Traditionally, retirement came with a certain level of finality, marking the end of a professional journey. However, in 2021, retirement is a gateway instead of a door being closed on the past. Professionals are choosing to phase into retirement instead of going into a career shutdown. So, should you consider part-time work before retirement? Take a look at the case for working part-time if you’re ready to shelf your long-time career.

The Benefits of Gradual Retirement

There’s some fascinating research regarding who thrives in post-retirement work engagement. It turns out that satisfaction levels tied to post-retirement work are connected to how strongly a person links their identity to their work.

Take a look:

  • Workers with solid connections to their work are more likely to engage in post-retirement work.
  • Those who value work over non-work parts of their lives are more likely to engage in post-retirement work.
  • People who are “psychologically disengaged” from work before retirement are less likely to engage in post-retirement work.
  • Those who are psychologically prepared for retirement are less likely to work after retirement.

There’s also the financial angle. You’re mentally prepared to live without your salary coming in if you’re treading toward retirement. However, a retirement with part-time work allows you to adjust gradually to retired living by earning some income. Many gradual retirees find that the mental and social benefits are much more important than the financial aspect. They can finally work as though money doesn’t matter for the first time in their working lives. This experience creates a feeling of boldness with the freedom to follow instincts and expertise instead of concern with “company politics” and perceptions. Many find that a career span that felt unfinished can suddenly have a second chapter that nobody saw coming. This experience can be the best chapter yet in regards to your professional life!

How to Do It: Yes, You Can Ask to Stay Even If You’ve Announced Your Retirement

Many companies want to retain the talent, skill, and hard-earned experience of seasoned employees without necessarily leaving the door open for everyone to linger. If you’d like to stay attached to your company without keeping the pressure of your full-time role, ask to be brought on as a consultant. This scenario is a win-win because your employer gets to retain your skills without retaining a full-time employee. You have nothing to lose if the company declines your offer. You have personal fulfillment, an opportunity to stretch out in a new role without the confines of salaried status, and financial incentives to gain if they agree! The best way to look at the scenario is that you’ve worked your entire career to be in the position to ask for this “best of both worlds” option that very few people ever reach. Approach your company with a blueprint highlighting all of the benefits of this arrangement.

Are There Barriers to a Gradual Retirement?

Pivoting to a “consultant” gig won’t work for everyone. If you’re departing without health benefits, you may need to jump to a new company that offers benefits for part-time workers if you have a while before you hit the age requirement for Medicare. That means finding a place to stay until you hit 65. Going down this path can be both scary and exciting. Taking a job outside your expertise wheelhouse to get benefits can be an exciting thing because you’re working in a role for the first time in your life without the desire to “move up.” This experience opens up opportunities to truly savor the process of learning skills on the job, trying new things, and offering your talents without the insecurities and doubts that may have drained the fun of your primary career.

If you have longed to take up a more creative path in retirement – painting, writing, travel photography, etc – but hesitate to make the financial leap from ‘”here to there” all at once, consider a part-time job with little to no responsibility once you clock out; it could be fun to be a barista, a greenhouse assistant, a dog walker, a clerk at a fabulous boutique or museum shop. Many almost-retirees have found fun and satisfying part-time jobs that help them finance their soul work until it can generate revenue or until the money is no longer an issue.

When looking at any part-time post-retirement career, make sure it won’t interfere with getting the complete robustness of the benefits you’re entitled to receive. It may be necessary to consult an HR rep, retirement expert, or financial advisor to ensure that your plan isn’t diminishing your benefits. Here’s a look at things to keep in mind:

  • If your employer offers you a phased retirement, ensure that it won’t prevent you from receiving your full pension.
  • If you have an option to stay on as a part-time employee, verify that you’re eligible for Medicare before making the leap.
  • Always remember that Social Security retirement benefits are calculated using your highest 35 years of income. So, depending on the length of your career, lower wages in your final working years could hurt you.

Whether you should work a part-time job in retirement is both a financial and emotional question. But, if you’re asking the question, it’s an answer that’s worth pursuing with help from a career transition expert. The last thing you want to do is put a period on the sentence when you have feelings of your professional life feeling unfinished.

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.