Americans are retiring later than ever and companies are trying to attract these older workers with competitive retirement options. Which organization has the best options? The National Institutes of Health recently ranked as the top employer for workers over 50 years old.
NIH's retirement options allow employees to transition into retirement by reducing hours or working part time. Employees are given the option of a trial-retirement program, which allows retirees to return to work within one year of retiring if they decide they aren't ready to leave the workforce.
"Industries that want to be competitive and want to retain the best talent are going to have to look for ways to [support older workers]," says Philip Lenowitz, deputy director in the office of human resources at the NIH, a government medical research agency. "People are expected to work longer today, and people are going to live longer as well."
"You can't let everybody who's been here a long time just go out the door without sharing what they've learned through the years. The skills and knowledge that they have are still valuable," he adds.
There's a good reason why NIH has created so many attractive retirement options: 47 percent of its workers are age 50 and older.
"After all of their schooling, a lot of our workers are starting their jobs in their 30s or even 40s so they have less time to contribute," Lenowitz tells us. "It makes sense to have structured retirement programs for people who are coming to work at a later age so that they're not falling behind."
Here, Lenowitz explains the retirement options that has put NIH at the top of any boomer's dream employer list. Take a page from this policy playbook to attract great boomer employees of your own:
1. Trial retirement option: If workers decide within one year of retiring that they would rather come back to work, NIH allows them to do so.
"They come back to positions that are similar to their old positions, but a huge component of it also has to do with mentoring," Lenowitz says. Although the option is available, Lenowitz adds that most people choose the part-time option so they don't have to come back to a full-time job.
2. Part annuity, part salary option: This is part of NIH's phased retirement program which allows workers to work part time and retire part time. The workers would collect a prorated salary and a prorated retirement annuity.
"They can still work and collect their salary for the time they work and collect annuity for the time they're retired," he says. "This is a good way to phase in retirement."
3. Contract option: This is another way NIH workers can use the company's phased retirement program. Employees who are of retirement age can choose to be a contract worker. This way, they can still collect their entire annuity and get a portion of their salary.
For example, if an employee retired from a $100,000 salaried job and has a retirement annuity of $50,000, he can come back to work as a contractor and receive a salary of $50,000. This way his total income will be the same as before retirement. In this option, he is also able to work part time, and a portion of his role will involve mentoring.
"We're specifically taking advantage of their experience, their long-term knowledge and passing it on to less experienced folks," Lenowitz says.
4. Volunteer option: This option is for retirees who want to come back to NIH as volunteers to use the company's resources for ongoing research. NIH also hosts job fairs aimed at older workers, provides emergency day care for employees' children, grandchildren and parents, and offers retirement and financial planning seminars.
For his own future retirement, Lenowitz tells us he's planning on taking advantage of NIH's phased retirement program.
"I'll look for consulting, part-time work to pass on the knowledge that I've learned in my years to the future generation," he says. "But not anything full time, especially September and October—that's when I have a bicycle ride across North Carolina and other things I need to take care of."
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