Robert S. Weiss; David J. Ekerdt (Foreword)

Cornell University Press

$18.95t paper
2005, 240 pages, 6 x 9, 3 tables 
ISBN: 0-8014-7252-0

Retirement brings with it the promises of leisure and freedom as well as the risks of boredom and isolation. When retirees rid their schedules of anything resembling the kinds of obligations that once had been imposed by work, they will experience a sometimes-uncomfortable absence of structure. In The Experience of Retirement, the distinguished sociologist Robert S. Weiss provides a detailed description of how some people plan their retirement, what life in retirement is like, and what makes for a fulfilling retirement. His engaging book can thus serve as a most useful guide. Weiss shows us both retirement’s benefits and its possible costs, both the relief retirees can feel once free of work’s stresses and constraints and the discomfort that can be caused by loss of the positive aspects of working life.

The book is based on extensive interviews with eighty-nine men and women before and after their retirement from middle-income careers. Weiss makes vivid their experiences by presenting, in their own words, their descriptions of leaving their careers, considering what to do with their time, confronting issues of income in retirement, dealing—sometimes—with social isolation, and reorganizing their lives. The interviews reveal the way in which retirement affects marriages and other familial relationships. Weiss concludes by presenting advice about retirement based on the actual experiences of retirees. For anyone approaching the age of retirement or already retired and looking for a more satisfying post-career life, for personnel managers, health care professionals, and all those who provide services for the retired, The Experience of Retirement will be an illuminating guidebook to this phase of life.


“Based on interviews with 89 retirees from professional careers . . . the book presents much of the data in the interviewees' own words. This gives the book emotional and textual immediacy, as the retirees voice their feelings of obsolescence and social isolation and their difficulties missing the daily structure previously provided by the workplace. However, Weiss notes that volunteerism, part-time jobs, hobbies and, for some, a strong marriage can at least partially offset the social connections and sense of identity many people lose when they stop working. . . . Weiss provides . . . a better understanding of the emotional pitfalls that future retirees can anticipate, and that their family, friends, and colleagues can help them combat.”—Publishers Weekly, 12 September 2005 
“This marvelous book provides a fascinating look at the experiences of men and women as they make the transition from work to retirement. It's full of interesting life stories coupled with valuable advice for people approaching retirement.”—Jill Quadagno, author of One Nation, Uninsured: Why the US Has No National Health Insurance

“This is a sensitive, thoughtful, and highly readable chronicle of the ways people move from their career jobs to and through retirement. Robert S. Weiss is a leading scholar of careers, work, and now retirement. He draws on his considerable insights and analytical skills to capture the multilayered meanings, gains, and losses this status passage invokes in people from a variety of occupations and life circumstances. The Experience of Retirement is a must-read for men and women‘on the verge’ of this key life transition.”—Phyllis Moen, McKnight Presidential Chair in Sociology, University of Minnesota, coauthor of The Career Mystique

“The Experience of Retirement illuminates how people experience the transition to retirement, with special attention to the financial, interpersonal, and emotional dimensions of this process. It is fluidly written and well-organized and will appeal to current and prospective retirees as well as scholars and practitioners in the fields of gerontology, social planning, and labor relations.”—Joel S. Savishinsky, Ithaca College, author of Breaking the Watch: The Meanings of Retirement in America

“ ‘Is there life after retirement?’ In The Experience of Retirement, Robert S. Weiss puts a human face on current workplace trends. By brilliantly using in-depth interviewing techniques and analysis to depict retirees’ status ‘on the ground,’ Weiss makes a compelling case for questioning the incongruence of modern workplace trends such as downsizing,reorganization, and ‘voluntary’ retirement with public policies that aim to support and sustain quality of ‘after-work’ life. This applies especially to today’s career women who are disproportionately burdened by financial and health-care costs later in life that stem both from the gender pay gap and time out from work for care giving. The Experience of Retirement takes its readers on the retirees’ journeys through the web of social relations at work, in the family, and in the community. Across a broad spectrum of social and economic issues, the author reveals the realities retirees must confront, such as: financial security, quality health care, establishment of new routines and meaningful activities, ways to cope with the loss of a work community, and explaining these work/life changes to family members and friends. This book is critical reading for new retirees, as well as individuals either anticipating or confronted with the dilemma of voluntary or forced retirement. It is also a comprehensive resource for academics and practitioners, such as human resource directors, managers, and health-care professionals. The Experience of Retirement is both an important research contribution to the literature and a guidebook for what we can anticipate.”—Francine Moccio, Institute for Women and Work, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University 

About the Author

Robert S. Weiss is a Senior Fellow in the Gerontology Institute and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. He is the author of Marital Separation, Learning from Strangers, and Staying the Course. David J. Ekerdt is Professor of Sociology and Interim Director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas.