Retirement Case Studies: The Teacher

Teaching is not an easy job. However, it’s hard to argue the impact teachers have on students, families and communities. While there are several aspects of retirement that should make teachers proceed with caution, in our experience, few people transition into retirement as well as teachers.

What are characteristics of teachers?

Teachers are caring, servant-hearted and heavily invested in the lives of their students. Oftentimes, the burdens they carry for their students includes their personal lives and overall well-being. Work comes home with teachers.  Their work hours extend far beyond the typical “9-to-5 schedule”.

How does a teacher view retirement?

Most teachers look forward to retirement. Many are optimistic and anticipate a break from the schedule and hard work of teaching. The school year is physically demanding, so, oftentimes older teachers are ready for a less-active pace of life. Unfortunately, teachers approaching retirement may be considered “white-knuckler” retirees. Due to decreased morale and increased problems with parents, teachers just can’t wait to be done. The levity of the kids’ lives and the stress of teaching can be too much to handle. So, retirement becomes the escape route.

How does a teacher view money?

Teachers are typically less concerned about financials. They have spent a career pouring their heart and soul into students. As a result, money is a tool needed to live and retire. Teachers are not huge income-makers. They are used to living on lower incomes – which can bode well for them when it comes to retirement. Many public-school teachers still have pensions. So, there might not be as much focus or reliance on savings. Furthermore, teachers can have more of a systematic view of saving and retirement. The more years of teaching service combined with a certain educational level equals a specified and expected amount of retirement benefit.

Why do teachers typically retire well?

Practice: One of the biggest reasons teachers retire well is because they practice retirement. Each year there is a regularly scheduled summer break from work. A teacher’s schedule mimics a rhythm of seasonal times away from teaching. The cadence of work-followed-by-rest is engineered into a teacher’s lifestyle. As a result, transitioning into retirement is a typically natural and smooth.  

Talent chameleons: Most teachers, by nature, are talent chameleons meaning they have a wide variety of skills and abilities. During summer breaks, many teachers have second jobs – many of which, have nothing to do with teaching. Others spend their summers picking up extra hobbies or utilizing their time on their current hobbies.

Large social networks: Teachers are connected. Especially in smaller communities, teachers are some of the most recognizable people in town. Also, teachers are people-people. They enjoy being around others. It is also not uncommon for teachers to be close and personal friends with other teachers outside of work and during retirement.

Easy-to-spot legacies: It’s important for a retiree, teacher or not, to look back and see a life well-lived. While some vocational backgrounds make it difficult to see the impact they have had – not the case with teachers. Some teachers have impacted two, occasionally, three generations of people. The fruits of their labor are impressive and easy to see.

What are some possible pitfalls of teachers retiring?

Chances are teachers will miss the students. By the end of summer break, many teachers are ready to get back to work with the kids. And while the grind of the school year might not be missed in retirement, the lack of emotional connection and adding-value with students may feel like a loss.

What can teachers do to better prepare for retirement?

Find ways to maintain and build relationships in retirement. My college basketball coach from the University of North Dakota, Rich Glas, retired a few years back. Coach Glas, in my opinion, has done a phenomenal job of maintaining the relationships of our basketball “family”. Even before his retirement, Coach Glas would send a personal email to a huge list of past players and coaches. The email was usually a short, but personal check-in along with any family updates with other players on the email list. I can guarantee everyone on the email thoroughly enjoys receiving and reading the updates. Oftentimes, Coach Glas’ email sparks additional conversations amongst the group. Even though I’m 20 years removed from my time playing college basketball, it’s great to still feel like one of the guys.

I’m guessing the reward to Coach Glas is even greater.

Want more?

Listen to the full episode of Retire Repurposed here:

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Jerrid Sebesta

Co-Founder of Retire Repurposed

Co-Founder of Retire Repurposed Jerrid Sebesta