Welles: When retirement looms large

The next stage of your life might be your biggest challenge yet so take careful, deliberate steps

It might be hard to believe, but the oldest baby boomers turn 60 this year. Yahoo recently reported in its Buzz Index that the leading search topic was the “r” word, “retirement.” So baby boomers must be acting on those New Year’s resolutions about getting started on retirement planning.

For government, that trend is not new. Older workers have been retiring at a steady pace for several years. But now that pace is likely to pick up.

The Office of Personnel Management will include retirement issues in a Federal Workforce Conference for human capital managers later this month. Among the sessions will be “Getting to a Green Retirement: Retirement Financial Education Initiatives.” Conference attendees will also tackle the question, “Why are employees’ retirement goals important, and how can you help employees meet these goals?”

As Levander Lawson, information technology specialist at the Commerce Department, told me, “I do believe that creditable financial planning professionals are out there, but how are they to be found?”

Human resource managers are preparing to help you start thinking about financial planning and getting your OPM retirement ducks in a row.

Older workers will usher in new patterns of working and retirement, according to a new report from the Families and Work Institute in New York.

Baby boomers are more likely to be work-centric than other generations. In fact, the majority of older workers want to keep the same level of job responsibilities in the future.

The study also found that older workers are more likely to continue working rather than retire if they have control over their work hours, workplace flexibility, job autonomy and learning opportunities.

So happiness in a current job is a big factor in deciding whether to take the retirement leap this year.

Changes at the office, such as a reorganization or a new boss, can be factors leading to decisions to retire. But there are other factors, too, and the most important could be financial. Will your retirement benefits and savings be enough? Many online retirement calculators are available to help you figure that out.

Personal reasons that affect the timing of retirement vary among individuals. Are you needed at home to help an ailing parent or spouse, or grandchildren? Do you know what you will do the week after you retire and the weeks after that? For some people, an important question is, What will my spouse be doing?

If this is the year you might retire, the best advice is to start planning now if you haven’t already begun. OPM’s retirement Web site (www.opm.gov/retire) is worth checking out. It has answers to frequently asked questions about the documents you should prepare one year before you retire.

If you have thoughts about retirement you’d like to share with other readers, send them to me.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

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