Phased Retirement: What They Are Saying

After the long awaited news from yesterday in which OPM finally announced the regulations for phased retirement, the web has been abuzz with comments about the program. Opinions have been mixed so far, however.

After the long awaited news from yesterday in which OPM finally announced the regulations for phased retirement, the web has been abuzz with comments about the program. The general theme of comments so far, at least the ones I’ve seen, suggest that federal employee groups and politicians are excited about the program and think it’s a good thing, but at least some individual federal employees remain skeptical.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) seemed very happy overall about the announcement on phased retirement, although they were disappointed with one aspect of the announcement. NARFE president Joseph A. Beaudoin said:

“For nearly two years, NARFE has received calls almost daily from federal workers wanting to know when they could participate in the phased retirement program. They were looking for the flexibility to cut back on their hours, but they still wanted to serve their country. The new authority also should provide managerial flexibility, crucial during this time of austerity budgeting. Instead of losing experienced employees, agencies will be able to retain them on a part-time basis and benefit from the law’s requirement to mentor junior employees, including their replacements. Continuity of government operations should improve as a result.”

But he added:

“While most of NARFE’s concerns were addressed or clarified in the final regulations, we are disappointed that they allow agencies too much leeway to waive the mentoring requirement. Unfortunately, there are several mentoring requirements already in regulation that are not being used to their fullest extent. Given the federal government’s current limited use of mentorship programs, NARFE believes that agencies could benefit from additional guidance from OPM on mentoring best practices.”

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) thinks phased retirement is a good thing and didn’t hesitate to take credit for helping to get the program pushed through. NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said, “NTEU pushed for the legislation on Capitol Hill, pushed OPM to issue the final rules, and now will push federal agencies to develop programs. From the beginning, NTEU has believed that the program should be broadly available and that remains our goal.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said the new program was beneficial because it is going to be a way of saving the government money, not a surprising position since he originally sponsored the bill in 2012. Issa said:

“Now that the Administration is finally moving to implement this reform after two years of waiting, agencies must work quickly to establish criteria for approving or denying applications required by the regulation. Phased retirement will save taxpayer money and give agencies an important tool to ensure they can meet their current and future workforce demands.”

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also touted the benefits of the program and said he was pleased to see the final regulations:

“I am pleased that the Office of Personnel Management has issued final regulations on phased retirement which was authorized by Congress more than two years ago.  I expect that phased retirement will be an invaluable tool for agencies to ensure the preservation of institutional knowledge and the readiness of a new generation of skilled workers as the baby boomers become eligible for retirement.” users have been weighing in on the phased retirement announcement as well.

User msgrowan expressed some concern about the program, saying:

“In reading the final regs themselves, which OPM indicates differ only in a few minor areas from the proposed version issued last summer, I’m concerned by the number of OPM’s comments to the effect that treatment or discussion of a number of key issues – seemingly dismissed as mere ‘administrative or procedural’ matters – to be considered by anyone considering the phased retirement option are being deferred to the issuance of prospective future ‘guidance.’ As the regs take effect 90 days from today’s official Federal Register publication, it is to be hoped that said ‘guidance’ will be issued quickly indeed, as agencies will need to develop their own internal policies on phased retirement in the interim as well, and will sorely need such ‘guidance’ in order to do so, let alone being in a position to answer the expected multitudinous questions from their employees.”

User Enchanted said the program may not be worthwhile, financially speaking:

“Whoever decides to do this needs to sit down and work the numbers. Ask for a retirement estimate if you haven’t already (and know that it takes quite a while to get it). Figure out what you would get in retirement, what taxes will no longer be taken out and your benefits. Then sit down and figure out what your half salary is with taxes (and expenses – lunch, gas, et al), and see if it is really worth while. My numbers indicate that if I do this I will worst scenario make 10K less than my retirement income and best scenario break even. I also believe one will end up working more than the 20 hour work week (this will depend upon what you do). I have to come to a conclusion that if the government changes things, it is not to benefit the employee.

For those who are afraid to retire because they think they will die (there are a few in my command), this may be a great alternative.”

What is your opinion? Does the new phased retirement program sound like a winner for federal workers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

For an in depth summary of the phased retirement regulations just announced by OPM, be sure to check out our article Phased Retirement for Feds: Easing Into Retirement.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.