Phased retirement: How it works for one D.C.-area employee


Gary Cluff, a phased retiree at Mitre. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN)
September 2, 2012

When Gary Cluff began life as a phased retiree, his wife offered him one piece of advice: “Just don’t plan on spending the whole time in front of the TV.”

And for the 67-year-old with a long to-do list for his newfound free time, it was an easy suggestion to heed.

Cluff was able to step up his golf game, switching from playing once a month when he was a full-time worker to once a week as a part-time worker.

“I play golf badly, but I enjoy it,” Cluff said.

He also saw a window of opportunity to devote more time to Project Save, an informal networking organization he started over 20 years ago for professionals in the recruiting industry.

And since he’d long wanted to volunteer more at his church, but felt constrained by his full-time work schedule, Cluff began to look into adding that activity to his routine.

But for now, these goals have been put on pause. Cluff has agreed to temporarily resume full-time work for Mitre after one director left the firm and another took a leave of absence. He’ll downshift again to part-time hours no later than Oct. 1.

“I didn’t want to leave the company in a lurch, and it felt like a perfect opportunity to add value,” he said.

When he returns to reduced hours, he’ll work a schedule of his own design. He will head into the office for full days of work on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He’ll work half days on Thursdays, and then telecommute for a few hours on Fridays.

In addition to drawing a partial salary, Mitre’s program allows Cluff to receive money from his defined contribution fund. However, he has not opted to tap that just yet.

Cluff has only enjoyed several weeks of the retired life thus far, and summer months tend to be slow ones at his office, so he said it’s hard to gauge whether the arrangement has turned out the way he expected.

In June and July, “the sense of urgency wasn’t as great, so it wasn’t a true test,” he said.

Nevertheless, he’s looking forward to the sense of balance he hopes it will provide.

Phased retirement, Cluff said, allows him to “determine what’s most important in my life, but also make a contribution.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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