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Does Personality Shape Retirement and Cognitive Skills Levels?

“The people in the study who had higher levels of what’s known as fluid cognitive function—the ability to recall things, learn fast and think on one’s feet—are much more likely to work either full or part time past age 70.”


According to the article “4 Personality Traits That Influence the Path to Retirement” from Think Advisor, researchers at RAND in the US and a think tank in The Netherlands followed older Americans’ work and retirement decisions over the course of 14 years through a survey. The survey also included personality and cognition tests.

Only about a third of people who are older and working full-time go straight into retirement. Most zig-zag, maybe reducing their hours, dabbling in a consulting practice or finding a place in the new gig economy. Other people retire, then decide it’s not for them, and go back to work, sometimes on a full-time basis. Other times, depending on their situation, they opt for part-time employment.

Here’s what the researchers found:

Cognitive Ability–People with higher cognitive abilities have an easier time remaining in the workforce, even though they are getting older.

Extroversion—People who naturally seek out other people and situations outside of themselves, tend to keep working after age 65. Even after age 70, this group is the most likely to be working full-time. Extroversion also pulls some people out of retirement.

Conscientiousness–People with this personality trait, often work well past age 62. However, it has less of an impact after age 65. Maybe conscientious people are better prepared to retire!

Agreeableness—People who get along with others, are most likely to keep working after age 65.

Neuroticism and openness to new experiences—These personality traits have very little to do with how long people work.

Before deciding to retire, it makes sense to examine your reasons for retirement. Your personality may not flourish in retirement, where being actively engaged would be better for your mental and physical well-being.

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