my company is not planning well for my retirement … what’s my responsibility?

A reader writes:

I have worked for the same small company (less than 20 employees, including the owners) for almost 30 years. I am full-time, salaried, and exempt and handle a niche set of clients who have specific rules and regulations that must be followed. Approximately 85% of my work falls in two busy seasons, each lasting about four months. During those months I work between 100-150 hours of overtime. The other months, I do the other 15% of my job, prep for busy seasons, and use my generous PTO. I enjoy my work and my clients, and my bosses have been for the most part good to work for.

Next year I will reach my full retirement age, and plan on retiring. The problem is that we have no one who is, or will be, ready to take over my job by that time. I gave my bosses notice three years ago on when I was retiring, and they kept saying they would hire someone, but that didn’t happen until recently, and the person they hired is basically entry-level. When they hired them, they asked if I would be willing to work part-time hourly for a couple of years after I retire to help with the change. I said yes, but stressed part-time and only for one to two years.

We are currently in our first busy season of the year, and I started training the new coworker, Clive. About three weeks in, they pulled Clive to help in another non-related portion of what our office does. He is supposed to be returned to me for training next month. This has cut a huge portion of his training, and is going to make it very difficult for me to have him ready to even handle part-time in charge. In talking with other coworkers, I found (as I suspected) that the owners think I won’t leave them in the lurch, and will work “as much as needed” after retirement.

I am very fortunate in that financially I don’t have to work after retirement, so my working post-retirement is really a favor to my clients and the owners. If I get bored I can volunteer or take some mindless part-time job that won’t come with the responsibilities and stress I have here. So no, I will not work as much as they need.

I know I need to set up a meeting with the owners after this busy season ends, and get an agreement on what my transition hours will look like. I have a clear idea of what that should be for me: “X hours during first busy season, Y hours during second busy season, and Z hours spread out through the rest of the year.” Overall this would be roughly 40% of my usual hours, with all but about 15% of that happening during the two busy seasons. I also want to block off several non-busy-season weeks as not available so I can plan some much wanted travel, and do some projects I have been putting off. The second year I would like to cut those hours in half, and be completely done working at the end of the second busy season in year two. All of this means I have to be able to have Clive training full-time … no more pulling him off to work on other assignments, and the owners have to agree to that as well.

So do I just go in and lay it out like that? Or should I originally ask for less than what I am willing to do so I can “give” a little? Is it really even a negotiation? Ultimately I know it’s in my control, since I can just say, “Okay, you want more than I am willing to give, so you should plan on my last day being X as originally discussed, and I will gladly do all I can to train whoever you want as fully as possible until then.” My spouse thinks I should not say that if it comes to it. He thinks they might make my last year miserable by constantly “guilting” me to try to get me to change my mind if they know that. I do care about my clients, and I want to make the transition as smooth as possible for their sakes, so I think transparency of what I will or won’t do is the best course for everyone, but he’s right that I don’t want to spend a year being made to feel guilty for doing what is best for me, and there is a good chance they would do that.

I should add that finding someone with experience in what I do in this area is very difficult. There is only one other company in the area who provides this niche service; they are a larger company and probably pay more than our owners could, and this is not a place people would likely want to move to, for economic and other reasons. So training someone from the ground up is about the only option other than dropping the service, which I know they don’t want to do, as it would have ramifications on the other portion of their business as well.

So how do I handle this? Lay out my terms I am willing to do, or ask for less than I am willing to do so I can negotiate up to what I really want them to agree to? And if we can’t agree do I let them know now that I won’t work after retirement, or hold that until closer to the date?

You don’t need negotiating tactics because there’s nothing to negotiate; you are the one who holds all the power, and you can decide what you are and aren’t willing to do, state that plainly, and hold to it.

It would be a bad idea to start by asking for less than your real bottom line just so you can then compromise a bit — because doing that will teach them that you will compromise if they push, and that means they’re more likely to keep pushing for more of what they want later on. You’re far better off just making your position clear: you’re offering your time as a favor, you would be perfectly happy not to do it at all, and so anything you’re willing to give them is a courtesy and if they pressure you for more it will be easier for you to make a clean break instead.

In other words, this isn’t a debate or a negotiation; it’s you letting them know what you’re willing to offer, and they can take it or leave it.

Frankly, if we had a time machine I’d suggest you not offer post-retirement help at all. You don’t need the money, this particular work comes with stress and responsibility that you’re looking forward to leaving behind, and you have lots of other ways you’d like to spend that time. However, now that you’ve made the offer and they’ve hired someone based on that agreement, I don’t think you should back out as long as they respect it — but you can certainly make it clear what your boundaries are.

In this case, that means you should meet with the owners as soon as reasonable and say that in order for the plan you all agreed on to work, you need Clive training full-time with you from this point forward, and if they pull him into other projects, he will not be ready to take over when you leave, period. That’s also the time to lay out the hours you’re willing to work after retirement — and you should frame that as “this is the maximum of what I can offer.”

But before you do that, please seriously consider whether you really want to be working as much as you’ve proposed here. Working 40% of your usual hours means you you’ll be missing out on a lot of the benefits of a real retirement. Do you want to do that, or do you think it’s something you have to do to make the transition work? Because that’s not your responsibility! You could work 20% or 10% of the time or none at all. Your company has had three years to plan for this, and you do not need to sacrifice the first two years of your retirement just because they didn’t.

If they push for more hours, you should say, “X is the most I’m able to offer. I don’t have any wiggle room on that.” If they keep pushing, try saying, “There’s no option for more than X; it’s just not on the table. Given that, does it make sense for me to continue training Clive or no?”

If they agree but then keep pulling Clive into other projects, you should say, “Just a reminder that I won’t have Clive ready in time if he’s not training with me full-time, so if you put him on this project he won’t be ready to take over when I leave.” From there, it’s up to them — you’ll have given a clear warning and what they do with it is their call. But you should not alter your own plans in response. If he’s not ready because of their choices, that’s not on you — they’ll have to deal with those consequences. (However, you should consider whether you’ll even want to do the part-time work if he’s not fully trained. If his insufficient training will mean more stress for you when you’re part-time, you should raise that now too — say your ability to return part-time is contingent on Clive working with you full-time between now and then.)

As for your spouse’s worry that your managers will make your remaining time miserable by constantly guilting you to change your mind, try this: “The more we debate this, the less appealing it becomes to stay on part-time at all! If you want me to work part-time, this is what I can offer. If you are going to keep pushing me for more, my preference is to make a clean break.”

And keep in mind that their ability to guilt you relies on your willingness to feel guilty. If you can get really clear in your head that you’re entitled to stop working there entirely at any time (including tomorrow, if you wanted to — what was their plan if you got another job and gave two weeks notice?!), you’ll shore up your defenses against whatever emotional manipulation they may attempt.

Read an update to this letter

{ 333 comments… read them below }

  1. Avocado Toast*

    I’m relieved to see that OP has clearly begun thinking about firm boundaries and isn’t just letting them boss her around. It’s good to get clear on how much she really wants to offer, but I think the two-year plan is a really great idea if she genuinely enjoys the work.

      1. Avocado Toast*

        Sure, but OP said she was willing to work part-time, and that’s only for the first year. She likes the work and her clients. If she decides to offer less than that, that’s great, but this seems like a pretty good way to transition into retirement all things considered.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I think it’s a nice transition if and only if she can make the company set to her boundaries. Otherwise, a clean break is probably needed so she doesn’t spend that time being hounded for more.
          LW, I think if you just really think about your hardline boundaries and set them down, and remind the company if they complain that 3 years has already passed since you indicated your plan, you might enjoy this transition. I think the key is, as Alison said, to recall that you’re 100% in charge here and it’s up to you what gets done.
          I hope you have an amazing retirement!

        2. David Levine*

          I worked part time for a while after retirement. it was a pain. On the other hand, with a busy season, it might not be too bad to just work the busy season, and be free the rest of the time. I would plan to go away for several weeks after retiring, just to make the owners get serious about training,

      2. Empress Matilda*

        If my math is right, 40% of 100 hours is still a full-time job!

        OP, if you do decide to go ahead with this, please make sure you calculate that percentage based on much time you were actually working, *including overtime.* Don’t base it on your so-called standard hours, or on your off-peak hours. If you’ve been working 100 hours/ week during the peak periods, that’s your baseline – and if you think it’s closer to 150 hours, use that as the baseline. You’re the one setting expectations here, so you want them to line up with what you’re actually willing to do.

        Good luck!

        1. Adam*

          The OP said they worked 100-150 hours of overtime total over the entire busy period, so for a 4-month period that averages to ~5-8 hours of overtime a week. (It’s worth noting that there are only 168 hours in a week, so it’s pretty much physically impossible to work 150 hours/week.)

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Ha, good point! So my math was wrong, but the principle still stands – make sure the 100% reflects 100% of the actual work. :)

          2. Cj*

            I made a similar point just below this, and it first I read it the way you did – that they work a total of 100 to 150 hours of overtime during the 4 month. But when I reread it a couple times, I think they perhaps mean 100 to 150 hours OT. a month during each of those four months.

        2. Cj*

          The way I understand it, it’s not that they work 100 to 150 hours a week during the busy season, but that they work a total of 100 to 150 hours of overtime each month during that time. So 25 to 37.5 hours a week of overtime, or roughly 65 to 78 total hours a week.

          Especially the upper half of that is still a whole lot of ours, but of far cry from a hundred to 150 hours a week.

          1. LisTF*

            I haven’t seen this mentioned down thread but I’d like to point out that the OP also needs to consider the financial ramifications of working so much in retirement. there are limits/thresholds to income that will impact SSI, Medicare premiums, and taxes to consider.

            1. ChristineW*

              Working after full retirement age has no impact on Social Security benefits (SSI = Supplemental Security Income, which is an entirely separate program, a welfare program for the elderly and disabled who have little income and few assets). Medicare premiums are affected for those who have modified adjusted gross incomes over $97K ($194K if you file a joint tax return).

    1. Artemesia*

      TOMORROW. she needs to say ‘I will only work part time for X hours if Clive is fully trained; this means I need him training with me full time until I retire. If we cannot do that, then I will need to make a clean break because the stress of trying to work part time without a trained person in place is too much.’ And mean it. They clearly think they can push her around; her husband is right. And lay out how much time year one and year two and MEAN it. Let them know that if this means they will lose clients because she cannot pick up the slack then they will be losing those clients.

      She never should have agreed to work part time so now is the time to say Either you have Clive train with me full time so he is ready, or I will not be doing any work here after I retire.

      1. Camellia*

        I’m simply repeating what Artemesia said, with some extra emphasis, because it is perfectly stated. OP, please please PLEASE follow this advice!

        “TOMORROW. she needs to say ‘I will only work part time for X hours IF CLIVE IS FULLY TRAINED; this means I need him training with me full time until I retire. IF WE CANNOT DO THAT THEN I NEED TO MAKE A CLEAN BREAK because the stress of trying to work part time without a trained person in place is too much.’ And mean it. They clearly think they can push her around; her husband is right. And lay out how much time year one and year two and MEAN it. Let them know that if this means they will lose clients because she cannot pick up the slack then they will be losing those clients.

        She never should have agreed to work part time so now is the time to say Either you have Clive train with me full time so he is ready, or I will not be doing any work here after I retire.”

        1. ariel*

          This is excellent advice! OP, after you retire, even as a PT worker – this is no longer your circus or monkeys and you need to prepare that they will drive you batty with their own self-sabotage.

          1. AnonForThis*

            Even before you retire, OP, those are the owners’ monkeys. Don’t get trapped into caring more about the business succeeding than the actual owners; you don’t have the power to save them from their mistakes.

            Any business built around a particular person continuing to work there forever is bound to fail. You’ve given them a ridiculously long notice period; it’s on them if they squander that on the assumption that they can take advantage of you in the future.

            1. Daisy*

              You can’t care more than the owners.
              You can’t care more than the owners.
              You can’t care more than the owners.

              Honestly, I think it would be kinder to tell them you won’t be back (even part time) after your last day. They will expect you to complete the same amount of work in 40% of your hours. They have already shown you they have magical thinking, it isn’t going to get better.

              1. Clean break!*

                Yes, They will expect you to complete the same amount of work in 40% of your hours. T
                THIS is why they hired an entry level person.

                Tell them – Guys, my retirement plans have changed, I won’t be able to work part time. You have 6 months or 1 yr (or whatever that timeframe is) notice. My last date of work is XXX. Let me know who the replacement is and what they need to be trained on.

                Btw you mentioned the owners were most part good to work on. Do you know why? Because you were pretty much running their business and they didn’t need to care about anything. They need to feel grateful for you – not otherwise. These are assholes who are planning to fleece your retirement and use it for their benefit. RUN!

                1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  yeah what would they do if OP were seriously sick? I mean retired people are old and old people get sick more.
                  I really think they’re trying to just keep her on indefinitely, Clive will be there to handle the low hanging fruit and will sound the alarm any time they need OP to come in and do her thing.

        2. duinath*

          also, as far as doing everything you can to get clive trained before you leave… WITHIN REASON. not whatever it takes, not insane overtime, literally use the words within reason if you have that conversation. wishing you a happy and restful retirement!

        3. Tink's Mom*

          This and also start talking about all your plans for retirement: traveling, visiting family/friends, spoiling grandkids, etc. You don’t actually need to make these plans but TALK ABOUT THEM.

        4. Momma Bear*

          I agree. While it’s “nice” that OP is willing to do this, it’s no longer OP’s responsibility to make sure that ship goes. They didn’t buy the sails? Tough to be them. OP has earned that retirement and should be willing to make a clean break if they push back on what she’s willing to give them. Have the mindset going in that you do not need this, they need you. They don’t give you what you need and respect your boundaries, then you walk. No overtime, no additional favors, and if Clive won’t learn, then don’t pick up his slack. It’s not your problem that they failed to heed your warning for three years.

          OP should also make sure that this plan doesn’t impact any retirement benefits, healthcare, etc.

      2. Samwise*

        She never should have agreed to work part time

        Why not? If she likes the work and can do the hours she wants to, what’s wrong with that? There is not just one way to “do retirement”. I wouldn’t mind doing part-time at my current job for a year or two. It’s enjoyable, I like my colleagues, I’m really good at it and it’s not hard for me, plus I like being around young people (I work with undergrads — I laugh every day, I help people every day — doesn’t get much better than that).

        In academia there’s “phased retirement” where a faculty member has X number of years with a lighter teaching load and a percentage of their usual salary. (For instance, up to three years, half salary, two courses/year, reduced service expectation) Typically they also have to give up tenure.

        1. AnonForThis*

          I think that agreeing to work part-time after retirement is perfectly reasonable as long as OP wants to continue to work and their workplace respects that part-time agreement. From the letter, both of those are in serious doubt; I think that’s why Alison proposed a time machine to go back and not make the offer.

