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Thoughts on the transition from full-time to part-time?
Old 03-09-2014, 11:07 AM   #1
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Thoughts on the transition from full-time to part-time?

I plan to downshift to part-time Sept. of this year. I've worked full-time for about 20 years at my current job. I'm in a financial position where I wouldn't have to work if I didn't want to (I'm FI), but I want to work. I wouldn't feel right at my age (early 50's) not doing some work. I'm in a field I enjoy and find stimulating/challenging. I'm downshifting primarily to reduce stress and to give myself more time to play.

I've let my boss and colleagues know, so the word is out. I've talked to HR about the process (e.g., changes in benefits). Talking to people about it has helped to make it feel more real, less like an abstract plan in my head.

I plan to work 20 hours. I think the major thing for me to watch out for is saying "yes" to requests to work more. They will come, I'm sure, but I don't want to get much above 20 hrs/week.

I've been doing the job I'm in for about 10 years and would like to try something new. So eventually, I'll start looking for part-time work elsewhere. But for now, this seemed like a good way to stepdown gradually. Continuing to work here will make getting a job elsewhere easier, when the time comes.

Any thoughts? Anyone with experience downshifting to part-time after working full-time? What was your experience like? Anything to watch out for?

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Old 03-09-2014, 11:25 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum!

It sounds like a good plan, based on the fact that you enjoy the work. That is the beautiful thing about being FI--you now have the freedom to keep working, go down to part-time, or retire all together.

When I retired at 43 18 months ago, I figured that some part-time work or even a new full-time "fun" career might be in my future. I have done a total of about 6 weeks of paid consulting since retiring and it has been nice for me. I'm considering a few alternative part-time second careers, such as becoming a sailing instructor or yacht delivery captain or something else that fits my avocational interests.

We'll see how that goes and I have no financial pressure pushing me.

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Old 03-09-2014, 11:57 AM   #3
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Welcome to the Early Retirement Forum!

Going part time sounds great.

In my case, I really didn't have the option of going part time. In retrospect I'm glad, because if I had been able to do that, then I might not have retired. And in my case, I am enjoying retirement SO much.

Edited to add: Well, once I officially/formally announced my retirement they were offering me the moon to get me to stay, so despite the usual policies I probably could have negotiated part time status at that point. But by then my mind was made up.
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Old 03-09-2014, 12:35 PM   #4
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ER Eddie, I switched from full-time work to part-time work back in 2001 after 16 years of the full-time thing. It took about 2 months of negotiations because the deal included a mostly telecommute arrangement so we had to work out those rules as well as rules about how to adjust and prorate my vacation time and company holidays. I wanted my personal life back and got it, adding some long-dormant hobbies and doing some volunteer work. It was nice being able to do errands on weekdays midday iinstead of the far busier weekends.

I had this good 20-hours, mostly telecommute deal (I had to go to the office 1 day a week, about 1/3 of the 20 hours) for about 2 years before the company ended the telecommute part. I rarely exceeded 20 hours per week. I kept working 20 hours for another 3 1/2 years but had to go to the office 3 days a week to fulfill my hours, something I never really could accept because I hated the commute so much. I never worked an hour more than 20 in those 3 1/2 years. Having to go to work 3 days a week created lots of conflicts between work and my personal life activities. It was a growing hassle trying to juggle everything.

Then, I asked to further reduce my weekly work hours from 20 to 12. This got rid of one of my awful commute days and got me out of the office an hour earlier on the other 2 days. At first, that helped but I was soon ramping up my ER plans so 17 months into that further reduced deal I retired 5 years ago at age 45 (7 years of working part-time). Working even 2 days a week involved many conflicts I had as when I was working 3 days a week. Work had be come a growing nuisance interfering with my other stuff, so it had to go!
Retired in late 2008 at age 45. Cashed in company stock, bought a lot of shares in a big bond fund and am living nicely off its dividends. IRA, SS, and a pension await me at age 60 and later. No kids, no debts.

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Old 03-09-2014, 01:46 PM   #5
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Depending on specific situation, a potential downside of going part-time is changed relationships with your boss &/or coworkers. Some may be supportive, but others (perhaps out of jealousy) may view you as no longer fully committed or 'not a team player'. Since some employers handle part-timers as 'temps' under terms & budgets distinct from regular (long term) employees, I would look for formal written approval, job description, & funding for new part-time role. Even then the change may not turn out as intended. Promise of switch to part-time can quickly become underpaid FT without benefits if business is busy, or no-time if things get slow.

