Perspectives

Transitioning to Retirement Pays Off, and Not Just for the Retiree

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One day a week and one week a month, Nancy Knuckles gets to play the role of retiree. She has been working on her golf game, experimenting with the game of pickle ball, and she’s also been busy planning her two daughters’ weddings.

“I wasn’t sure if I was ready to retire, and it didn’t seem like a smart thing to do to go from an intense corporate role straight into retirement, not to mention the loss of income,” said Nancy, 55, who leads a high-performing customer engagement team for IBM Watson.

IBM’s Nancy Knuckles, with daughter, Jessica and husband Alan.

But then the mother of three adult children learned about IBM’s Transition to Retirement program. A detail-oriented researcher by nature, Nancy began to dig into the details, as well as talk to previous and current participants. The more she learned about the program the more she valued the transitional aspects. She started the program this summer and anticipates retiring in the Spring of 2018.

IBM’s Transition to Retirement program offers 70% pay for 60% of an employee’s regular work schedule as well as full benefits. Since its introduction in 2012, the program has helped more than 3,100 employees gradually ease into life after IBM. What does the company get out of it? Continuity. The program has helped the company seamlessly transition roles, responsibility and transfer knowledge.

In Nancy’s case, for example, she is scheduled to take off one day a week (Tuesdays) and one week a month. Nancy, a 33-year veteran of IBM, leads a global team of technical professionals responsible for supporting software and cloud solutions, a team of 24×7 client advocates. Coordinating time off affords her teammates an opportunity to gain experience that they might not have had otherwise, from taking the lead on key projects, to exposure to leadership and being part of the decision-making process.

Nancy Knuckles with team at IBM.

Planning for retirement is no longer an individual concern.

In the U.S. alone the number of people age 65 and older make up nearly 15% of the population, a group expected to swell to nearly one in four U.S. residents by 2060, according to the Census Bureau. More than a quarter of baby boomers plan to stop working when they reach a certain age or saving goal, according to a recent study by Transamerica center for Retirement. This makes finding innovative ways to address retirement essential for employer and employee, and program’s like IBM’s create a glide path for both.

Yet, the decision to retire is almost never as easy as it sounds. It’s fraught with anxiety and questions like, “can I cut it financially?” recalls Rick Crannell, 70.

The former manager, who retired from IBM four years ago, worked on large asset deals, like building sales and lease backs or leasing semi-conductor manufacturing equipment, deals that were all-consuming. Rick participated in the company’s Transition to Retirement program for 18 months before retiring. During that time, he might take as many as two weeks off after completing deals that took as long as three to four months to close.

“I couldn’t just take a day or two off in the middle of a deal, so we worked on creating pockets of time off after a deal had closed,” Rick recalls. “It was a unique experience. I had the support of my manager and my colleagues, and it worked out super well for me.”

Today, Rick spends much of his time training his bird dog, a three-year-old English Setter named Sage. The two have gone fly fishing, hunting, as well as hiking in majestic sites like the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. On most days, they can be found on trails along the Muscoot Reservoir. 

“I’m really enjoying retirement. When I left IBM I did the leg work to start a consulting company, but I’ve not gotten around to doing much more than that,” Rick says with a chuckle.

Vice President, Employee Benefits, IBM

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