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Helping Employees DIS-engage

July 2010

Carl Shore is a manufacturing manager in Silicon Valley, CA. At 68, he has been working in that field for 36 years. Between his and his wife’s 401K plans, the Shores have amassed more than enough assets to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. They own their home free and clear, they are both healthy, and they have no continuing care responsibilities for children or parents. During the recent recession his employer offered attractive voluntary separation packages to senior employees. Carl turned it down, yet if you ask him, Carl will tell you he is “looking forward to retirement at some point.” Why is Carl still working?

Many employers are trying to help their highly paid 50- and 60-something employees make the retirement transition. They are offering incentives they believe are attractive, but the separation packages they offer are missing a key ingredient: a chance to figure out what lies on the other side of the retirement door.

Carl, like hundreds of thousands of baby boomers in organizations all over the U.S., hears the word “retirement,” and sees his aging parent or grandparent playing endless rounds of golf or sitting in a lounge chair recounting tales of his or her “glory days.” That is NOT a retirement model that appeals to the majority of this generation. According the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s life expectancy figures, retiring at 60 or 65 will likely mean 20+ more years of living for most baby boomers – way too long to just fish or play mah jongg! There is an endless world of possibilities for vibrant 60- and 70-somethings, yet for many it will take some guidance to sort out the information and make the transition. MetLife’s recent study of employer benefits found that only 35% of the companies surveyed offer retirement planning seminars, and those that do focus almost entirely on financial decision-making. Most employers in 2010 take little responsibility for preparing employees to make the separation, yet for companies to achieve their desired voluntary turnover, they are going to have to start educating their older workforce about today’s retirement opportunities. Seminars, coaching, and workshops designed to enable individuals explore how they want to spend the next 10-20 years of their lives will be the catalyst needed by many to make that leap. So, what can people expect to do in “retirement?” For some it may be an all-consuming hobby, for others it may be starting a business or buying a franchise. Some will want to use the skills they have honed over a career lifetime; others may want to do something entirely different. Some may want to work with kids; others may want to shoot pictures of nature. The choices are endless, yet they can be unfathomable to the 62-year old engineer, the 68-year old teacher, and the 57-year old fireman. The opportunities are out there; the information and guidance to find them could be provided or sponsored by the employers that want people to retire.