Good luck, & welcome aboard the ER forum!
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Old 03-09-2014, 03:26 PM   #6
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I think it depends on the company and the position. Our parent company allows a lot of flexibility, but we have to pay our own health insurance if less than 30 hr per week. I dropped to 4 days per week 6 months ago, but have frequently asked to work "extra" or trade days because of extra days off. I only have begun to feel the positive effects of the extra days off since January. (More time to help shovel snow LOL!). I am told that people go part time then ramp up to full time as their lives change. What's nice is that if I truly have to work extra days I can count extra hours.
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Old 03-09-2014, 04:21 PM   #7
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I'm going through a similar transition, I started cutting work hours in 2002 - going to 4 days a week. Then I went to 3 days a week, and then down to 20 hours a week last April. My 20 hour a week gig ends April 1.

20 hours a week sounds like a great gig to someone that has been working full time. But in my case, the 20 hours have been brutal lately. I just don't want to get up and go to work 2 days a week when the other 5 days are free to do what I want. But the 20 hour schedule was great at first when I had been used to working more.

Certainly one thing to watch out for is the possibility of being asked to work more than 20 hours a week. I had that happen when a coworker gave notice that he was leaving. Luckily he decided to stay, but his leaving would have resulted in more work for me even though I have an employment contract spelling out 20 hours a week max.

I would recommend an employment contract for anyone going from full time to part time at the same employer. Make sure it includes terms for maximum work hours. And develop a written transition plan that spells out means for transferring your duties to others. I wouldn't want to be saddled with the same duties in part time as I was in full time. There's simply not enough time to get your former work done in 20 hours a week/

Good luck in your downshift and keep us posted!
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Old 03-09-2014, 04:58 PM   #8
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DW, a product electrical engineer, went part time with full benefits. She works maybe a little more than she should, but really not as bad as I expected. She had to move out of her office and into a cubicle. She's no longer the top dog, which seemed to take a bit of getting used to. She sounds happy to leave in a few months. That will be a year of part time for her.
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Old 03-09-2014, 06:36 PM   #9
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Cutting back to part-time may work well for some, but in my case, it would have never worked out. I know myself, and even if I was working only 20 hours per week (or less), I would have spent some of my off time "thinking" about work-related things I needed to do, upcoming projects, etc......I would not have been able to get those things out of my mind. And, getting all of that stuff out of my mind is exactly what I needed to do, so retiring completely was the only way it was going to work. Having to spend some of your free time thinking about where you have to be next tuesday, what you need to do that day, what prep. work needs to be done before then, not my idea of a great retirement. YMMV.
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Old 03-09-2014, 06:56 PM   #10
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I am not sure if I can go part time with my current job in IT. I work from home, and basically "on call" at all hours waiting for users who call, email, instant message me, or simply schedule me to meetings. Not that I really get a lot of these, but I am the only person who knows about the system I support, so I am like a Maytag repairman, you know. Calls or no calls, I have to be there.

I also have this habit of checking my blackberry all the time including weekends, even though I do not really get a whole lot of requests but I still check.

I can see that I would still check messages all the time, even if I only work 20 hours.
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:02 PM   #11
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For me, transitioning has been fantastic, better than I'd imagined. Down to only 30 hours weekly now, with every Monday off and every other Friday off. It's had two wonderful benefits: provided great perspective and taken my focus completely away from w*rk, while allowing me to beging working on the next phase of my life after I leave. Personally, I can't comprehend those that are afraid of boredom after ER. I'm excited about the next few years and beyond as I'll be spending my energy, time, and effort on pursuing my own many goals/interests versus those of someone else. Transitioning is a great idea!
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Old 03-09-2014, 08:33 PM   #12
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Thanks, I appreciate all the input.

I think I feel closest to Options, at least in my hopes -- that part-time work will provide a greater sense of perspective, decreased focus on work, decreased stress, and plenty of time to think about what my next step will be.

I agree that 20 hrs sounds great to someone working 40+, but it may not look so great after a couple years of working 20, in comparison to not working at all. However, I may be built differently than a lot of people on the forum, in that I don't really like the idea of not working at all. I will probably continue to work in some way for at least another 20 years, if I live that long. I realized that a thread on transitioning to part-time would sort of be out of place in a forum dedicated to complete retirement, but I thought I might get some interesting input anyway, and I did.

I like having some money rolling in, even though I don't need it. Even though I could live on savings, I'd rather not have to starting drawing it down until I need to. Part-time work would give me income to cover expenses, with plenty left over for guilt-free splurges. If I were drawing down my savings, I'd get all tightwaddish and guilty about spending more than necessary.
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Old 03-14-2014, 09:18 PM   #13
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Just joined here. I have been working 3 days a week for 2 1/2 years. From 2003-2007 I worked 4 days a week, then went back to 5 days to pay off all my debt and build up a cash reserve, and just have more money for the future. We moved from NYC to Austin TX in 2010 when my husband retired and I took an awful 5 day a week job with the Veterans Administration that couldn't last. I just can't do it any more.

