Report: Understanding the Value of Your Benefits
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About a fourth of federal workers already are eligible to retire but are continuing to work anyway. There are a variety of reasons, including a need to rebuild finances damaged in the economic downturn and a weak job market dissuading them from following the common route of working elsewhere after retiring from the government. Within a few years, as many as 40 percent of employees will be retirement-eligible.
That has led to widespread concerns about a brain drain: a loss of expertise and continuity so important in government programs. Although they might not retire as soon as they are eligible, eventually, those employees will leave.
Many of them have been torn between staying and going. Commonly, older employees like their work, know its importance, and want to be sure it is carried on properly after they retire. They also like or need the income from working. But many would like to cut back, giving themselves more free time and lessening the everyday hassles of working full time.
However, the second issue is that the government traditionally has left only a one or the other choice: work or retire. It had no arrangement in which employees could ease into retirement by reducing their working schedules. In fact, there was a policy that actually discouraged older employees from changing to part-time work by causing a reduction in their eventual annuity. A 2009 law repealed that provision, a first step toward phased retirement.
Unlike many government personnel policies that apply to either active employees or to retirees but not to both, phased retirement is a mix of the two. Except for being able to draw a partial annuity, a phased retiree is treated like an active employee—and more specifically, as a part-time employee, although certain exceptions apply as described below.
Phased retirement has been a long time coming. Congress and OPM put real effort into deciding whether it should be available, and on what terms. Deciding whether to ask for it requires similar careful consideration (and bear in mind that granting a request is up to an agency’s discretion).
This publication is designed to illuminate the path through those issues. It includes an overview of the phased retirement policy, including eligibility rules, the special policies for calculating an annuity, and what happens during and after phased retirement. Also included is a comparison with the other career options available to someone who reaches retirement eligibility.
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