        2. doreen*

          There’s nothing generally wrong with it – the problem is that she should never have agreed to work part-time for these particular people because they seem unlikely to let her work on her own terms without trying to persuade her to work more hours and/or do it for longer than 1-2 years. She doesn’t actually seem to want to work for them part-time at all, as she says that working will be a favor to them and if she got bored, she can do something less stressful.

        3. Me (I think)*

          Phased can apply to staff, too — I’m doing that now and it’s great. 10 stars, highly recommend.

        4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I can see this being a great way of having a gentle transition into retirement. I’m nowhere near retirement age, but I imagine that having an abrupt change could be hard to handle psychologically. With those types of big life changes, it’s hard to predict exactly how you’ll react. After defending my MA thesis, I expected to be elated, but I actually felt weird and empty. Turns out that my reaction was very common! During my PhD, I took to warning the MA students about how their feelings could get complicated after the defence and that it’s totally normal. (Yes, I felt the same after my dissertation defence, but more so).

      3. WillowSunstar*

        Right, I wonder what their plans would be if she were to move to another state as many do when they retire, ex. get out of the cold part of the US and move to a warmer state like CA or FL. Or even move to another country, some people do that also because the cost of living is lower or relatives are there.

      4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And the key will be refusing to work more than the agreed hours after retirement. The owners seem like people who would try to guilt the OP during those two years to just do a little more time. Hard pass! OP is not responsible for any of the fallout that may come from sticking to the agreement.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      It blows my mind how many companies don’t seem to grasp that “retirement” means “I DO NOT WORK HERE ANYMORE.” Basing actual business decisions on “well, she said she’d help out” would not inspire confidence in me if I were Clive or anybody else there, frankly.

  2. Foreign Octopus*

    I think this is a clear cut case of someone not being able to care more about the business than the business itself does.

    I recommend that you enjoy your retirement, OP. It’s not on you to deal with the consequences of their poor planning.

      1. oranges*

        Totally. They’ll figure it out, I promise. That’s how businesses work.

        Unless you have a financial stake in the long-term success of this company, WALK AWAY. It’s just a job.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I only recently (probably here) encountered the formulation about not caring about your job more than your boss does. This is a really excellent way of looking at it. Care more than your boss and they have undue power over you.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        What’s important for me is recognizing what I have the power to change and what I do not. (Insert that quote about serenity and wisdom.) Putting lots of energy into worrying about or trying to change things outside of one’s control is useless and frustrating.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          100%. The OP cannot make the owners make good decisions. The owners are responsible for the success of the business here, not the OP.

      2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I also apply it to clients! I am paid to care about certain aspects of a project more than my them, but i can’t care about their success more than they do.

        1. Properlike*

          And students! If you’re working harder than they are, then you’re doing it wrong.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      This, 1000%. You can’t make them care if their entire business plan is “guilt you into sticking around.”

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      So much this. LW can’t save this business.

      It feels like LW assumes that her investment in the company’s success will stay the same after she leaves. LW has not changed jobs in 30 years, and so doesn’t have perspective on how quickly you lose touch with your former colleagues when you change jobs, and how quickly everyone on both sides moves on. If LW retires and takes a few solid weeks off, she probably will be shocked at how well they have figured things out in her absence, and how fast her presence will become redundant. All of this fishcakes about cutting her hours by 40%, then 70%, then whatever is making LW assume SHE will still need to make sure that the job gets done. If you MAKE them figure it out, they will … AND after a few weeks away from them, A) you will no longer care if they have, and B) it will be Clive’s fault if they haven’t, not yours.

      In related news, I want LW to decide that if Clive is not fully trained, well, he’ll have to figure it out. Clive is a different person; the level of service he will provide the clients will be different in any case no matter what. If she goes to part-time, he will have to get up to speed in any case. If he’s learning more from scratch than he had planned, well, that is what he’ll have to do. The world will not end if he has to check the documentation sometimes.

      I also want to agree hard with others that LW is already being too generous. LW sounds like the type of person who likes to be purposeful and busy, and sees too much idleness as wasteful. I think maybe LW is worried that she’ll be bored in retirement, and so is viewing this transition as important for her AND the company. LW, start planning now to find other things to do.

      1. pagooey*

        Replying specifically to this post, just to say it’s been ages since I’ve seen a “blah blah blah fishcakes” in the wild, and it made my whole day!

        Anyway. Bless LW for being this invested in her job, and I hope she ends up enjoying retirement just as much if not more. I quite like my own job…but if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d leave a pagooey-shaped hole in the office wall in my haste to peel outta there.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Ha, thank you! “ya-ya” and “yadda yadda” and “nonsense” didn’t seem to strike quite the shade of meaning I wanted; for this I needed to bring back TWOP’s “blah blah blah fishcakes.”

    4. Looper*

      I can’t believe how much thought, care, and consideration OP has given this company (for the next 2 years even!) when they don’t even care to train this new guy after a 3 year notice period. I hope OP reads these comments, has a come to Jesus moment, and just retires when her last day comes. I cannot fathom begging my employer to give me time off when I’m retired and working PT to do them a favor. Let them fail!

    5. blackcat*

      Yes, and the business is already making mistakes by not training *at least TWO* people in OP’s job, and not *already* having a back up. What if Clive tries the work for a year and decides it’s not for them?

      OP could win the lottery, get sick, have a family crisis, or anything, really, at any time. There shouldn’t be only one person with these skills that take *years* to train!

      1. IDIC believer*

        That was my thought – assuming Clive will still be there in a year is pretty optimistic. Today’s employee tends to be more open to options than intending to stay with one employee 30 yrs. And Clive is entry level so is less likely to see this company as the only one at which he could be entry level. Today’s employee tends to understand they don’t owe an employer more than their contracted hours – not decades long loyalty, not a sacrifice of personal life for work, and the employer will lay-off or fire without any/much notice if it suits the company.

        I was heavily invested in all my various jobs over 45+ yrs, but had to come to terms with every employee – even me – is replaceable. Sure there might be some chaos for awhile but work goes on. I was pleasantly surprised to find after 2 wks of retirement I had moved on too.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Excellent point! If Clive leaves – say to go to the other company in the area doing the work, which also pays better – the company may be truly f***ed. Which is absolutely not the OP’s problem to manage. Speculating here, but having the OP there has maybe allowed the owners to ignore that part of their business because everything has gotten taken care of.

        Perhaps this is part of the reason that they don’t get it. If the owners haven’t had to be aware of how complex this work is, how many crises need to be managed, etc. Because they haven’t had to. If, as far as they know, everything is going smoothly (because the OP is taking care of everything), they’re going to underestimate what is required. It’s kinda like how when public health is successful, nobody notices, because they prevented bad things happening.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      I had a coworker who did her best to let them know early and plan ahead…then pandemic happened, canceling of hiring happened, training people in programs that had been discontinued happened….she left us in a shambles, but my office is always in a damn shambles. Some are just like that and there’s nothing you can do. They sink or swim.

  3. Purely Allegorical*

    It’s not clear to me that you actually enjoy this work? It kind of sounds like you are offering this two years because you feel like you have to… I’d re-evaluate that, as Alison suggests. You’re essentially deferring your retirement for two years as a favor. That’s a BIG favor!

    If you want to go through with this anyways, I suggest writing down your timeline/schedule for offboarding over the next two years, and what you need from them in order for them to be in a good place after your departure. It’s not enough to simply have a verbal conversation, though you should do that ASAP and not wait for the end of busy season.

    And then send them reminders/update of the schedule via email at least once every quarter. You’re going to want regular, written reminders to keep driving home your end date. (This may also help alleviate the guilt you’re feeling!)

    1. Properlike*

      “I will be loyal because I like and care about them!”

      If only the people who ran the company felt the same in return. Exploiting your dedication is not the act of people who like and care about you as a person, though I’m very sure they like you as someone easy to guilt.

      Your clients will be okay, or they will go to the other business.

      LW, this is entirely a THEM problem, not a YOU problem. Which is great! Walk away!

  4. PollyQ*

    Blunt truth: no one knows how many healthy years they’ll have after retirement. Some people are vigorous & active for another 20-30 years, some are hit with health problems early on, and some don’t make it to 70. Given that you don’t need the money, I would think long & hard about not working AT ALL past your retirement. If the company is not planning or reacting well to your plans, welp, that’s their own damn fault. They’ll most likely muddle through one way or another, because that’s how these things usually work. My advice is to put yourself & your family first, and fully enjoy your retirement.

    1. LTR FTW*

      Yup! They’ll figure it out. It’s not your problem!!! Another vote here for clean break.

    2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I have to agree with this. I can’t tell you how many people I have seen work under incredibly stressful conditions for years, and then when they finally retire they pass soon afterwards.

      I’m now in my 50’s and already setting boundaries around my workload, PTO and working past 40 hours a week. I hate to be morbid about it, but I refuse to put off traveling, spending time with my loved ones and pursuing my hobbies/interests until retirement, because if I do there’s always the chance that my time will run out.

      I used to think when I was younger that I’d probably get a part-time job or consult after I retired, but now when the day comes I’m gonna be on “me time” for the rest of my time on this big blue ball.

    3. old curmudgeon*

      Exactly this. My mother retired at 65 with the full expectation that she’d live at least as long as her parents did, which was late 80s/early 90s. She died on her 68th birthday. She had three years of retirement, most of which were spent dealing with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

      Cut the cord, make the break, and enjoy the heck out of your retirement. If you don’t have an ownership stake in the business, don’t behave as if you do.

        1. old curmudgeon*

          Hmm, good question! Do you live in the Midwest? Do you work in STEM academia? If not, then maybe we’re twin siblings of different mothers – it could happen!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        We had plans for what we’d do with my mom after my dad passed. What actually happened was dental surgery that didn’t go well, then pandemic, then stroke.

        Don’t count on being able to do stuff later.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        Good point, I have relatives who retired at 65 and passed away from sudden illnesses 5 years or less later also. This is why people should be able to enjoy their retirements.

      3. cncx*

        My father’s story is similar, except he was still working. It has really colored how I feel about some European countries raising retirement age.

    4. Airy*

      And the great part is, since OP isn’t looking for another job, they don’t have to worry about their old bosses trashing their reputation because they actually just left when they wanted to (which no reasonable boss would do but these people don’t sound at all reasonable). There’s no repercussion. The bosses can feel as (unreasonably) angry and betrayed that someone who warned them three years ago that they would leave, actually left after three years, as they like. It won’t affect OP (who I hope at that point is relaxing somewhere beautiful with a big glass of whatever they like best to drink) at all.

      1. GEEK5508*

        I LOVE how Alison put it:
        “The more we debate this, the less appealing it becomes to stay on part-time at all! If you are going to keep pushing me for more, my preference is to make a clean break.”

      2. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

        And the reality is, the bosses WILL be unreasonably angry. They have unrealistic expectations now, they will have unrealistic expectations when OP is part time, and will have unrealistic expectations when OP is retired.
        They are already using language about being left in the lurch, so it sounds like they are already gearing up to be blame shifting.
        You can’t force people to think or act reasonably or decently, all you can do is maintain your own boundaries (which often comes with its own emotional and mental cost).

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Yup, they’re gonna do mental gymnastics to blame the OP for anything that happens, rather than looking at their own decisions along the way.

      3. Zweisatz*

        My thoughts exactly. You are not dependent on a reference, OP. Enjoy the freedom that comes with that.

    5. ThatGirl*

      My uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about 9 months before he was set to retire. Thanks to the fluke good luck of catching it early, after surgery, chemo and radiation he is currently in remission and retired. He is currently working part time again but I really want to encourage him to enjoy the years he has left with his son, daughter in law and their 3 year old because let’s face it, the long-term survival rates of pancreatic cancer are Not Good.

    6. Artemesia*

      My best friend, healthy, energetic and full of life, died quite unexpectedly at 67. Her one consolation as she lay dying was that she and her husband had not put off travel and enjoying what they enjoy till retirement. My father was disabled from the time he retired and my mother’s ‘good’ retirement years were taken up caring for him. By the time he died she was too old to do the things she had dreamed of doing.

      No one is promised tomorrow. My only son only lived to 47. Don’t let guilt steal away the best years of your retirement.

      1. Carl*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. Good reminder to all of us, to cherish every moment with those we love.

    7. L. Bennett*

      Agreed. I have an uncle who delayed retirement for a year, then another, then another, and so on and when he finally did retire, he died within the year. It was really sad.

      1. doreen*

        I know so many people this happened to- and what’s really sad is that the lesson some other people take from this is ” Retirement kills you”. Uh-uh, there’s a reason I retired at 58 – because retirement doesn’t kill you and the lesson I took was if you wait too long, you won’t enjoy retirement. Those people were going to die at that time whether they retired or were still working.

        1. Outside Earthling*

          I agree. I have a chronic health condition and am determined to retire while still in my 50s. ‘One more year syndrome’ is a thing.

    8. Eeyore's Missing Tale*

      This! My dad retired at the end of March 2020 with fun (for him) projects to work on, a new granddaughter he couldn’t wait to spend more time with, etc. He was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in May 2020 and passed in June 2020.

      Don’t set yourself on fire to light the way for this company. Make a clean break and enjoy your retirement.

      1. Lizzo*

        My dad had a similar abrupt departure from this world recently. It sucks. My condolences to you and those who loved him.

    9. Anon for This*

      One of my coworkers finally planned to retire, a few years after they were eligible — and then they died suddenly a few months before their scheduled retirement date. The other person of similar age in their department took their co-worker’s death as a wake-up call and retired a couple months afterwards.

      Because I’m grandfathered under the rules in effect when I started at my workplace, I qualify to retire next year. I’m not going to, because the finances won’t work until my kids are grown and either living on their own or contributing to the household expenses, and because I’m likely to live another 30-40 years and don’t want to be in the position of needing to find a job at 78 in order to keep up with inflation. But if I could afford to retire now and be reasonably confident that I’d always be able to live on my retirement income if I do have another 40 years, I’d be out of here and spending all my time on my volunteer work and hobbies.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        My husband retired after many years at a very toxic and stressful company. A few months later, he tripped trying to avoid stepping on our new puppy, fell down the stairs, and shattered a few vertebra. It has been a three year journey of pain management, surgery, treatments, and physical therapy. We haven’t been able to do any of the travel and fun stuff we planned. We are glad he is healing but living in daily pain is tough. I have three more years before retirement and I’ve been setting boundaries and working on my life/work balance after many years of giving 150% to my career.

        I also wanted to add that if the letter writer does decide to work part-time for a few years, they negotiate a salary structure that will be fair to them. I’ve seen a number of people take a part-time position at my workplace (after years of full time) and work almost full time at part time pay because people’s expectations of them are so high. I could see this company agreeing to part time but then expecting everything to be done as well as it was when the letter writer was full time.

        And, they need to train a backup for Clive too- what if Clive has a health issue or decides to move to a llama farm or wins the lottery? Having one person doing such a key job doesn’t make good sense for their business.

        1. Chase*

          Not only could Clive bugger off, he could finish his training and jump ship to that other company that apparently pays much better! Companies like this confuse me.

