A Federal Verdict: Phased Retirement Desirable, Doable

The GAO examines phasing into retirement and sees great value

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of Congress. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging asked it to conduct a study of Phased Retirement early in 2016. We were asked to provide input to this project as “retirement experts” and suggested essential questions to be pursued and best practice employers, including some of our clients, to be interviewed.

The conclusion of the report is summed up in the title: OLDER WORKERS: Phased Retirement Programs, Although Uncommon, Provide Flexibility for Workers and EmployersThe body of the report presents four key findings:

  • More older workers are working longer and would prefer reduced hours
  • Despite demand, formal phased retirement programs remain uncommon
  • These programs can be challenging, but participating employers cite benefits
  • The featured employers offering this option overcame challenges, not barriers

We’ll make the implicit recommendations explicit—and LOUD

Much of GAO’s research addresses the Federal government and public sector, in which it offers recommendations for action. In this foray into private employer practice, it does not offer recommendations. We are not so bound. In fact we are well-positioned—given our research, advocacy and consulting work in the field a decade ahead of this report—to take the next steps in normalizing phased and partial retirement.

Three decades ago our principals undertook the seemingly Sisyphean task of main-streaming flexible work arrangements. Today millions of us take flextime and telework for granted. Our simple goal now: make flexibly phasing out of work tomorrow’s norm.

By building a diverse movement of aging and older workers, associations, thoughtful employers and activist employees we can make retirement more respectful. It is time to absorb and broadcast the GAO’s findings and turn the much-needed, mutually beneficial and “uncommon” practice of sensible phased retirement into a regular and predictable practice.

Now is the time to join the Respectful Exits campaign

The challenge of an aging workforce needing to work longer has grown noticeably with the convergence of the great Boomer exodus and the damage inflicted on these employees by the Great Recession. The chilling findings by the Pew Research Center—“Every day for the next 10 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65”—highlight the enormity of the challenge facing workers and the traditional workplace.

In the face of collective challenge, only collective action can deliver the necessary change. Working together we can turn disrespectful and premature terminations into Respectful Exits.

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