Generous severance pay to an employee, often as an incentive for early retirement. For example, With a dwindling school population, the town decided to offer golden handshakes to some of the teachers. This slangy business term dates from the mid-1900s. A close relative is golden parachute, a generous severance agreement for an executive in the event of sudden dismissal owing to a merger or similar circumstance. This expression first appeared about 1980.