          1. Ellie*

            I expect that is what he will do… I’ve seen this scenario play out before. OP will be doing the work full time on part time rates until Clive is ‘almost’ ready to take over and then he will leave, resetting the clock for OP at zero again as they train up the next new hire.

            OP – if the transition to retirement works for you then by all means, stick to your plans. But I strongly suggest you agree to work not for your old salary but for contractor rates that will give them a real incentive to transition you out. I also strongly suggest you plan some long-term travel (at least 2 months) shortly after your agreed part-time period ends, and make them well aware of it. This will show that you are serious about that end date and puts them on notice. Then stick to the plan, and do not let them change your mind.

        2. Nobby Nobbs*

          Frankly, I see Clive struggling with his workload for a few years while he begs this company to hire him some help, realizing it isn’t going to happen, and leaving for greener pastures. Not a guarantee, but the most likely scenario in my mind.

          1. Ro*

            This was my feeling if they won’t listened to an experienced employee who has worked for them for decades they will not listen to a fairly new hire. And then the owners takeaway will not be “we need to plan better for employees leaving, increase resilience and increase our staff” it will be “millenials/gen Z always make us bare the expense of training them then abandon us for new companies”.

    10. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      But on the other hand, no one quite knows if they’ll unexpectedly have to go back to work after retirement due to financial reasons etc. So it would be worth not burning a bridge (not that I think OP is, but in response to retirement more generally). I’ve seen a number of people unexpectedly (I assume) have to find a job after they thought they no longer needed to…

      1. doreen*

        I wouldn’t assume that – I’ve known people who had to get a job after “retirement” but it wasn’t unexpected. They knew all along that they wouldn’t be able to live on the pension they started collecting in their 40s or that they would need a part-time job along with SS and whatever savings they had. Plenty of other people found jobs for non-financial reasons but I’ve never known anyone who unexpectedly had to get a job.

    11. Overit*

      So much this!
      A relative lived her entire life saving and waiting for retirement. No vacations, no little luxuries. She died of an aggressive camcer 6 months after reirement (after spending 4 of those months in chemo and having surgeries).

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        My dad retired slightly early at the age of 63. He was a workaholic who loved the work of his job (tech) but hated the politics (academia). Maybe his lifestyle hadn’t been the healthiest, but he was an aches-and-pains guy, never had a major health scare. Then he got what he thought was the flu, and ended up dying a month after his 65th birthday of a rare cancer that manifested in an unusual way.

        I am so glad that he had a little bit of retirement, at least. He had told me he had saved / planned to live to be 90! He would still only be 76 next week, if he had lived.

        Please, LW, centre your own happiness firmly in the frame! Work only under your pre-agreed conditions *at most*, and definitely use AAM’s script if they try to guilt or stress you. If a clean break would make you happier, it’s not too late to change your mind.

    12. Liv*

      This is so important to remember. My dad retired early at 53. Dropped dead at 58 completely out of the blue. I’m so glad he at least got 5 years of retirement rather than dying at work.

  5. Chairman of the Bored*

    I am in a very similar situation with my employer right now. I have a specific rare skill set required to do equipment installations all over the world, and agreed to handle these installs for a set time period. For the last year they’ve owed me a colleague who I can train to do this work so I can go back to my real job.

    They’ve not come up with that colleague, and my commitment to do field installs ends this Summer.

    My solution is to just go back to my other job and let the chips fall where they may. It’s pretty clear that the bosses aren’t going to get serious about giving me a trainee until their failure to do so causes a problem for them, so they can deal with a construction site with no work occuring and then maybe decide that this training should be a priority.

    LW should absolutely just dictate the terms she’s willing to accept for post-retirement training work, and if the employer doesn’t like it that’s not her problem.

    1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

      I have a feeling that your employer, and maybe the LW’s, is about to learn the phrase “fuck around and find out.”

  6. ursula*

    “The more we debate this, the less appealing it becomes to stay on part-time at all! If you want me to work part-time, this is what I can offer. If you are going to keep pushing me for more, my preference is to make a clean break.”

    ^^ This is such a good script, I am committing this formula to memory.

    1. Alpaca Bag*

      This is how I operated with my toddler: “If you keep asking, the answer will be no.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Heh. More than once I said “I already said yes, but keep begging and that will become a no.” And then they had to replay the conversation to realize, oops, I had agreed to the thing they were now annoying me about.

  7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Whether you’re retiring or resigning, the same logic applies. Lots of parallels to other advice Alison has given about offering to consult after resigning, dealing with counteroffers, etc.

  8. JAM*

    This reminds so much of the last accountant at my husband’s work! She ended up working at least 2 years after retirement because they hadn’t found anyone to replace her. The problem was that because she kept saying yes to staying on part time, the bosses never felt any urgency in finding and training a replacement. I would definitely caution against agreeing to stay after retirement. The only way they’ll take finding a replacement serious is if they’re forced to.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s amazing to me the amount and kinds of problems people consider “solved” as long as they aren’t immediately faced with consequences. It’s like putting out a fire over and over and never dealing with the serial arsonist who keeps setting them!

    2. beanie gee*

      If they couldn’t get more prepared in THREE YEARS advance notice, two more years aren’t going to help. OP, feel free to retract that two year part time offer at any time, you’ve been more than generous and thoughtful already and it’s clear that the only thing that will get them to take it more seriously is if you’re actually retired, so you might as well do that sooner and start enjoying retirement!

    3. Free shavocado*

      If OP agrees to work after retirement they should tell them they’ll come back as a consultant and charge them a consultant rate. look up what a competitive rate would be in your field. If you’re very specialized it could be $500 an hour. That will ensure they only ask you to work a reasonable number of hours.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Oh absolutely!
        I also think that the OP and their spouse should book a vacation during the next busy season. Tell the company in advance but do NOT return any calls or emails from them while traveling.

      2. Picard*

        Glad to finally see someone mention this!! If you are “consulting” for them, be sure they understand ahead of time what that consulting hourly fee is (min 2x your current hourly fee is pretty common) You’ll be AMAZED at how quickly they may decide they dont REALLY need you anymore.

  9. Sockster*

    I’m concerned that if Clive isn’t fully trained by the time that LW retires, then their two post-retirement years won’t be “Clive owns this position now and LW is assisting” but instead will be “LW is still handling all of this, and Clive is assisting/training”. I think that in addition to the LW being clear on what hours they will work post-retirement, they should also be clear on what responsibilities they will have, i.e.- “I won’t answer any client emails or lead any projects, but I’ll be available to consult and to help with one or two of the most difficult/complicated client cases.” (And maybe even identify those few complicated clients by name, since you probably know who that would be).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      YES. Because otherwise I could definitely see them assigning her so much work that it blows right past the hours she’s agreed to. She’s going to need to maintain really strong boundaries after she switches to part-time (and if that sounds exhausting, that’s another reason not to do it).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Their foot-dragging is not a good sign. I wouldn’t do it at all, personally, but for OP, I’d put forward her terms ONE time and then if they don’t follow up, too bad so sad.

        1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          Yes, their behavior is a big red flag to not stay on one hot minute after she clocks out on her last day of full time employment.

        2. Artemesia*

          This. Either they promise her Clive full time tomorrow or she gives notice that she will not be working full time. And of course make clear that when she leaves, Clive needs to be in charge with her assisting in XyZ limited ways. If they don’t act on this TOMORROW then she lets them know she won’t be able to work part time after retirement.

          And book a 3 month trip to Europe with your husband for the first 3 mos of your retirement. Let them limp along for a while. (my husband and I both did this when we retired — it was a great way to launch the rest of our lives). (I was able to schedule his 3 mos when I could take a leave). And then of course he was retired when we did my 3 mos retirement trip.

          1. LTR FTW*

            This is brilliant. Throw Clive into the deep end, and after three months with zero help it will be very clear what needs to happen next — either he gets it and they don’t need OP anymore, or they will finally have the urgency to hire someone to assist Clive with the specific things he can’t do yet. (That hire *could* be OP, part time… but the clean break makes it clear that it doesn’t HAVE to be.)

          2. Critical Rolls*

            I was looking for this comment. I nice long block of vacation between retirement and any part time work might provide a late wake-up call to the company.

        3. Dona Florinda*

          Seriously. They had THREE YEARS and only hired someone now, and it’s quite possible that Clive won’t be ready when OP retires. So they’ll ask for just a couple more years, and then maybe just one more, and so on.

          My take is that Clive will never be ready as long as OP is available.

          1. Reality.Bites*

            And Clive may not work out at all, for reasons entirely unrelated to the Letter Writer.

            1. Isabel Archer*

              Seconded. Seems like this whole plan depends on Clive loving the crap out of this job and staying for 20 years like OP. He could quit for a dozen reasons, at any time, sufficiently trained or not. Like Alison said, what was the employer’s plan if OP had left for another job and put in her 2 weeks? This isn’t going to end well, and I look forward to the OP’s follow-up in 2024, penned from her retirement that doesn’t involve this dumb company at all.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            It’s the living example of “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” They don’t feel any urgency because they can keep kicking that can down the road and thinking they’ve gone to the store for a full supply of groceries.

            I’d like to hear from Clive, who sounds like he’s being set up to fail. Partial training without enough to do any of the jobs he was ostensibly hired for and you know that when the LW finally walks away he’s going to get a lap full of problems and blame for not magically solving them.

        4. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

          Yes. It’s very clear that the business doesn’t value OP–they just value what they can get from her.

          OP, if you don’t put yourself first, no one else will do it for you.

      2. QED*

        I would also say, in the land of maintaining boundaries and standing firm, not to communicate with clients unless strictly necessary–she shouldn’t want them to start complaining to her about how bad Clive is and can she please step in and do this thing! The clients need to learn to adapt, even if that means they don’t get excellent work for a little while.

        1. zinzarin*

          When clients “adapt” because they’re no longer getting excellent work, that often means that they find a new supplier/provider.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            …I guess the business should have thought of that and planned accordingly, then.

            1. RVA Cat*

              This. The OP should feel zero guilt whatsoever if the result of their poor planning is that their larger competitor gobbles them up.
              Honestly, now that I think of it the OP should make any post-retirement work contingent on an ownership stake in the company.

      3. Exme*

        Agree, I think you should strongly consider saying that you will only consult directly with Clive and company employees, no client interaction. 1) That will may get bosses thinking about needing to prep Clive for that level of responsibility. 2) You won’t feel pressured by your clients’ relationship with you to pick up any slack.
        Clive or owners can interact with the clients, then ask you questions. As far as the clients are concerned, you are already retired and they already congratulated you. Any resentment clients may feel around changes after your retirement, they won’t bring them to you. You’ll likely need that barrier to help avoid guilt-helping.

        1. Ama*

          I think this is a good idea — definitely start prepping both Clive and the owners for what parts of the job that Clive needs to start handling as soon as you stop working full time, regardless of how long you stay on to consult.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          This is a brilliant idea. If the OP does part time after retirement, it makes a lot of sense to have it be more as an internal consultant that Clive and the owners can go to and not as someone doing the same job tasks part time. Ideally, the shift should start a few months before she actually retires.

      4. Tio*

        Another thing to consider – What if Clive leaves? OP should be prepared to pull way back, and have REALLY strong boundaries or risk getting sucked back in

      5. Not my real name*

        This is exactly what happened to my brother. He “retired” three years ago, but was still working pretty much full time the first year and more than half time the second. He’s finally down to about one day a week wrapping up some historical records that he’s the only reasonable person to sort and answering a few questions here and there.

    2. Southern Soul*

      It may also be worth talking to Clive about this so he can assist in enforcing those boundaries by speaking up about his desire to learn OP’s skills (if that’s actually what he wants). I realize he’s in an entry-level position, but presumably he wants to learn and grow into his position and the owners moving him to different projects could impact his career development if he’s really trying to move into OP’s role. This doesn’t just impact OP.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Good point. I feel for Clive here, since he’s not being set up for success. (Which is not the OP’s problem to solve!). He may not even realize just how much learning is required for the position; he can’t know what he doesn’t know. Telling him that getting trained up is going to take the year, full time, would be very useful information for him.

  10. Elizabeth West*

    OP, this is not your problem. It’s their problem. You are not in any way obligated to deal with your employer’s issues after you leave the job. Their failure to plan is not your emergency. I feel a little bad for Clive; it’s hard to take over a job when you don’t know what you’re doing, but that’s not on him either.

    Go to them now and say what Alison said, that you need to train Clive full time or else he won’t be ready. If they don’t listen to you and keep f-ing around, I guess they’ll find out.

    1. Panicked*

      “Their failure to plan is not your emergency.”

      Say it louder for the people in the back!

      This is not your problem. At all. The business will adapt or it won’t; either way, it’s not on your shoulders. I completely agree with everyone on here, part-time will lead to you doing your full-time work in part-time hours. They obviously do not respect you, your time, or your goodwill. You don’t owe them any more of those.

    2. Susannah*

      Spot on – this is not LW’s problem, though clearly mgt. is hoping LW takes this on.
      So – a formal meeting that will make it harder for them to put their hands over their ears and say “LALALALALALALA!!” And say, we need to have a deadly serious conversation about my retirement. I gave you 3 years’ notice, and you’ve barely made the moves necessary to have my function here replaced. I want to be clear that my retirement is not contingent on your preparedness. I will help you according to X terms but that is it. This is not a negotiation. This is me trying to help you from losing business.

      THEN, you also go to Clive and let him know what the deal is, so he can insist his time is spent being trained. Not fair (for mgt.) to set him up to fail.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        “I want to be clear that my retirement is not contingent on your preparedness.”

        LW needs this on a shirt that she wears to the office every Friday. She also maybe should put it in her email signature.

    3. Jamjari*

      Yup, and if the owners were smart they have a second person at least partially trained. What if Clive suddenly realizes the full scope of the job when OP retires and nopes right out of there?

  11. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    “However, now that you’ve made the offer and they’ve hired someone based on that agreement, I don’t think you should back out as long as they respect it.”

    It doesn’t read to me as if the company hired Clive based on LW’s agreement re part-time work. It reads like she told them several years ago to give them plenty of time for succession planning, they ignored the issue until recently when they hired Clive and then they asked the LW to work PT for a couple years to fix the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yeah, I’m with you. And their smug attitude and assumptions that the LW will stay on, makes me want to tell LW to rescind that offer entirely. She cannot care more about the business’s clients than the owners do. The clients will be fine, they’ll go to the competitor she mentioned.

      “Based on a number of factors, I’ll no longer be available on a part time basis after retirement, and I recommend giving Clive uninterrupted time to train with me rather than pulling him off for any other projects. If he spends any more time on any projects other than training, he won’t be prepared to take over when I leave.”

      Things change all the time as evidenced by all the examples here in the comment section of sudden health conditions. She can allude to that. Mental health is health, and being not subject to this dumbassery would do wonders for MY mental health.

