Is Flex-tirement the New Retirement?
My father is 66 years old. Over the last forty years, he has worked in both Corporate America and academia, and his identity is closely tied to his job. How could it not be? He has spent the better part of his life commuting from one office to another, and he’s somewhat of a workaholic.
The original plan was for my dad to retire at age 66, but now that it’s here, the idea seems preposterous. He has lost money in the recession, and like many Baby Boomers, the thought of moving down to Florida to play tennis and mah jong all day makes him a little ill. My dad wants and needs to keep working, but he knows a 50 hour a week job is putting his health in jeopardy. What’s a Boomer to do?
Finding a middle ground
My father’s situation is not unique. As tens of millions of Boomers approach traditional retirement age, organizations must contend with how to downsize valuable employees without completely cutting the cord. Enter the notion of flex-tirement.
Hard as it may be to believe in today’s market, we are actually on the cusp of a demographically-induced labor shortage that will leave organizations with far more green employees than seasoned ones. Smart companies know that it’s wise to use flex-tirement to hold on to experienced employees so they can effectively train and transition the younger generation into leadership roles. In an ideal scenario, a company would allow a fifty or sixty-something employee to keep the same job, which they enjoy and are good at, with reduced hours and pay.
No longer an ex-president’s benefit
If you think about it, flex-tirement has been available to some types for a while. For former presidents or CEOs, “retirement” often equals plum consulting jobs and advisory board service. But increasingly, such opportunities are presenting themselves to average people too.
Even the government is on board with the idea. Says Camille Tuutti in Federal Computer Week: “The Obama administration has acknowledged the potential of flexible retention. Its 2013 budget for the Office of Personnel Management included a proposal that would allow eligible employees to reduce their work hours at the end of their careers and receive income partially from a reduced salary and partially from retirement annuity. These employees would be required to mentor others, sharing institutional knowledge and helping with succession planning.”
Make them want to retain you
So, if you’re a Boomer who wants to continue to work while enjoying some of the benefits of retirement, how should you position yourself? Your first goal is to make sure you are someone worth keeping. This means staying current in your job-specific training and skills and being at the top of your game productivity-wise. It also means going out of your way to showcase your value and results to the higher-ups and getting them to say, “Wow, losing Buddy Boomer is going to be a real problem. Who is going to do Task A, B, and C?”
Boomers who haven’t kept up with technology need to get with the program. You don’t want to be considered irrelevant because you don’t understand how business operates in a highly networked, highly virtual world. In addition, it’s imperative that flex-tirement-minded Boomers retain enthusiasm and passion for the job. An employer is not likely to offer you a desirable part-time arrangement if they feel your heart and mind are touring a castle somewhere in Europe.
Finally, be willing to chart the course. Remember that flex-tirement is new territory for many employers, and as such, formal policies and procedures might not yet exist. You should be prepared to use your well-honed negotiation and persuasion skills to obtain a situation that’s right for you.
(Photo credit: Retirement Savings via Shutterstock)
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