I ran across an interesting article on Workforce.com talking about “Employers’ Blind Eye for Boomers Slowly Opening to Retirement Realities”. While the article is focused on what employers can do keep older workers engaged, I think there are some takeaways for individuals planning their retirement.
One of the things that both employers and employees need to realize is that the retirement conversation doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”. And I think that’s hard. From an organizational perspective, companies often do not like to operate in shades of gray. They think that there could be a risk associated with it.
Employees don’t always want to operate in the middle either. Especially when it comes to a big lifestyle change like retirement. They want security and who can blame them. So, instead of waiting for your employer to tell you what they can offer, why not start thinking about what you can and are willing to work with. Here are a few suggestions:
- Know your rights. While some employers might start dropping hints about “getting older” and “planning for retirement”, it’s important to know what your employer can and cannot do. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) ensures that older workers receive equal and fair treatment in the workplace. It protects most workers forty years of age and older from arbitrary age discrimination while on the job and it seeks to support the employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age.
- Have a work stop date. Even if you decide to change it, start thinking about when you would like to 1) slow down and 2) stop working. That way you can control your plans. It’s possible the company will ask you to consider staying longer than you originally planned. Are you open to that? What conditions would make that a good decision for you? Same goes for having a slow down date. Maybe simply reducing your work schedule will be a perfect way to transition to full retirement.
- Think about changing work responsibilities. If you decide to reduce your schedule, the company might rework your job responsibilities. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The organization has to get the work done. But honestly, you don’t want your job to turn into something you don’t enjoy. Think about what tasks you currently do that you love and wouldn’t want to give up, even with a reduced schedule. Also think about how you would accomplish those tasks if you didn’t go into the office every day.
- Think about changing responsibilities at home. With more time at home, comes changes to our daily lifestyle. While Keith and I don’t have children, I know of several people who have retired (or semi-retired) and become babysitters for their grandkids. Some of them love it. Others were hoping for more time to do things on their bucket list. Our happiness at home is often connected to our happiness at work. If you’re thinking about creating a retirement transition plan, think about what it means for your home life.
- Consider the budget. Any type of change at work and home means looking at finances. How much income do we anticipate? Can we afford to cut back financially? Are there expenses we need to re-evaluate? A successful transition to retirement includes a financial transition. It’s better to discuss lifestyle changes before you’re forced to make them. In fact, it could make sense to test drive some changes like cutting the cable cord or buying gently used clothing from PoshMarkbefore you need to so it’s not as dramatic.
The point here is that waiting until someone else brings up retirement puts you behind in the negotiations. Be prepared to discuss what you want and when you want it. That way, when an opportune moment presents itself, you can go for it. Keep in mind that you have colleagues around the same age who are trying to make plans as well. I’m not suggesting you throw a colleague under the bus, but to get a win for everyone, people need to know what they want.
Your retirement exit strategy doesn’t have to be a one-way conversation. Employers can be very supportive if they know what you want and are willing to offer.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Atlanta, GA