Working In Retirement: How To Make A Soft Landing


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Special Report: Race To Retirement

Kathryn Cullen stands at a career crossroads. After three decades in the consulting world, she started transitioning to retirement this year.

Cullen, a senior partner at consulting firm Kurt Salmon, has pared her schedule to a four-day week. Next year it'll be three days.

Cullen continues to do her consulting work, but she's turned over various duties -- including her role as head of the technology practice -- to other partners.

To assure a smooth transition, she's introducing younger partners to her clients so the team can continue building her practice.


After mulling over her retirement options for a year, Cullen decided a soft landing would be the best route to take.

"If I completely stopped working I would not feel sufficiently mentally engaged as I am when I'm consulting," said the San Franciscan.

Cullen says a transition to retirement made a lot of sense, since she's able to control her time and schedule better. As of now, she has no idea when she'll fully retire.

But preparing for that transition requires a lot of planning, and even baby steps -- which can be healthy.

"Based on hundreds of interviews with older workers, I would say they should try to prepare a glide path to retirement as opposed to getting to the cliff and jumping," said Carl Van Horn, professor of public policy and director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. He suggests that people negotiate with employers to phase out work. A big reason is to keep receiving remuneration.

Not everyone has the luxury of taking voluntary retirement. Since you never know when the ax will fall, Van Horn advises you start making plans for the next step as you reach the latter part of your career in your 50s.

Anna Rappaport, an author of articles on retirement, retired in 2004 from the global consulting firm Mercer. The next year she started the Chicago consulting firm that bears her name. Now, at age 72, she is a vital member of the workforce as what she calls a phased retiree. That means she's been transitioning to retirement in steps.

On Top Of It

Rappaport recommends steps you can take while you're working to assure a smooth transition.

It's important to keep your skills and knowledge of your business current, she says. You also need to keep your technology skills sharp and your equipment upgraded.

Networking -- strengthening relations with existing contacts and forging new ones -- will help assure a smooth transition, she says. One way to make new contacts is to do volunteer work.

When you're close to leaving your job, make sure you've built the infrastructure to work at home -- or another venue -- out from under the corporate umbrella.

Rappaport has mapped out a game plan that's let her create a soft landing to retirement. She traces some steps she's taken and recommends as a foundation for phasing into retirement in the January issue of the Society of Actuaries Pension Section News :

• "Build a brand and use it." It's important to define what you want to do and to be selective about what you decide to take on, she says. Think about what you want to be identified with and what you want people to ask you to do. Today many people are aware of the need to build a brand earlier in life.

• "Part of using your brand is communicating it." After she retired from Mercer and started her own firm, she developed a brochure -- with a statement about her goals -- and shared it with many people. She also launched a website to further define what she was doing -- and had a link displayed on her business cards and brochure.

• Rappaport keeps her story in front of people by maintaining contacts, participating in committees and panels, using social media and sending update letters. She's also onLinkedIn ( LNKD ), which helps her locate people with whom she's lost touch and build up new contacts.

Van Horn says it's hard to find career paths friendly to older workers. At least specializes in finding jobs for people ages 50 and older.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing Mutual Funds
Referenced Stocks: LNKD

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