Launching Respectful Exits: Time to Retire “Retirement”

By Paul Rupert, Respectful Exits

“Everyone talks about working longer, but few do anything about it…”

A serious challenge is upon us, and we are heading for a crisis. The longstanding practice of treating older workers as disposable and a burden, the first to be downsized, neglected or slated for premature retirement has run into new and stark truths:

  • The century old assumption that retirement should occur at 65 has proven outdated as healthy older workers live to age 80 and beyond
  • Today’s retirees walk out not with a watch and a cleaned out locker, but with vital knowledge that cannot be reinvented by the cleverest new hire
  • Tightened labor markets have led to shortages of skilled and experienced workers while the number of new workers is insufficient to fill the void
  • The Great Recession has wiped out older workers’ savings and wealth, adding serious economic need for extended work to the desire to remain as contributors
  • The alternative to extending and phasing out of existing jobs is the search for less lucrative employment or “gigs” in the face of chronic age discrimination

The society, employers and millions of older workers cannot afford to continue down our current self-destructive path. For two decades analysts and pundits have noted the “graying of America” and warned of the impending and massive impact of “idle” retirees on endangered Social Security and Medicare funds. Yet as retirement expert Joshua Gotbaum of Brookings says, “Everyone talks about working longer, but few do anything about it; and even fewer prepare for it.”

A vital opportunity is painfully obvious, with far too many focused on the “pain”

Most advocates for older workers seem to see random and early retirement as inevitable, focusing on an elusive second chapter to extend working years. Recently a growing body of research and cohort of older worker advocates are pointing to a proven solution that has been used successfully, if infrequently, for decades: Flexible and Phased Retirement.

Respectful Exits has been formed to build broad public, employee and employer support for this long overdue practice as the way to close the gap between the 64% of workers who want to phase into retirement and the 5% of employers with formal programs.

The US Senate Special Committee on Aging commissioned an in-depth report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to “review the work patterns of older Americans and phased retirement programs.” Its 2017 conclusion is in the title: Phased Retirement Programs, Although Uncommon, Provide Flexibility for Workers and Employers. This very positive report on private sector practices and several very successful programs did not make recommendations.

It did note that “[of] large employers, 71 percent agreed that ‘regulatory complexities and ambiguities involving federal tax and age discrimination laws impact their organization’s ability to offer a phased retirement program.’” There is more than a little mythology and unfounded assumption in this view, called into question by the report’s case studies – companies who were not deterred by and clearly overcame the alleged barriers. Clearly where there is a will, there is a way

Respectful Exits aims to strengthen the will of employers and pre-retirees

The GAO’s compelling research submitted to Congress in July was followed by the widely reported August release of the 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey. It found that:

  • Nearly three-quarters of employers believe that many of their employees expect to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire (72 percent);
  • Four out of five employers say they are supportive of their employees working past 65 (81 percent)

Yet as Catherine Collinson, president of Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies says: “As much as employers may believe they are supportive of their employees working past age 65, actions speak louder than words. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only one in four Americans age 65 to 74 was employed in 2016.”

Two of the report’s four recommendations to employers for improving today’s approach to retirement are 1) Enable Workers to Work Past Age 65 and 2) Adopt a Flexible Retirement Program. Our mission is simple: turn supportive words into concrete action. By organizing popular desire into focused pressure and by busting myths and helping employers see the value of rethinking retirement, we can update a century-old model and turn deeply ingrained habits into flexible alternatives.

Go to our CAMPAIGN page and join us in this long-overdue effort

Expanding the age range of opportunity will take more than individual voices. It will take a powerful campaign, tools and advice for individuals and advisory work with employers to help them make the transition and become truly age-agnostic and flexible workplaces. Working together we can increase opportunities for individuals and workplaces and strengthen our collective future.



Over time Respectful Exits will offer our expertise to guide organizations and share tools and insights with individuals. Starting today we invite you to:

  • Review the “Campaign” page and watch it periodically for suggested actions
  • Share this blog and news of our campaign on social media
  • Make a donation in this crucial start-up phase. You can email us for details at

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