The purpose of this paper was to explore the experiences of tenured academic retirees and the decision-making process leading to their retirements. The inquiry addressed the research question, What were the factors that most influenced the decision to retire?
Twenty retirees from a public university were interviewed. The interview began with a multipart question about the variables that influenced the decision to retire – the positive and negative factors that “pushed against” and “pulled towards” retirement. The researchers coded the interviews, identifying common themes that contributed to responding to the research questions. Data analysis was done using the constant comparative procedure. The analysis interpreted the data to form three propositions to serve as prompts for further study.
Three propositions addressed the participants' “tipping point” where retirement was more attractive than remaining employed, the relative importance of financial vs other factors and the strong role of familial/personal factors pulling toward retirement.
The study was conducted in a university system with contractual agreements on retirement policies and benefits and therefore might not be generalizable to dissimilar institutions. Three propositions form the basis for further research to validate. The new conception of “push” and “pull” factors can serve as a basis for future research.
Defined Phased Retirement Plans are recommended as a “win-win” for faculty members and the institution.
This paper reconceptualizes the definitions of push and pull factors in the literature on faculty retirement and enriches the understanding of the complex factors influencing the decision to retire.
The authors wish to thank Dr Marie Thomas, Professor Emerita of Psychology at California State University San Marcos, for her feedback on early drafts of this article.
McDaniel, J.E., Anderson, B.B. and Jeffries, J. (2020), "Professor Hamlet’s dilemma: to retire or not to retire?", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-11-2019-0284Download as .RIS
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