  12. Bex*

    OP, I think Alison’s advice is great as always and I really want to emphasize the part about considering what YOU want in your retirement. I’m not trying to scare you, but I just watched my mom push her “real” retirement back repeatedly, only to finally completely retire and then, a few months later, receive a medical diagnosis that has completely changed her picture of what that retirement will look like and what activities she will be able to do during it. It’s so sad for me to see her give up various plans she’d been putting off until she had the time. She loved her job and she might have done everything exactly the same way if she’d known, but she didn’t know, so she had dreams like finally hiking Mt. Katahdin with her sister once they were both retired, and that DEFINITELY won’t be happening. So just keep in mind that no amount of time or physical or mental ability is guaranteed. I hope you work as much as you enjoy working, and do as much of whatever else you dream of doing as you want to.

    1. LawBee*

      I used to work with people who had a rare cancer that 9/10 times developed within the first year of retirement. OP, please take this to heart. It’s your retirement. It’s not your company. You have earned this. The company will either sink or swim without you, Clive will either figure it out or he won’t, they’ll hire someone or they won’t, or they may realize that your job should be really three jobs (SO COMMON) and no matter which road they go down, it’s their company. Not yours.

      Go be retired. Take your trips. Do your fun projects. Enjoy the rest of your life and put this company in your rear-view, where it belongs.

  13. Elitist Semicolon*

    Honestly, if it were me, I wouldn’t agree to a percentage of time post-retirement. I’d tell them I will be available as a consultant on select projects (that *I* will select from what they offer) and then give them a slightly-higher-than-market-value rate per hour for the service.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, if you’re going to work as a consultant, you need to charge enough to make up for the taxes that you are going to be paying yourself. Do not undercut yourself on the bottom line.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      Never mind “slightly,” I’d give them a significantly higher-than-market-value rate per hour for the service. And still set very firm boundaries on how many hours I’d be willing to work for them.

      If the former employer is willing to pay and the OP is willing to work (and able to hold their boundaries!), then cool, everybody wins. If the former employer is not willing to pay, then cool, OP can retire and skip happily off into the sunset.

      OP, you’ve worked for these people for thirty years. They owe you more – much more – than you owe them at this point!

    3. IrishMN*

      I was going to post something similar, but I would make the hourly rate high enough to give them incentive to move their you-know-whats on this. (IMO LW should just make a clean break.)

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’d be a consultant TO TRAIN THE NEW PERSON. Not to do the work.

      And be generous to yourself with your rate.

  14. Ginger Baker*

    My sister was once watching my kids and had just purchased a box of cookies at the store. They were all on the bus coming home from something and she said something like “I’ll open the cookies in a minute and you can each have one cookie”. At which point my young children began arguing – perhaps they could have TWO cookies. They went back and forth a few times, until my sister said “Or, you could have NO cookies!” The children conceded that ONE cookie was better, in fact, than ZERO cookies.

    You, OP, are not offering limitless cookies (work hours). You are offer ONE cookie (your acceptable level of post-retirement work hours [which I do think may be too high…]) or, alternatively, ZERO cookies. (ZERO post-retirement work hours). If they keep arguing, move to ZERO and stay there, perfectly content to eat all your cookies yourself and know that you did everything reasonable to offer to share a small amount of your time *very generously, which you did not have to even offer*. If they choose to reject your VERY GENEROUS OFFER, that’s on them – it does not mean you didn’t offer enough or had to work harder to make them see why your offer was generous and kind.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I love this framing! (And once again, we have grown adults who are acting like children and need it explained to them like they are five. I guess this is the day for it.)

      Now I want cookies.

    2. Palm Beach and Tasty Treats*

      What a lovely analogy….and now I want some cookies!

      But also, OP, please let your colleagues, Clive, and maybe even your niche clients know of your final plans moving foward (at a timeline that makes sense to you) because if I was in your shoes, I would ensure that EVERYONE knew that I had planned, communicated, and proposed effective ways of transitioning into my retirement and not leaving things behind.

      My skepticism might be showing, but your bosses might frame it as you not preparing Clive or failing to “transition” your niche roles before you left and put the failure of the business on you.

      You have given 30 years of your life to this company and no longer need to be loyal to them. You earned your retirement and now it is your chance to enjoy it.

      Make a clean break, wish them luck, and sail off into the sunset.

      1. Palm Beach and Tasty Treats**

        Wanted to add that you don’t OWE any sort of loyalty to a company – 30 years or 1 year.

    3. Executive As-Superhero*

      OP, you are in total control of the cookie box here. As someone said upthread, you don’t need to maintain this relationship for a reference! This is purely out of the goodness of your heart! A true favor! No negotiation, no faltering on boundaries, no nothing because you have already gone above and beyond by giving THREE YEARS NOTICE. Please enjoy retirement, you’ve earned it and you earned it today- not in a year of “part time work,” today.

  15. Jenga*

    What happens at your organization after you retire isn’t your responsibility. They need to figure that out.

    If you want to be generous, ask for a meeting about the transition. Clearly outline what hours you will be willing to work on a part time basis and give them a recommendation of what you feel Clive needs to learn before you leave. If they choose to ignore you, they have to deal with the consequences, because, as you’ve told them, you’ll only be working the hours you agreed to work. If they push you for more, you can leave, and again, they will have to deal with the consequences.

  16. Colette*

    I’d suggest that rather than a certain percentage of hours, the OP tell them she will be in a certain number of days. “I’ll work Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the busy season, and one Tuesday a month in the off-season”, for example. It’s easy to push 16 hours to 20 to 24 to 30, but Tuesday only lasts so long.

  17. ChattyKathy*

    “I won’t have Clive ready in time if he’s not training with me full-time” — I’d change this to “YOU (the company) won’t have Clive ready” and also mention that it’s already a stretch to train an entry-level hire for a senior-level position.

    OP could also tell this to Clive so they are also pushing to get the training to do their job, not get moved to other projects. Clive will have a really difficult time if they don’t learn how to to their job. That way OP is not the only one advocating for Clive’s training.

    I’d also be asking for a significant amount of money to save these people post-retirement! OP can name their price. (But I would just make a clean break and mention that their hiring choice won’t be sufficient even with training to leave the work in Clive’s hands with you as a part-time consultant.)

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, this wording is very important. This is not on LW, it’s on the company. They need to realize that.

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yes, I was also thinking that prepping Clive for the boundaries you intend to set is a good move. Let Clive know what is on the horizon. That way, as ChattyKathy mentions, he can advocate for his training. He can also, honestly, maybe see the writing on the walls as to what is coming his way and if he thinks he can’t handle, look for something else. I would not at all be surprised if the owners promised him more support and time from the OP than the OP is willing to give, and he should know the real situation.

    3. Empress Matilda*

      Yep. OP should be very clear with Clive about all of it, because the company is setting him up for failure. He can choose to stay or not (that’s also not OP’s responsibility!), but he should at least have all the information he needs to make the decision.

    4. AngryOctopus*

      100% agree on making sure Clive understands what his new job will actually be once you leave, OP. Make sure he knows that by pulling him away for other things, the company is compromising his training on what he will be doing when you leave. If you let him know that the company is compromising his ability to do his job when you’re gone, hopefully he won’t have any guilt around not knowing things, and can say “you know, LW and I were advocating for me to learn this but you kept pulling me into X instead, so I couldn’t get it all”. And if that causes him to leave, so be it. It’s the company’s fault for failing to plan in a LONG transition period, and then failing to take your role and training seriously for the next person.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes! Don’t give them any wiggle/whining room: “You said you’d have him readyyyyyy!”

  18. Double A*

    Unless you are literally training Clive to be a brain surgeon, it seems to me that any semi-competent person should be enough up to speed after a year of even part time training that they can take over and begin learning on the job what the rest of the job entails. There is no way Clive will be at the same level as you, OP, but that’s not the goal of training a replacement. I’m presuming they are paying him less to reflect his lack of experience. Are you really so sure he won’t have the basics after a year of training? If not, I’m really curious what this field is.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Well, it’s not just skill or knowledge, there is also fluency and a lack of mistakes. They may want Clive working at a level of performance similar to LW’s level, getting things done in roughly the same amount of time and with minimal errors. That takes confidence, which requires training and practice, both of which require time. And LW is also supposed to get her regular duties done at the same time she is training. Training someone is very time consuming.

      That said, I am curious as to what this field is, as well, but we’ll just never know.

      1. Double A*

        I mean, if they hired an entry level person and their plan is that he will replace a worker with 30 years experience in terms of knowledge, fluency, and accuracy in a year even with full time training, that just goes to show they are unreasonable and OP should just fully retire! What exactly was their plan if the OP had left before retirement? No plan? I mean, all of this is on them. Bad planning and unrealistic expectations. Definitely not the OP’s job to deal with.

      2. Sara without an H*

        If they want Clive to perform at LW’s level…then they should have hired somebody with at least a few years of experience. Clive may be very bright and capable (I notice that the LW didn’t say much about that), but if the owners of this company wanted somebody with experience, they needed to hire for that. Asking LW to turn a newbie into an expert part-time and on the cheap is not a strategy for success.

        Maybe I’m cynical, but I’d lay money on Clive to make a speedy exit. Then watch the owners of Messy, Inc. try to con the LW into returning full time.

        1. old curmudgeon*

          No, watch the owners of Messy, Inc. try to con the LW into returning full time plus overtime for part-time pay. Because that’s how people like this roll.

        2. RVA Cat*

          Plus have they invested in any technology in the past 30 years, or do they expect Clive to do the job the way the OP did before he was born?

    2. JustaTech*

      If the two busy seasons are different work, so Clive is doing one thing only for a few months, and then a totally different thing for a few months and then not touching them for the rest of the year, then yes it can take more than one year to train.
      A lot of training is about repetition – if I am trained in (say) a software system I touch once a year, then I’m going to need a lot more help using it than if I used it once a week, even if it amounts to the same number of times using the system.
      Add in needing to build relationships with the clients and I could see that it could take more than one busy cycle (one year) for Clive to be up to speed.

      (Poor Clive, what do we want to bet that he takes the fall for not being fully trained and just as good as OP when OP leaves?)

      1. Jellyfish Catcher*

        Yes, poor Clive, dropped into this dysfunction with expectations for him to be the new savior. Clive might not enjoy pressure and drama; the poor guy may be great but is expected to go from entry to expert level in short time.

        Another option is to hire ( I know, location, etc) someone with moderate experience, Pay Them Well, and have LW 100% train them for 6 months- then she is OTD (outthedoor).

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      I am also curious, and I get the sense that OP wants to transmit 30 years of experience to Clive, whereas the owners would be satisfied with basic competence and may even reimagine the role. (Otherwise, are they paying Clive the salary of someone with 30 years of experience?)

      I would suggest OP talk with the owners about what they need from Clive and consider that the goal line. It’s not your job to make everything perfect if the company has decided some bumps along the way are okay.

    4. Taxed Out Mentally*

      Double A this is almost without a doubt public accounting (two busy seasons lasting 4 months, firm, and LW’s trouble distinguishing reasonable loyalty from irrational servitude) . Therefore, most likely LW’s skill set is one that is highly technical and takes years if not decades to work independently in. Often, small firms that cannot obtain experienced talent will settle for “trying to get by” with the only under qualified staff they can get. All this because the alternative, ( ie paying market wages, offering above average benefits for the overtime, and creating a modern flexible office culture), is not something they can be bothered with or want to do. LW should not care more about their business than they do. And they are signaling that they aren’t willing to put in the best practices or payout for more experienced employees to do what is required. LW should not volunteer her mental and emotional currency and time to pick up after their company’s self inflicted mess.

  19. AnnieMrn*

    Why not let it play out however it does and demand absurd hourly rate when the poo hits the fan?
    You don’t need them as a reference for Pete’s sake!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Eh – I mean that’s not a bad fall back, but money isn’t the issue. There isn’t an hourly rate that can buy that time back, and OP is trying to retire.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup, that’s the risk with “eff you” money – sometimes people will pay it and you’re stuck doing the work or saying “actually that was a lie, I won’t work for you”.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This. I so often see “Ha ha just charge for it” and sometimes you don’t want to do whatever it is. Because you’re an autonomous human and get to have boundaries and say no.

  20. Sarah S*

    I think LW has a clear “out” even if Clive was hired based on the agreement that LW would stay on part-time: the owners are failing to abide by the agreement (disrupting Clive’s training and telling other employees they assume LW will work more than previously agreed). LW has zero reason to believe the owners will begin adhering to the original agreement when they didn’t take it seriously to begin with. If it were me, I wouldn’t be willing to risk my peace. There’s a long runway between now and LW’s retirement. Plenty of time for the owners to make a new plan if LW says, “The arrangement we previously discussed is no longer possible. When I retire, I will not be available to work part time to support Clive’s transition.”

    1. Artemesia*

      And when Clive quits, she needs to have the gumption to make that their problem not hers. don’t let them keep pulling you in.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This was my first thought reading this. Clive is likely to quit anyway, likely at an inconvenient time because that’s how jobs go, and then what’s your plan??

    2. Jellyfish Catcher*

      BINGO! Thanks for pointing this out!.
      LW, the owners have already undermined the original agreement from 3 years ago.
      Beyond the three years notice, you offered to add 1 to 2 more years of your labor, so you have given the owners 5 years notice.

      No employer needs or deserves HALF A DECADE NOTICE, doubly so when they do not uphold their end of the agreement.

      The part that caught my eye was “The problem is that we have no one…”
      Nooo, it is not We, it is They, the owners, who have the problem – announced three.whole.years.ago.

      You and your husband are the “We” that count. Life is short, so honor your and your life partner’s needs and wishes. Set a 6 month commitment of you dedicating full training for Clive , retire, and don’t look back.

  21. Eagle Eye*

    Your employer is presuming on your good character to make up for their stunningly poor management. Please consider telling them that your circumstances have changed and you will not be available past your retirement date.

    1. Quandong*

      yes, this! LW doesn’t need to stick with the original offer or plan, and her employer has no right to squeeze work from her after retirement.

      Otherwise it is not retirement at all!!

  22. irene adler*

    I would not modify any arrangements with the employer. They understand the situation. They didn’t forget. By pulling Clive away from training as they did, they know what they are doing.

    They have made the value judgment of which is more important to them (receive your training or tackle the other task). Treat them as professionals and respect their value judgment. Stick to your original plan.

    They will find a way to make things work. Whether it be to wheedle more hours out of you when you drop to part time (and don’t you budge on that front!) or lay out big bucks to poach from another company, it’s theirs to decide.

    When you aren’t the owner don’t take on the owner’s burden.

    I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard tales of laying off the senior, most knowledgeable employees only to seek them out later for vital information necessary to complete the work. Management understands what they are doing when this happens. Sure, there’s some poor employee on the hot seat to get the work done who must struggle to find the information/skills to do just that.

    Sometimes a failure must occur to learn the lesson.

    1. HonorBox*

      I’d only disagree in that modification may be necessary … from OP’s perspective. They may want/need to modify what was initially suggested because the business is dragging its feet in having a replacement in place and trained. If OP wants to modify now and pull back what was offered initially, I’d be in support of that.

