There was a time when I felt sure that I would continue working until age 70 or beyond. In fact, I often joked that one day I would simply resign from my job at the nursing home where I worked as an RN and move myself into the assisted living facility next door.
But then friends a bit older than me began to retire in their early 60s, and I saw how much they enjoyed their new-found freedom. I realized that I, too, wanted time to enjoy life, especially while I’m in good health.
Then I learned about what is often called a “bridge job.” This is defined as a part-time job that bridges the transition between a long-term career and retirement.
After much consideration, I decided a bridge job might be a good option for me. So, five years ago, I left my job as a nurse manager in the nursing home where I worked for over 20 years, and started working part-time in the field of corporate wellness nursing.
Knowing then what I know now, would I make the same decision? Absolutely! But there are lots of pros and cons to a bridge job, and it’s important to consider each of them before taking the plunge.
For most people, switching from a full-time job to a part-time job means a drop in income. Of course, there may be some savings, too, such as lower transportation expenses and the need to buy fewer clothes for work.
When I worked full-time at my previous job, I could count on a consistent pay check every week of the year.
Although this won’t be the case for everyone, my hours now vary throughout the year. Some weeks are super busy, and others are very slow. This means that I now must watch my budget more carefully than ever before.
Most part-time workers are not eligible to receive health insurance through their employer. I’m grateful to be able to get insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace. However, to keep premiums down, I chose a plan with a much higher deductible and fewer benefits.
Of course, a bridge job also affects contributions to a retirement account. I can no longer afford to contribute as much as I did in the past, and I’m no longer able to benefit from the employer match in my 403b account.
Other benefits are affected, too, such as vacation, sick time, dental/vision insurance and healthcare spending accounts.
For many years, I worked in a managerial role. This position held a certain amount of status, and it also meant that I had a lot of decision-making ability. In my bridge job, I occasionally fill in as a team leader, but I’m usually one of the regular staff.
I’ll admit that at first it was a bit difficult to give up the managerial mindset. For one thing, I was used to supervising a number of people. In my bridge job, I’m supervised by other people, most of whom are younger and have less experience than me.
But there’s a positive side to this, too. As a salaried manager, it was not unusual to stay late or take work home, and I always felt like I was accountable for what went on in my unit 24/7.
Today, I’m free to leave at the end of my assigned shift, and I don’t need to think about my job again until the next time I’m scheduled to work. My job is a lot less stressful these days.
In my previous job, I usually worked Monday through Friday during the day. That’s an unusually nice schedule for a nurse. Now that I’m in a bridge job, I’m back to working a variety of different hours.
The trade-off is that I can pick and choose my shifts.
My employer sends out a list of available shifts, and I sign up for the ones I want to work. I love the flexibility, and the extra time I can spend with family and friends is priceless. This also allows me to engage in hobbies and other activities that previously took a back seat to my job.
I’ve known people who devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to their jobs. Then the day came to retire, and they truly didn’t know what to do with themselves.
A bridge job has provided me with an opportunity to pick up new hobbies and get involved in volunteer work. I’ll carry these activities with me when I finally retire, and I know this will help me make a smooth transition out of the workforce.
Are you considering a bridge job, or have you already made the change? What do you see as the pros and cons of this option? Please share your observations in the comments below.
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