Many people picture retirement as something that happens suddenly as soon as you turn 65. And for some employees, walking out of work one day and never coming back is a dream come true.
For others, though, retirement is a longer process that takes time. You may not be sure whether you have enough to live comfortably if you retire at age 65, so you choose to work a few more years to continue saving. Or if you love your job or are worried about what you'll do to occupy your free time once you retire, you may stay at work a few more years while you focus on a retirement plan.
In fact, about 72% of employees say they plan on working past age 65 or not retiring at all, according to a report by the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies.
However, although most employers are aware that their workers are choosing to stay in the workforce longer, some of them aren't too accommodating to older employees as they ease into retirement.
What a phased retirement looks like
A phased retirement is one that helps you slowly phase out of the workforce and into retirement. This could include gradually cutting back on hours, working from home more often, or working flexible schedules.
Only about 39% of employers in TransAmerica's survey said they offer flexible schedules, though, and a mere 31% allow employees to transition from full-time to part-time work. And if you work a demanding or stressful job, only 24% of companies would allow you to move to a less stressful position. Finally, just 16% of employers offer employees resources to help during the retirement transition.
That means when it comes time to retire, you may be on your own to figure out how to ease into retirement. Here are a few things you can do to make the transition smoother:
1. Consider lining up a part-time job
While you can stay in the workforce as long as you'd like, there may come a time when you simply can't continue working long hours at a physically or mentally demanding job every day.
If you want to continue working but your employer won't let you cut back on hours or move to a less stressful role, your best bet may be to retire and then take on a part-time position.
While not everyone will be thrilled to continue working during retirement, a retirement job is different from a career in that you can essentially do whatever makes you happy. Maybe you'd like to be a substitute teacher to share the wealth of knowledge you've accumulated. Or perhaps you've always wanted to sell hot dogs at a baseball stadium. This is your chance to work a job you enjoy while still earning some extra cash to put toward your nest egg.
2. Build up your social support system
One aspect of retirement many people don't consider is the possibility of social isolation. When you're used to spending your days at the office interacting with coworkers, it can be tough to suddenly leave that behind when you retire.
Unfortunately, social isolation can have negative health effects, and loneliness can lead to depression. Older adults can be more at risk for loneliness, because once the kids leave home and you no longer have coworkers to socialize with each day, it's easy to start to feel isolated.
That's why it's more important than ever to strengthen your social support system before you retire so you have friends and family to lean on as you transition into this new phase of life. This could mean volunteering, joining clubs or groups, or even just making an effort to have lunch with a friend once or twice a week.
While you don't have to become a social butterfly -- some retirees may look forward to the alone time they'll have during retirement -- it's important to avoid isolating yourself to the point that you become lonely and unable to enjoy your retirement.
3. Create a retirement plan
The average retiree spends over 43 hours per week watching TV. To avoid replacing your work week with sitting on the couch glued to the television, make a list of all the things you've been wanting to do during retirement and create a plan for how you want to spend your golden years.
Keep in mind that this plan should work hand-in-hand with your financial plan to ensure you have the budget to pay for all these exciting new adventures -- the last thing you want is to race through your bucket list and then realize you just spend ten years' worth of savings.
Leaving the workforce can be traumatic for some people, and it can be a struggle to find ways to spend all your newfound free time if you face sudden retirement. With a plan in place and something to look forward to, though, it's a little easier to say goodbye to your job and hello to retirement.