Is It Time to Retire?

Mike Lawson • Commentary • July 5, 2019

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When Should I Retire from Teaching?

This is a personal question only YOU can answer…This choice may be uppermost in your mind and relevant NOW, especially if you are within a couple years of that so-called “retirement age.”

Much has been discussed in the media about the “how,” “what,” and “where” of retirement, but not so much about the “when!” The “why” of retirement is also pertinent. There may be numerous influences that can lead to a departure from your full-time career:

• Boredom or lack of stimulation in the current job

• Changing employment status or responsibilities

• Health problems (yours or other members of your family)

• Spouse retiring

• Your or family member’s desire to relocate

• Needs for caregiving (grandchildren, parents, or elderly family members)

• Travel opportunities

• Acceptance of a new position or the start or expansion of an “encore career” (higher education, educational industry, travel/tour planning, or another field)

Other involuntary or more negative motivations may urge an “early” resignation:

• Courses, sections, and/or staff are eliminated from the curriculum of or building in which you teach.

• You are experiencing a decline of participation or enrollment in your subject area.

• You feel unappreciated, unsupported, devalued, or ignored as a professional.

• You conclude you must retire prior to the expiration of contractual benefits.

However, the most important reflection on WHEN to retire should begin with the question, “Are you ready for retirement?” and…

Do You Have What It Takes for a Happy Retirement?

A successful retirement is not “all about the money.” Certainly, you are well-advised to make an appointment with an estate planner, elder attorney, and/or financial advisor (probably all three). Bring a copy of your bank and investment statements, annual reports on your pension, social security, annuities, and insurance documents. Make sure you have the “big picture” of your assets, liabilities, and net worth:

• Determine your goals, objectives, and time horizon

• Make key distinctions between income and cash flow

• Develop a basic plan to help achieve your retirement goals

However, experts say there are many other requirements that foster preparedness to enjoying your post-full-time employment years. For example, proposed by the editorial team of the NewRetirement website, there are eight essential keys to a retiree’s “happy transition” (

• A knack for dealing with uncertainty

• Resilience: can you overcome adversity?

• Capability to maintain a set of friends

• Cash flow mastery

• Ability to set your own schedule and stay motivated

• Can you relax?

• Capacity to have a purpose and follow passions

• Do you know how to manage an overall retirement plan?

The book Happy Retirement: The Psychology of Reinvention by Kenneth S. Shultz (DK Publishing, 2015) focuses on the question, “Are you psychologically prepared to retire?”

• How important is your job when it comes to getting a sense of life satisfaction?

• How many non-work activities do you have that give you a sense of purpose?

• How do you imagine your life to be once you stop working?

• How do you think retirement will affect your relationship with family and friends?

• How much energy for work do you have these days?

Being “psyched” for the “big day” also involves learning personal coping skills and modeling these characteristics of good mental health (The Psychology of Retirement: Coping with the Transition from Work by Derek Milne, 2013):

• Being able to use your talents and energy productively

• Enjoying challenges and gaining pleasure from accomplishing tasks

• Being capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship

• Finding meaning in belonging and contributing to your community

• Being responsive, sensitive, and empathic to other people’s needs and feelings

• Appreciating and responding to humor

• Coming to terms with painful experiences from the past

• Being comfortable and at ease in social situations;

• Being energetic and outgoing

• Being conscientious and responsible.

Happy retirement = busy retirement. Commonly-heard advice is to “Have a plan!” In almost every case study, retiring teachers “move on” to an equally engaging and active life style, finding new purpose and meaning in their “senior years!” Considering that some professionals are allegedly “addicted to achievement” and the sudden cessation from work may cause emotional turmoil (Sydney Lagier in US News and World Report, July 20, 2010), we should seek emulating those who have happily “crossed the Rubicon” ahead of us into “retirement bliss.”

Leaving your school employment does not necessarily mean you won’t continue doing what you have always enjoyed – learning new things, reading, writing, travel, hobbies, exercise/sports, the arts, etc. Many of these areas offer chances for the pursuit of full- or part-time volunteering and “encore careers” in a similar field.

“Many people want to continue to work. In fact, 72% of pre-retirees, age 50 and older, say they want to keep working after they retire, according to a recent survey sponsored by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave. Almost half (47%) of current retirees either are working, have worked, or plan to work in retirement, the survey found.” — “Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations,” by Merrill Lynch in partnership with AgeWave ( Kudos and best wishes on taking that “big plunge” to “living your dreams” as you explore your own mission of retirement self-reinvention and post-employment “freedom!”

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