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The Waiting Game

TV ads marketing 401(k)s and other savings plans paint a rosy picture of retirement, with senior citizens strolling along beaches or playing ball with their grandchildren.

What they don't show, says Corinne Post, is the dramatic demographic change that threatens the organizations. Of concern are the expectations of mid-career professionals who say they want to retire earlier—signaling a potential talent crisis down the road.

It's a topic of particular interest to Post, an assistant professor of management. A former IT analyst and HR specialist at Accenture, Post now studies gender and racial differences in individual work experiences and career trajectories. She also researches the effects of diversity on innovation and performance.

Possibly the most surprising find of her study is the limited role of job satisfaction when pondering retirement. "People who are satisfied with the jobs but for whom work is not a central part of their identity are more likely to find contentment in retirement by spending time with their families, pursuing hobbies or traveling," says Post. "By contrast, people for whom work is central—whose identity is tied to their job—are more likely to want to work longer, even if their current job is not entirely satisfying."

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