Last Year Before Retirement (or, Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Retired)

By Ted Kruse

The last year of employment before retirement offers two challenges: preparing to exit a position and preparing for a new phase of personal life. 

Before exiting a position:

  1. Document your duties. Most librarians work in small operations. There are often many tasks ranging from buying staff birthday cards to final budget approvals that are handled by one person because of interests, abilities, custom or just inertia. Start recording “you’re the only one” tasks in a file. Include in the file how the task is done and why the task is done. Probably not all tasks need to be continued but the how and why will be helpful in deciding.
  2. Consider cancelling disability insurance during the last year of employment if in good health. Disability insurance is vital for younger workers because disability is more likely than death in most age groups. Cancellation should be considered if the employee has sufficient sick leave to reach retirement age. Some disability policies limit the number of years of payout for disability after age 62.
  3. Consider cancelling life insurance for similar reasons if the employee has few debts and few family responsibilities. Again, life insurance improves the financial security of younger workers but older workers have other forms of protection such as pensions and other assets.
  4. Evaluate your eligibility for post retirement health coverage. Post-retirement health coverage is a fast declining benefit because of the new GASB 45 accounting standard. The new standard requires state and local governments to reveal and account for these previously unfunded liabilities (McGreger, 2009). Post-retirement health coverage is a key factor in making retirement before Medicare even possible. Historically, post retirement health benefits eligibility is cut for current workers but benefits received by retired employees continue. If post -retirement health benefits are schedule to be cut, reevaluate the financial plans for retirement. Post-retirement health care is a valuable benefit and may be worth the pension reduction from retiring early.
  5. Determine the library’s policy on accumulated sick leave at retirement. Polices vary from added sick days to time- in-service for pension, buy-out formulas so partial value is receive, to receiving nothing for accumulated sick leave. The policy of receiving nothing is really a policy inviting abuse of sick leave during the last year of employment. A study of Federal employees in 1969 found employees took on average forty sick days during the last year of employment and half retired with a zero sick leave balance (Barr, 2007). The Federal government switched the sick leave policy from nothing for accumulated sick days to counting toward sick days as time-in- service for pension purposes. This change in practice saved the Federal government money without even considering the disruption caused by unscheduled sick time. Employees who receive nothing for sick leave should consider taking a full day for routine medical appointments and taking an extra day if sick to completely recover.
  6. Review your status in professional activities and memberships, and change when appropriate. Many memberships will need be altered during the last year of employment. Resigning from committees and changing professional memberships to retired status (For ALA, see Some academic librarians may be eligible for emeritus status. This can take several months to accomplish.

Personal Transition

Transition from full-time employment to full-time retirement is a major life change. Some retirees find it helpful to first transition to part-time hours. The downside of part-time library employment is: considerably lower salary, few fringe benefits and often less interesting job assignments. Some retirees may find part-time employment outside of librarianship more challenging and satisfying.

Other tips for adjusting to retirement:

  1. Use vacation time during the last year of employment to try-out a retirement life style. If an employee’s passion is golf, play every day during vacation. Some volunteer activities can also be tried out during vacations. If these activities are a good fit, the transition to retirement should be easier. 
  2. If you are in a relationship, discuss retirement’s impact on your partner. Retirement means spending more time with a spouse or partner. This often means finding new patterns and reallocating household chores. This transition can be difficult if both partners retire at the same time. Some couples have found retiring at different times is a good way to lessen transitions difficulties.
  3. Give the minimum notice of retirement. Once notice is given, the employee will be viewed as “on the way out” and may miss salary adjustments and challenging assignments. Some employees nearing their retirement date will find it difficult to stay motivated because often work involves planning activities beyond their retirement date. Retirement notice is an issue where the wants of the library for a long period of notice to search for a replacement and/or reorganize functions are directly opposed to the employee’s best interest of a short notice.
  4. Take advantage of professional discounts. Many librarians qualify for educational discounts on a wide variety of products. Computers and computer software sometimes have significant educational discounts. The last year of employment maybe a good time to upgrade personal computer needs to take advantage of these educational discounts.

There is a certain satisfaction in a well-prepared exit from a position. Personal planning will make a smoother transition to retirement.


Barr, Stephen. “Use It and Abuse It.” Washington Post Oct. 31, 2007. p. 32.

McGreger, George. “Implications of GASB 45 on Early Retirees.” Journal of Compensation and Benefits. v.25 n.6 (2009) p.17-21.