Retirement advice from your (former) colleagues

In March 2020, right before everything moved online, we invited a few recently retired or soon-to-be-retired faculty members to talk about their experience of the retirement process and share some advice. Here’s what we learned.

Coming to the decision

You have to do it sometime, and it’s going to be an adjustment no matter when. Some panelists decided rather quickly, while one described it as a “gradual series of decisions.”

Some factors in the decision and signs that might suggest you’re about ready to retire include

  • an approaching birthday (that seems obvious, but maybe this birthday feels different from previous years),
  • grants coming to an end,
  • having other things to look forward to,
  • feeling the need to slow down,
  • pressure from your spouse, and
  • wanting to travel—as one panelist warned, don’t put retirement off too long if you want to travel!

Note that if you give advance notice of your retirement date, you can get a slight salary increase by trading in vacation time. You can also move to a reduced workload if you set a firm date well in advance (you can gradually transition from 100% down to as low 50%). You can still retire earlier than this set date, in both cases.

Having a plan for the transition is key.

Preparing yourself

Whenever and however you make the decision, having a plan for the transition is key. Our panelists agreed that it’s important to have things to be excited about. Be prepared to feel bored at first—the first month can be especially hard—and have activities in mind with which to fill your time. Some ways our panelists spend their days include reading, exercising, going for walks, spending time with their grandchildren, and travelling. 

Shift your approach to planning and time: instead of living hour-by-hour (or minute-by-minute) as you do while working, “try to live on a day clock,” as one panelist advised.

Consider in advance “how retired” you want to be—are you still doing research, editing a journal, supervising students, doing external reviews?—but don’t be surprised if your desire to keep these up wanes more quickly than you expected.

One panelist reassured attendees that “retirement is not to be feared,” and that it’s easier to maintain your identity as an academic in retirement than it is for other professions.

Financial considerations

Here are a few things to consider on the finance front. You can talk to HR about all of these options.

  • Consider pension-splitting with your spouse if they don’t have as much of a pension. 
  • If you’re still working, you might want to delay your OAS and CPP withdrawals.
  • While your income from your pension might be about 60% of your salary before retirement, without the usual payroll deductions, it works out to more than that.
  • Keep in mind that if you reduce your workload in advance of retirement, your salary is reduced accordingly, but your pension contributions remain at 100% (so as not to affect your pension). 

For more advice about preparing for retirement, talk to the UW Retirees Association.

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