the most detailed information about expected retirement income. In this interview, respondents who had not yet retired were read a list of 10 possible sources of income and asked whether they expected to receive income from each source. Possible income sources included Social Security/Railroad Retirement, current employer pension, past employer pension, personal pension plan, investments, money from children or relatives, Supplemental Security Income, other welfare payments, rental income, or another source. The respondent then reported whether he was eligible to receive Social Security benefits and the amount per month he and his wife expected to receive. Also fielded in 1981 were a series of questions on the respondent's wife's retirement plans and whether she expected to receive income from Social Security (based on her own work record) or from an employer-provided pension; separate amounts for the wife were not collected. Finally, considering all of these sources, including Social Security information already provided, respondents reported their total expected retirement income on either a yearly or monthly basis. Follow-up questions requested information on how much of this total income would come from a current employer pension, a past employer pension, or from Social Security/Railroad Retirement benefits.

User Notes

Researchers should be aware that the same list of 10 sources of retirement income was addressed to two different universes of respondents based on whether they planned to retire; the two series of questions must be combined if information about all respondents is desired.

For a discussion of retirement attitudes and experiences, see the Job Satisfaction & Work Attitudes section.

Survey Instruments & Documentation: Retirement and pension questions were asked in the "Assets and Income," 1966 "Retirement Plans," 1971 and 1976 "Plans for the Future," and 1981 "Retrospective Work History" questionnaire sections; the "Income" section of the 1990 sample persons questionnaire; and the "Income" and "Medical Care Prior to Death" sections of the 1990 widow's questionnaire.