Let's Talk Retiring from a University - How, What, When and More!

Started by GuyRien, September 14, 2023, 01:07:30 PM

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GuyRien

So to be clear, I'm talking about retiring from a university (i.e. a paid job) not from academia which is my research community.

I've had a good career in Academia. Was fortunate enough to get a tenure track position in my 20's and 25 years later I think it's time to go. Why leave a secured well paying job? Mainly because I can. The University of California has a good retirement pension and I saved enough in my tax-deferred accounts so I can. I like the thinking aspect, but as you get older the issues with working in a university are aggravations you don't need.

So the big question for those of you who have retired:

a) Did you tell your chair before hand or just tell him in July?

b) I just got some 3 year grants so am happy working for the next 3 years. I don't intend to check out but I'd like to wind things down. Suggestions how you did this?

c) How to deal with students wanting to do a Ph.D. with you without outright telling them I'm retiring soon.

d) Any other suggestions on issues I've not covered appreciated!

Puget

I'm decades from retirement myself, but all my colleagues who have retired have done so gradually and with lots of notice. They have pretty much all taken advantage of the 3-year stepped retirement path we have, where they go to 3/4 time, then 1/2 time, then 1/4 time, then retire. That gives them time to wind down their labs gracefully while reducing and then eliminating teaching. They generally stopped taking new grad students when they knew they planned to retire before within 5 years (the length of our PhD program), and stayed long enough to see their last student defend.

 That's for those who have actually retired. Some have officially retired and stopped teaching, but remained very research active as emeritus (heck, some have kept their labs running much the same as before).
"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

GuyRien

Thanks. That's interesting, I never heard of this stepped retirement scheme. But won't it get awkward and potentially combative? Wouldn't the person who is going to retire get allocated all the awful classes, get their labs/grants poached etc?

Quote from: Puget on September 14, 2023, 03:44:53 PMI'm decades from retirement myself, but all my colleagues who have retired have done so gradually and with lots of notice. They have pretty much all taken advantage of the 3-year stepped retirement path we have, where they go to 3/4 time, then 1/2 time, then 1/4 time, then retire. That gives them time to wind down their labs gracefully while reducing and then eliminating teaching. They generally stopped taking new grad students when they knew they planned to retire before within 5 years (the length of our PhD program), and stayed long enough to see their last student defend.

 That's for those who have actually retired. Some have officially retired and stopped teaching, but remained very research active as emeritus (heck, some have kept their labs running much the same as before).

GuyRien

So to be clear, I'm talking about retiring from a university (i.e. a paid job) not from academia which is my research community.

I've had a good career in Academia. Was fortunate enough to get a tenure track position in my 20's and 25 years later I think it's time to go. Why leave a secured well paying job? Mainly because I can. The University of California has a good retirement pension and I saved enough in my tax-deferred accounts so I can. I like the thinking aspect of my job, but as you get older the issues with working in a university are aggravations you don't need.

So the big question for those of you who have retired:

a) Did you tell your chair beforehand or just tell him in July?

b) I just got some 3 year grants so am happy working for the next 3 years. I don't intend to check out but I'd like to wind things down. Suggestions how you did this?

c) How to deal with students wanting to do a Ph.D. with you without outright telling them I'm retiring soon.

d) Any other suggestions on issues I've not covered appreciated!


fizzycist

So you're in your early 50s and ready to retire? Ruled out switching fields, doing admin, changing universities, etc?

Hegemony

Not good to start two separate threads on the same topic.

GuyRien

Quote from: Hegemony on September 14, 2023, 05:38:53 PMNot good to start two separate threads on the same topic.

Absolutely. I requested the other one be deleted as it was in the wrong place. That other forum was for general stuff like Breakfast etc.

GuyRien

Quote from: fizzycist on September 14, 2023, 05:22:44 PMSo you're in your early 50s and ready to retire? Ruled out switching fields, doing admin, changing universities, etc?