  23. Fluffy jellybeans*

    I am retiring in 8 weeks and 2 days. I have made it clear to my supervisor and anyone else who’s asked (even jokingly) that once I walk out those doors that final time, I am not available for consultations or it’ll-take-only-a-minute-type of questions, or what have you. The company will survive; it always has.

  24. Mark the Herald*

    Another option would be to talk money. If you didn’t feel guilty or obligated, if you were really just thinking about how YOU want to spend your time, how much would someone have to offer you to entice you back to work? That’s your real price. If your time is worth more to you than it is to your old bosses, well… there you have it. You won the bidding war for the hours of your own life.

  25. Hello!*

    Op you seem like a dedicated employee. I am sure switching gears to retirement mode will be challenging but remember, you deserve to enjoy this next stage at life. I fear you will be guilted to come back , which is NOT your situation to manage. Your employer has been given plenty of notice to find a solution. Not to be malicious but I would disconnect during that first busy season. Take that dream vacation. This is your time to enjoy life! BTW congratulations on your upcoming retirement

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes. By all means, plan a long vacation to start right after you retire. Get right out of town for at least a month, maybe two.

      If you can arrange to go somewhere without cell phone and internet connectivity, that would be a plus. Ever seen the Grand Canyon? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. The NPS people claim they have at least some internet access, but I couldn’t get it to work while I was there. After a while, I started to enjoy being unplugged.

  26. animaniactoo*

    Right now, I might go with something like: “I agreed to additional part time hours on the understanding that I would be leaving behind someone who is fully trained in the role and my help would be an added benefit, not an absolute requirement for the work to be completed – and completed correctly. I’m concerned that you keep pulling Clive in the middle of training and he won’t be able to get fully up to speed with these kinds of interruptions. I would like you to be aware that I am not willing to take on that part time work if this continues and I feel that he is not trained at the time that I retire.”

    That’s based on my own personality, which I suspect may be similar to yours – I have a hard time saying “no” piecemeal, so the only thing that really works for me is to say “no” to the whole thing – with plenty of advanced notice, because then any failure to prepare for it and the consequences of it are 100% theirs.

    And figuring out where something looks like it is headed and figuring out how I want to respond if it gets there is part of it. “Nope, I am not going to want to be part of rescuing this wreck. I will be too tempted to dig in until it is solved and that means I won’t stick to the part time hours. So I need to try and head off arriving at that spot and know what I want to do if it shows up anyway.”

    1. JustAnotherEmailMarketer*

      This is a really really great script! As (another) someone who would probably be too tempted to dig in and solve things, setting expectations like this is great.

      And like several commenters above said, “their failure to plan is not your emergency.”

  27. abcdefg*

    Whatever happens, my advice to OP is that after their “retirement date”, you charge the owners an HOURLY consulting fee for your time, whether it’s 40% of your previous time or some other amount. This incentivizes the owners to take it seriously because there will be real financial consequences for Clive not being up to speed and leaning on you too much.

    1. Milfred*

      Good point.

      I hope she isn’t considering working for her current hourly wage (or heaven forbid, even less).

      Consultants get paid a premium.

  28. Seashell*

    If LW dropped dead or became too disabled to work tomorrow (hopefully not!), the bosses would have to figure it out. I would go with getting out entirely upon retirement unless the income or reference could be needed someday.

  29. wear floral every day*

    The succession plan that the company is laying out is flawed in other places as well. They should have started training at least two people to replace the OP if the position is so demanding and specific. What if Clive quits in a few months or needs prolonged sick leave during one of the busy seasons? I hope Im not putting additional stress on your shoulders, OP. I’m just saying that this company is not planning well on any level and there is no sincerity. In the back of their minds, they still think of you as a Plan B if anything goes wrong with Clive in the future.

    1. Anonariffic*

      That’s my thought- what if Clive finally starts getting serious training for the position, realizes he doesn’t like it, and quits two weeks after OP walks out and he realizes he’s in over his head?

      Even if he does enjoy it, is he going to want to stay in the same position for decades like OP? What are they going to do if he gets a couple years of training and experience and then accepts a great job offer from that other company in the area that can afford to pay him a lot more?

    2. Clorinda*

      They should have had a second person with OP’s skills on board this whole time. They’ve been lucky OP hasn’t had a medical emergency during a busy season in those 30 years of being The Only One.

  30. Anne of Green Gables*

    So one thing I’m wondering that I haven’t really seen addressed is what (if anything) to say to the clients. It sounds like part of the reason LW is willing to continue on after retirement is because they like the clients. We all can see that the owners are making very short-sided decisions. What should the LW be telling the clients about their retirement, and when? Because it sounds to me like things are going to fall apart when they retire, and if I’m the LW, I want the clients to know that I’ve been telling the owners for *years* when I plan to retire and the owners ignored it, but I get that in the real world one can’t always shine that particular light.

    1. Eff Walsingham*

      That’s a very good point. We had a lady at our bank… the employee who actually knows how to do all the processes and find all the hidden screens in the proprietary software, and all the new employees called on her when they were stumped. She had mentioned her retirement date for *years* before she went, so we poor clients could dial back our expectations accordingly. They’ve muddled through somehow, but I still miss her instant recognition of problems and what solution worked last time.

      It will be best for the company and the clients if there is transparency about LW’s retirement. However, again, not LW’s circus. If the company insists on setting Clive up to fail with inadequate training AND keeps their clients in the dark about what’s happening with their accounts, then they’ll deserve the reputation they’ll get. And none of it will be LW’s fault.

  31. Pete*

    Present a written agreement that outlines the hours you will work and the hourly rate for each month after retirement. The rate should grow each month.

    Or just start showing up drunk and disorderly.

  32. S*

    In your shoes, OP, I would invent a worrying health condition in a relative who lives far away. Then I’d go to my bosses and say, “I have aging family in Miami, and I may need to move out there or spend a few months in [busy season] helping out with [spurious health issue]. This may mean I have to retire completely instead of staying on part-time for a year. Given that, let’s prioritize getting Clive up to speed!” This may shake them out of the assumption that you’ll be there to save their bacon.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      I don’t think it’s beneficial (or necessary) to lie. I would just be very direct, in written communication so they have a record:

      I wanted to call out that, despite your previous assurances, Clive has been pulled aside yet again for X hours. His training is now behind by Y hours. Given that my leave date and hours post-retirement have no flexibility, as previously stated, what is your plan for coverage? Current freelance rates for this work are $$$$$, which puts your department’s cost to cover this dearth at $$$$$$$ over standard operating budget. You will now be paying $$$$$ in freelance help to cover the project, with an increase in $$$ for every day that this continues to occur. “

  33. bamcheeks*

    LW, visualise in detail what will happen if your company fails to plan. Think about what it will mean for your clients and the business. Be super practical about it: “ok, the company will muddle through, but it’ll be messy and they’ll lose a lot of clients” “a lot of those clients will need to go to ~other company~ for the service” “they’ll have to pay three times what they paid me to get someone with the same certification to move out from Big City to do it” “this service will cease to be offered and my clients will have to do without it”.

    Get into the detail of what that looks like, and then ACCEPT IT. Right now, you care more about the long term future of this service, the aspect of the business and your clients than they do, and that’s the hold they have over you which will spoil your retirement if you let it. And it’s more alarming for you because you’re in the mindset of, “but it would simply be awful! unthinkable! if company couldn’t continue providing Service and Clients don’t get it!”

    Look properly at the detail of what happens if company doesn’t provide for succession and — let it go. The only way they are going to do this is if you make it their responsibility, and sometimes you just have to accept that that the eggs have to be broken and that this isn’t something you can control.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      And frankly, those clients deserve better than a company that’s willing to play magical thinking about the ONLY employee they have who can handle their needs!

    2. Chriama*

      One thing that may be hard for OP to visualize right now is how much they won’t care about the business once they’re no longer working there every day. Other things will become a priority, and helping out the business will become one of those chores like organizing the garage that you always mean to do “someday” but don’t care enough about to actually put on your schedule. There’s a lot of emotional release that comes after leaving a job.

  34. Ozzie*

    My mom just went through this… Her company knew over a year ahead of time when she was going to retire, and just… hadn’t realistically hired anyone to take over her job. It was similarly seasonal, and really required a full year’s cycle to learn. She trained who she could on what she could, but firmly told them when she was leaving, and that she was absolutely not working even part time for them. And they… figured it out! She’s happily, recently retired. It wasn’t her problem to solve, she was clear about this, and she left them in her rearview mirror, with perfectly good relationships with the people who had had them with. (Incidentally, this did not include her boss… but that had nothing to do with her retirement)

  35. CommanderBanana*

    I feel like we keep seeing this theme pop up in AAM: people retiring or resigning and their bosses just….refusing to believe it’s happening?

    What is the DEAL with that??? I just left a very dysfunctional organization and my boss would also pretend that people weren’t leaving, and would REFUSE to do any continuity planning or knowledge transfer.

    1. irene adler*

      It would mean admitting management is not all-knowledgeable and in total control of everything. And WE can’t have that.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Man, when I left my job at a rather-dysfunctional company where I was “the expert” on some things, at least when I gave my (two weeks!) notice, the response was to ask whether I was attached to or in the middle of any current projects, and when I said no, pull all of them off my plate in favor of further documentation (we already had good documentation, I don’t like being a silo, it means you get calls on vacation) and hand-off training with other employees.

      With THREE YEARS warning this could have been managed so much better than it was. And that fact is not, at all, OP’s problem.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        My prior organization handled departures in the most bizarre way, mostly by pretending they weren’t happening, forbidding the departing person from telling anyone, and refusing to do any continuity planning or handoff.

        We also had incredibly high turnover, and everyone was basically starting from scratch every single time, sooooo.

  36. CJ*

    “[T]heir ability to guilt you relies on your willingness to feel guilty.” This is a hell of a line and one worth keeping in mind for MANY situations. Love it.

  37. Velawciraptor*

    You’re not leaving someone in the lurch when you give them 3 YEARS to plan for your departure. Your employer has chosen denial over responsible succession planning. That’s entirely on them.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      It’s not even denial. They assumed that they could strong-arm more hours out of OP and consciously planned to do so.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Yep. This company moved into Lurch, put up curtains and installed WiFi at this point.

  38. Dust Bunny*

    It’s nice of you to worry about this but it’s not your problem. You can’t be more invested in staffing their business than they are. You gave them a heads-up; it’s not on you if they don’t use that time well.

  39. Me (I think)*

    So, two thoughts.

    1. OP, please just retire already. Enjoy your retirement and don’t give a thought to your employer. Their problems cease being your problems when you retire.

    2. If you do decide to work some part time hours, give a lot of thought to how much they will need to pay you for that. Your previous hourly rate is nowhere near enough, especially if they will pay you as a consultant with a 1099 and you are paying all your own taxes. (Double or triple the hourly rate you are making now, at the least.)

    Good luck.

  40. Jojo*

    “In talking with other coworkers, I found (as I suspected) that the owners think I won’t leave them in the lurch, and will work “as much as needed” after retirement.”

    These people are real jerks. Their solution to the problem you have given them 3 years to solve, is to guilt you into sacrificing your retirement, so they don’t need to do anything. This is manipulative and bordering on abusive behavior.

    I’d encourage you to retire fully on the date you planned, and not continue to work part time. These are people who don’t care about you, and are taking advantage of your kindness. You do not need to care more about their business than they do, and you don’t need to help them solve a problem that is theirs to solve. If they don’t want their company to fail, that’s for them to handle. Not you.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      THREE YEARS. I can’t stop screaming that in my head. Three years notice.

      Three MONTHS would have been more than appropriate/generous in terms of retirement notice. OP, I understand that with the intricacies of the role you wanted a couple of cycles to train someone, and you knew it would be difficult to find someone. Great, you’re awesome. Your employers are less awesome, and they’re squandering this wonderful gift you gave them and taking advantage of you. You don’t have to put up with it.

  41. Silicon Valley Purgatory*

    Letter Writer, please follow up on this after you retire next year (or in the meantime, if you need support in resisting pressure from these people, because I predict you’ll come under a lot of pressure). I have known people who operate like your bosses. They are existing in the reality they wish was real, not actual reality, and they will fight for you to enable their delusion. I’m sorry you already made a promise to ease into retirement when it sounds like you’d rather just retire — please take Allison’s advice to make it clear that your promise for post-retirement work is contingent on their behavior.

    If they don’t hold up their end, drop yours. Completely. Just retire on your actual retirement day, and block their calls and e-mail. You sound very conscientious and invested, so this will be hard. But look at how they treat you. They’re not spending one second concerned about their -own business- (if they were, they’d actually be planning for your retirement), much less your well-being. Why do you care about people who don’t care about you? Please change how you’re thinking about this. It is not selfish to stop people from taking advantage of you.

  42. HonorBox*

    OP, you’re doing the business a big favor by agreeing to help them out. This is a problem they have created and you should not feel any sort of guilt for Clive not being trained fully. Nor should you feel that you owe them time if you don’t absolutely want to work.
    Just a couple of thoughts as you have a conversation with the owners of this business.
    1. Have a proposed schedule in hand. If you’re planning 40% time that first year during the busy seasons, tell them very specifically you’ll be there Tuesday and Wednesday. You’re going to be there to support Clive (and others, as you see fit or as need arises) and should not be the first point of contact. You’ll be fully present on those two days but won’t be responding to emails or calls outside of those hours that you’re in the office. If you feel it necessary, you could let Clive know that if there’s an absolute fire, he’s welcome to call, but you’re not answering anything from the office.
    2. Determine your hourly rate and present that to the owners at this time too. Set this up as an independent contractor situation. That obviously gives you more control, and obviously means they’re going to have to pay you more. I’d strongly suggest that after building in the taxes you’ll be responsible for, tell them your contract rate is 40% over what you’re presently taking home. It gives you the benefit of additional income above what you were making AND it will make them really aware of the boundaries you’ve set and their cost in pushing them.
    3. And absolutely parrot the beautiful advice from Alison about “the more we debate this…”

  43. Also cute and fluffy!*

    Regarding guilt:

    I have heard the decision-making guide question, “Would I rather feel guilty or screwed over?”

    My beautiful child overheard me explaining this question to someone, and she said, “I don’t want to feel guilty or screwed!”

    I said that’s the ideal we’re shooting for, but in the meantime, most people find themselves having to choose between feeling guilty or feeling screwed over.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Ohhh, I LOVE that phrasing. This recovering people-pleaser is going to steal that phrase for my own use, thank you for sharing!

      1. Outside Earthling*

        A variation for people pleasers and/or people with difficult family relationships is would you rather feel guilty or resentful? I tend to choose to feel guilty. For some of us it’s a more realistic way of framing the dilemma that aiming to make a feel choice and feel great about it.

