The Language of Retirement

How we plan for retirement is dictated by what we think retirement is, which is far from uniform or universal. To obtain a better understanding of how people visualize the phase of life called retirement, the AgeLab asked individuals to provide five words for how they imagined their "life after career" - a phrase lacking the built-in connotations of the word "retirement."

The results uncovered an impoverished cultural vocabulary around how people think about their lives after their career. Just 28 words accounted for half of all responses received.

Writing about the study in The Longevity Economy, Joseph F. Coughlin observes, "There are parrots with larger vocabularies than most of us have concerning life in old age."

Differences in responses by gender and age were also observed, as pictured below:


  • Lee, C. & Coughlin, J.F. (2018). "Describing Life After Career: Demographic Differences in the Language and Imagery of Retirement," Journal of Financial Planning 31(8): 36–47. (link)

  • Lee, C. & Coughlin, J.F. (2017). "The Language of Retirement: A Lexical Survey on Perceptions of the Future," 29th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science (APS 2017), May 25-28. Boston, MA.

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