I thought about this. The UC retirement pension is great. I can retire at 54 and get a  pension which with my wife's state pension is more than what we spend now.

So what benefit does changing fields have, doing admin or any change of scenery give?

apl68

Quote from: GuyRien on September 14, 2023, 04:59:17 PMThanks. That's interesting, I never heard of this stepped retirement scheme. But won't it get awkward and potentially combative? Wouldn't the person who is going to retire get allocated all the awful classes, get their labs/grants poached etc?

Not necessarily.  My mother semi-retired for a couple of years before final retirement at age 70, and her department (modern languages) seemed to treat her pretty well.  She occasionally complained about getting stuck with more than her fair share of departmental service work.  But this was nothing new. She had always taken on a disproportionate share of it. 
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

Parasaurolophus

I know it's a genus.

Morden

I retired this past August. Early retirement for me, so I don't get my full pension, but I'm OK with that emotionally and financially. I let my chair/dean/university know in June, and then went on my allotted vacation. Contractually, we're supposed to let them know in March and leave in August, but what are they going to do? Fire me? My department knew I had been thinking about it for awhile, but a lot of people think about it for a few years before doing it. I figured June gave them lots of time to reassign my September teaching load.
As far as winding down, all I can suggest is to be very judicious about what you say yes to. I gradually shifted responsibility in a research group to other members; I carefully selected service opportunities. I didn't have graduate students, but think I would just have said something like "I'm sorry; you're great, but I'm not taking anybody on at this time" and left it at that.
Before you go, you'll want to talk to your pension people about the different options available, and you'll want to think about where you get health insurance. Here (my part of Canada) there are several options for extended health coverage that you can enroll in within 90 days of retiring without having to answer medical questions. HR provided a list.

GuyRien

Quote from: Morden on September 15, 2023, 02:22:12 PMAs far as winding down, all I can suggest is to be very judicious about what you say yes to. I gradually shifted responsibility in a research group to other members; I carefully selected service opportunities. I didn't have graduate students, but think I would just have said something like "I'm sorry; you're great, but I'm not taking anybody on at this time" and left it at that.

Thanks. But didn't that raise issues/eyebrows. My concern is that I've got 5 PhD students all due to finish within the next 12 months. After that I'll be academically speaking "childless" for 2 years!

jerseyjay

My state eliminated the pension plan for professors in the 1980s, so I am not going to be retiring soon.

That said, I have seen at least 10 professors retire in the last several years. (Our school tried to encourage many to retire through an incentive scheme, then the pandemic caused several professors who were working past retirement age to decide to retire.)

Most of them were not a particularly surprise, i.e., they had been talking about maybe retiring for several years, although their actual retirement date may have been earlier than people expected.


I know that some were keeping on out of loyalty to the department (i.e., none of the humanities professors have been replaced at my school, they probably won't be, and several departments have had to merge because there were only one or two professors left). In the end, however, it is not an employee's responsibility to substitute for rational administrative decisions. I think the pandemic made teaching much less enjoyable (and also led to pay cuts), and then the return became dangerous (not all students are vaccinated) and annoying (who wants to commute again?) and then there were drops in enrollment which in turn meant fuller classes (as extra sections were cut). Many people just decided to retire, if they could. 

My advice is to tell your chair as soon as you actually know you are going to retire, just to bre nice. That said, the worst that could happen is that the department scrambles to find somebody to teach your classes. There are usually enough possible adjuncts to do this. That said, it is a good idea to leave on good terms, and I cannot see a downside to giving enough notice at most schools.


My school does not have graduate students.

My main advice (or rather, plea) is please take your books with you. About four humanities professors left offices full of books and one died. It was nice to be able to take some of them, but now they are just sitting there. It is annoying to have to clean up after somebody.

Several retired professors have come back as part-time adjuncts, i.e., teaching a class every other semester or something like that, because they miss teaching. (My school pays adjuncts based on the number of semesters somebody has taught as an adjunct. Thus, somebody could retire as a full-time professor after 30 years, and have to start at the lowest pay range as an adjunct, because they don't have enough experience.)

