TIAA Cref and Retirement Lifestyle Planning (What HR Needs)

June 12, 2017 by Josh Hrala

TIAA Cref has been making retirement possible for those working in higher education for many years now. However, higher education still suffers a reluctant retiree problem because many workers simply don’t know what to do when they finally leave their jobs. This is where TIAA Cref needs a bit of help in the form of retirement lifestyle planning.

Think about it. It’s beaten into our minds early on in our careers that we need to start saving money for retirement. This is largely because the average US worker will need upwards of $1 million to retire successfully.

That’s a lot of cash that takes a lot of dedication and time to build. No wonder everyone in the workforce knows it’s important, and programs like TIAA Cref and other financial institutions like Valic and Amica Life are so popular. It’s because they work and they make the process a whole lot easier.

Okay, So If TIAA Cref Works, What’s the Problem?

Basically, programs like TIAA Cref handle one side of retirement perfectly but completely ignore the other, social side. In fact, you’re probably ignoring the social side right now.

Let’s do an experiment. Close your eyes and think about retirement. It’s a nice thought, isn’t it? You saved all of your money using TIAA Cref so you don’t have to worry about finances. You don’t have to go into work anymore, deal with your bosses or manage all the stress. It’s great!

Then, once the honeymoon phase slips by, you realize that you don’t have to leave the house. You don’t have to talk to your old coworkers who you’ve seen every day for possibly the past decade. You don’t get drinks together after a long, hard day. You lose touch. You start feel alone, isolated in part of your life that you were looking forward to.

“Whoa! I thought this article was about TIAA Cref and now you’ve gone and made me sad,” you say angrily to whatever screen you’re reading this on. Sorry, but you can clearly see the point. Retirement isn’t all about money. It’s about a dramatic lifestyle change that, in all honesty, is a bit scary.

What Does This Mean for HR Departments?

If you’re a HR manager, you need to realize the fact above: retirement can be scary, especially for those who have been in the workforce for up to five decades.

If you don’t, you could wind up with a bunch of reluctant retirees on your hands who, because of pressures other than finances, will simply postpone the retirement they have been looking forward to.

This HR disruption, alongside the Baby Boomer mass exit, is one of the things our CEO Raymond Lee recently discussed in a short video. Check it out here:


While that doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, it 100 percent is because reluctant retirees can stagnate your organization’s overall progress by not allowing new staffers to move up in the ranks.

“A certain amount of churn is a healthy thing – fresh blood, fresh ideas, people who are up-to-date on the most current pedagogies,” economist Paul Yakoboski,  who studied retirement trends in higher education for TIAA Cref, told The Huffington Post.

“And if you don’t have a dynamic where that churn is occurring, you don’t get the benefit.”

In other words, you need new ideas pumping through your organization at a healthy rate to keep things moving forward. Yakoboski also reported that many of these retirees felt like “there’s nothing else out there for me that would provide the same level of fulfillment,” which is a prime indicator that lifestyle, not finances, are to blame for the problem.

The Answer Is to Combine TIAA Cref With Retirement Lifestyle Planning

Don’t panic, though, because there is an answer: retirement lifestyle planning.

Here’s a quick overview: retirement lifestyle planning, in conjunction with financial assistance programs like TIAA Cref, help employees emotionally and socially prepare for the next stage of their lives through coaching and peasy-to-follow steps.

Often, this type of planning goes hand-in-hand with other plans like phased retirement where an employee steps down gradually to ease into the new lifestyle.

Here at Careerminds, we work on-on-one with upcoming retirees to help them consider all of their options when it comes to the lifestyle change. For instance, we get them thinking about what they want to do with all of their time. Do they want to work part-time? Get a new full-time gig? Focus on a hobby or spend more time with their families? Everyone’s different and everyone needs different things.

Besides figuring that important question out, we also try to prepare them for the potential stressors that may arise, such as a feeling of loneliness or a loss of purpose. For this, we try to add structure to their days and fill them with meaningful activities.

Learn more about how our program can couple with TIAA Cref here:

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As an HR manager, you can always offer your employee the ability to come to outside events like company picnics or Friday night drinks for a while after their retirement. This will keep the friendships the employee has made alive and also allow them to feel like they aren’t cut off all of a sudden from the people they spent so much time with.

TIAA Cref and Retirement Lifestyle Planning: 4 Quick Points

We just went over a whole lot, so here is a brief synopsis for your HR department to consider when added extra programs to TIAA Cref.

Understand why people are reluctant to retire. There can be many issues, but most of them, especially for Baby Boomers, will be lifestyle change. Try to put yourself in their shoes and work with them to make a plan that addresses the issues they have. This is where a program like ours can come in seriously handy.

Use coaching. Unlike TIAA Cref and other financial plans that can be left with little to no human-to-human involvement, retirement lifestyle planning demands that a person talk to another person to fully figure out a perfect plan to discuss their individual life goals after retirement.

Consider phased retirement. It’s much easier to slowly work towards retirement instead of plunging in head first. Allow employees, especially reluctant ones, to make a plan to ease into their newfound lifestyle.

Keep social activity available. The social shift in retirement is 100 percent something that TIAA Cref doesn’t give your employees. They spend years working at your organization, building strong friendships along the way. Inviting them back to company picnics or events, within reason, can keep that connection going.

If you follow these easy steps, you can seriously help your outgoing employees live a purposeful life after retirement. TIAA Cref, though it does great things when it comes to saving money for the big move, doesn’t cover all of the bases and could lead to reluctant retirees in the future.

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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