Because of the bad economy, the limitations of federal retirement benefits, the housing crisis, ever-increasing health care costs and lengthening life spans, the phrase “retirement career” is no longer an oxymoron. But beware: Retirement careers often require long-term planning.
The first step for considering your options is to identify your earliest possible federal retirement date, based on your age and years of service.
If you’re a full-time fed and want to keep working for the federal government after reaching retirement eligibility, you probably have two main options: Continue your current federal career path, provided that your job doesn’t have a mandatory retirement age; or enter phased retirement, which would enable you to work part-time after retirement. This option will be made available after the Office of Personnel Management finalizes program regulations.
Once phased retirement is available, here’s how it will work:
A phased retiree would work part-time for the federal government and receive an annuity payment that is consistent with the payment he was entitled to before entering phased retirement but is pro-rated for the non-working portion of his workweek; and he would receive payment for his part-time work.
At full retirement, the annuity would be recalculated to incorporate additional credit for time worked during phased retirement. This revised annuity would be higher than it would have been if the retiree had fully retired instead of entering phased retirement, but lower than it would have been if he had continued to work full-time. Note that an employee’s agency must approve his phased retirement.
Alternatively, if you would like to bolt from the federal government, consider laying the groundwork for your retirement career while you are still working at your current job. That way, you won’t have to overcome an employment gap as well as potential age discrimination once you return to the job market.
A career shift or an employer shift usually requires considerable time and effort to gain needed credentials, experience and contacts. As part of your preparation:
- Attend retirement seminars at your agency long before you retire. These seminars, which are free of charge, will help you calculate your retirement budget and evaluate your postretirement career options.
- Continually assess the job market in your field and get as much training and experience as you can to keep your skills current. Every field is constantly evolving and advancing, and so you must also evolve and advance to stay relevant.
- Broaden your credentials to increase your appeal to potential employers by working on different types of projects and in different offices on your current job. Specialization is great, but if you overspecialize for too long, you risk painting yourself into a professional corner.
- As your colleagues plan for their retirements and leave the federal government, talk to them about their career choices and stay in touch with them after they retire.
- Consider switching to an alternative work schedule, if you are not already on one, and using your resulting time off to participate in activities — such as networking online and in person, doing volunteer work, conducting research, generating publications, giving seminars and getting training — that may will help you launch your postretirement career.
- Stay current on social media tools so that you can use them to generate networking contacts in your federal afterlife, particularly among younger professionals. It is impossible to build a new career in any field without engaging with people who are younger than you.
- Surf AARP’s website at www.aarp.org for resources on financial planning, job hunting and starting your own business during retirement.