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Is a ‘Flextirement’ Job a Good Fit for You?

A phased retirement role can offer flexible hours and remote work opportunities

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When Michelle Whiffen thinks about retirement, she envisions a path that looks a little different than the road many other people see.

“It’s more appealing for me to ease into retirement as opposed to quitting work completely one day,” says Whiffen, 58, who is director of client services for HireClix, a global recruitment marketing agency based in Gloucester, Massachusetts. “I still enjoy my job and believe I still have a lot to offer, but rather than working full-time forever, I want to wind down and spend more time with my family and traveling.”

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Whiffen is among a growing number of older workers who are reevaluating their personal goals and opting for “flextirement,” the new buzzword for what previously has been called phased retirement. Rather than retiring at the age of 62 or older and beginning to claim retirement benefits, these types of plans allow older employees to ease into retirement.

With flextirement, older workers can transition to a part-time schedule, while continuing to receive health and partial retirement benefits. It’s an approach that some older adults might find more appealing now after working from home and using other hybrid arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2023  AARP Value of Experience survey of adults age 40 and older, work-life balance is a top priority.

What is phased retirement?

Phased retirement isn’t a new concept, but there are signs it’s an option more employers are willing to offer. One big step came in November 2014, when the federal government announced a phased retirement option for workers who choose it. Some private employers are following suit, hoping to hold on to experienced workers and recognizing that flexibility can be good for business. According to a survey of 1,736 global HR executives from consulting firm Mercer LLC, 36 percent of companies now offer phased retirement.

In many cases, the details of a flextirement arrangement — such as how many hours of work per week, remote or in-person, and salary and benefits — are set after conversations between the worker, their supervisor and the human resources department (when available). The worker usually needs to initiate those discussions because employers can run afoul of age discrimination policies by suggesting retirement to individual employees.

Another path to flextirement is for a business to create a companywide option that workers can choose to utilize. Neil Costa, founder and CEO of HireClix, is currently working out the details for a company flextirement plan that would benefit Whiffen and his other employees who are approaching retirement age. With a flextirement option, Costa says Whiffen will be able to continue mentoring members of her team, while also enjoying the flexibility of a part-time schedule.

“Michelle is passionate about her work, she knows the industry, and has spent years building strong relationships with our clients,” Costa says. “We knew we’d have a hard time replacing her and wanted to work out a plan that would ease the transition.”

In addition, Costa says he sees how phased retirement plans could also benefit his agency’s clients with their own recruitment process.

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“There’s really no replacement for experience,” Costa says. “For our clients who are looking to hire skilled workers, a flextirement plan can offer a very competitive advantage.”

Why phased retirement can help some older workers

With many older jobholders looking to extend their careers for financial and social reasons, flextirement can be an attractive employment option.

Randstad’s 2023 annual Workmonitor research found that more older employees are remaining in jobs in which they find meaning and purpose. In addition, many are continuing to work past traditional retirement age, because they enjoy their social connections with colleagues and, in many cases, want to boost their retirement income.

Garrett Yamasaki, founder and CEO of WeLoveDoodles, a dog product company based in San Mateo, California, has been offering phased retirement plans to his employees for the past two years. He says the model offers a win-win scenario for both his staff and the company.

“It allows our team members to transition into retirement gradually while maintaining a sense of purpose and staying engaged with work they love,” he says. “It’s particularly beneficial for those who aren’t ready for a full stop from their professional life but are looking to reduce their workload and enjoy more freedom and time for personal pursuits.”

​From a business perspective, Yamasaki says phased retirement helps his company retain valuable experience and skill sets.

“It allows for a smoother transition and knowledge transfer to younger team members, which is crucial in our dynamic digital environment,” he says. “This approach also enhances our employer brand, demonstrating our commitment to employee well-being and work-life balance, which in turn helps attract and retain talent.”

Nikita Sherbina, cofounder and CEO of AIscreen, a software company in Sierra Vista, Arizona, implemented phased retirement plans three years ago and says his company has seen a 15 percent increase in satisfaction and a 20 percent reduction in turnover costs.

“Our employees get a gradual transition into retirement … while we, as employers, benefit from a smoother succession planning process,” he says. “Our older employees often serve as mentors to our younger employees, fostering a collaborative, knowledge-sharing environment, and a sense of camaraderie.”

Phased retirement plans are as unique as the companies that offer this option. Some plans allow employees to begin phased retirement at age 55 or older and work part-time for a designated period until they enter full retirement. At WeLoveDoodles, Yamasaki says its phased retirement plan isn’t limited to a specific time frame, such as a year of two.

“Our approach is more flexible and is tailored to each individual’s needs and circumstances,” he says. “Some may opt for a shorter period, while others might extend beyond a year, depending on their role and personal situation.”

Whiffen believes phased retirement allows mature workers the flexibility to make an impact without committing to full-time work.

“I think my generation is looking for retirement options that are different than our parents’ retirement,” she says. “Flextirement offers me the best of both worlds: I’m able to spend more time with family and traveling, while I continue working part-time in a job I love.”

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