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The Retirement Discussion Dilemma

The Retirement Discussion Dilemma

By Susan Williams

You are thinking about retirement and would like to transition into it. Maybe working part time to start would be great. Or even just having some more flexibility in your hours would be a bonus.

Your employer realizes that you’re getting close to retirement and would like to retain your skills or have you mentor some younger colleagues. They would like to know what your plans are so that they can make sure that they have appropriate succession plans in place.

Both of you would like to have a conversation about this but neither one of you want to raise the discussion given there could be some potential risk in bringing it up.

For you, it’s not like you want to leave work immediately. You would just like to change up the arrangement a bit.

For your employer, mentioning the word retirement to you could potentially put them at risk for being accused of age discrimination.

So there is no discussion.

And this is what researchers discovered when looking at whether conversations regarding retirement are happening in the workplace.

In an article titled Retirement is the New Taboo In The Workplace, Professor Sarah Vickerstaff shared the following;

“Age discrimination legislation and the abolition of compulsory retirement at 65 means that employers are worried about talking to older workers about retiring, for fear of being accused of ageism,”…. “But our study suggests this defensive approach is helping nobody.”

So what are we to do?

Ageism in the workplace is a very legitimate concern. In a study on perceived ageism in the workplace, a survey of 420 workers over 50 found that “more than 81 per cent of the older workers encountered at least one workplace discriminatory treatment within a year.

So imagine if you weren’t even thinking about retiring yet and you got a tap on the shoulder from your boss wanting to know what your plans for retirement were. Chances are you may think you are being targeted because of your age.

And if you are looking for part time working options, employees aren’t necessarily willing to approach the topic.

Forbes reported that according to a survey completed by the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies, only 21% of employees think that part time options are available while 48% of employers say they could support it.

Here in lies the retirement discussion dilemma.

Both sides potentially wanting to have a conversation but not wanting to disclose or discuss something that could possible put either one of them in a risky position.

Personally, I think that this situation is a symptom of a much larger problem in the workplace.


In an article titled A Global Survey on the Ambiguous State of Employee Trust published by Harvard Business Review, they shared that in a global survey of 9,800 full time workers that; “Only 46% place “a great deal of trust” in their employers, and 15% report “very little” or “no trust at all.” (The rest, 39%, say they have “some trust,” which is not completely pessimistic but does want for enthusiasm.”

So how could anyone have a potentially life changing conversation with someone that they just don’t trust?

I think that until this situation changes, the chances of having a deep and meaningful dialogue about retirement and possible options that would benefit both the employee and the employer will remain difficult.

And these conversations need to start happening now.

Take Japan as an example. Japan is slightly ahead of the rest of the world in the aging curve and are now starting to feel the impact of a declining older workforce and the lack of available workers.

Also Read: When Baby Boomers Retire From Work Productivity May Go Too

With about 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age everyday in the US alone it would be in the best interests of organizations to develop this trust. Retaining their talent will become critical to their organization’s future success.

Trust. Such a small word but so loaded with potential.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.

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