Phased Retirement: Empowered or Embalmed?

The perfect job, for a lot of people, means less work, less time at the office, less of a commute. But you still get paid! But many people — especially if they like their work and the people they work with — don’t like the idea of going cold turkey following this time-honored retirement script:

  1. Retirement luncheon Friday.
  2. Hugs all around.
  3. Several foot-in-mouth speeches.
  4. Promises to stay in touch.
  5. Then, as soon as you’ve quit the office, your former coworkers are shooting dice for your collection of magic markers or the red Swingline stapler you inherited.
  6. The following Monday, and every day thereafter, you can sleep late and not worry about deadlines until every day morphs into Saturday.

Heaven for some. Hell for others.

In the best of all worlds, some people say the ideal transition is to keep working, but not as much. Still be involved with and stay in touch with folks at the office. But maybe only part-time. Could that be the best of all worlds?

Later this year, a number of federal workers are going to find out what it’s like to be a part-timer. Most regulations have been approved for the Phased Retirement program. The Office of Personnel Management says people can start applying this November, assuming their agency is ready to roll.


(OPM has been criticized for taking nearly two years to set up the program after Congress approved it. But what Congress handed it was a bill called, and I am not making this up, the “Moving Ahead For Progresss In The 21st Century Act” Or Map 21 for short. Some people think OPM should get kudos for finishing it this century!)

The program is designed to permit workers to transition to retirement, working 20 hours per week and spending part of that time mentoring other workers. So what does that mean? What constitutes mentoring? How many feds will be eligible for the program? How many people will be ineligible to apply for phased retirement either because of their age, their time in grade, the retirement plan they are under or the job they do? Short answer: A lot.

A benefits specialist who provides training to federal agencies said that after the final Phased Retirement regulations were issued, she got a call from a top law enforcement official asking her to do a special class for his employees. She had to remind him that because most of his employees have a mandatory retirement age they won’t be allowed to participate in phased retirement. That’s true for air traffic controllers, law enforcement officers (LEOs) and many other feds.

So what’s MAP-21, Phased Retirement, going to do in reality? Are you in or out? Eligible or sitting on the sidelines? We’ll find out today at 10 a.m. when we talk with Shefali Kapadia. She’s a writer- editor with Federal News Radio and our ranking expert on MAP-21. She’ll be on our Your Turn radio show at 10 a.m. EDT. Listen online or on 1500 AM. Later in the, show we’ll talk about the upcoming federal pay raise, the probability of a government shutdown and plans to base all employee bonuses with Jennifer Mattingly. She’s Director of Government Affairs at the law firm of Shaw, Bransford and Roth.


By Michael O’Connell

Norwegian Inventor Johan Vaaler invented the paperclip in 1899. Norway did not have patent laws at the time, so he applied for and received a patent for the paperclip design from Germany that same year. He received a U.S. patent in 1901.



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