I think it was Marc Bosquet who pointed out that even if tenured faculty don’t work the way pretenured ones do, you have to consider that tenure is a sort of pension for people who before it, worked for the university for almost nothing during up to ten years of graduate school, and then for little more in visiting appointments and assistant professorships. In various professions you work for real money for 20 years and then retire feeling successful, but in academia you work for very little for 20 years and start receiving an annuity as you continue to work that 60 hour week.
That is one thing to say about retirement for academics at my level. In a way we are enslaved, but in a way we are already retired, drawing an annuity and working on things we find interesting.
I, for my part, spent my time up to about age 25 being expected to get married and retire from the workforce and life, so I was basically born having to fight the asphyxiating song don’t you just want to stay home? During the next five years I was expected not to pass my exams, finish my dissertation, or get a job; and during the next ten I was expected not to get tenure.
Meanwhile, sometime near tenure, people just a little older than me, 45ish people, started asking me whether I did not dream of retirement. I have always seen this as the next wave of the discouragement techniques — you won’t want a professional life, you won’t get one, you won’t keep one, and then once you do get to keep one, you should want to put it down.
I would still like to do some other PhDs and a JD, and I have a lot of projects to do. All of them involve work and being employed, not being retired and volunteering from the sidelines.
And if I were to retire at 59.5 as people seem to think I should hope to do, I would be able to live for about six years on my retirement income, maybe a little longer if I were careful, and that would be it; and my life expectancy is near 100.
Why is it that people talk to me about retirement “so you can do things you like” — do they know me at all? They are quick to correct and say they mean so I can have another job, but why do they want me to retire to take another job? Why can they not understand that if I took another job, part of the reason for doing so would be to increase salary, and that it would really be unwise to start drawing on retirement savings too early? And do they not realize, finally, that even if I were to retire as soon as I am old enough to start drawing on retirement funds, that time is still far away and I have much more to do than sit and wait for it?
What about you? Do you have friends who, already at 45, started talking about retirement and so on? I am hoping not.