We also have a few adjuncts who have retired from other jobs, often with full pensions, but find it interesting to teach.

Hibush

I wound down by not taking on new grad students and not applying for new grants so that I could retire when I no longer had either responsibility. I also arranged for my committee appointement terms to end in the same year, so I simply didn't renew. I planned that several years in advance, and things went more or less according to plan.

I let the chair know almost a year in advance so that my other responsibilities could transfer naturally. Some can continue into Emeritus status, so the timing isn't critical from my end. Mostly I handed off whenever a new person agreed to take it on.

I really enjoy not having to do performance dialogs, submit progress reports, or make sure every dollar was spent in strict accordance with sponsor and university restrictions. Summer vacation was great as well; that has typically been the most intense and unpredictable research season (field research where Mother Nature decides your schedule.) I enjoy continuing to engage intellectually with colleagues in research and with (other people's) graduate students.

clean

Considerations:
1. you are rather young.   (good for you!)   
Is the pension adjusted for inflation, or just a regular annuity.

I ask because while your retirement money may be sufficient now, will it be in 10 years? 
  If it is not adjusted/indexed, then you may be too young to retire, unless you have substantial resources already saved in retirement other than the pension. 
2.  Is your wife dependent on any of your benefits?

This is important for many things. Here, if you give notice by the end of May, they cut off your insurance and benefits.  If you teach summer, then they wait until that summer session is over, but can you depend on them not transferring the class to someone else?  In my case, when I retire, I will just switch over to the state retirement plan, but My Bride is younger than I am, so if I give notice in May (vs August) the state stops paying HER benefits.... So why give them more notice to cut my benefits (which I paid for?)

Remember, The State Will Always take care of itself. If you are not looking out for You , no one is!

Dont feel bad for them!  They set the rules!  I m just the guy trying to play the game they set up and not get screwed!  IF they have hard feelings for the short notice, I promise that I will tell them, "I would have given you a lot more notice, but I was not going to incur additional expenses because of THEIR rules!)


3.  Advice I got some time ago by a retired department chair.  "Dont retire FROM something.  Retire TO something"   Do you have you "TO" ready?


4.  Do you have any medical issues that need corrected? 
  Im probably less than 5 years from retiring. Before I go, I am going to get a really good physical.  IF I am close enough to knee replacement, or any other medical procedure, then I am going to get it done BEFORE I retire.!!    There is no Sick Leave IN Retirement!  And here, anyway, they dont pay out accumulated sick leave.  So dont leave it on the table!  Get out of it anything you need to, and have anything done that is required. 

5.  IF you stopped taking graduate students, how long would it be before they noticed?  Who would be bothered by it?  Alternatively, IF you took on some graduate students and then left, what would become of them (Which is worse?)


the good news is that you will be there another 3 years.  You have time to make decisions.  There is no reason to rush anything.  You certainly dont need to tell your administrators anything at this point!   If in 2 years, after not taking on any more students, and not applying for more grant money, they start to notice and they start to wonder about your plans, THEN  (ONLY IF THEY ASK) you can say that you are considering applying for sabbatical (even if not true... and if they dont fund it, then take/fund your own, and dont rush back!!). 


What do you tell potential graduate students?  Tell them someone else (name them)may be a better match. 
Do you HAVE to tell them anything other than you have some important issues coming up in the near future, and that you are not sure that you can devote the time that they will need from you ... that it would not be fair to them for you to agree to be their advisor. 

6.  You have at least 3 years before you retire, at least 2 years before you have to make the final decisions.  You can always undo any decisions made before then.  (IF in a year, you have a grant idea, then apply.  IF you have a particularly good PhD person that you really want to work with because of what they can offer YOU, (they have an interesting topic), you can extend.  Nothing is written in stone just yet! 

Give it a lot of thought.  Practice stepping back! 

good luck!

(pm me if you have other questions you think I can help you with).
"The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am"  Darth Vader