Why Your Retirement May Not Be Permanent

Retirement is no longer a one-time, permanent event. Exits from the workforce are becoming more gradual, and many employees move to another job before leaving the labor force completely. In fact, an abrupt retirement that continues for the rest of your life is now the exception, rather than the rule, according to a series of studies recently published by Joseph Quinn and Kevin Cahill of Boston College and Michael Giandrea of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s a look at some of the ways workers are transitioning into their retirement years.

Bridge jobs. “People are retiring in a process where they leave a full-time career job and then transition to a job that is less intensive, working less hours or fewer weeks per year,” says Michael Giandrea, a research economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Back to Work. Many people return to the workforce after a period of full-time retirement. An analysis of people who held a full-time job in 1992, then retired for at least a two-year period by 2008, found that 16 percent of the men and 14 percent of the women later returned to work.

Phased retirement. A far less common way to transition into retirement is to reduce the number of hours you work for your current employer. “The opportunity for what people have called ‘partial retirement,’ cutting back hours at your existing employer, is relatively limited,” says Giandrea. Only a few employers have formal phased retirement programs that allow workers approaching retirement age to gradually work less hours or fewer days per week.

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