Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Delayed retirement and the lost generation. From Amelia from Abilene.

I'm staying
next year, too!
I found this article on proffie's plans to delay retirement (from InsideHigherEd) both interesting and encouraging, particularly towards the bottom, where they talk about the effect on universities as a whole and on creating a lost generation of academics who languish in adjunct positions because no one moves out at the top.

It seems to me that it would be useful to have the the over 65 proffies take the adjunct work, while the early/mid-career folks get the full-time gigs?

Of course, I am part of the problem. Complaining aside, I love what I do, and I don't really see myself wanting to retire. Maybe I'll feel differently in 25 years. But if I could teach maybe two classes one term a year as an adjunct and have the rest of the year to travel, enjoy hypothetical grandchildren, etc., that would be appealing, especially if adjuncts were included in some elements of campus life like graduation, campus events, etc.


Some 74 percent of professors aged 49-67 plan to delay retirement past age 65 or never retire at all, according to a new Fidelity Investments study of higher education faculty. While 69 percent of those surveyed cited financial concerns, an even higher percentage of professors said love of their careers factored into their decision.
“While many would assume that delayed retirement would be solely due to economic reasons, surprisingly 8 in 10 -- 81 percent -- cited personal or professional reasons for delayed retirement,” said John Rangoni, vice president of tax exempt services at Fidelity. “Higher education employees, especially faculty, are deeply committed to their students, education and the institutions they serve.”



  1. It's just that the issue of retirement has not been properly framed. For instance, if it were retire and open up some positions or face Strelnikov's wrath, I bet the issue would resolve itself real quick-like.

  2. Here's what I don't understand. If you were 55 in 2008 when the bottom fell out of the stock market, you lost a lot of 403b money. If you held tight for a few years, you would have gotten it all back. The stock market has been doing great since 2009. Now, if you were 65 in 2008 and had all your retirement money in stocks, what the fuck were you thinking? That's not how you are supposed to invest right before you want to retire.

    1. My mentor was about to retire before the crash and lost quite a bit of money. She delayed her retirement for that and another university related reason: she wanted to make sure that the funding "line" for her position wasn't absorbed by my university's greedy administration. She pulled a lot of political maneuvers and, in the end, got a young replacement hired to take her place before she said her adieus to the department. She was a class act.

    2. BB:

      It depends on what sort of stock one has bought. During my few years as an investor, I bought a lot of rubbish. I believed the promises that it was going to yield high returns but, for the most part, I lost my shirt on those investments.

      For the last decade or so, I got wise and started investing in better-quality stock. Usually, I start by doing my homework on a company by reading its financial report and doing an analysis to examine things such as its debt situation. (There are lots of books available on how to do that.) When the numbers look promising, I call my broker and get his opinion. After that, I decide whether it's worthwhile investing money in that firm.

      Not everything I've invested in makes money for me, but I've gained more than I've lost. I'm far from rolling in wealth, but I can pay my rent and my living expenses each month without having to worry where the money's going to come from.

      One thing I figured out a long time ago was to be patient and not panic, something I learned on Black Monday 1987. That's one reason I came through the fun and games in 2008 relatively unscathed.

  3. An old proffie friend of mine once said about retirement, "I like to play golf, just not everyday!"

  4. Oh, my God. Such total bullshit. Who here really believes that senior academics retiring in droves would result in the same number of positions being rehired with new Ph.D.s? Seriously? Har dee har har.

    There's this quote:

    Nonetheless, the idea of legions of aging professors is worrisome to people starting academic careers, to adjuncts longing for tenure-track slots and to some administrators, who already see this trend playing out on their campuses.

    Those "adjuncts longing for tenure-track positions" are not going to get them. Everyone knows that. If you spend three years adjuncting, you move to the bottom of the line. Fresh doctorates are the order of the day, as the article itself acknowledges later. As for those "people starting academic careers," well, why should someone happy in their job make room, especially if there is no assurance that their position will be replaced with a tenure line?

    “We conduct many informal consultations with provosts and presidents and for the last several months we’ve been asking them, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ ” A common response is that faculty are not retiring in the numbers that had long been anticipated, Mathews said.

    Ooh...an aging professoriate disturbs provosts and presidents. Well, that's a sure sign that it's a good thing. An "aging professoriate" is bulletproof via tenure and experience, and is most likely to call out the provosts and presidents on their bullshit.

