Part-time work for older employees: Yes or no?Article added by Marlene Y. Satter on December 29, 2016
Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter

Joined: April 29, 2015

Part-time work for older workers has advantages and a downside. (Photo: Getty)

Boomers nearing retirement may be taking advantage of a growing trend among employers: to keep working after their planned retirement date, either on a reduced schedule or as a part-timer or consultant after retirement.

And while their continued presence in the workplace has its good points, it also has a downside—and not just for the older workers still carrying out their duties, albeit for fewer days or hours a week.

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The benefits presented by older workers’ continued, if part-time, presence on the job accrue to both the workers and the employers who keep them.

For employers, retaining older workers can not only preserve a company’s collective culture and wisdom, it allows those older workers to train their successors and mentor younger workers; that results in less disruption in the workplace, which could occur if vital knowledge about the job itself is lost at their departure.

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For the workers, they’re able to keep earning—something they may be eager to do if they haven’t saved all that much toward retirement—and might even be able to keep some health benefits.

They might also be able to keep saving in their retirement plan, if they’re working through a program specifically designed to retain older workers and their accumulated wisdom (although such programs are rare, they are part of a slowly increasing trend).

In addition, not only are older workers able to have more flexibility on the job, they’re able to “downshift” into retirement slowly, without an abrupt cessation of the work they’ve done for years.

This can have very real benefits aside from money; people who have been wrapped up in work for decades can have trouble adjusting to a new, easier schedule. Some have even died after retirement.

In fact, an Oregon State University study found that healthy adults who retired a year past the age of 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes (researchers took into account health, demographics, and lifestyle issues when arriving at this conclusion).

Chenkai Wu, the lead author of the study, was quoted in a Huffington Post report saying, “It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives.” The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The downside? For workers who can’t negotiate a plum consultant role as a post-retirement part-timer, but instead are just working at a part-time job to supplement retirement income—or even postpone altogether dipping into such funds—the likelihood of being able to participate in a retirement plan is low, as is the potential for health benefits or paid time off.

Eligibility requirements tied to the number of hours worked bars many of them from being able to participate, while other restrictions, such as vesting rules, can result in their losing out on employer contributions.

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