Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, September 17, 2012

Retirement planning advisers say prepare for positive adventure

If you're nearing retirement age and have yet to evaluate finances or even consider how to pass the time when you leave your job, you're not alone.


More information
Benefits Office
Center for the Education of Women
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
• To schedule a meeting with an investment professional with one of the vendors, contact TIAA-CREF at 800-732-8353, or Fidelity Investments at 800-642-7131.

Those who offer advice to those thinking about retirement say new retirees should embrace the adventure.

"You can be an explorer at this point in your life, you really need to be adventurous. Entering the unknown can be scary, but retirement can be a really rich time," says Doreen Murasky, scholarship manager and senior counselor with the Center for the Education of Women (CEW).

To offer information to help plan that journey, University Human Resources provides accessible information that can help with retirement planning, including an online Retirement Eligibility Calculator.

Brian Vasher, director of benefits operations in the Benefits Office, says when his office receives questions from prospective retirees, "People want to know about their eligibility to retire, and know what benefits they have in retirement."

"There is increasing interest in retirement planning," says Murasky, who helps present popular retirement workshop sessions for CEW. That increasing interest is clear: The latest series of six workshop sessions, happening Sept. 20-Nov. 29, filled quickly. New sessions will be scheduled for later this fall.

Murasky says it's important for retirees not to feel alone. "You're going to have a range of emotions. One day you're working, the next day you're losing all your colleagues. There is a loss perspective but also a freeing aspect," she says.

"One of our key messages is that retirement is another transition and they've gone through several in their lives. We ask them to think of other major life transitions they have experienced — a graduation, marriage, becoming a parent, divorce, changing jobs- and what their personal style is in approaching big changes. In addition, it is helpful for them to figure out what really inspires them and what really matters to them, and to have a sense of meaning or purpose," Murasky says.

Trends in retirement

The Human Resources 2012 Human Capital Report released in July shows that of 28,836 staff, 39 percent are eligible to retire by 2017. The Retirement Forecast included in the report projects that by 2018, 51 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty, 39 percent of staff and 58 percent of managers will be eligible to retire. Projected to retire between now and the end of 2018 are 28 percent of current tenured and tenure-track faculty, 21 percent of staff and 33 percent of managers.

The university recently announced changes to university health care contributions during retirement as well as eligibility requirements, set to begin taking affect Jan. 1. Eligibility will be determined by a point system based on age and years of service. Once the sum of an employee's age and years of full-time service equals 76, the employee will be eligible to retire with health benefits. Starting in 2015, one point will be added to the eligibility requirement every two years until 2021, when 80 points will be required to retire with health benefits.

The Benefits Office encourages employees to access their Retirement Eligibility Calculator through the employee self-service page on Wolverine Access.

"Through our vendors TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments, employees can learn about what to consider when they retire. They also offer individual retirement counseling," Vasher says.

To plan is good; to be flexible is better

In CEW retirement class sessions, pending retirees learn it's OK not to plan everything about their retirement in advance, and to be open to new possibilities. They stress that classes that support continuous growth and learning can keep retirees engaged and inspired.

One prominent source for such learning is The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at U-M, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. It offers classes and study groups on topics ranging from creative writing to world culture to space exploration to politics, and social gatherings for the 55 and older group they serve. Osher also offers classes on financial planning.

Beyond classes and engaging with others in activities, Murasky says exploring creative pursuits, such as playing an instrument, writing, getting involved in the arts or nature can be nourishing. "Sometimes relationships where you're nurturing others can also be really important. Some retirees feel they've learned a lot and want to mentor or give back in some ways," she says.

Workshop sessions also stress the importance of maintaining good health and physical functioning, to limit disease and disability. "If you haven't been active because work has taken so much time, we encourage retirees to find ways to build physical activity into their life," Murasky says.

Murasky says research shows that some report being happier and less lonely in retirement. "Sometimes we're so concerned with our work life that it doesn't leave us as much time as we'd like to engage with others in ways outside our work or to develop an identity outside the roles we play at work. Retirement offers an opportunity to do this," she says.