    That means delayed opportunities to reorganize the academic priorities of an institution and diversify its professoriate, he said.

    Hrm...the provost and president desire to "reoganize the academic priorities" of their institutions. That is not their fucking job. It is the job of FACULTY to reorganize the academic priorities.

    Diversifying the professoriate? Wow. More women and people of color to adjunct after the provost decides they don't need to replace with retiring senior professor with a tenure line after all.

    Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Everyone with tenure needs to die at their posts.

    Barring unforeseen circumstances, I am not retiring. Ever.

  5. I've never understood people that keep working past retirement simply because they'd miss the socializing. I have friends outside of my workplace. If I keep working past 65 (or whatever the retirement age is then) it'll be for the money--so I can afford lots of comfortable travel and still be able to pay for home care etc. when I need it (no children to look after me). Work because I deeply care about my students and colleagues? Maybe if they cared about me....

  6. I agree with everything Stella said.

    People starting an academic career now, even on tenure track, will deal with working conditions substantially different from what prevailed when I started out 25 years ago, including for instance the weakening of tenure; to the point that is is not clear that the lifetime pay cut (for comparable training) that was acceptable then would make sense to me now, in comparison with an industry research job.

    All the same, I think the fact that old profs are not retiring is a serious problem, and one reason is that they retain their faculty vote and corresponding power in the department, so there is no renewal of ideas or policies, no space for new positions or leadership to develop. For instance, in my department more than two-thirds of the full professors (some close to 70, or already there) were already tenured when I was hired 22 years ago.

    I would have much less of a problem with it if, upon reaching 67 (say) they lost their faculty vote and the right to teach graduate courses. (And I would be fine with eventually accepting such a fate myself). In other words, became glorified lecturers (which is what happens in many "phased retirement" deals anyway.)

  7. Personally, I'm just operating on the assumption that, by the time I'm eligible to retire, some bunch of banksters will have figured out a way to drain my retirement account dry and bill me for the privilege -- in some way that's either perfectly legal, or illegal but unlikely to ever be punished because, well, too big to fail, defend the job creators, corporations are people, and all that.

    That's why I don't think I'll retire. I suspect that by then, the concept of "retirement" will be a quaint archaism reserved for the wealthy, like fox-hunting, or keeping suits of armor in the hallway.

    1. While I was teaching, I was required to contribute to a group retirement plan. That plan was run by the regional government, though I never found out who the managers were.

      When I quit that job, I immediately transferred the plan over to my broker and arranged to have it self-directed. I wanted to control what went on and decide what was bought and sold. It didn't take long before it was worth more when I was looking after it than when it was run by the government.

    2. Some genius decided that for 20 years, nobody had to contribute to our retirement plan. A generation of people contributed virtually nothing, and are now retiring at full plan. The rest of us are seeing 5-7% pay cuts as contributions to a pension plan that I am dead certain will not be available to us when we retire. Therefore, I have no plans to retire. I will happily give up grad students and stop coming to faculty meetings to make room for the young 'uns, but as a Gen Xer who's watched the Boomers suck up every last resource, I presume my old age will be spent eating cat food and working till I drop.

    3. One reason I transferred my government-run retirement to my broker was I wanted to see what was going on. Until I did that, I had no idea what the managers were doing with my money. Did they invest it in blue-chip stocks, perhaps those with good dividends or did they put it into something like hedge funds that were comprised of dodgy equities and junk bonds? Those details were never made available to us because all we got was a periodic statement telling each of us how much we contributed and what those contributions were worth at that time.

      That bothered me because I was relying on someone else's judgement for my future income. I wanted to know not just what was held in my account but what was bought or sold, when that happened and for how much.

      Unfortunately, a lot of retirement plans (or, for that matter, other investments such as mutual funds) operate behind a wall. A lot of times, the managers make *their* money by "churning"--that is, the constant buying and selling of investments, deriving commissions from each such transaction. The individual investors not only don't know what's going on, they have no say in it except for when they contribute or withdraw money.

      This is an issue that professors and instructors should bring up with their staff associations. It's your money. You have a right to know how it's being handled.

  8. At the moment at my institution the positions of any retiring faculty member in Humanities are simply cut. They aren't even replaced with adjuncts. I will retire, when the time comes, when my department is guaranteed a replacement for my position.

    Or, to be honest, when I get bored, or tired. But that's a while away too.