Looking forward to Retiring
Before setting a date for retirement, take time to consider what your next phase of life will look like. You may have questions about the personal, academic, and financial aspects of retiring from DU and wonder what retirement would mean for you both as a teacher-scholar and a whole person. This page offers resources for exploring those questions, which we recommend you discuss with mentors, colleagues, friends, and family when you are still a few years away from retiring.
Many potential retirees have anxiety about the decision to leave the University, which often is a major part of their identity, community, and sense of purpose. At the same time, retirement can offer expanded choices, a chance to prioritize family, or to engage deeply in artistic, community, or scholarly pursuits. Most academics maintain connections to their scholarly communities and academic work, but still may need to reassess their sense of self post-retirement. Planning carefully for retirement and understanding your goals within retirement can help you address potential mental health challenges that some retirees experience. The University of Arizona “Retirement Readiness Quiz” is adapted from Alan Bernstein and John Trauth’s Your Retirement, Your Way and provides a self-assessment to help you determine which aspects of retirement are most important to you and warrant further consideration. Assess the reasons you are considering retirement and what sort of life you want to lead after DU. What sort of preparation do you need to do to make sure you have the community and support that you need to facilitate this life? Check out the VPFA website for events tagged “retirement” and attend a panel, workshop, or conversation designed to help you explore these questions within a community.
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free By New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. Excerpt: https://www.npr.org/books/titles/154758925/exit-the-endings-that-set-us-free This book explores retirement and other endings as new beginnings.
Osborne, John W. “Psychological Effects of the Transition to Retirement.” Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy 46, no. 1 (2012): 45-58. This article discusses common psychological effects of disengagement from work.
Gerald L. Euster “Reflections Upon University Retirement: With Thanks And Apologies To James Joyce”, Educational Gerontology, (2004) 30:2, 119-128, Doi: 10.1080/03601270490266284 This article combines first-person narrative of a professor as he retires with engagement with the broader literature.
Norma A. Winston and Jo Barnes “Anticipation of Retirement among Baby Boomers” By, Journal of Women and Aging 19 (2003). A total of 32 interviews were conducted with women in academia to identify what this new cohort anticipates for their retirement as well as their concerns about facing retirement.
Along with personal identity, many faculty wonder about how their professional lives, including research, teaching, and service, will evolve after retirement. While some faculty members disconnect from former networks, others continue to be involved in disciplinary organizations or campus collaborations, including research or teaching. At DU, these opportunities will vary by unit or even department, and so clarifying the possibilities with a chair or associate dean early in the process (3-5 years prior to retirement) can help with planning. All retired faculty have IT support and some degree of library access, but access to other technology may be on a case-by-case basis. Many find that, as this retired faculty member did, one pleasure of retirement is: “I go to few meetings.” Planning for a scholarly legacy is important, and many potential retirees set goals for their last few years; perhaps a culminating research experience, specially designed capstone course, or leadership role in campus governance could punctuate a distinguished career at DU. What was important to you in your career and how can you highlight that in your last years at DU?
Van Ummersen, McLaughlin, Duranleau, Bailyn, McLaughlin, Jean M., Duranleau, Lauren J., and Bailyn, Lotte. Faculty Retirement: Best Practices for Navigating the TransitionFirst ed. 2014. Print. Ideas for campuses and individuals to ensure retirement is a time of thriving.
Seth Matthew Fishman, “Faculty Emeriti: Retirement Reframed”. PhD diss., Ohio State University, 2010.
Focus: “The Faculty Retirement Conundrum” from the Chronicle of Higher Education contains a variety of articles considering the experiences of retired faculty as well as broader data on academic retirement.
- The Faculty Retirement Conundrum. The Chronicle of Higher Education Inc. 2017, chronicle.brightspotcdn.com/56/18/4ce511800b321776fe19f5615650/chronfocus-retirementv3-i.pdf.
Dorfman, Lorraine T. The Sun Still Shone: Professors Talk about Retirement / Lorraine T. Dorfman. Iowa City: U of Iowa, 1997. Print. Interviews with actual Faculty.
Retirement can also come with financial challenges, and specific questions should be directed at an HR Partner or benefits support. However, prospective retirees might also think in a broader sense about their expectations for life after retirement, including how and where they want to live. Some may pursue travel or move closer to family, while others may seek out a retiree friendly area. Material concerns are a common reason faculty delay retirement, but support for financial planning is available, as are resources on when to start receiving federal retirement benefits for those who are eligible.
“Understanding the Faculty Retirement (Non)Decision” By Paul l. Yakobski, PhD, Trends and Issues reports (New York: TIAA-CREF Institute, June 2015) This article explores the key drivers for tenured faculty in terms of personal finances and psychosocial issues.
- Yakobski, Paul. Understanding the Faculty Retirement (Non)Decision. New York: TIAA-CREF Institute, June 2015.
Ernie J. Zelinski’s How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free Offers inspirational advice on people’s fears, hopes and dreams about retirement through a holistic approach, and provides enlightening suggestions on how to achieve a positive and satisfying retirement life while maintaining financial wellbeing.
- Zelinski, Ernie J. How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor. Visions International Publishing, 2019.
Edwin M. Bridges and Brian Bridges, The Prudent Professor: Planning and Saving for a Worry-Free Retirement from Academe takes on financial planning for those who work in Higher Education and have TIAA-CREF retirement funds, and includes helpful worksheets and questionnaires to prompt reflection. E-book access through
- Bridges, Edwin Michael, and Brian D. Bridges. The Prudent Professor: Planning and Saving for a Worry-Free Retirement from Academe. Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2010.