Work and the Retirement Journey Call for Essays

Background and Content 


The COVID-19 outbreak and its resulting economic impact have prompted even greater attention to issues related to retirement security and planning. Prior to COVID-19, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) has, in each of the past six years, compiled a collection of essays that address a variety of issues including:

  • Diverse risks encountered in retirement;
  • Developments in financial wellness;
  • Perspectives and potential solutions to the problem of ensuring retirement preparedness and innovations for securing future retirements;
  • The role that family structure and dynamics can have on financial and retirement security
  • New developments in tools, products and/or strategies that address retirement risks; and
  • Redefining the goals of retirement planning

Over recent years, the transition to retirement has been evolving.  For many Americans, retirement has come to include some continuation in the workforce.  COVID-19 is unlikely to change that, but it will probably make it more challenging.  Often the work involves a reduced schedule or responsibility, and it frequently involves a different employer, self-employment, or volunteer work.  Periods of very low unemployment were experienced in 2019 and early 2020 before the COVID-19 outbreak.   This has changed dramatically since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, and it is unclear how much of the change is temporary, and how long the current higher levels of unemployment will continue. 

Working in retirement can have beneficial results for overall retirement security and well-being. There are major concerns about people who reach expected retirement ages with inadequate resources to maintain their lifestyle.  Working longer can be the primary way for individuals to improve their financial position at retirement. Each year that leaving the workforce is delayed represents one less year that full retirement income is needed and also gives another year for savings to grow.  It is no wonder that COVID-19 has brought forth further interest in these job-related issues, as many workers nearing retirement have lost jobs or had their hours reduced significantly. In addition, working longer, including volunteering, can help people have a sense for purpose and contribution.

With this background, it is clear that an examination of how the potential for working in retirement and phased retirement programs may be affected would be beneficial for a variety of stakeholders.  For this call for essays, the definition of a phased retirement program includes a broad range of employment arrangements that allow an employee who is approaching retirement age to continue working with a reduced workload, and eventually transition from full-time work to full-time retirement. They can be offered on a formal or informal basis.  They include working in retirement for a new employer and self-employment.

Given the mission of the SOA’s Aging and Retirement Strategic Research Program to further public understanding of important retirement issues, its Committee on Post Retirement Needs and Risk is issuing this call for essays to explore ideas and thoughts on working in retirement and phased retirement programs. Respondents may find it helpful to read a recent SOA report, “COVID-19 and Working in Retirement” and review the reference list in the last section of the report for further resources.

For potential essay topics, the table below contains examples of issues and questions that may be considered. These examples are not intended to be the only issues that fall under the scope of this call for essays and respondents are free to consider others that are relevant.    Respondents can select a single topic or a combination of topics. Essays may include case studies indicating programs offered by specific employers, or programs or businesses that exist to support individuals working in retirement.  Essays may include information from outside the U.S.

The table has been categorized across several stakeholder perspectives, but the list should not be considered as exhaustive nor intended to be restrictive of other related areas.

For Employers


Reasons for retaining older employees or hiring other company retirees, including economic and non-economic costs and benefits.

What business issues are created by the aging of the workforce?

Research / Analysis

What analysis should an employer undertake when considering a phased retirement program?

Are there case studies of successful programs, including pros, cons, and lessons learned? What needs to be included in a program in order for it to be attractive to employees?

What data and/or studies are available/should be relied on when considering a phased retirement program? What is known about the productivity and costs of higher aged workers?

Requirements / Barriers

Legal and other barriers/requirements that should be considered when implementing a phased retirement program.

Specific details of implementing a phased retirement program, including internal support and use of third-party vendors.


What arrangement(s) make sense, work best?

Will such arrangements make it likely workers will continue to work longer?

Will arrangements be made for all employees, selected groups, or on a case-by-case basis?

Policy / Legislative

What are the current public policies and/or legislative positions on phased retirement? What improvements would help employers?

Considerations to policies that may coordinate retirement benefits (such as health care and Medicare) that may lower costs and provide incentive to offer phased retirement program.

For Individuals


Reasons for working past planned retirement.

How does the productivity, health and morale of those who continue working compare to those who do not?  Does it link to the reasons for continuing work?

Would education about longevity and the need for a longer planning horizon influence the decision to consider phased retirement?

Research / Analysis

Examples/interviews/case studies of individual(s) who retired early, lessons learned, and with the benefit of hindsight would they have made the same decision?

Do stories differ whether there is a well-developed, publicized, and fairly implemented policy or whether the phasing out is a private arrangement with an employer?


What arrangements work well for the worker?

What are the paths to finding work?

Does working with organizations that specialize in facilitating work by retirees provide a helpful avenue for locating work?

What advice, guidance, or support services are available if someone wants to pursue phased retirement on their own?

Barriers / Risks

Risks to individuals who pursue a phased retirement program only to lose their job, and strategies to overcome those risks, especially bridging the gap to Medicare.

For Advisors


Reasons an advisor may recommend phased retirement for their clients.

What types of help can and should they provide in helping clients find good arrangements for phased retirement?

Does the financial services industry have any initiatives/campaigns around this?

Macro Considerations


How do retirement ages affect retirement security, and how does partial retirement fit in?

What are the demographic and economic realities of different retirement age options?

How do retirement ages affect the economics of the nation?

Would older workers need/desire phased retirement programs if the U.S. had some sort of universal healthcare plan?

Are there global practices from which we can learn?

What are typical retirement ages today and how do they vary by occupational group?


Week of July 7, 2020: Call for essays issued

October 15, 2020: Deadline for submission of essays 

November 30, 2020: Completion of review of essays and decisions on selection for publication

Length and Instructions for Submission

Essays must be submitted in English with a length requirement of between 1,000 and 2,500 words. In the event that an essay exceeds 2,500 words, the essay may be declined or returned to the author with a request for further editing and resubmission. There is no requirement for formal or extensive footnoting.

Author information must be submitted with the essay and include name; credentials or designations (if appropriate); title; organization/company; e-mail address; and phone number. Please provide all author information at the beginning of the essay. 

Essays that contain any overt political statements, commercial content, and other inappropriate material will not be accepted. Articles must comply with the SOA's antitrust guidelines.

Please submit your essay via e–mail by October 15, 2020 to:

Barbara Scott, Sr. Research Administrator 
Society of Actuaries 


The review committee will select the leading essays and may elect to award prize money.  Consideration will be given to creativity, originality and the extent to which an idea could contribute to the further development of solutions.  In exchange for award money, selected authors will be required to assign all copyrights in their essays to the Society of Actuaries.

Authors are ineligible for awards if an essay is based on an SOA-sponsored and funded research study conducted by the author. However, authors are welcome to submit such essays for publication consideration.

Publication and Presentation

Depending on how many essays are received and the diversity among the topic areas, a suitable format for electronic publication and dissemination will be selected.  Essays may also be presented at an SOA meeting, webcast, or other professional development event.

In addition, other venues for publication or presentation of the ideas outside of the SOA will be considered. It is hoped that publication of the collected essays will further knowledge and stimulate discussion as well as promote future efforts in this area. 

Rights Granted

Please understand that by submitting an essay for consideration, the essay author(s) is granting to the Society of Actuaries an unlimited license to print or republish their essay, with proper attribution given to the author.  


Please direct any questions regarding this Call for Essays to:

Steven Siegel, Sr. Practice Research Actuary 
Society of Actuaries