How to Determine When to Retire from Teaching

Posted by Tom Mellish, Executive Director, IRTA on Aug 30, 2019 10:00:00 AM


If you're a teacher thinking about when you should retire, you have a lot to consider. 

In this post we will cover the essentials to help you determine when to retire from teaching. It is our hope that this guide will provide you with an overview of the procedures of the Indiana State Teacher's Retirement Fund (ISTRF), as well as the personal and emotional considerations involved.

The Indiana Retired Teachers Association is committed to assisting active educators in making informed retirement decisions. The Association works to protect retirement benefits and to improve retirement benefits of all retired teachers.

Read our in-depth guide: Retirement Guide for Indiana Teachers

Questions to Consider as You Plan to Retire

  • How early should one retire?
  • How much ISTRF and Social Security income
    will I have?
  • What other sources of income, in addition to my
    ISTRF and Social Security income, will I have
    (savings, deferred compensation, IRA’s, etc.)?
  • Do I plan to work after retirement?
  • If so, will I work part-time or full-time
  • Have I given consideration to my leisure time and
    volunteer activities during retirement?
  • Medical insurance coverage until the age of 65.
  • Medicare coverage and insurance after age of 65.

How Early Should I Retire From Teaching?

It's good to know when you are eligible to receive pension benefits, but this doesn't necessarily mean you'll want to retire as soon as you are eligible. Many financial, personal, emotional, physical factors should be considered in your decision. We will get to those.

First, let's look at the nuts of bolts of retirement benefits. In Indiana, according to the INPRS, when you have at least 10 years of service in a TRF- or PERF-covered position, you are considered vested. This means you qualify to receive a monthly pension benefit, once you meet age and service requirements. 

Regular Retirement

To apply for a regular (unreduced) retirement benefit, you must be:

  • age 65 or older with at least 10 years of service credit,
  • between age 60 and 64 with at least 15 years of service credit, or
  • between age 55 and 59, if age and service credit total at least 85 (“Rule of 85”)

If you meet the age and service requirements for regular retirement, you will have a few payment options. All current benefits and retirement details can be found here on the INPRS website.

The question is when should I retire. The regular retirement information above shows when you can retire with full retirement benefits, but what happens if you want to retire early?

You can retire early, but you will receive a reduced amount of your normal annual pension benefit. It's important to know that you will receive this smaller amount for life.

So, the question "when should I retire" depends on many factors, but age and years of service play a key role on when you can retire with full benefits.

You can retire early, but you won't get full benefits. You must be between age 50 to 59 to retire early. You must also have at least 15 years of service credit. See the table below to find out how much less money you will receive if you retire early. At 59, you get 89% of your benefits, but at age 50 you only get 44%. That is a significant difference.


How Much Income Will I Have?

One of the biggest factors in your decision to retire will be how much income you can expect. 

You will need to carefully consider your Social Security income, retirement savings, IRA or other investments, as well as your teacher pension.

Social security income alone is a huge topic, and one that we devoted an entire webcast to cover [watch it here]. We covered the regulations for spousal and survivor benefits, concepts with your insurance and how it applies to your Social Security,  why the timing of applying for social security is important, and reasons not to file for Social Security before your full retirement age. 

Cash flow planning is another important step for making sure you have enough income in retirement. Retired educators cannot live on Social Security checks alone—at least not in the lifestyle you have become accustomed to. Watch this video to learn more.

How Can I Calculate My Pension Benefits?

When you retire, you will be able to select one of six options for your monthly pension benefit and you can see all of your options here. It is a good idea to consult with a financial advisor to discuss the best option for you. 

There are many, many variables in play for estimating what your benefits will be at retirement. To make it easy, use this Benefits Estimate Calculator on You can plug in all your variables and play around with it to find estimate your monthly benefit at retirement. You will need to know the following to use the calculator:

  • Projected retirement month and year
  • Date of birth
  • Average Salary (average dollar amount of your five highest yearly salaries)
  • PERF creditable serivce
  • TRF creditable service
  • ASA
  • Do you want to include a beneficiary?
  • Do you want Social Security Integration as an option?

Our free Educator's Guide to Retiring with Purpose goes into more detail about benefits, social security, and savings plans for teachers. Download it here.

What Will You Do After Retirement?

Do you plan to keep working? Will you start a second career or find other opportunities? Will you work part-time, or full-time? If so, will your employer provide health benefits? Be sure to consider how much supplemental income you may be able to earn, as well as health insurance benefits that may be offered with new employment.

Your activity in retirement is important to your physical and mental health. What fills your schedule? Is your work or volunteer time meaningful? All of these decisions play a role in the kind of retirement you want.

Some research suggests that retirement could be bad for your health, while other studies have shown retirement is associated with improvements in health, and some results show little or no effect on health. It all depends on how you approach the retirement process, say experts on the subject.

In one study of participants 80 and older, they were asked what makes retirement enjoyable, health and rewarding. They shared these four key elements: 

  • Build a new social network: loss of close contact with friends, colleagues, students and parents (a whole community that is your school) is a huge life change. 
  • Have fun: Get involved in a new hobby, join a bridge or ballroom club, travel with friends and family. Schedule activities that keep you moving and finding new social communities.
  • Be creative: Use your creative side—it's good for brain health! Find ways to use your creative talents, in the garden, at home, or in your community. Take an art class, or teach an art class!
  • Keep learning: Never stop learning—that's what we teach our students. Keeping your mind active is vital to staying sharp in the later years. Learn a new skill, an instrument, or study a subject that's always fascinated you.

One way to take meaningful action on these challenges is to join an advocacy group, like the IRTA. We advocate for teachers' benefits and retirement plans. If you aren't already a member, join today

Learn more about IRTA Member Benefits here.


Retirement is a personal decision for every teacher. Your lifestyle, income, finances, benefits, health, and many more factors will determine when and how you retire. One of our missions at IRTA is to provide a community of support for active teachers, retired teachers, and those who are in-between. Please reach out to us if you have any questions. We would love to help.

The Educator's Guide to Retiring with Purpose


Topics: finance, Post Retirement

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