  44. DD*

    If you stay on PT as a consultant (1099 vs W2) make sure you are being compensated fairly. My guess is they will want to continue at your current salary. Your current hourly rate (or equivalent if you are salary) as a W2 doesn’t translate one-to-one to a 1099. You will be paying both parts of Social Security, no vacation time, no benefits (health, 401k, etc). I did a consulting gig with a former employer and it added 40% to my original salary just to get to break even (low six figure original salary)

    You are doing them a huge favor and you deserve more than just breaking even with your old pay, you deserve a generous premium. I would ask for at least 25% more after the 1099 vs W2 adjustment. I could easily justify 50% or more.

    Don’t underestimate your worth, it will feel awkward and they will likely push back when you ask for what you are worth but that’s their problem not yours. If they don’t want to pay it then they can figure out a different solution.

  45. Ready to retire*

    I am the original letter writer, and I want to thank you Alison, and all the commentators for the support! I am at work and can’t take much time to reply right now, but will try to later today. (And will send Alison an update once I have had the talk with them.) The funny thing is that as soon as I sent the letter, I thought, “Now that I see that all put down, I am crazy. I need to do what I want to do.” Thanks for confirming that thought. I am going to talk to them in the next couple of weeks. I am going in with a clear timeline of when I am willing to work, and what I am willing to do – thanks to those who pointed out that if I don’t set boundaries on that as well, they will expect me to manage the jobs, not just work on them. And that’s too much stress. I am also going to make my available hours significantly less. You all are right, 40% is not really part time, and they pushed this off so long, not me. I gave them a lot of notice, and kept reminding them. And I really am ready to retire, so they are going to have to adapt to my terms or figure something else out, because I’ll be enjoying cool drinks on the beach. I think I just needed to hear that from others who aren’t close to the situation. (And step back and realize that I don’t owe them anything. I’ve given them plenty over the years.) Anyway, I have to get back to work, but I do appreciate it, and I will try to reply more later.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I am so glad to hear this! Keep all of us in your head as your mental cheering section when they try to pressure-guilt you into staying! (It’s like pressure washing, but adds big gunky globs of not your problem goop onto you instead of cleaning it off.)

    2. Exme*

      Thrilled to see this has been helpful for you. I hope that conversation goes smoothly! (but as you realize your future is in your control regardless of their reaction and you will feel better for having clarity)

    3. Chase*

      I’m happy to read this. I do think it is too late for your employer to u-turn on their idiot decisions up til now, and they know it, so they will continue to pressure you to continue working the way they want you to.

      I once had a month of sick leave during a high profile project. It wasn’t quite “literally the only person who could do this” level, but I was working at 140% for three months and producing a lot of work that “only I could do”. When I went on leave, they replaced my role with 3 people, all of of whom were great but their work wasn’t to the same standards.

      The project was still a success. The work I’d put in to get it 3/4s of the way there was never brought up again, and dismissed when I brought it up. I’m telling you this to tell you, they will find a way, and they will be fine, and they will never recognise your unique, highly trained efforts – might be a bit bumpy for a bit ater you retire, but that is not your problem. Retire on the day you said you were going to THREE YEARS earlier. Do not be cajoled into returning part-time. If they need someone, they can pay through the nose to attract talent for once.

    4. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Yes!! I retired at the end of 2021. I gave six months notice (double the required three, which is standard in my field) specifically so they could hire someone I could train. The woman who replaced me started two weeks before my last day, which meant she was in corporate training and we had no overlap. My coworkers were really upset and convinced things would fall apart. Guess what. THEY FIGURED IT OUT. Turns out I am not actually irreplaceable.

      I took a full month completely off and now work very part time (1-2 days/month in a very clearly bounded role). Some months I don’t work at all. I do this largely so they’ll pay for my malpractice insurance and I can keep my license as a hedge against financial disaster. I do it, in other words, because it meets my needs, not out of any sense of obligation to the company.

    5. ENFP in Texas*

      I’m glad to see this response! You gave them three years to prepare for your departure – lack of planning on their part does NOT constitute an obligation on your part!

      Decide what YOU want to do that makes YOU happy – not “what you want to do that still makes them happy”.

    6. MEH Squared*

      It’s great to hear this from you, letter writer. Sometimes, you need to lay it all out to see what’s really going on. I’m so glad you’re able to realize that you’ve given them your all and now it’s time for you to enjoy your retirement. Have a great time sipping a cool drink on the beach as you enter the next phase of your life. Cannot wait to hear your update!

    7. old curmudgeon*

      Oh, I am so glad you are taking Alison’s wise counsel! I know sometimes we get sucked so deeply into the crazy that we can’t see just how bad it really is (and I know this because I do it All The Time myself). It does help to write it all out and then read it over.

      When you get ready to have that Big Talk in a couple of weeks, do me a favor and go through this goofy little routine first, before you walk into that room.

      Sit in a room by yourself with the door closed, and close your eyes.

      Start by visualizing all the commenters on this thread – some of us male, some female, some NB, some old, some young, some tall, some short – all of us in our enormous variety.

      Then, with that picture of all of us in your mind, shrink the people in that image way, way down. I mean to fly-speck size, really, really small. We’ll all still be all those uniquely beautiful folks from your first mental image, just tiny.

      Next, put out your hand, scoop up all of us tiny little commenters, and carefully place us on your shoulder. There’s so many of us that it might work better to use both hands, and put half of us on one shoulder and the rest on the other shoulder, of course.

      Then stand up, open your eyes, walk to the door and open it. And when you open that door, you’ll hear a giant tiny rumble start to emerge from both your shoulders, as we all cheer you on while you walk into the boss’s office to tell them what’s what. Nobody else will hear a thing, I promise – we’ll only be audible to you. But YOU will hear every single one of us hooting and hollering and clapping, as you announce to your bosses that no, actually, you are NOT an indentured servant, and that yes, actually, you ARE retiring fully and completely when you reach your 30 years, and no, actually, you DON’T give a rat’s patootie if their business implodes because of their deplorable mismanagement.

      Have a WONDERFUL retirement!!

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        A friend and I have a running joke about doing celebratory conga lines. I hope LW pictures all of us doing a celebratory conga line on her shoulders, complete with, like, maracas and pom-poms and steel drums and high kicks, as we root her on.

        LW, it’s not always that the commentariat here is in such aggressive and fearless agreement.

    8. beanie gee*

      We are cheering you on and will be toasting you with your cool drinks on the beach in 2024! You gave them an incredible THREE YEARS NOTICE in addition to your incredible 30 years with them – what they do with that is now 100% on them!

    9. Chriama*

      Sometimes writing it down is really all it takes to see things clearly!

      One thing I wanted to mention is that once you retire fully you will very likely not care that much about the business anymore. Right now it’s your whole world, because you’re there every day and have been for the past 30 years. But when other stuff fills up your life, and the company adapts to your absence (which they will — nature always finds a way!), you’ll be surprised at how distant their problems seem to you. Give yourself permission to let go and let the emotional closure come later.

    10. Other Alice*

      Happy to hear from you, LW! Sometimes I ask a question in the weekly chat posts and it seems so obvious in hindsight. But at times we need the clarity of writing things down to understand the obvious answer. Hope to hear in your update that you can retire without worries!

    11. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      This is great! I understand the desire to try keep doing what you enjoy (helping your clients) and stop doing the parts you don’t (managing the jobs and overtime), but I’ve seen that goal is nearly impossible without a hard reset of expectations and habits. It might mean that instead of a stepping incrementally into retirement, that you reverse the process — first you go 100% retired and being unavailable for a while, and then, if you still want to, incrementally coming back until you reach a maximum level you are comfortable with. There’s a risk that one or both sides will decide part-time isn’t desired, but that’s probably a better outcome than a prolonged battle for boundaries. For Clive, leave as much training documents as you can even if you don’t get the one-on-one time to train him. He may not even have a 3-4 year plan for this job anyway if he’s entry-level.

  46. Owlet101*

    Also, some states only allow you to work a certain amount of hours or earn so much money before they reduce your retirement benefits. I would check to see if the 40% of hours you are willing to work falls into that restriction or not. I would hate to throw away money from a system that I had spent decades paying into. That could also be a reason you can give them for the amount of hours you are willing to work at that time.

    1. e271828*

      Yes, if LW is planning to take Social Security, that amount of work is going to have tax implications for sure.

      If LW does return after retirement, it should be as a consultant with massive danger money upcharge on the hourly to cover all taxes, all costs associated with the job including loss of free time, and any taxes and benefits expenses that hit as a result of the income.

      1. Ready to retire*

        I’d be fine in that way. Once I reach full retirement age, I can earn as much as I want without it affecting my social security, and I will reach that age when I retire. So that really isn’t an issue. The advantage to being an employee over a consultant if I stay on part time is that they would still pay the employer share of my taxes on my earnings.

    2. Jinni*

      This was my first thought as well. Those income limitations are real, and you don’t want to wake up to being underappreciated, with a huge tax bill.

  47. Alex*

    > You don’t need negotiating tactics because there’s nothing to negotiate; you are the one who holds all the power

    > you’re entitled to stop working there entirely at any time (including tomorrow, if you wanted to — what was their plan if you got another job and gave two weeks notice?!)

    My instinct is it’s worth thinking about whether you could leave earlier — if they’re making life miserable enough, could you just tell them you’re out? Can you call their bluff if they for some reason decide to try threatening you with “if you can’t stick around part-time after retirement, we need to fire you now” (which doesn’t seem like it would make much sense for them, but they might just get annoyed and irrational, or have some sort of “that would free up money to pay market for somebody experienced” theory)? If the answer is yes, that might make you feel more comfortable about drawing lines. If the answer is no, it’s conceivable that letting this play out longer before really emphasizing your hard lines *might* make sense?

    (I totally support drawing hard lines, limiting your hours post-retirement, potentially just not working at all post retirement, etc. from above, BTW.)

  48. DefinitiveAnn*

    I keep thinking about Tom Petty, who after almost 50 years on the road retired to spend time getting to know his grandchildren and died three weeks later.

  49. Goldfeesh*

    My advice is to retire and actually retire. My boss/business owner decided to sell his business and retire. He had plans to spend time with his wife, travel, go to basketball and football games which
    they both enjoyed. They got news that she had cancer as he was shortly after the sale went through. She survived a couple years, but …

  50. Ruby*

    When I retire, they’ll see a puff of smoke like a Road Runner cartoon, and hear a slamming door in the distance.

  51. ILoveLlamas*

    OP, can you use some of the time in the non-peak periods to create a training manual for Clive? If you can produce some type of training manual or flow charts, I think perhaps this might help your peace of mind when you happily skip out the door to a glorious retirement. Personally I think you owe them nothing. They have squandered your good will and intentions. Let them wallow in that.

  52. Office Lobster DJ*

    Going to go against the grain a little and say that I wouldn’t suggest making it a condition that Clive be 100% focused on training full time. If the owners need Clive to support other areas of the business, that’s their call to make, even if OP thinks it’s a bad call. It’s still their call to make if it means Clive won’t be as good as OP (which he won’t be, not without 30 years of experience). Why introduce stress and resentment all around by making it a condition?

    OP should establish what support they are willing to give, caution that they think Clive will need X amount of time to be Y level proficient, and suggest what they can cover if Clive is only available Z percent of the time. Beyond that, it’s the owners’ problem and OP can leave when planned with a clear conscience.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      That depends a great deal. If Clive not being focused on training full time means that supporting him part time after retirement a total crapfest then it’s reasonable to make that training a condition of staying on part time.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I would approach that from the perspective that Clive needs to be able to function at a certain level for OP to consider coming in part-time, rather than focusing on the time aspect itself. Convincing the owners to completely devote two full-time employees to one position for the rest of OP’s tenure just seems like a big ask, one that’s not unreasonable for the owners to decide doesn’t work for them.

        1. Zarniwoop*

          I would approach it from the perspective that LW is willing to work a certain number of part time hours at a certain rate of pay, and maximizing the benefit the company gets from those hours is their problem, not hers

        2. Kevin Sours*

          It’s not unreasonable for the owners to decide that doesn’t work for them. It’s also not unreasonable for the OP to decide that them not doing it doesn’t work for her. How big the ask is really isn’t OP’s problem.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            OP can certainly decide what works for her, but I’d consider it more reasonable to talk with the owners about goals for Clive’s proficiency in certain tasks than for the metaphorical hill to be that Clive stays glued to OP’s side for the next year or else, end of discussion.

  53. Camellia*

    OP says that if she tells them now that she will not work past retirement, they will be mean to her for the whole year.

    OP, are you in a financial position where, if this happens, you can say, “Fine. If that’s the way you are going to treat me, I’m retiring right this very minute!”?

    Otherwise, for all the commenters advocating a clean break, how should she handle any meanness that might come her way for that entire year?

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Be mean right back. LW holds all the cards here and can walk out tomorrow and never think about these peeps again.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Honestly if backlash is a real possibility OP should hold her cards close and not say anything to provoke it. Even if it leaves the business in a worse place. You get what you earn and they appear to have earned that.

  54. e271828*

    I don’t think the part-time work after retirement is going to be a good option for LW. The company has already shown that they don’t take the idea of LW’s retirement seriously, that they don’t take LW’s job (pulling Clive away in the middle of training?!) seriously, and that they are entitled to as much of LW’s time as they want/need. The first busy period after “retirement” will have LW back in the office full time.

    LW, tell them your plans have changed. You will not be available after date X. Write up a procedures manual for Clive, train him as much as they make him available, and when anything else comes up, remind them that you will not be employed there once you retire. A hard deadline will be healthier for you and may focus them on the importance of getting Clive trained so the company can retain clients.

    If you have not told your plum clients you are retiring, maybe you should do that? If they have been working with you for 30 years, it seems like a courtesy to let them know.

  55. Janeric*

    This post gave me a new perspective on short-timer attitudes — that it can actually be really helpful for an organization to start solving problems on their own when the retiring person is still around to troubleshoot/find issues.

    OP might want to plan some long weekends during the rest of the busy season, just so the business knows she’s prioritizing their interests less and Clive knows what he doesn’t know.

    1. Janeric*

      You could also start talking up some post-retirement plans that indicate you’ll be spending a lot of time away from cell phone coverage and that you’re EXCITED about not working — which honestly makes a lot of conversations I’ve had about “the cabin”, “the boat” and “the grandbabies” take on a new luster. They may need you for Busy Season but providing reliable childcare/the bass season waits for no one. And tragically you haven’t been able to SEE the super bloom for 30 years so. New top priority.

  56. Sunshine*

    I think all of the comments warning OP that she might drop dead and not get to enjoy her retirement are a little much. She says she enjoys the work and her clients. Plenty of people “retire” but continue working just because they find it fulfilling or have meaningful careers. I agree that the company is being crappy and she needs to assert her boundaries, but it sounds like she thinks so too and that’s why she wrote in!

    If she hated the work but agreed to help out of guilt, that’s one thing. But I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to keep working for two more years if she genuinely wants to.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I agree that it’s fatalistic to point of worst case scenarios, but the point is that you don’t have all the time in the world, even if you DO have all the time in the world.

