Ask the grumpies: Time to retire?

CG asks:

How will you decide when it’s time to retire?

#1:  I am always ready to retire.  For me this will come down to money.  I will need enough money to keep myself in books and housing and food.

#2:  I don’t think I will…?  It will probably end up being a combination of life circumstances (like health) and job stuff.   I dunno.  I’m still in the taking it a week at a time mode.

Grumpy Nation:  How will you decide it’s time to retire?

13 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Time to retire?”

  1. CG Says:

    I am not sure (which is why I asked the question). We are major savers and will probably have enough money to retire in the next couple of years so the timing is really up to us. I don’t always love my job, but I think I’m doing a good job at it right now. If I start to think I’m doing a less good job or my interest in it declines, that could trigger it for me. But I would need a real second act or I would be bored and depressed. DH works a ton of hours, although his schedule has been much more manageable since his company stopped traveling during the pandemic. He will be required to retire at age 55 if he hasn’t done so already. I suspect he may want to make a switch before then (that is more than a decade in the future) but, like me, he doesn’t know what he would do for a second career and would definitely need one. We would still need health insurance, so maybe we’ll wait until our youngest kid doesn’t need our insurance anymore and that will trigger it. I’ve always sort of assumed we would both live til around age 80, but we have experienced some events in both of our families recently that have led us to revise that assumption downward. So we want to make sure we retire early enough so that we have enough time and good health to do fun things together and (hopefully) enjoy grandchildren. I’m laughing at myself a little for writing this–our youngest child is eight…I’m planning ahead a bit here.

  2. Alice Says:

    I don’t have a specific timeline, but don’t plan to do so early. The point at which I will decide to retire… ideally it’ll mostly be based on my age and a desire to switch to volunteer/fun activities. I fear for if it’s because of health. My mother survived a major stroke, but is seriously disabled both physically and mentally compared to where she was right before it happened. I would rather keep active and keep my cardiovascular risk factors low for as long as I can. Right now, work is part of that.

  3. Jessica Says:

    This is a great question and I’m interested in hearing people’s comments! This is pretty far out for me, so personally I’m not sure, but I am interested in the ‘encore career’/multiple careers idea, if I stop liking what I’m doing or want a change. I have a feeling that I will not retire for a while after I’m financially able, partially from wanting to work and partially from wanting lots of financial buffer.

  4. Omdg Says:

    I expect to retire from anesthesia when I develop a disability that makes it unsafe for me to care for patients in the OR (my clinical job is quite physical). After that, I may choose to a) focus on research or admin or education, vs. b) retrain in palliative care, vs. c) be a grandma if that is something that happens.

  5. mnitabach Says:

    I will keep rolling along for as long as it remains relatively easy for me to maintain my NIH grant funding stream that supports my laboratory. But if it becomes a struggle to stay well funded, I will at that point negotiate some sort of multi-year wind-down with Yale leading to emeritus.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I’m with #1! I’m ready ready ready. It’s just highly unlikely that the money comes together any time soon given our dependents and my desire to spend time spending money rather than going an alternate career route and making money. I’m not opposed to making money. I just don’t want to pivot from a stable W-2 job only to scramble to make real income.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I retired as soon as I was qualified. I did not love my job, especially after they refused to re-hire people after the multi-year hiring freeze, so it was impossible to catch up and do my job as well as I wanted to. (Within two years after I’d left, they hired two full-time people to replace me, both at the title it took me years to work up to, and they removed some of the job duties. Even though they had assured me that all of this was impossible at the time.) I actually quit three years early (for sanity reasons) and took various part-time gigs in the same university, the last being a 30-hour-per-week job which, after deductions, netted a little less than my pension was going to.

    I do not regret retiring at that time at all.

    I had a defined-benefits pension (it’s 27K per year; my highest salary was $45K). My house was paid off. I had maxed out my Roth IRA every year since it was invented, but that didn’t add up to much. I was 52.

    While my boyfriend is underemployed, I am tempted to get more work, but have resisted except to help with the elections last year (while I suspected a lot of older workers would be staying away and there would be a lot more mail-in voting because of the pandemic). I can afford to cover all the rent and utilities myself, though I can’t add much to my savings.

    Also I have stayed open to doing more of some of the part-time consulting work I did (helping individual colleges with the university-wide system I’d worked on) because it was fun, but I have not been asked in years.

  8. Lisa Says:

    This is an interesting question, followed closely by “what do you want to do when you’re retired?”. I’ve got a while, but lately I’ve been thinking about the second question and it seems that some of the things I want to do might be easier to do while I’m still employed. We have some lovely neighbors who have a lovely home and yard and seem to spend all of their free time puttering about the yard. Although I do see the value and enjoyment in gardening, I’m hoping for more out of retirement than that. I love to travel and experience new things. With my cushy academic job, I could travel much more than I do and also have something mentally stimulating to do when I am traveling. With little kids at home I’ve minimized travel, but as they grow up I can see doing much more of this. So, I guess that my answer to the original question is that I don’t plan to retire until I’ve milked my career for all it’s worth. I recognize that I’m VERY lucky to have a job that I like a lot and that gives me a ton of flexibility about how I spend my days and use/develop my skills. If I had a job that wasn’t so flexible and interesting, I would be ready to retire ASAP and would probably be pushing harder for a FIRE-type situation.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have noticed that a lot of people’s dreams for retirement sound a lot like the life of an academic who doesn’t have to worry too much about publication.

      • Lisa Says:

        OR, academics who can get grants to do interesting interdisciplinary/international research and then write papers with their international collaborators…

        (The NSF sometimes provides grant supplements for international collaborations and private foundations will also support this – Burroughs Wellcome used to have a great collaborative travel grant.)

  9. First Gen American Says:

    I realize I may not have been thinking about this as much if I have had some kind of break in employment. I have continuously held a job since 14 with the exception of 2 months before graduating college. I realize I’m lucky to have escaped layoffs about a dozen times but I am hoping the next time I would actually welcome it and not dread it. I wish more companies did sabbaticals. I don’t think I am ready to quit working but a 6 month respite would be ideal.

    Recovering from work burnout seems to be taking longer than it used to especially when you’re still working.

    I feel like I still need to beef up college savings for the kids and figure out healthcare but otherwise am in good shape.

    Like Lisa, I do like to stick it to the man when I travel. I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would but it is nice being able to visit so many places on someone’s else’s dime.

    • Lisa Says:

      I agree that more companies should offer sabbaticals. I think there was an article about this in ? (Chronicle of Higher Ed? HBR?) a while ago. Pretty much anyone could benefit from a break and a chance to expand a skillset or investigate something new periodically. I have friends in management consulting who get this benefit. Not sure what other employers (besides academic employers) offer this.


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