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Retirees: Was your transition to retirement smooth? Bumpy? Somewhere in-between?

Tell us your story. Click “add new comment,” which you will find below this text. Then, in a few paragraphs, post a brief account of your transition. Convey any insights which you think colleagues still working might find useful when they decide to retire. [When you finish your comment, click "preview." Then, if you are satisfied with what you wrote, click "save."]

Our expectation is that while readers will find common themes in our transition narratives, they will also find a plenty of diversity -- and lots of interesting questions and issues raised by our accounts.

You can either post anonymously or, if you feel comfortable doing so, provide your name at the bottom of your brief retirement narrative.


I’ve always needed external structure in my life. For most of my adult life, work and family provided that external structure.

For more than four decades, I labored in an academic grove called the City University of New York. (Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly a grove with luxuriant vegetation, but it was the urban turf where I practiced my profession as a historian.) Deadlines determined by class schedules, student conferences, publishing commitments and what seemed like endless meetings shaped my days – and even the time I spent with family and friends.

While those deadlines certainly caused stress, the structure of work provided meaningful direction to my life. But after four decades of teaching, I was ready for something different. -- not reinvention, but the opportunity to travel more, to develop new skills and interests, to spend more quality time with grandkids.

But it took me several years of procrastination before I made the plunge into retirement. I procrastinated because I knew that I needed another external structure – a structure that both gave some shape to my daily routines and allowed for much more leisure.

I found that new structure (and subsequently retired) with a part-time and continuing gig as webmaster for the PSC. (I had developed my web skills when I explored using digital technology in my teaching – but that is another story). My responsibilities for the website and continuing union activism gave some focus and structure to my retirement. But because I share the duties for the website with several members of the PSC staff and because this is a part-time commitment, I had both structure and leisure – meaningful work with a union with a progressive agenda as well as more time for family, travel, reading and, sometimes, just being a couch potato.

Even couch potatoes need structure.

Bill Friedheim

I'd say pretty smooth

World War II General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell had a motto, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I tried to live the motto but failed. College administrators, possessed of little if any classroom experience, enamored of the corporate yardstick of bang-for-the-buck, whose first response to any new idea was, “We can’t, because…” finally wore me out. You get tired of losing battle after battle and trying to reassure yourself that, well, while you lost, you nevertheless raised consciousness. I decided to retire.

Not incidentally, I was over 65, TRS Tier I with 43 years at CUNY, and in retirement would take home more money than when I was working.

And when, almost simultaneously, a new leadership team took command at the PSC, a team whose response to new ideas was “Let’s take a look” rather than “We can’t”, a team that valued member activism on behalf of urban public higher education, and a team I’d helped elect, I saw an alternative. The union was looking to establish a Solidarity Committee that would develop relations with other unions, community organizations and advocacy groups around common concerns.

For me then, the transition to retirement was easy. I had a project, congenial colleagues who supported it, an organizational home, to say nothing of a vastly more flexible schedule. And in the Retiree Chapter of the PSC I found a center of activism and good fellowship that has kept me in the fight and connected to the university to which I devoted my working life. I’ve had the usual problems that come with age but none that I can attribute to leaving CUNY’s employ.

Even acknowledging my far from universal circumstances, I’d rate retirement a “best buy” with a remarkably low frequency-of-repair record.

Jim Perlstein, December 3, 2013

As my kids say, "what retirement?" Its great to take some criticism from grown kids, and they are basically right. Officially I retired in 07, a bit early, but due to an accident I had been in, I really needed to get out of the daily run through the campus (if you call LaGuardia a campus). And speed up was underway, particularly for community college faculty and staff, so I jumped out into 'retirement.

But, as my kids note, I seem to be busy each day and still haven't found that magic balance where I could, say, enjoy reading, cultural events, and grandkids, as well as painting, poetry and art work...the things I was too busy for when I was working full time.

We are all told to plan for our retirement financially. And I did. But the big surprise is that 'free time' doesn't spring out of the air when one retires. I would suggest planning for the things you really want to do, and then hanging on for the ride when other things pop up in your face (like aging bodies for example and/or sick friends and relatives). Leave time for fun, and come join us in the very active, not-quite-retired Chapter of the union: meetings the first Monday of the month.
Joan Greenbaum