Retirement is a major transition for employees and a large expense for employers, so it deserves attention.

We often think of retirement as “the golden years.” It can be—for those who have planned well for the social, emotional, physical, and financial changes that take place. Those who fail to plan may find that the gold is brass.

As the first wave of baby boomers approach their late 60s, retirement has become an increasingly important issue. Unlike their parents, this new breed of senior citizen can expect at least 15 to 20 years or more of relatively healthy retirement. With the cost of pensions and health care, companies are restructuring their retirement plans to programs that put more responsibility on the worker and less on the corporation. It’s important to keep your employees informed about their retirement benefits and help those nearing retirement age prepare for the transition.

Start early

Mention retirement benefits to all new hires, regardless of age. One way to get younger employees to start planning for retirement is to tie the planning into their current priorities. For instance, if your company offers a 401(k) program, promote it as a way to save for later years while also reducing current tax liability.

Keep the communication channels open

If you contribute to a 401(k) or other retirement program, remind employees regularly that you are setting money aside for their future. If employees don’t remember that their retirement benefits are valuable, the benefits themselves won’t fulfill one of their main purposes, which is rewarding employees for staying with the organization. Use a variety of communication channels, including the company newsletter, special mailings, e-mail announcements, the company intranet, and announcements at staff meetings. Any improvements in the plan should be officially announced in a written document distributed to all employees.

Pre-retirement seminars

While it’s important for all employees to be aware of the retirement benefits you offer, it’s even more important for older employees to understand exactly what that means for them. Consider offering pre-retirement seminars to help employees prepare well in advance, as much as 15 or 20 years. Get them to think about where they’re going to live, sources of income, what to do with their time, the possibility of starting a new career, and so on.

Ease the transition

In addition to helping employees prepare for retirement, help them make the transition itself. Consider offering the option of scaling back work schedules as staffers near retirement. Almost-retirees may work 30 hours a week for several months, then drop to 20 for a while before actually leaving the company.

You might also ask retirees to return to work as temporaries or to cover during peak periods. This is entirely up to the individual, of course, but it gives them an opportunity for productive work and lets the company benefit for their years of accrued knowledge and experience.

Retirement benefits are valuable, and simply reminding employees of them can ensure that they’re perceived as valuable. Pre-retirement planning shows that your organization really cares about its employees, and workers of any age appreciate that.

Jacquelyn Lynn
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Help Your Employees Plan for and Make the Transition to Retirement