Phased Retirement, Definition(s) of

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“In the broadest sense, phased retirement means a gradual change in a person’s work arrangements as a transition toward full retirement. This may involve a change of employers (including self-employment), a change of career or a reduction in the number of hours worked. As the focus is on how and on what terms people continue working after they are eligible for retirement benefits, the re-employment of retirees, whether or not it was anticipated when they first retired, is also sometimes included in discussions of phased retirement” (U.S. Department of Labor, 2000).

“Phased or gradual retirement is any arrangement that enables older workers to reduce their work hours and responsibilities for the purpose of easing into full retirement. Some discussions of phased retirement also include ‘bridge jobs’…the reemployment of retirees, and post-retirement community service” (Townsend, 2001, p. 1).

“Most scholars and practitioners…limit the concept [of phased retirement] to continued work past normal retirement for the same employer or employers within the same system” (Flahaven, 2002, p. 24).
“The basic idea of phased (or gradual) retirement is that an older worker remains with his or her employer while gradually reducing work hours and effort” (Hutchens & Grace-Martin, 2004, p. 1).

 “Phased retirement is defined under this proposal as an arrangement under which a nonkey employee who has reached age 59 ½ is permitted to voluntarily receive a pro rata portion of his or her pension annuity, based on a reduction in work hours…Under the proposed regulations [it] is not available to key employees…For 2005, a key employee is generally defined as an employee who at any time during the plan year is (1) an officer of the employer whose annual compensation from the employer exceeds $135,000, (2) a more than 5% owner of the employer, or (3) a more than 1% owner of the employer having annual compensation from the employer in excess of $150,000” (Caudill, 2005, p. 34).

 “Phased retirement takes many forms, including part-time, seasonal, or temporary work, an extended leave of absence or a deferred retirement option plan (DROP)”  (Brainard, 2002, p.1).

 “A work schedule arrangement that allows employees to gradually reduce their full-time hours over a period of time.” (Society for Human Resource Management)

Glossary Source: 

U.S. Department of Labor. (2000, November 14). Report of the working group on phased retirement. Retrieved May 18, 2005, from the United States Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration website:

Townsend, B. (2001, Spring). Phased retirement: From promise to practice. Cornell Employment and Family Careers Institute Issue Brief, 2(2). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Employment and Family Careers Institute.

Flahaven, B. (2002, October). Please don’t go! Why phased retirement may make sense for your government. Government Finance Review, 24 - 27.

Hutchens, R. & Grace-Martin, K. (2004, May). Who among white collar workers has an opportunity for phased retirement? Establishment characteristics (Discussion paper No. 1155). Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Caudill, A.K. (2005, March). Phased retirement coming soon. Journal of Financial Service Professionals, 34 - 36.

Brainard, K. (2002, October). Phased retirement overview: Summary of research and practices. Prepared for the NASRA Phased Retirement Committee. Retrieved July 26, 2005, from

Society for Human Resource Management. (n.d.). Glossary. Retrieved August 16, 2005, from