Phasing In and Out of Retirement

Making Your Money Last

Phasing In and Out of Retirement

Instead of stopping work cold turkey, more seniors are transitioning into retirement by switching to less-demanding jobs and more flexible work schedules.


Does anyone quit work entirely these days? Sure. But the concept of retirement has become increasingly fluid, says Richard Johnson, of the Urban Institute. About 25% of retirees are working again in some capacity within five years of leaving the workforce, he says. At the same time, people 50 and older often downshift to less demanding types of work before ending their careers.

See Also: When One Spouse Retires Before the Other

After working almost 30 years at the U.S. Geological Survey, "getting up at 5:30 started to get old," says Jerry McFaul of Reston, Va. Looking to kick back, he retired from his full-time gig three years ago, at age 66. Now, he spends about 10 hours a week consulting on database development, his specialty at USGS. The rest of his time is devoted to managing household projects, doing chores and playing the drums in a classic-rock band called The Second Expedition.

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His wife, Lucy, 63, has been easing into retirement slowly. A dental hygienist, she has cut back her schedule from three or four days a week to a few shifts a month. "Somebody's got to work to pay his beer and wine bills," she jokes. In fact, his federal pension -- built over decades -- almost replaces his preretirement income and would keep them comfortable even if neither of them worked. Still, she has no intention of retiring altogether. "I love my patients, so it's almost like not working," she says.

Blurring work and retirement means blending roles and accommodating two schedules. When Lucy was working more evening shifts, says Jerry, "I had a couple of nights a week when I had to fix my own dinner." (He often resorted to takeout, he admits.) She had to adjust to having him around in the mornings, when she was used to being alone.

Still, neither is complaining about the sort-of-working, sort-of-retired arrangement. "We've slowly gone into retirement, so the shift isn't as dramatic," says Jerry.