So now I work 3 ten hour days but I get paid for more hours. Plan to retire in 1 year and 3 weeks (at 63.5 so that I can take COBRA for 18 months, then go on Medicare). But I probably will work 1 day and supervise 2 nurse practitioners for a retainer fee with the company I work for. This way I can still bring some money in and don't need to go into my savings yet. Hubby already collects SS (which we pay back in taxes) and had to take his 1st minimum distribution on his 401K on Dec 31st. It's ok but I 'd rather be playing full time. In June I will have been in medical practice (geriatric psychiatry) for 31 years.
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Old 03-15-2014, 12:23 PM   #14
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I have done it twice before for short stints of less than 2 years each and those years provided almost a perfect work / personal life balance for me. Each time was for a four day salaried (based on 32 hour average 80% of full time work. I had a three day weekend each week and spent the off day (usually always a Monday) running errands and/ or adding an extra fitness workout day into my life to do those things when there were few crowds in the gym or store or traffic on the road. I loved it. Lowered my work stress ( which wasn't terribly bad to begin with) to almost nil.

If you are one like me who can manage circles around other managers who want to add to your time and are very disciplined (and have clout to say no when necessary) it can work out very well.

I plan to go back to this same reduced 4 day scenario next month after proposing it to my VP in 2 weeks. I plan to do this for my last 26-30 months on work before ER. I have been grooming two protégés to step in with more responsibility to pick up the slack. Timing is just about spot on so far in that regard. I also plan to ask for one day per week telecommuting also which I used to do full time for this same company before I helped establish the local office ( I am not the office manager).

Bottom line is I love the trade offs it provides, but I am also in a dual career marriage where this scenario contributes a lot to our overall family management. Frankly the two professional income hits us hard on taxes and doing this also puts a higher overall percentage of our taxable income in the lower bracket.
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Old 03-15-2014, 01:05 PM   #15
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I worked part-time for about 5 years prior to retiring. First at 80% and then at 50%. Where I worked, almost everything was proportional (bonus, vacation accruals, etc.) but HI was the same for all employees that worked 50% or more. I telecommuted and my work schedule was flexible. I might work 4 days one week and a day the next or anything in between. I was salaried and the % I worked could easily be converted to a certain number of chargeable hours for a year which is what we focused on.

One good thing about part-time is that I could get out of doing some crappy work that I didn't feel was value added. If I was assigned something like that I would turn to the boss and say "You get x hours a year - do you really want to use/waste them that way?" and many times he would decide that someone else could do it.

Very few of my colleagues and clients knew I only worked part time so I didn't experience many issues of being a second-class citizen. We never hid it but we didn't advertise it either.

The ultimate undoing was that we had very demanding clients (and I'll add justifiably so given our billing rates and the nature of the work) so even though over the course of a year I worked 1/2 time, I was effectively on call all the time. It was hard for me to arrange contiguous time off to go play a round of golf or whatever. Many times I might have a 2 hour conference call scheduled for the morning that would get deferred at the last minute and rescheduled to the afternoon so the effect is that I was hostage for most of the day. Given client demands, we could really never figure a sensible way around that dilemma so I decided to leave (retire).
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Old 03-15-2014, 07:18 PM   #16
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Almost 4 years when my husband retired (I was mid-50s) I went from working very full-time to very part-time. Initially I was going to work in the office one day a week and occasionally be called upon to do something from home during the rest of the week. Over a period of time, this increased to 2 days a week, working about 15 hours a week.

I was very happy with all this for a long time. One of the main things was that I really only had to work on those things that I wanted to work on and I was usually acting more in a consulting type role than being the one person responsible. I was still an employee, just the nature of what I was doing changed.

However, a couple of years ago we moved so I was over 50 miles away from the office and driving there twice a week got to be very tedious. I went in to resign last summer, but it was suggested that I work entirely from home. I've done that since then at an even more part-time basis.

At this point, I'm doing only very minimal work as called upon and entirely from home.

There have been ups and downs with this. One of the negatives is that even when I work very limited amounts, I still have to check email and can get asked to do something at any time. So I don't really feel that my "free time" is really my own.

I've enjoyed the work that I've done over this period of time, but I do think it is winding down.

One more thing - I was never worried about being paid part-time while working more hours because I negotiated to be paid an hourly rate when I went part-time. So that part has been fine.
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Old 03-15-2014, 08:12 PM   #17
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The thing about being FI is that it gives you options. If the OP chooses to continue working part-time then that's fine. He can change his mind anytime he likes. I personally couldn't imagine working if I was FI. I quit working full-time at age 31 even though i'm not FI and now do contract work when I choose. I can't choose to do nothing(yet) but I can take a few months off if I want as I did from Dec-Feb. I hope to continue working part-time as long as needed without ever going full time.

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