      LW seems to think she needs to act like an employed person even in retirement and sell her time to someone else. The whole point of retirement is to enjoy what you worked for, and you have no idea or control over how long you might get to enjoy what you worked for. The only thing LW can control is when she retires, and they’re trying to take that from her.

    2. tg33*

      The warnings about the OP dropping dead seem like a bit much until you are in the middle of it. I’ve been to four funerals so far this year. One person was in their 70’s, but the other three were 61, 54 and 51. I hope the OP has a long, healthy and happy retirement, but there are no guarantees.

  57. Tulipmania*

    OP you should never have been so ready to sacrifice two years (!) of full retirement for their lack of planning. That’s not “generous” that’s “pushover”, helping them half-exploit you. Your years -YEARS! of life lived as you like are far too valuable to compromise to accommodate your company’s deliberate goofing around.

  58. Somehow_I_Manage*

    Retire on time. They will be fine.

    They’ve decided to run their business on an emergency basis and triage their attention towards the most important. Your part time offer is allowing them to downgrade this from emergency status. It’s not going to get done right until you leave. Do them a favor and rip the band aid off.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      “Retire on time. They will be fine.c

      THIS!!! In letters a foot high, all caps, outlined in flashing lights!!!

  59. Dawn*

    Honestly, I’d be considering early retirement at this point.

    They’re making their own bed on the assumption you’ll just do it and I’d bet this isn’t the first time they’ve pushed your boundaries significantly. Let them lie in it; they’ll sink or swim on their own.

  60. Emmy*

    Boomers give way, way too much of themselves to their job. The partner was even scared of them ruffling feathers. Honestly, I would lay it out even saying, I’ve heard you do not think Iwill leave you in a lurch, but I plan on working x hours per week and taking off this time. I don’t plan to change that, so you would be leaving yourself in a lurch.

    Furthermore, it should probably be the business owner who is being training in the position. What happens if the other person should leave? Then there is no one there who can do the job. And not many people are willing to work 100 + hours a week however temporary.

  61. Looper*

    If you don’t actually want to work part-time and only agreed to that arrangement at your boss’s request multiple years ago, pull the offer now and just retire. You gave them THREE YEARS NOTICE. That’s nuts!!! And to top it off they did absolutely nothing with that time and instead are trying to keep you there indefinitely. Nothing will change in the next 2 years that didn’t happen in the last 3. Retire and enjoy your time the way you want, let them figure out their business on their own time.

  62. Nomic*

    Two things really stick out here:
    “In talking with other coworkers, I found (as I suspected) that the owners think I won’t leave them in the lurch, and will work “as much as needed” after retirement.”

    “Your company has had three years to plan for this, and you do not need to sacrifice the first two years of your retirement just because they didn’t.”

    That isn’t being a good boss. That’s being a manipulative prick to someone who wants to retire. Don’t let them manipulate you like that. They had THREE YEARS.

  63. Kevin Sours*

    I’m going to strongly recommend that OP figure out how to channel contact through a limited channel. Tell them to get you a work cell phone and if they have your personal number then block them on that. And *do* not answer work phone/email when you are not working. That’s the best way to ensure that part time says part time. If they complain you aren’t working to expectations just ask when they want your last day to be.

    It’s no longer your circus nor your monkeys and the only way to force Clive to take ownership is to step back and make them go to him first.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Considered that. But honestly if they aren’t willing to spring for a work phone that’s a sign that you just need to pull the eject cord.

  64. Sybil Writes*

    Please, please, please consult a tax advisor before you decide what your bottom line is. If you receive social security benefits and continue to work, your social security could be reduced after you reach a certain (low) threshold. Please be sure you understand how continuing to work could impact your overall household income. It may be better for you to work as a 1099 consultant rather than a part-time employee (or not). Please understand what the impact would be for you before making a commitment to your bosses.

    Best of luck and happy retirement!

  65. Milfred*

    As someone wisely told me: when you leave a company, leave.

    When you retire don’t hang around the company or work part time for their benefit–retire. You’ve made your plans. You gave them plenty of notice. Get on with your life. Move forward with no impediments.

    Once they drag you back in you’ll stay drug back in for years, maybe the rest of your life. Not worth it.

  66. random pedant*

    I have known so. Many. People. Who retired and then found themselves agreeing to come back in to work even though they wanted to be hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.

    Don’t become one of them, letter writer.

  67. Ready to retire*

    I wrote a quick comment earlier, and can’t find it now. So apologies if any of this is a repeat. I am the original letter writer. I want to thank you Alison and commentators, for your comments. After I sent the letter, and read what all I wrote out, I realized I would be crazy if I didn’t set boundaries now. Strong ones. Your comments have all told me what I knew, but didn’t want to face.

    First of all, I meant it when I said that for the most part, the owners have treated me well. I wouldn’t have been here this long if not. But I realize that you are all right… This is a job and it is not my problem once I retire. I can and will do my best to train Clive, but he has to be ready to take over when I retire. It’s going to be his job, not mine anymore. And that will be his and the owners’ problem, not mine.

    I am going to meet with the owners in the next couple of weeks. I am going to tell them that Clive won’t be ready if he gets pulled off training again, and that we need to clarify what my part time hours will look like now. In reading ALISON’s answer and the comments and thinking about what I want, I realize that 40% is too much. I like the suggestion someone made to set it up as days. (“I will work these 2 days each week in the busy seasons, and up to 2 days a month in these months. I won’t work at all in these months.”) If they try to push for more, I am going to tell them no, that’s all I can do. I am going to suggest they hire another person to help Clive while I am here to help train them. I am also going to make it clear that I am not going to be taking responsibility for any of the jobs once I have retired. Doing part of the work? Sure. Answering questions – or pointing Clive to where he can get the answers? Sure. Reviewing the job when Clive says it’s done? Sure, so long as Clive fixes any issues I find and point out, but I won’t fix them myself. But taking responsibility for the job? No. If they agree to my plans, I will make sure I email them after the meeting so it’s in writing, and I will save that email in case I need it. If they won’t agree, then my retirement date is X, and that will be that.

    I really appreciate the answer and comments. I think I just needed the validation from people that weren’t close to the situation, and the reminder that this isn’t my company, and so it’s not up to me to save them from themselves. After this many years, it can be hard to separate the job from my life. But I am going to do that, because it’s what I want for me. Thanks again for the comments, and I will raise a glass to all of you when I am enjoying a vacation after my retirement! I also promise to send Alison an update after the meeting.

    1. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Way to go! Congrats on your upcoming retirement! And the fact that you *can* retire on time is evidence that they treated you well- these things aren’t black and white.

      /Definitely sleep on the idea of what you want, and do yourself the favor of giving at least some thought to a full and complete retirement on schedule. Or perhaps, only supporting one “busy season” in the same tax year as your retirement (to simplify your finances as you transition).

    2. Wolfie*

      Good luck for the conversation and congratulations for figuring out what you really want and sticking to it. We’re all rooting for you :)

    3. Tulipmania*

      Good for you!! Let us know how it goes and hold firm! They have no power to make you give up mor of your time.

    4. Looper*

      Best of luck in the meeting! I hope they realize they’ve been ding dongs, apologize, and get real about Clive’s training (and hire another person!) Congrats on your upcoming retirement, it sounds very well deserved

    5. LG*

      So happy to hear this! I know that once you retire, you will wonder why you thought it was important to help them out (I’m speaking from experience!). Good luck and happy retirement!

    6. Nomic*

      That’s great to hear! And good for you for realizing that 40% is too much for what you want from your retirement. I wish you the best of luck with your discussions with them, and hope they really are good managers and understand that retirement means you’re really leaving and not try to pull you back. Good luck!! (And if you need more encouragement, come back here and you know we’ll be in your corner).

      Note the comment somewhere here about tax laws and how Social Security + part time work can be costly to you; make sure you don’t get caught in that trap.

    7. AllTheBirds*

      Are you certain you want to work from them after retirement?

      Maybe a list of pros and cons would be helpful. Because if you don’t need the money and are doing it for personal satisfaction, maybe think about instead volunteering to (for example) help people/seniors/new immigrants file a tax return. I’d think that might be far more soul-satisfying than fighting your corner with people who have abused your good nature.

  68. El l*

    Repeat after me the general principle:

    How the company replaces you is not your problem. You are not paid enough to make it your problem. Because it is their problem. Their business, their decision, and if they mess it up, as owners their business will suffer.

    Frankly, they’d be out of line to be expecting you to come back when they had 3 WEEKS notice from you, much less 3 YEARS. They’ve abused your helpful and responsible nature, and now it’s time to find something more worth your time.

    Cut ties and be done. That’s my advice.

  69. Fikly*

    Before you feel guilty about your clients, OP, consider that other company. The clients can take their business there.

    And then your company can suffer the consequences of not providing services equal to their competitor, because that’s how it works. If they wanted different consequences, they, not you, should have chosen different actions.

    And if no one wants to move to your area? I don’t know what you do, but does it have to be in person? Really? Because one of the benefits of remote work to an employer is that it helps fill niche roles. Except then they might have to – gasp – compete to attract applicants from a larger pool, which they often do not want to, because they clearly are not competing against the local company.

    And don’t think it’s that they cannot afford to. The difference in one person’s salary, for this one role, that you say is so hard to fill, is not what makes or breaks the budget for your employer. The stubborn refusal to hire someone who can fill your role when you gave them three years notice, however, and the kind of thinking that indicates? That’s what does.

  70. Safely Retired*

    “I know I need to set up a meeting with the owners after this busy season ends…”

    WRONG! You need to set up that meeting immediately, for tomorrow. Besides all the good advice about standing your ground – easy, they have nowhere to stand – I suggest being especially clear about the importance of what will not be getting done. Make sure they recognize the consequences.

  71. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW1, you’ve been more than generous when it comes to handing in your notice to retire; seriously, how many companies get THREE YEARS’ NOTICE that a key employee in a niche field is going to leave?!

    Your company should have gotten off the dime and started looking for your replacement at least two years ago; as you yourself pointed out, you need plenty of time to train the next person to hold your job. Not only did they NOT do that, it sounds as if they’re cavalierly assuming that Good Ol’ You will be delighted to work part time as long as they want you to! They may recognize how valuable you are as an employee, but they are NOT respecting you or your word; they’re acting as if they don’t believe that you’ll really leave when you told them you would. Your desire to be sure that your role is covered is understandable and commendable, but it is not matched by your company’s desire to work with you to ensure that your position will be filled by a well-trained employee. You have every right to stick to your guns when it comes to leaving when you choose – and I wish you a long, relaxing and happy retirement!

  72. Roscoe*

    At this point, call a meeting with the owner and tell them plans have changed. You won’t be able to work part time and give them your date of retirement. It’s their company, let them figure out what to do.

  73. Malarkey01*

    I say this kindly but LW you aren’t really retiring. Youre cutting your hours (which already include a huge amount of overtime) to half. You’re basically a normal full time employee with some flex scheduling. This arrangement is never going to work- or it will work by you just continuing to be a full employee.

    Your employer isn’t planning to lose someone because they still won’t for two years.
    My advice would be to envision what you really want out of retirement in nitty gritty detail and then see how that works with you continuing these kinds of hours. Do you really want that?

  74. Chips and Coffee*

    I think it would be good to share this thinking and timeline with Clive, too, though perhaps you should talk to the owners first.

    Who knows what he knows? It sounds very possible that the owners told him he’d be working under you for years of training and groomed to take over. I would want to know, if I was new in a niche field, that my trainer would only be available for a few months (as opposed to the few years that the owners have obviously been hoping, even if that hasn’t been explicitly communicated).

  75. Jane*

    Absolutely not, no no no. They are a company, not your family. Trust me, if you dropped dead tomorrow, they would only care about the bottom line. You’ve given them way more than enough of a heads up. Frankly, I would say that since they don’t seem to be taking Clive’s training seriously being that they have pulled him into other projects, you’re rescinding your offer of staying on part time after retiring. Assuming you’re in the U.S., we already get way less than other countries when it comes to retirement. Two years of your life is a lot! Think of the bigger picture – what will you regret on your deathbed? Not helping some company? Or not spending two years having fun? Companies are not your family. It’s time we stop treating them like they are.

  76. CoinPurse*

    My advice to OP….I know you care about the work and want to leave on a high note. You are overestimating how much your employer cares about you. This is the one time in your professional life when you hold all the cards. Don’t be afraid to get what you want.

    I’ve left two jobs (the last for retirement) where I was the sole licensed professional to provide a critical service. Neither place did so much as brainstorm a solution until I left. If they can’t muster the energy to care, you sure should not do it for them.

  77. Any Mouse*

    There’s no guaranteeing that Clive will even stay. He could leave even before you do. Do not do not DO NOT let that have any affect on your retirement if that happens. It’s NOT your responsibility. Keep repeating that to yourself.

  78. We owe it to ourselves.*

    You question – what’s your responsibility?

    NOTHING. Zero! You have no responsibility here.

    Your only responsibility is to yourself – to take care of YOU.

  79. Sara without an H*

    Hi, Ready to Retire — Thanks for commenting. Sometimes just the act of putting something in writing helps to clarify our thinking.

    A couple of things I noticed: You’ve been with this firm for 30 years, so this has probably been your only professional position, am I right? Given that your experience has been limited to one firm, you may not realize just how grossly the owners are understaffing. They’ve spent 30 years or so counting on you to do the work of 2+ people, at least during the rush seasons. And they assume you’ll keep chugging along even after you’ve “retired.”

    They’ve earned a rude awakening. Document as much of your job as you can, insist that going forward all your time has to be devoted to training Clive, and set a firm retirement date. Put it in writing. Install a count-down app on your phone and show it frequently around the office. If the owners complain, say “I weep for you,” the Walrus said, “I deeply sympathize.”

    Unless they agree — and follow through — on letting you train Clive full-time, I would NOT agree to come back part time. They’ll expect you to keep doing the job, maybe with Clive as an “assistant.” Make it clear that your job now is to train Clive, and Clive’s job is being trained. If they breach that agreement, all deals are off.

    If you do decide to come back, I like the suggestions given upstream that you do it on a consultancy basis and set your fee high that you’ll still come out ahead after paying your taxes.

    This might also persuade the owners to limit the amount of hours they’re willing to pay for.

    Now go and plan that lovely, long vacation.

    1. Ready to retire*

      Actually, I worked at another company doing the same work (at a lower level) for two years before I came here. It was a much larger place with an hour commute each way. Besides the awful commute it was a really toxic workplace. I was thrilled to get out and into what has been a much better workplace. The countdown app has been on my phone since the day I told them I was retiring, lol. But showing it around more is a good idea.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I have such a sense of urgency for you to not stick around, and to not let yourself be sucked in or guilted in to staying.

