5.1 The Retirement Checklist

In the following, it is important to distinguish between “retiring” and “become emeritus.” Retirement is human resources event whereas becoming emeritus is an academic event.

1. First Steps

Become Familiar with the University’s Retirement Resources

The Office of Human Resources maintains a pre-retirement planning  webpage with links to many important resources.  Financial planning and health care planning are central.  Good places to start are the benefit overviews specifically for endowed faculty  and for contract college faculty. Other valuable sources of information about retirement are colleagues who have recently gone through the process, the Cornell Academics and Professors Emeriti (CAPE), your department chair, and the Cornell Retirees Association (CRA). Generally speaking, it is never too early to begin thinking about the finances associated with retirement. Interaction with Medicare is required several months before your 65th birthday.

Understand How Phased Retirement Works

Eligible faculty members and staff employees may choose to reduce their job duties and scheduled hours prior to retirement, to make a gradual transition before their official retirement date. This is called phased retirement. It requires a signed mutual agreement between you, your department, and the dean of your college. The agreement identifies an official retirement date, a workload percent, and the responsibilities that must be discharged during the phased retirement period. For example, if the workload percent is 75%, then you would receive 75% of your normal salary. In addition to providing a transition to full retirement, a phased retirement has economic value because the university continues to pay benefits as if you were a full-time faculty member.

Identify Your Contacts

There is a measure of non-uniformity across the colleges in terms of just who participates with the candidate during the retirement process. A good way to find out the local arrangements that apply to you is to have a conversation with your college HR representative. Department managers and chairs, and associate deans may also be involved at various stages in the process. Establish clear communication channels to all who are involved.

2. Interactions with Your Chair 

These discussions are typically spread out over time. They should be initiated at least one year before you decide to retire or one year before you plan to enter phased retirement. The idea is for you and the unit head to reach an understanding about resources and other key issues that are of mutual importance. To facilitate these conversations, we provide the following checklists.

A Checklist of Talking Points for You

  1. anticipated academic interests and activities that may be pursued after retirement.
  2. the current state of graduate student supervision, how it might continue or wind down.
  3. the current state of external funding, how it might continue or wind down.
  4. the state of all discretionary funding accounts that might be utilized after retirement.
  5. plans for a sabbatical leave before retiring (including teaching or other responsibilities upon return to campus prior to retirement).
  6. anticipated administrative support needs.
  7. receiving US mail.
  8. anticipated desk/space/land line telephone needs.
  9. anticipated IT support needs.
  10. the desired level of participation in department business, e.g., staying on mailing lists, attending meetings, participating on committees, voting, etc.
  11. the desired level of participation in college business, e.g., staying on mailing lists.
  12. the likelihood of living in the Ithaca area full time, part time, or not at all.
  13. concerns about indemnification. See link to official policy (formal policy)
  14. all of the above in the context of a phased retirement agreement.

A Checklist of Talking Points for Your Chair (or Equivalent)

  1. organizing a recognition event to show appreciation.
  2. the process for becoming emeritus/a.
  3. where to get answers to HR-related questions, typically HR office in the candidate’s College.
  4. the department’s space situation.
  5. the extent to which the department can supply administrative and IT support.
  6. the rules associated with attending department meetings and voting on such matters as hiring and promotion.
  7. the process for accessing reimbursement for professional activities,
  8. hire-back possibilities that relate to teaching, advising, outreach, and administration.
  9. opportunities for retirees and emeritus faculty to volunteer.
  10. how the dean must authorize the continued use of an endowed chair, both as a title and as a possible source of future funding.
  11. what a phased retirement arrangement might involve.

Formalizing the Retirement Agreement

The dialog with the Chair or Director eventually leads to a retirement agreement. Conversations with central HR or with the College HR person are sometimes part of the process.

If there is a phased retirement plan, it is detailed in writing and signed by you, the chair, and the College dean.

Likewise, if there are resource agreements associated with full retirement, then they should be specified in writing and signed by both you and the head of the unit.

A request for emeritus/a status can only be filed after an official retirement date is set. A guarantee of emeritus/a status is never part of a retirement agreement.

3. The Actual Transition

Benefit Services will contact you with information about the health care plan for retirees and related matters such as Medicare Parts A, B, and D. They will also describe various life insurance issues that require your attention.

Several months before retirement you should schedule an appointment with your retirement account vendor, i.e., TIAA  (1-800 732-8353) or Fidelity   (1-800 642-7131).

Upon retirement you should visit B-07 Day Hall to obtain an updated Cornell ID that indicates your new status.

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