by Pat Wylie

I suppose the first advise I would offer about retirement, is that no matter how long you have been teaching - one year or twenty - it's NEVER too early to begin thinking about your retirement. My second bit of advise to you is that if you do not currently participate in some type of tax-sheltered savings program, start one now. Whether you are in your first year of teaching or your last - it's worth the effort - even for a small contribution. I did not do this until LATE in my career, but I have discovered that even a modest contribution over a relatively short period of time can enhance your retirement income appreciably. If you are a relatively new teacher - so much the better. It's not a matter of whether or not you can afford it - you can't afford NOT to do this. DO IT TOMORROW!

Don't count on TERRI (or however you spell that thing)! Ideas like this have been phased out. I doubt that the state can afford to continue this plan for long.

If you are married - is your spouse retiring also? Do you really want to substitute teach? Few of us, despite what we may think, really want to sleep late every morning and read all day. Volunteer work or a paying job are both possibilities. If you can avoid it - don't do what I did. I retired on a Saturday, left Sunday for a "retirement trip" to the beach followed by a short cruise and went to work the following Monday. There was NO big down time at all and I'm not sure I've recovered from that almost four years later. I strongly recommend that you allow yourself several weeks at least to "wind down". A couple of months would be better. By that time, you will be looking for something to do.

If you are at the twenty year mark or later and/or closing in on your 60th birthday, plan a trip this summer to Columbia to visit the SC Retirement Systems Office. If you are not that old yet, you may simply want to call them and ask them to send you the current information regarding your retirement status. (At one time, you could not request this information by phone but you can now [1-800-737-6800]). I had heard horror stories about this place and allowed these stories to cause me to delay a visit much longer than I should have. I found the counselors to be knowledgeable, courteous, friendly and helpful. In other words, I have nothing but positive things to say about them. For those of you who live nearby you may want to visit instead of calling. If you are a walk-in, there is a first come, first served policy. For those of you who live some distance away, you may make an appointment at least two weeks in advance.

Finally, for those of you late in your careers, plan your exit. Unless your career is blemished, you should not want to sneak out in the dead of night. Give your administrators as much advance notice as possible. The better qualified your replacement, the better he or she makes you look. Your booster club also needs to know as soon as possible. Finally, whether you expect cheers or tears (most likely both), your students deserve to hear this news from you. The order of the "telling" mentioned above is not coincidental - the news needs to be shared in that order if at all possible. A final word of caution - news like this has a way of leaking out. Be discreet in your retirement planning and be professional in the way you handle your announcements. Don't burn any bridges you might want to rebuild later.

By the way, there is life after teaching. I am often asked if I miss it. My answer has always been that I miss most of the students and the parents and the teachers I taught with, but I have never, for a day, missed teaching. I am convinced what that means is that I retired at precisely the correct time. My wish for you, is that you too, will have that sense of completion when your time comes.