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Former U employee David Johnson sitting by a waterfall.

Career U employee and recent retiree David Johnson at Gooseberry Falls near Lake Superior, August 2004. Johnson wanted time to relax but also to volunteer.

Life after work

Begin now to plan for retirement

By Betty Gilchrist

From Brief, March 16, 2005

A professor dreams of waking up to the gentle sound of waves lapping on the beach. An administrator down the hall imagines having time to organize a bike tour with friends through scenic towns on the Mississippi. A researcher keeps a file with plans for opening a shelter for homeless teens.

"The pull for me, approaching retirement, was the idea of doing some new and exciting thing with my time," says David Johnson, who retired from the U last year. "Travel alone was not so exciting as the opportunities to do volunteer work in different countries and cultures."

At home, Johnson wanted time--"time to play, to read, to volunteer in life-long interests." Volunteering, for him, meant helping to build community.

We all entertain some idea of retirement. What's yours? Very vivid images may come to mind, or gradually unfolding impressions.

Then reality sets in. Will you be ready for retirement?

Plan your retirement

University faculty and staff members age 55 or older are invited to attend the annual pre-retirement planning seminars presented by the University of Minnesota Retirees Association and Employee Benefits.

Faculty and P&A staff, session 1
March 23, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Cowles Auditorium, HHH Center
Topic: Faculty Plan and Voluntary Retirement Program

Civil service/bargaining unit staff, session 1
March 29, 1 to 3 p.m., or 5 to 7 p.m.
210/215 Donhowe
Topic: MSRS and Voluntary Retirement Program

Combined sessions for all employees

March 30, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Cowles Auditorium, HHH Center
Topic: Social security and Medicare

April 6, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Cowles Auditorium, HHH Center
Topics: UMRA opportunities, looking ahead to retirement, and supplemental medical, dental, and life insurance

April 13, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Cowles Auditorium, HHH Center
Topics: Estate planning, and how to use the tax code and planned giving to decrease taxes during retirement

For more information, see the Employee Benefits Web site or call 612-624-9090 or 1-800-756-2363. You may register for all of the sessions or only those that interest you. Please send your registration to Employee Benefits by March 21.

You may very well think about your financial condition first. You've heard that you may need up to 80 percent of your current earnings for a comfortable retirement. You have your University-sponsored retirement plan, you can expect some version of social security to be available, and you have your personal savings, which may be in a voluntary retirement program with the University or elsewhere. If you haven't already started saving, then make a plan to pay yourself first and discover the power of compounding interest working for you. That step alone can help you become stable financially during retirement.

But retirement planning is more than financial readiness. You may spend up to one third of your life in retirement. How you think about and prepare for this third stage of your life can make all the difference in how meaningful and satisfying your retirement will be.

Beyond finances

Having a positive and practical outlook on retirement will take you far. Let's face it: planning for retirement means acknowledging and accepting that you're aging. According to Ed Creagan, author of Mayo Clinic on Healthy Aging, it's important to take account of your body, mind, spirit, finances, health care, relationships, and independence, as you grow older. The most important factor is exercise. The second is friendships.

There are many ways to get connected and many resources available to help involve you in planning retirement and viewing it as a time of renewal. Spend some time looking at what's available here at the University. Explore the Vital Aging Network, which focuses on the later half of life and views older people as a resource. Retirement may be the time when you are involved in productive and meaningful activities that help you learn what matters most to you, find your individual interests, and allow you to give back to your community.

Once you've made that step into retirement, you can join an active group of retirees. The University of Minnesota Retirees Association (UMRA) is open to all new faculty and staff retirees. UMRA describes its primary purposes as providing a voice for faculty and staff retirees from the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis and St. Paul, improving communication among association members and retirees more generally, facilitating access to information of importance to retirees, and better serving the well-being of the University. See the UMRA Web site for more information (sidebar, right). The University of Minnesota, Morris, also has a retirees group--the UMM Retirees Association; contact Jim Gremmels, 320-589-6448.

If you're age 55 or older, you were invited to a series of preretirement planning sessions that begin soon. You owe it to yourself--attend the April 6 session with Karen Greer on the topic of looking ahead to retirement. As you ponder how to live your life as retirement approaches, Greer will guide you through factors to consider in planning what many people consider the best years of their lives.

David Johnson would agree.

"I'm finding my dreams are coming true," he says.

Betty Gilchrist is a senior communications project manager in the Office of Human Resources, Twin Cities campus.

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