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Phased Retirement? Half of Feds Just Don't Know

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As the Research Manager for the Government Business Council (GBC), I am responsible for designing and creating surveys that yield important information for federal employees. We recently sent a survey to federal managers and asked them about their retirement planning. The report is forthcoming, but (spoiler alert!) one of the more interesting points concerns phased retirement planning. According to our survey of over one thousand respondents, only 11 percent of feds said their agency has a phased retirement option while another 50 percent indicated they just don’t know! What’s the deal?

Phased retirement is actually a pretty good idea. According to the Pew Research Center, 26 percent of the U.S. population are Baby Boomers. Phased retirement offers fed-boomers the opportunity to stay in their position part-time while continuing to make contributions to their Thrift Savings plan (TSP). By staying on longer, senior employees will have the opportunity to train the incoming generation of feds. And who said there wasn’t a solution to the incoming retirement brain-drain?

Given the obvious benefits, what accounts for only 11 percent of feds knowing that they have a phased retirement option at their agency? Well, it might be a few things…

The option for phased retirement is relatively new and was introduced by the Obama administration on July 6, 2012 in the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury Act”. So it is possible that not enough feds know about the option for phased retirement.

Some agencies may also not have institutionalized it yet. The Office of Personnel management (OPM) is responsible for issuing guidance on how to implement phased retirement, but is yet to do so. So feds may need to take the initiative to ask their leaders about a phased retirement option.

Finally, are there any drawbacks to phased retirement? For example, if pensions are based on the combination of years worked and salary, how will pensions be impacted? How will the shortened work day render your health insurance or social security benefits? It is likely your agency is thinking about the answers to these questions, so get ahead of the curve and ask!

What has your agency said about your phased retirement options? 

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Dana Grinshpan is the Research Manager for the Government Business Council (GBC), the research division of Government Executive, where she specializes in primary research development and survey instrument creation. Prior to joining GBC, she worked for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), assisting in the research and writing of work on South Asian regional cooperation. She has a Master of Arts in international security and political economics from the University of Chicago and graduated magna cum laude from Ohio State University where she holds a B.A. in international studies with a minor in Arabic.

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