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They pay you for not working

A few months ago I noticed on my friend Seth’s website that he was an “emeritus professor.” I called him up, first thinking it was a mistake–he’s well under sixty years old–but, no, he really is retired. He taught at Berkeley for 30 years. We had the following exchange on the phone:

Me: Why retire? As a professor, they pay you even if you don’t work.

Seth: They pay you for not working if you’re retired, too.

He’s got a point.


  1. OneEyedMan says:

    Also, state universities have weird rules that dictate departmental headcount and they pay retired folks out of a different pool. As such, encouraging faculty retirement but encouraging their ongoing participation allows the department to have a larger faculty. Plus, retired faculty don't have administrative burdens.

  2. nathan says:

    wow, really? i need to hurry up and graduate.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The retirement plans at state universities vary from state to state.

    California has a very interesting plan, and I know colleagues who decided to retire early exactly as Seth did and for the same reasons.

    Texas (where I worked) has an entirely different plan. At UT the plan that most faculty choose is a defined contribution plan, not (as in CA) a defined benefit plan. A few years after I got to UT they offered a choice: Leave the defined benefit plan and go over to a defined contribution plan (like TIAA-CREF). Since I had so little in the DBP at that point, I opted to switch, and I am glad I did. I was fortunate to choose a carrier for my optional retirement plan (DCP) that gave me great flexibility about how to invest my funds; I invested boldly and fortunately; and I retired at age 62 (but continue to teach, first at Texas and now at the University of Vermont), just because I like to teach, and I have a research program that I started at UT and continue through weekly telephone conferences even though the colleagues are dispersing to other institutions.

    I went Emeritus because I could afford to do so and because doing so gave me flexibility to do what I wanted. Also, my wife insisted! She was anxious to move to Vermont.

  4. Andrew says:

    I imagine that it's unusual for people to retire and move from a warm to a cold climate.

  5. Anonymous says:


    Yes, I got lots of funny looks when I told my colleagues about our plans to move from Texas to Vermont. The thing is, we moved to a beautiful place that has been in the family for over 50 years and has belonged to us for 30 years. My wife and I have many happy memories of the place, which we have visited almost every year since we were married and I have visited even longer. We have woodlands, fields grazed by a neighbor's sheep (no mowing), a place for my wife to have a horse (she's been wanting such for decades, but not possible in Austin) and a million-dollar view 60 miles down the valley in which we live. We have planned to move here when I retired for decades. Also, all of our family is in the Northeast. So, there were many reasons for the move. We don't miss Texas a bit, though we do miss our friends. On the other hand, we've been associated with Vermont so long that we also have many friends of long standing here as well.