At the beginning of your working years, you may have a mental picture of your career going in a straight line. You may envision an entry-level position for a couple of years, perhaps moving around a bit in your industry while you work your way up to a supervisory and ultimately a managerial role. Perhaps your focus is on a magic age at which you will be released from the steady beat of responsibilities for your department, your shop, your clients. Do you see a clean break between your work and your retirement? Well, some people are reshaping that transition time, blurring the lines.
Julie Bick reported in the
Besides the financial motivation for keeping at a least part-time job, there are intangible things that can make any day more meaningful. Part-time jobs can offer:
A chance to socialize with others
Brain stimulation from learning something new
A feeling of value as a result of your contributions
If you are thinking you'd like to cut back on your working hours to enjoy life more, you may need to consider the following results of cutting back on work hours:
Reduced income for current expenses
Reduced contributions to retirement savings
Loss of access to health insurance benefits
Smaller retirement savings pot to stretch over more years
You may be able to overcome some of these issues if your longer-term strategy is to remain in the work force beyond normal retirement benchmarks.
Seventy-one percent of respondents age forty-five to fifty-six in a 2002 AARP study said they plan on working during retirement years. Of that group, 35 percent want to work part-time to pursue an interest; 11 percent plan to start a business; 7 percent will be committed to a job full-time; and 18 percent will work part-time to maintain income.
Try a Sabbatical
There is also the option of taking jobs intermittently as you need to replenish your stash of cash. Most colleges, and some high schools, work on a model of rewarding tenured teachers with some time off, known as a sabbatical, after a fixed number of years of service. One of the objectives for a sabbatical leave is for the academic professional to have the freedom to dig deeper into her specialized area — to have time to think, reflect, do some further research in her field, and perhaps come up with new insights. In other words, sabbaticals keep the professor's material from getting stale.
Outside of academia, most industries do not work on the sabbatical model. But that doesn't mean you can't structure one for yourself, particularly as you approach, but are not quite upon, retirement age. One of the great joys of working a long time in a given field is that you become very knowledgeable. That knowledge can be shared in new and more flexible ways. Instead of being a full-time social worker, you may find your expertise in demand for consultations by schools, government agencies, or private individuals. Owning a small successful electronics company may make you an attractive adjunct professor at a local college or university.
Finding the Right Blend
If you can hold off on tapping your retirement savings or initiating your social security benefits disbursements, it may very well be possible to create a life that blends the best of paid and nonpaid activities. You want to get the most out of your energetic, healthy years, and still be all set financially for the time you really won't be able to work. Being able to arrange working less, but for more years, might require a little help from your colleagues or partners. Maybe your business or practice can be managed with a form of job-sharing where four of you rotate running the show, each for thirteen weeks of the year. Imagine having nine months a year to travel, visit family, take courses, or finally get your golf handicap down.
Many baby boomers have become so comfortable using technology to add flexibility to their full-time jobs that it will be a logical next step to use it to bridge to part-time work. Being able to work off-site or any hours or days of the week will become increasingly more attractive as you ease into retirement.
Work for Snowbirds
Companies are becoming sensitized to the growing desire for continued part-time or flex-time work choices for seniors. Both CVS and Borders have begun testing a new twist on seasonal work. They are responding positively to an interest in opening up opportunities for valued employees to work in different parts of the country in alternate seasons. This option would be wonderful for retirees, who often spend summers where they lived during their working lives but then spend the winter in warmer climates, such as those found in Florida. This system is a win-win for both employers and employees. The employers build employee loyalty and do not have to be over- or understaffed for their slow or high seasons. The employees who have the flexibility and desire to be in different climates at different times of the year can remain with their company and maintain benefits.
Home Depot and AARP have created a partnership to help workers over fifty. Home Depot provides job application information on the AARP Web site, and it has a booth at the AARP annual meeting to promote their commitment to employing older workers.
The push for part-time work by older workers will chip away at the old norms of how business is run and how employees fit into the overall picture. So far, most companies are not set up to accommodate workers' requests to ease into retirement. The cultural corporate norm continues to be all hands on deck for the entire voyage. You, however, can make your own flexible work plan and have it all.