  80. Another Remote Worker*

    I know you already said you’d continue part-time after retirement, and I don’t usually suggest not keeping your word. But… I’m getting the sense that you don’t want to keep working – and you don’t have to! You get to retire! You’ve worked your career, you have enough money, let yourself retire and enjoy your life. I’m assuming you’re 65? Don’t wait until you’re nearly 70 to actually retire. It is NOT your responsibility if your bosses don’t adequately prepare for something they had literal *years* to prepare for.

    1. AllTheBirds*

      And it’s not even about keeping one’s word. It’s “My plans have changed and BTW they’re non-negotiable.”

  81. Taxed Out Mentally*

    Two letters in one day from employees in public accounting (with the other one being the letter about coworkers prying about her assault). As someone who has been in public accounting for almost 15 years (currently in the midst of busy season and needing to take my own advice), I can see both letter writers struggling with the effects of the toxicity of the industry. You forget what is normal in terms of work-life boundaries, forget that we are not saving lives nor do we owe our clients and bosses more than we owe ourselves. I hope they both step back, decide to contemplate how their relationship with their job is most likely dysfunctional because that is the industry norm, and decide not to put their life, self care, and well-being on hold.

  82. Sheila*

    I had a lovely coworker who delayed her retirement by five years because my company was changing its ERP system and she felt like she needed to be involved. The project was supposed to be three years and we weren’t ready, so six months at a time were added until it was ultimately five years.

    She finally retired after the project was fully complete.

    She was retired for one week. She suffered a heart attack seven days after her going away party. We were all shocked and horrified. Don’t be like her. Leave when you’re ready, not when they’re ready for you to go. I know you’re invested in your work and you want Clive to carry the torch you lit and want things to go on smoothly when you’re gone. That’s not up to you! Living your life is up to you!

  83. Raging Iron Thunder*

    Dear OP. Stop worrying about this. Charge at least $250 per hour for consulting fees when you retire. The managers clearly do not care about what you take care of.

  84. Hmm*

    This may have been mentioned already, but what if Clive decides to quit at some point leading up to, or after, OP’s retirement?

  85. Sad Senior*

    Wow OP I’m sorry this sounds horrible. I think that we are in the same industry. I know that when you are in the depths of these horrible busy seasons it’s easy for your sense of normal to get skewed, but this employer is taking advantage of you straight up.

    You do not owe them anything, not even a completion of the current busy season. Please, please put yourself first – you have already given them 30 years and a significant amount of time to prepare for this transition.

    This letter has made me incredibly sad.

  86. Raida*

    “If you’re not going to put in the effort required for this handover, neither will I. I’m retired. I don’t need the money, and I don’t need to be generous with my free time, and if I see a pattern of neglecting the value of this transition I’ll just cut back. Hell, you can pay me as a consultant for a half day at a time only when there’s an issue.”

  87. Josie*

    You’re being far too generous. 40% of your busy season hours is still more than a full time job. I’d suggest 4 hours twice a week for TRAINING only. That means the trainee does the job and you are just there to answer questions. You should not be doing the customer facing work at all or they will continue to expect you to just keep doing it.

  88. Tuesday's Gone*

    Something VERY similar happened with a position at my company recently. I’m pretty close to the person involved, so I can somewhat speak to how it played out at my company.

    The person at my company gave a firm deadline, 9 months out, for his retirement. They didn’t advertise the job at all until 5 months later, casually interviewed for 6 weeks or so, and extended an offer 2 months before his retirement date.

    The person we hired put their notice in at their current job and had 6 weeks to train with my coworker. During that 6 weeks, my coworker had many concerns about the new hire. This person simply wasn’t getting even the most basic aspects of the job, wasn’t taking notes, and wasn’t retaining any of the information or training they were getting. My coworker told the owners his concerns, but was told to just keep going, so he did.

    My coworker’s last day was on a Friday. The following Monday, the new hire called in, citing personal issues. The next morning, he resigned. When I found out, I texted my coworker (who was on vacation out of state) to give him a head’s up about what happened, so he was prepared to likely be getting a call from the owners. That call came the day after he was back from vacation.

    What my coworker ended up doing is saying that he’d be willing to come back, but on his timeline, his hours, and for X amount of money. I obviously don’t know the details, but he basically said he’d come in Tuesday-Thursday from 10-3 and he’s charging $X an hour; take it or leave it.

    They took it, so he he worked when he wanted to work. He also trained the new person for the job and thought he was done. Until the new person (who is still here) made some MAJOR errors, so my coworker had to come back to fix things and bail us out of some serious jams.

    So my coworker worked part time for about 8 months longer than his end date, but he was smart about it. But he was smart about it and made bank, because the company was short sighted and were desperate for his help.

    Here’s the funny thing, at least to me. The new guy has been on the job for about 6 months and today, another coworker asked me of his behalf how to run a particular reports that is ESSENTIAL and has a firm deadline in the next couple of weeks. Just to give you some idea of how beyond insane that ask was, it’s like I’m the Llama Grooming Manager and he’s the CFO. There was a brief talk about calling my old coworker and I said they could, but they better do it ASAP, as he’s taking an extremely long trip soon.

    LW, because of this, this would be my advice. You gave them 3 YEARS notice and they stuck their heads in the sand. Be blunt about your retirement date and that you’ll have that amount of time to train Clive. If they blow you off, train Clive as much as you can, end your employment with the company on your retirement date and if things blow up, either ignore them or charge them whatever you’d like for your services, as you’d now be a contractor/consultant.

  89. Chriama*

    One thing that stood out to me, and that I haven’t noticed in any of the comments so far, is that there is another local firm that pays better for a similar position. That means that the company has other options for talent even if Clive doesn’t work out!

    My mom likes to tell me “any problem that can be solved with money is not a real problem.” Obvious caveats aside, this is true of OP’s firm! If OP’s area of work is truly critical to their business, they can put more money in it to hire locally or convince someone to relocate. If they run the calculations and the cost of hiring is less than the cost of dropping that line of business, that’s what they’ll do instead.

    What I want to say is, at the end of the day *this all comes down to money.* The company has weighed the cost of hiring or training vs. the cost of losing this area of business and decided to make up the difference at OP’s expense. After reading all the comments above about people who retired with big plans and then quickly developed health issues or even passed away, I have to ask OP: is it really worth delaying your retirement just to enable your former employer to make more money?

  90. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

    A piece of advice for situations like this that I once heard from a retired accountant I was helping at the library – you need to make sure they understand how much is involved in what you do in the busy times, and how impossible it will be for them to just wave a hand and absorb your workflow. The best way to do that is to prep a list of everything which MUST be done in a given two week period (preferably leading up to a filing deadline) of your busy season, give it to your directors, and then take that two week period completely off.

    Don’t accept the responsibility of finding homes for your work.
    Don’t try to get it all taken care of before you go.
    Don’t allow them to dodge questions about why they did, or didn’t do, X.
    Don’t hesitate to tell the clients that the directors dropped the ball if they do.

    You owe this unvarnished insight into how (un)prepared they are to them, and more importantly, to your clients. If the firm has no one else to help the clients, the clients have a right to know, and to begin preparing themselves to find a new firm. And you taking time off during the busy season will drive home to your firm that you are expecting them to deal with this problem, and will not be accepting unreasonable asks or expectations to relieve them of it.

  91. BubbleTea*

    I recently did something sort of similar. I’m not near retirement age, but I had a baby a couple of years ago and wanted to start my own business so I could work more flexibly and spend more time at home. I gave notice to my employer (fortunately, they had kept the colleague who worked as my maternity cover in place when I came back) and they asked if I’d be willing to do three months’ very part time work on a different project after I left. I agreed, and in the process of doing that work I discovered I didn’t really want to be even part time employed any more. I wanted full control over my schedule. So when they asked for a further 6 weeks on a different project (a colleague retired earlier than planned, and though they’ve recruited already the new staff aren’t fully trained), I knew that I’d only take the work if I could work as and when I chose, within office hours and with a fixed number of hours per week.

    Fortunately all round, they agreed and it’s working okay, but I’m already looking forward to being completely focused on my business and my son. I’d been scared that I’d need the money or the structure, so it was a helpful transition, but five months is ample.

    LW, you’re offering to tie up your schedule for THREE YEARS. I am almost certain that a year into your retirement, you will no longer want to do that. There’s a mental shift that happens when you move into a new stage of life and you can’t know how it’ll feel til you’ve done it. I seriously recommend reconsidering and being 100% sure what you want. Do this fully on your terms, and with a much shorter off ramp.

  92. Workerbee*

    No time machine needed. Just as your employers have already changed what your trainee was supposed to be doing, and since you already know they expect to take advantage of you all the way up until you die (and sound like they would bring you back if they could), you are under zero obligation to stick to your original offer to them.

    I wouldn’t even have a meeting with them. They know full well what they’re doing and are expecting you to be your usual going-overboard self. Instead, become unavailable the moment you walk out that door.

    1. Nomic*

      This: They are PLANNING to take advantage of them. That’s not good management no matter how you look at it!

  93. Workfromhome*

    All good advice but I think you need a pan/agreement in writing. This agreement should be contingent on Clive completing the training need for him to be at a level that allows you to work at a reduced level. its no good if you have to work 80% o the hours you did before if Clive is not at a level to help you because he kept being dragged away. Its no good if you are still giving Clive basic training a year later and feel pressure to stay longer because has not up to speed.

    Lay it out. I’m willing to work x hours with y number of full weeks off for Z period of time. This is contingent on Clive being able to perform these tasks at a certified level by X date. If any of these things are not met I can terminate the agreement with 2 weeks notice at any point.

    So if they keep pulling Clive off to other things and you get to your last day and hes no where near trained “I’m out”.

    I think this whole thing is set up for disaster and I hope at the very least that there is some heatfy $ in there to offset staying on after you want to be free.

  94. ColonelGateway*

    Is there a distant possibility that the owners are looking to sell off that part of the business to the one other (larger) org in the area that does the same thing?

  95. Petty Betty*

    Do not negotiate your retirement. They had three years to plan for this.
    You remind them that you’re leaving in X date and Clive *needs* to be fully trained by that date because you’ll be gone after that. Yes, you agreed to help after that date, but it was with the understanding that you had someone fully trained before you left and they are hindering that process by reassigning your trainee/replacement.
    Then tell them the maximum number of hours you will work per day/week they can have you during the busy seasons for a maximum of XX hours total. Same with slow seasons, and which weeks you will be unavailable completely. Tell them that if Clive is not fully prepared when you retire because they keep pulling him for other assignments, you will not assist after you leave because it would be a problem of their own making.
    They get you for one year post retirement only, and that’s IF they don’t try to haggle. You’ve given them enough.

  96. Noisette59*

    Think about it this way – you could delay your retirement by two years (which is what you’re doing) and get Clive trained. And then Clive could just leave the company. You’re not only delaying it for the company owners, which understandably after 30 years you feel some obligation towards, but based on training someone who does not have that sense of obligation who could leave at any point! Don’t do it!

  97. Qwerty*

    It makes me so sad to see stories like this of conscientious people letting their role at work become practically a part of their identity, to the extent that they can’t see how their employer is taking them for granted.
    My mom retired last spring and had similar trouble after years of total badassery in a director role. She gave a years notice, they dragged their feet on the executive search to replace her. She decided to push back her retirement 3 months to accommodate the behind-schedule reappointment. She was usually working 60 hours a week and in those last 3 months, tried to bring it down to 40 but couldn’t. When she finally retired, they got weird about not offering a very typical emeritus status, her replacement asked her to not come to any of their hosted community or donor events. It’s gotten very toxic and it’s been especially hard on my mom because this role had been such a huge part of who she identified as.
    I’ve tried explaining the logic that seems so clear to us in the commentariate but I don’t know how much sunk in. I’m so glad to have AAM so I can have the right compass for times like this.

    1. Qwerty*

      Just had another thought on this that might be helpful for OP – for my mom, she’s been committed to this idea that she “wanted to leave the organization in a good place” and and I believe it was that line of thinking that got her into sacrificing beyond what she should have, which I see in your letter, too. It kinda backfired for my mom anyway because her replacement is making lots of different decisions now, but that’s their prerogative.
      You should let go of the idea that it’s your responsibility to get Clive to 100% if the timing to do that has become unreasonable. You’ll do what you can until the time is up and then it’s just up to them.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        One of the hardest, saddest lessons to learn is that for some people, the more you help them, the less they respect you. Your mom worked so hard and long for her company, and it just made them see her as a doormat.

  98. DefinitiveAnn*

    There are a lot of comments here about how the employers are being deceptive or manipulative or just planning to string along the OP. I take her word for it that they have been good to work for. I think they are just being short-sighted and “la la la this isn’t happening” because it’s easier to pretend that everything will be fine rather than take a hard look at how things need to change because everything has been just fine.

    Having a single point of failure for a big piece of the business is a bad idea. OP could have been hit by a bus, or, I don’t know, laid low with COVID at the beginning of busy season in 2020. That there have been no problems thus far is a gift. It’s time to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. If they have 20 people working there, then it’s not a tiny little consulting firm. Clive is not the answer to this problem – he is a piece of the puzzle, but the bigger issue is how to keep this from happening again, maybe with much less than three years to prepare.

  99. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    “what’s my responsibility?”

    You gave them 3 years notice, which they wasted
    You are working pt “as a favour” during your supposed retirement, which they are also wasting.

    Give them 2 weeks notice and enjoy your retirement.

    I’m finding my early years of retirement are my best ever years – don’t waste them!

  100. SB*

    The update for this is going to be interesting. Please promise that you will let us know if they did what you suggested or if they continued to think you would come back as much as needed & you let them fall on their butts.

  101. Octobergirl*

    I am in a similar situation, early retiring at the end of May, and this discussion has been so helpful to me! My firm and I want to maintain an on-going relationship, and I gave them a proposal to provide contracting services with an hourly rate that doubles my current hourly rate as an employee. I felt a little guilty about this, but wanted to set boundaries that would make the firm think twice about sucking me in for more hours than I’m willing to provide, but after reading Alison’s response and all the comments, I think I’ve been pretty generous. I’ve yet to hear back if they’ll accept this or tell me goodbye and either way, I’ll be fine.

  102. econobiker*

    After x date my consulting fees per hour are 4x my former salary paid. Maybe create a company structure to be paid the fees so it doesnt impact retirement benefits.

    Then, if the replacement isn’t trained or fully trained, they are going to pay dearly for every hour they need the OP.

  103. Polly Hedron*

    I say forget Clive! Don’t fight to train Clive. Don’t even mention it again, because Clive won’t stay. Clive shouldn’t stay. If Clive had written in I would tell him to take whatever training the company deigns to give him and then, ASAP, jump ship to that better-paying competitor.

    Both Ready to retire (the OP) and Clive are being treated badly. Clive is being set up for failure.

    I admire the dedication of Ready to retire. She should put that dedication into documenting her job, writing a procedures manual that could train Clive (on the off-chance that he stays) or (more likely) Clive’s successor(s).

    Training Clive is a waste of time and wouldn’t even help the company, except insofar as it would help Ready to retire to write that manual.

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