Retirement can be ruthlessly final for some. And while ageism remains alive and well within workplaces, losing the most experienced workers can be a loss to the company that’s employed them too.
But the goalposts around what retirement looks like, are shifting. Roughly 1 in 6 retired Americans are considering returning to work, according to a recent study from Payroll and HR services platform Paychex. The top reasons cited by people surveyed for the report were “personal reasons” (57%), “needing more money” (53%) and “getting bored” (52%). “Feeling lonely” (45%) and “inflation” (45%) rounded out the top five reasons for considering employment again.
Progressive employers are preparing for this by offering more cohesive health benefits, flexible work schedules including PTO for days to spend with grandchildren, and destroying harmful stereotypes that say older workers don’t want to learn. And some are now offering “flextirement.”
Instead of a full-blown retirement when you reach 62 years old and can collect social security benefits, flextirement allows an employee to move to a more part-time role and eventually shorten the number of hours worked over a certain time period until they officially retire. Instead of working a full 40-hour week, that person might switch to only half that, leaving them time to begin to enjoy retirement.
That’s the model that recruitment advertising agency HireClix is using.
“Traditionally, people become contractors, but that isn’t a fit for us,” said Neil Costa, founder and CEO at HireClix. “We want a tighter bond and something more important. We started talking about the option of how to help people wind down while also keeping the knowledge worker.”
Flextirement would allow employees the opportunity to semi-retire, working in some part-time capacity, likely on a consultant/mentor basis. This way, employees could continue contributing to the workforce on a manageable schedule while lessening the knowledge transfer gap to younger colleagues.
Costa is currently working out the details of his own company’s flextirement plans to offer to Michelle Whiffen, director of client services, who has been thinking about retirement for years but isn’t quite ready to go all in and throw up the towel.
“If I’m being honest, initially I was like ‘no I’m retiring,’” said Whiffen. “But the more I thought about it, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I retire. I don’t have a plan. What really brings me joy is work. We have an incredibly young company and I love the other humans here and mentoring them. Do I want to do it full time? Absolutely not. I want to be able to travel and have a personal life.”
And there’s the fact that Whiffen will still continue to get benefits through the company while she’s in flextirement.
“Healthcare is crazy right now and I don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on health care and sit at home doing nothing,” said Whiffen. “We thought how can we make this work between us? There’s gotta be a way to make it happen.”
Whiffen would be the first at the company to officially enter flextirement. While she gets the fiscal benefits from work in addition to having more time to spend with her loved ones and traveling, the company is also benefitting.
“We’ve got a mature person who knows the industry and knows how to handle clients,” said Costa. “It’s going to be really hard to replace her and all that experience. The notion of her just coming off the bench and just walking out is really hard to imagine.”
Whiffen isn’t alone in wanting to remain working longer. By 2030, a whopping 150 million jobs will shift to workers over the age of 55 years old, according to a new global study from management consultancy Bain & Company. It predicts that older and experienced workers will make up more than a quarter of the workforce by 2031.
Whiffen has spent a lot of her time mentoring others on the team, teaching them how to do things the right way. That’s something they’d want to continue during her flextirement. At the same time, the company will save money retaining her on fewer hours than compared to hiring someone new who would need full pay and additional training.
While it’s still on the novel side, the pair believes that it could act as a strong way to attract and retain talent at other companies too.
“It’s a great opportunity for us as a company, but could end up being a really important recruiting strategy for our clients,” said Costa. “That’s part of how we’ve talked about it as well. If you want to go out there and find engineers who are over 50 working in these six markets, and you want to advertise yourself as a company that offers flextirement, I absolutely see that as a competitive advantage.”
Whiffen agrees. “58 today is not the same as when my mom was 58. Our generation is having kids later, getting married later. Same with retirement. Now that I’m 58, it’s really not that old and I’m not ready. I’m pretty sharp and I want to keep working, I don’t want to sit on the couch,” she said.