Early retirement option finished after this year

Tomy Hillers

An estimated 500 ISU faculty members are eligible for early retirement.

Faculty members who are at least 57 years old by June 30 and have been employed by the university for 15 years are eligible for the program.

This is the last time the early retirement program will be an option at any of Iowa’s Regent institutions.

There are a number of reasons the program is being phased out, said Ann Doty, retirement information specialist.

“When this program was first started in the ’80s, unemployment was high and there was a lot of money in the state’s budget here in Iowa,” she said.

“Now, in 2002, there isn’t a lot of money and there aren’t as many people looking for jobs. So when you put those two things together, this program that worked very well when it was first in place has now become very costly.”

The early retirement program pays an employee’s share of medical and dental expenses until age 65. The program also pays three years of benefits at 15 percent of employee salary, plus two years at 10 percent into the TIAA-CREF retirement annuity.

The employees’ payments into their retirement savings plan stop when he or she reaches the age of eligibility for full Social Security payments or after five years, whichever is sooner, Doty said.

When the recipient turns 65, he or she is then eligible for Social Security payments, and becomes exempt from the program medical and dental benefits. These costs are paid directly by the employees’ departments, she said.

In the future, ISU employees will still be allowed to retire at age 55, but will have to pay the full cost of their medical and dental insurance, which ranges between $400 to $800 per month for a couple.

Once this program is gone it’s likely that many employees will wait until they can take Social Security payments and retire, Doty said.

Currently the budget situation is very difficult, but at some point it may be good for the regents to bring back the early-retirement programs, Doty said.

Clair Keller, professor of history, said he feels the program won’t hurt faculty members as much as non-faculty employees.

“I took phased retirement at age 65,” Keller said. “But the reason that stayed so long is because I enjoyed my job, and I think it’s harder for non-faculty members to not take the incentive plan.”

He said when an instructor is involved with research for years, it is hard to give it up.

“But those employees with jobs involving a lot of stress will probably miss the incentive plan more than the faculty involved in their own research,” Keller said.