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Helping employees prepare for retirement – a win/win approach

by Rick Atkinson
in Human Resources

With many people retiring earlier, whether by choice, through organizational restructurings or downsizings, or unexpected personal events such as failing health, we may find we’re retired for 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or more years. That’s a long period of time!

Looking back, as we matured, we worked, raised a family, and had help along the way – our parents, family members, teachers, friends, coaches, business associates, supervisors, and managers. They all showed us life’s path, pointing out the pitfalls and steered us around the traps. They encouraged and praised us and they helped guide our actions.

Now we are entering one of the most challenging yet exciting times of life. Retirement is filled with adventure, change, and the unknown. The opportunities are endless; however, a successful retirement doesn’t come without its hurdles. There are many considerations such as living on a reduced income, creating a health and wellness strategy, examining relationships with family and friends, allocating personal time, establishing living arrangements, and adopting and adapting to different social roles.

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Three Actions of a Caring Manager

If we acknowledge that it is hard to have a great retirement without help, why is it most boomers are either not seeking or not receiving information, ideas, and options designed to achieve retirement goals? And what can be done?

There are a few things that a supervisor, manager, or human resource professional can do to assist crew members and employees to prepare for life after work.

Step 1: Understand

Understand what’s keeping boomers up at night, when it comes to retirement. Here is a partial list:

  • How much money will I need?
  • What will I do when I’m retired
  • What’s going to be my purpose in life?
  • Fear of change and fading into the woodwork from social isolation
  • Will my relationship with my spouse/partner change?
  • How do I maintain or improve my health and wellness?

Fear, panic, and discomfort are common emotions experienced by people preparing for retirement. These emotions often occur because the pre-retiree is entering a new world – one with different circumstances, behaviours, and activities. Don’t be surprised when you encounter reluctance to discuss life after work. Your employee’s hesitation may result from fear of change, denial (i.e., “I’ll think about it later” or “I’m just going to keep working”), or lack of support and understanding from management and/or peers.

Step 2: Be empathetic

Be empathetic to those employees between the ages of 45 and 65 – the age group when questions of retirement begin to surface. Also, be open and accessible to their concerns and be willing to listen and help. Appropriate questions to ask include:

  • Who do you know who is successfully retired and what are they doing?
  • Do you know any unsuccessful retirees and, in your estimation, what do they need to do differently?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • What scares, attracts, or excites you about life after work?
  • What will make you happy in retirement?
  • How are you spending your time/money?
  • Who is in your retirement picture?
  • In retirement, how are your relations with friends, family members, spouse/partner?
  • What are you doing to maintain/improve your health?
  • Are using a retirement coach or mentor?

Some cautionary questions include:

  • When are you retiring?
  • Do you have enough money?
  • Do you really want to retire?
  • What about your job and projects, and the organization’s needs?

Research shows conclusively that good coaches/mentors provide two forms of assistance:

  • emotional support; and
  • career and life help.

Mentors/coaches furnish support by offering challenges, advice, and access to learning opportunities and resources. They also provide encouragement, recognition, and feedback as well as helping clarify expectations, show caring, and active listening.

Step 3: Provide assistance

Provide assistance to an employee who wants your insights, thoughts, and experience:

  • How can I help? How can the organization help? How can the team help?
  • Would you like to attend a retirement planning workshop or lunch ‘n learn?
  • What about books, articles, or other resources on the subject of retirement?
  • Would you like to meet with Human Resources regarding your pension and benefits?
  • Would you welcome a meeting with municipal retirees to explore life after work?
  • I’m available as a sounding board.

Best Practices

When considering what assistance to provide, here are “best practices” used by various organizations, including the Retired Teachers of Ontario, Magna International, and Lincoln Electric:

  • offer workshops/lunch ‘n learns (i.e., invitations for both employees and their spouses/partners to attend);
  • provide books, articles, and online resources (i.e., CANNAV, with over 3,000 employees, commissioned 10 articles on holistic retirement planning and included them in the CANNAV monthly employee newsletter);
  • dedicate HR personnel who are knowledgeable of all aspects of retirement, including the psychology of ageing including the “go-go years,” “slow-go years,” and “no-go years”;
  • offer one-on-one coaching with a holistic retirement planning specialist;
  • recognize employee service (i.e., coffee party; luncheon; service pin; choice of a gift; letter of appreciation); and
  • form a retiree’s social group, including inviting employees nearing retirement to attend group meetings.

Payoff for Employees and Organization

Rather than wasting precious time and energy – wishing things were different and settling for second best – employees can gain a better understanding of their retirement needs before crisis occurs. They can create a plan to protect their time and money after work and, at the same time, discover opportunities that add excitement in their second longest period of life.

There is life after work. The trick is to find it and make certain to do it right! When a manager/organization helps an employee smoothly transition to retirement, not only is there a sense of satisfaction but the value-added service differentiates you and your organization from others. Caring for those facing retirement demonstrates leadership and corporate social responsibility. It is appreciated by employees, who in turn become ambassadors of the organization and fans of your understanding and help.  MW

Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Peter Cameron’s article: “Baby Boomer” business succession. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.


Richard (Rick) Atkinson, President of RA Retirement Advisors, is an expert in holistic retirement planning. He is the author of bestsellers such as Don’t Just Retire – Live It, Love It!; Strategies for Retiring Right!; and Why Me? And No Gold Watch!

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