The shift from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution 401ks may seem like it is driving dramatic change in the retirement world for workers and employers alike but in reality they are a bell weather of the change in how the entire concept of retirement is changing. One harbinger of this change is called “boomerang employees” or those that return after retiring, which, according to a NY Times article is becoming more popular forcing companies to adjust their policies.
Conventional wisdom is that people retire at 65 but with life expectancy growing, the percentage of time in retirement, and the cost, also expands. Workers older than 65 has grown by almost 50% since 2000 according to Pew Research. Many workers whose social network and identity are tied to their job realize that retirement may be more difficult than they expected.
Companies are bringing back retired employees on a part-time basis to impart their wisdom and knowledge in mentoring programs while other are working on special programs telecommuting. Though only 8% of companies surveyed by SHRM have formal “boomerang” programs, some employers have set up special programs and even alumni clubs where these workers can network.
Issues exist with benefits for these “boomerang” workers with some firms using staffing companies to employ them.
Conventional wisdom is that companies should help prepare workers for retirement to save money on salaries and healthcare costs but for some jobs and for some people, working longer or returning after retirement makes sense. It can depend on the job or the person. Jobs requiring physical exertion may limit opportunities for older workers and some people just don’t want to work after a certain age.
But for those jobs that rely more on knowledge and wisdom like professional services or academia, and for those people looking to work at least part time, it seems that returning to work is good for everyone.
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