Asked About Retiring, They Have a Simple Answer: Why?

Long ago, a persistent insurance salesman kept trying to get an appointment with me.
Finally, knowing he would never give up, I consented to meet him after work.
His first product was life insurance. I told him I thought I had enough assets to support my wife, so I didn’t need life insurance.

His second product was disability insurance. I ask him how disabled I would have to be before the insurance company would admit I was disabled. He saw my point and went to the next product.

Retirement, he said. Do you have a retirement plan? “No”, I said, “I don’t plan to retire”. Shocked, he asked “Do you want your family to find you someday slumped over your desk, dead?”

I didn’t even think about the answer I gave. I just “heard me say it”. “Well, that’s no worse than them finding me dead with my face in my oatmeal slumped over the table at a nursing home.”

He picked up his brochures and left in a huff.

Understanding that I might not be able to work someday at all due to disability or dementia, I have never understood why people would quit doing something they took a lifetime to learn in order to start doing things they have no idea how to do.


There are many different reasons why people retire. Some have mandatory retirement requirements: airline pilots and officers of some corporations. Some have other things that they would really like to do. Sometimes it’s a combination of things.

In my case it was the commute; my children FINALLY began giving me grandchildren; my parents needed my attention; and it made financial sense to do so (not necessarily in that order). My husband had been trying to get me to retire for several years, but he wasn’t retired so I resisted. The grandchildren did the trick.

I think that autonomous cars are going to delay a lot of retirements. Maybe if I could have ridden in an autonomous car to work all the while reading, writing, talking on the phone, or napping - I would have resisted retirement more stubbornly than I did.

Also, I was pretty happy to read this about Dr. Kandel’s research:

“In one project, he’s been trying to determine if aged-related memory loss might be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. “We have very compelling evidence that it is an independent entity,” he said.”

Btw, I enjoyed your story about the insurance salesman.

I know a couple of professors in their 80s who should have retired a decade ago. Someone in their 30s could do a better job more cheaply. We had a guy in his 70s who was a retired military officer who we thought was never going to retire, fortunately some of our younger faculty spent a couple years publicly humiliating him every time he said something stupid or made a mistake and he went away on his own. These problems are mainly due to tenure, but age discrimination laws don’t help either.

The cruelty that you describe mades me really sad. There must have been a way other than public humiliation to help this person realize it was time to retire. I struggle with pridefulness and sometimes a lack of kindness towards others so I am not sitting in judgement. In retrospect unkind things that I have said or written make me sad too.

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Good universities typically have annual review process, which, if unsatisfactory, trigger remediation plans that either lead to improved performance or a post-tenure review.

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ZOMG I snorted ice tea through my nose!
Awesome answer!

This–so horrible

Unionized universities wth weak post tenure review and weaker administrators require extreme measures. This guy was somewhat of a bully, so in the end justice was served to him.

Thst’s the kind of situation in which I have trouble being charitable, but when you are unkind the person that your lack of kindness hurts the most is yourself.

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