Methods: This study used the data from 19 waves of the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study between 1998 and 2016. Our sample was restricted to middle-aged and older adults ages over 50 who were retired during our study period (N=3,087; Obs.=27,019). Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) was used to estimate the trajectories of life satisfaction among older retirees in South Korea over an observation period of 19 years. A two-level model was utilized: Level 1 for repeated observations such as post-retirement work, economic status, and health conditions and Level 2 for person-level variables including education, age cohort, and gender. This multilevel model enables us to investigate both intrapersonal changes across time (Level 1) and between-individual differences at the baseline (Level 2).
Results: Approximately 40% of retirees participated in the survey more than 10 years after their retirements. Most of our sample participated in at least three waves of survey. The average life satisfaction among Korean retirees at the baseline (=the time they retired) was 3.03 out of 5 (a greater score refers to worse life satisfaction), and their life satisfaction was getting worse over time. We did not find significant associations between post-retirement work and trajectories of life satisfaction in general. However, the effects of post-retirement work on life satisfaction significantly differed depending on financial situations and education level. Retirees with low SES showed rapid decrease in life satisfaction when they were involved in post-retirement work. However, trajectory of life satisfaction among retirees with high SES was found to be stable.
Conclusions and Implications: Post-retirement work could fulfill both manifest (i.e., financial) and latent (i.e., psychological) functions for retirees. This study confirms the various outcomes of post-retirement work and suggests that post-retirement work should not be understood as one broad category. While voluntarily post-retirement work without financial pressure could help older retirees aging productively, post-retirement work for financial reasons may not be always linked with positive outcomes.