Time to retire? Planning — whether for baseball or birding — will make that new life perfect

By Nancy Chapman, Public Affairs

21 August 2002 | Many Berkeley faculty and staff are waiting, patiently or otherwise, for the day when they can pack up their offices, silence their 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls, and cast off on the celebratory cruise that will signal an end to their working days.

A recent tally of staff showed that 35 percent are at least 50 years old, the minimum age at which a campus employee can retire from Berkeley. When faculty data was studied nearly three years ago, the number eligible for retirement — undoubtedly higher now — was pegged at 50 percent. That’s a lot of people — all of whom have questions.

The Berkeley Retirement Center (see below for link) and its Pre-Retirement Planning Program are here to help.

The center was conceived in the mid-1990s, according to director Shelley Glazer, when several emeriti and retired staff began meeting with former vice chancellor Carol Christ to address a need for enhanced services to retirees and surviving spouses. At the time, the campus Benefits Office provided counseling and paperwork for retirees, but there were no services for active staff nearing retirement or for retired staff who wished to remain connected to the campus.

The center’s Pre-Retirement Planning Program is divided into eight two-hour sessions. It covers such subjects as making transitions, assuming new roles and pursuing new opportunities, wellness, housing and geography, UC benefits and savings plans, legal planning, investments and financial planning, Social Security and Medicare, and creative planning. Each session is led by an expert guest speaker.

The program is a significant help, say many participants. Glazer and center intern Ronni Gravitz report that 91 percent of attendees have found the planning program “extremely effective.” Even more significantly, 76 percent of participants took action, such as increasing their 403(b) contributions, as a result of the class.

Indeed, by far the primary concern of most people of retirement age is financial security, says Glazer. Also high on the list are concerns about where to live and what to do, as well as dealing with health issues, rising medical costs, potential boredom, and loss of campus friendship networks. The program doesn’t purport to allay these anxieties, but endeavors to give participants a framework for developing their own plans.

Suddenly having copious, unstructured free time was a major concern of participants at the summer program that just ended. Paul Licht, formerly dean of biological sciences and chair of the Letters and Science deans, spoke for many when he said, “I’ve been here 38 years, and I’m concerned about what I’m going to do next.” Professor of Nuclear Engineering Donald Olander, who has taught at Berkeley for 44 years, says much the same thing: “I’m not sure what I’ll do with all the extra time.”

To help them imagine how to use extra time wisely and well, program participants are asked to identify their core values and counseled to plan a retirement that embraces those values.

That’s easy for some. Margaret Baker, manager of Planning Analysis and Outreach in IS&T, plans to retire in 18 months when she turns 60. Her core values are summed up in a single word: baseball.

Baseball is a paradigm for a whole world, she says, an organizational metaphor for her activities, values, work, friends, even family. “I do charity work through baseball. I’ve met many people through baseball who have become personal friends. Baseball is all over the world. My family is spread out, so I can do family and baseball at the same time.”

Ruth Tobey, a management-services officer in EECS, has also identified her core values. “I want to go birding in the middle of the week and live on every continent before I die,” she says.

The Pre-Retirement Planning Program will be offered again this fall beginning Oct. 4. Watch for information in an upcoming issue of the Berkeleyan.


The Berkeley Retirement Center


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