Back in the day (in this case, as recently as last month) phased retirement was informal and easy. All you had to do was:
Set a date (keeping it to yourself in case a good trip, training course or promotion, came up), and watch the calendar.
Leave work as early as possible each day.
While waiting for D (as in Departure) Day you could plan future trips, how to spend your leisure time and, most important, what sort of gift (maybe something organic?) you would like to leave on the bosses desk. Then leave. Quickly!
But that was then.
Now, it is not so simple. Congress and the administration have approved a bona fide Phased Retirement program that is supposed to be a win-win. A win for you, and for your colleagues and for your mission, should the government approve it.
Like many things Congress does, the idea of phased retirement sounds simple. You plan to retire, and Uncle Sam puts you on a reduced workweek. You prep for a future when every day is Saturday. The colleagues you leave behind will pick up where you left off, benefiting from the wisdom and experience you picked up on the job. Nothing could be simpler, right?
Passing a law and making it work are two very different things: Congress outlawed poverty years ago, but it is still with us. Ever hear the expression “the devil is in the details?”
Phased retirement is a case in point. It is not going to be what a lot of people thought, or hoped, it might be. Could be better. Or not.
After months of studying the situation, the government has finally revealed how phased retirement will (or is supposed) to work. It’s a lot more complicated than your telling the boss you want to go to a three-day week and you’ll help break in the kids in the office.
As you probably guess, it isn’t simple. Or easy. But it is intriguing and has the potential — if handled properly — to benefit a lot of people.
First off, it is not for everyone. Now that the law has been explained you can’t just walk in and tell the boss to sign you up. Phased Retirement is like getting a buyout. You can request it, but you can’t demand it. It is a government option.
So how do you get into the phased retirement pipeline? Will you get both a federal salary and your retirement annuity while you are both working and retired? If so, how much?
What will phased retirement mean to your vacation time? Sick leave accrual? How about your TSP contributions?
Good questions. The bad news is that I don’t know the answers. The good news is that I know somebody who does. He’s Bob Braunstein, and he’s our guest today on our Your Turn radio program at 10 a.m.
Bob has been tracking phased retirement since it was introduced, and he’s studied the new how-to rules to help you see if it works for you, now or in the future.
It could be a very, very good deal for a lot of people. And help Uncle Sam avoid the much-dreaded brain drain that could hurt the government’s institutional memory.
Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.
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