One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with as an HR Pro is watching someone have to work way past a point when they wanted to retire, and should have retired.
That’s why I make it a point to take the temperature of older employees (say, early fifties and up) about retirement earlier than later. And one way I try to broach this potentially touchy subject is to add it to a discussion about Succession Planning.
In other words, I’ll set up a meeting with older employees, and say something like this:
“Hey, Bill, we’re working on the organization’s succession plan, of which you’re a major part. We wanted to see what your thoughts were about retiring. Often we see employees begin to think about this when they reach your age. Our hope is we’ll get to keep you for a long time, but we want to be ready if you decide you want to retire.”
The ‘how long are you planning to work’ conversation is pretty straightforward. And it also allows you to ask a few more probing questions, like:
- Do you feel like your retirement finances are where you would like them?
- Do you have a retirement plan?
- Do you know how much money you’ll need for retirement, based on when you want to retire?
You’ll quickly be able to determine if your employee has put time into this, or you’ve got a potential problem on your hands. Now, I know your employee’s retirement plans aren’t technically your problem, but like many of the problems our employees are facing, retirement is one we actually have some skill to help!
As HR pros, the very least we can do is make sure our employees know about the retirement resources available to them internally and ‘out there’ and help them make that first step. Employees who are actively planning for retirement are safe bets to most likely stay with your organization until that plan is met. This helps with succession planning as well.
So…what advice can you give employees who are behind in their retirement plan?
- Figure out how to consolidate and pay off bad debt. Many organizations vet and provide contact information to their employees of trusted organizations that can help them consolidate debt and pay it off faster. (If you’re not sure how to locate these trusted organizations, I’d recommend working with your finance and accounting departments.)
- Give them a tool to figure out where they currently spend money, and how they can increase their savings. Make sure budgeting tool is easy to use and simple to understand, but at the same time gives them concrete information to move forward with.
- Show them the opportunities you have in your organization to make more money. Often organizations shop out work to third-parties, that probably could be done better and for less money if it was done in-house. What’s to say your employee might be willing to pick up the extra work at night and the weekends? (Just this past weekend, we were going to have our offices re-painted, and after getting some quotes I threw it out to my staff to see if anyone had the skill/interest to take it on. Two employees did and did a great job. I’ve done this with graphic design and computer work, too.)
- Show them how to max their company retirement plan and match. It’s never too late to start. Yes, we all wish we would have started to save at 21, but few of us did, so let’s start now!
There’s no magic formula to help people behind on their retirement get it turned around immediately. But what we can do is make sure they get rock-solid advice, follow a plan, and start. It won’t be perfect, but it will help, and helping is why most of us got into HR to begin with!