Phased retirement: Who knew, who knows?

When I made my stop-the-presses announcement that I’m moving into phased retirement — I’ll be doing this column Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from now on — I found out a couple of things:

  1. How nice people, like you, are. I knew that a long time ago but learned it again in the best possible way. A lot of emails from readers and listeners — I’ll also still be doing the Your Turn radio show live each Wednesday — who said a lot of nice things. I feel like many of you are old friends, which I guess we are. Many of you have sent in questions, passed on tips, made suggestions and/or written guest columns. All much appreciated. I hope that continues for a long, long time. Phased retirement means I can keep up with the news, come into the office pretty much on my own schedule and stay in touch with you. That’s a big deal. I’m very grateful for what’s been happening, for years now, and looking forward to more of the same. More but just not as much.
  2. The second thing I learned, from you, is that phased retirement, which is supposed to be one of the government’s win-win perks for your agency and you, is sort of a joke in some places — if they even acknowledge it. A number of readers said they had been discouraged when they asked about the possibility of taking phased retirement: Working part-time, and spending part of that time mentoring younger employees to take over, show them how it’s done, and why. Show them the ropes then gradually ride off into the sunset. Although phased retirement has been the law of the land and in place for more than five years it hasn’t taken-off as congressional backers claimed. Two years ago Federal News Network’s Nicole Ogrysko reported that only 417 workers had opted into phased retirement in the six years it had been offered.

So why haven’t legions of workers taken the partial plunge as predicted? The explanation may lie in this letter from Dan, an IRS worker:

“I have been reading … and enjoying … and learning from your column for 15-plus years. I am excited that you are dipping your toe into retirement. It is a difficult decision to retire for some of us. It is a sudden change. The reasons why [vary]. That’s why I was thrilled several years ago when I saw that phased retirement was going to become an option. Then it was put off … and off … then implemented … but very slow to catch on. Finally, my agency announced a pilot program over 18 months ago. But I was sorely disappointed when I inquired about six months ago about applying for it.

“My boss was not familiar with it, neither was his boss, or her boss. When I finally contacted someone who handles retirement applications they had heard of it but was not aware of anyone who had actually done it. This is after the pilot program had been in place a year! They finally got me to someone who explained it all. And now I know why the program is mostly a flop. This is what I was told.

“Apparently some smarter-than-the-rest-of us government committee at [the Office of Personnel Management] decided, not Congress, that it was too much of a potential burden on management to monitor the phased retirees hours for this and that so they decided to make a blanket requirement that 100% of the phased retirees time must be spent on ‘mentoring,’ ‘training’ their replacement. Of course that excludes all of the managers and employees who would just like to have an experienced, warm body doing half of the good job they were use to. What if there is no hiring authority or budget to replace you — which is common in government. Who are you going to mentor? What if management thought you were more valuable just doing your job half the time? I guess none of that mattered to OPM.

“That is the main reason why phased retirement is a flop. I did not have any replacement to train. I just wanted to do my job that I was very good at and had been doing for 18 years half-time. But according to OPM, the answer was ‘Nope!’ So I walked out the door with my full retirement in hand. I am very satisfied and enjoy my extra time. But I would have stayed half time and my boss would have loved it. If only …

“I hope to read many more of your columns, until you decide to move to Vancouver, Washington, where the scenery is beautiful, the people are nice, and there is no income tax. And just over the Columbia River you can buy groceries with no sales tax. See, I do read and pay attention to your columns.”

More, lots more to come. This coming week begins my new Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule. Veteran journalist-broadcaster Tom Temin will do the Federal Report on Friday and Nicole Ogrysko will do the column every Monday. Stick with us. The best is yet to come!

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

For a brief period in the 1990s, Pepsi traded $3 billion worth of soda to the Soviet Union in exchange for 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate, and a destroyer – thereby making Pepsi the 6th most powerful military in the world (they eventually sold the fleet to a Swedish scrap metal company). The deal was struck because Russians were big fans of Pepsi but their previous arrangement to trade soda for vodka had expired; Soviet currency was not widely accepted.

Source: Business Insider