Preparing for Retirement

Thinking about retirement? This is the time to learn more about your options and benefits and the decisions you will have to consider, including:

  • Health plan eligibility and options
  • How to turn retirement savings into income
  • How federal benefits like Medicare and Social Security work with your Harvard benefits
  • Important age-based steps you may need to take
  • Resources to help you successfully transition to this next stage of life

Getting Started

Planning and preparation are essential. Our Retirement Checklist and the What Happens When You Retire and What Happens When You Turn Age 65 summaries provide an overview of what you will need to keep in mind as you think about retirement.

Contact Harvard Benefits to make an appointment to meet with a consultant. You can meet virtually, over the phone or in person, and you’re welcome to bring someone with you. Be sure to schedule your first meeting at least three months prior to your planned retirement date so you have enough time to review all your options and plan any follow-up meetings.

Health Benefits

Harvard provides a choice of retiree medical plan options, as well as dental coverage, for eligible retirees (and their spouses/registered domestic partners at the time of retirement and eligible dependents). Your eligibility and cost for retiree health coverage depends on several factors, including when you began working at the University, your employee group, length of service, and date of retirement. You can learn more on the Retiree Health page and the Retiree Health Plan Overview.

TIP: Use the post-retirement health eligibility calculator to estimate when you may become eligible for post-retirement health coverage.

Medical Plan:

  • Under age 65: Retirees and their eligible dependents who are under age 65 may choose from the same medical plans available to active employees and may choose to stay in their current coverage unless they move outside the plan’s service area. (If you retire and are under age 65, Harvard Benefits will contact you three to four months before you or your eligible dependent turn 65 with information about your new medical plan options.)
     
  • Age 65 and over: Retirees and their eligible dependents age 65 and over must enroll in Medicare Parts A and B and have a choice of three senior Harvard medical plans that complements Medicare. You do not need to enroll in Part D prescription drug coverage since that is included in the Harvard senior medical plans. If you and/or your eligible dependent will be age 65 or older as of your retirement date, contact Harvard Benefits three months prior to get the forms you will need to enroll in Medicare A and B. You can get additional information at www.Medicare.gov. Also please review this Glossary of Medicare Terms and FAQs.

Medicare Part B premiums are based on your adjusted gross annual income as shown on your tax return, with premium costs increasing for those with higher incomes. There may also be an additional monthly premium for Medicare Part D.

Dental Plan: If you meet the eligibility requirements for retiree health, then you and your eligible dependents may enroll in the retiree Delta Dental plan. In most cases, your only chance to enroll in this coverage will be at the time you retire. Learn more.

TIP: Retirees remain eligible for the Center for Wellness and Health Education, Harvard’s EAP, and membership at Harvard Athletic facilities.

Life Insurance: Retirees who meet eligibility requirements can continue life insurance coverage, subject to certain reductions, or convert coverage to an individual plan. If you are enrolled in Harvard's group Supplemental Life Insurance, you and your spouse/domestic partner can access free will preparation (including living will and power of attorney) and estate resolution/probate services

Retirement Income

Your retirement income will come from a variety of sources – Harvard-funded retirement programs, Social Security, and your savings in a Harvard retirement plan like TDA or 457(b) if you contributed. You may also have personal savings through an IRA or retirement benefits from previous employers.

Harvard Retirement Programs

  • If you were hired before July 1, 2001 (July 1, 2002 if you are in the HUCTW) or if you are a service/trades union employee, call the Harvard University Retirement Center (HURC) at 800-527-1398 to request a pension estimate, which takes about two weeks to receive.
  • If you were hired after the dates above and for TDA and 457(b) balances, refer to the quarterly statement for your account balances, or get an up-to-date balance by going to the vendor website.

Social Security Retirement Income: It’s highly recommended that you create an online account at www.ssa.gov whether you plan to start receiving Social Security when you retire, or in the future. You can see your estimated benefit based on age and file for your Social Security benefits.

TIP: Vacation Rollover: When you leave Harvard, you will receive a payment for accrued unused vacation time (regular and longer-service). This balance can be rolled into a TDA, deferring most taxes, up to the IRS annual maximum contribution amount. The annual maximum will include any contributions you have made to your TDA in the year you retire.

TDA Rollovers from Other Plans: If you want to consolidate retirement accounts from previous employers or from an IRA, you may be able to roll qualified accounts into your Harvard TDA. Contact the HURC for details.

One-on-One Guidance

When you meet with a Harvard Benefits consultant, they will review your Harvard and federal benefits, explain your distribution options for these plans in detail, and guide you through the paperwork. Keep in mind that federal and state laws guarantee certain rights to the spouse of retirement plan participants, even those who are no longer married.

You may also meet with a TIAA financial advisor at no cost who, in addition to discussing your Harvard plans, can provide consultation on additional retirement savings and sources such as IRAs. TIAA advisors can look at your financial situation, discuss your goals and help create a plan to reach those goals. Call 800-527-1398, or go online at TIAA.org/schedulenow, to schedule an appointment. All appointments are online or by phone at this time due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Harvard’s EAP can also provide referrals to fee-for-service financial advisors.

Tools & Calculators

TIAA’s Retirement Calculators and Tools can help estimate your income in retirement and your financial readiness.

  • Estimate Retirement Income: Find out how much of your current income you may need in retirement, estimate your monthly retirement income, and explore retirement income options.
  • Retirement Advisor: Calculate how much to save to reach your retirement income goals.
  • 360° Financial View: Consolidate your information from more than 11,000 financial institutions in one place. Track your spending, and create a budget that works for you.

Social Security Calculators provide tools to estimate your Social Security Retirement Income and that of family members.

Transitioning to Retirement

The following programs can help you prepare for the transition to retirement and provide community connections after retirement. As programs are scheduled, dates and times will be added below, please check back.

Within Reach: Transitioning from Career to Retirement presented by TIAA: Getting to retirement is an accomplishment - but there are move adventures to come! Once you reach retirment, you may have 20 or 30 or years to enjoy it. This online workshop will help you imagine your ideal retirement and plan for how to make the most of it. View a recording of the session (held 7/14).

RETIREWISE (presented by MetLife & Harvard Benefits): Comprehensive retirement planning workshop presented by MetLife provides step-by-step approach to creating a realistic financial and retirement planning strategy. Free for faculty, staff, and spouses/partners. Next session: July 30 and August 6, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Register here.

Health Coverage in Retirement: Learn about your healthcare insurance options during retirement with presentations from Harvard Benefits and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA), including Harvard's post-retirement health eligibility and plans, and planning for medicare. View the recorded Blue Cross Blue Shield portion and Harvard Benefits presentation (both presented live on 7/21). 

Next Chapter (presented by Harvard Benefits): You may be financially ready to retire but have you thought about what you will do with the next chapter of your life? Using simple pre-work questionnaires and in-class interactive exercises, you will explore the four phases of transitioning to retirement, and hear from a panel of Harvard retirees about their transition to retirement.

Release time for Retirement Planning: Staff with at least 10 years of service who are at least age 60 may be provided with paid time off for the purpose of pursuing retirement-oriented development in the years immediately preceding retirement (depending on department staffing and workload). Learn more.

Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. A powerful, member-led learning community offers classes, lectures, and extracurricular activities based on the interests and passions of the 550 members.

The Harvard University Retirees Association (HURA) is a source of information about life in retirement and an opportunity to remain connected to the University. Membership is free in your first year of retirement. You can learn more on the HURA website.

Volunteering: Explore campus volunteering opportunities, from tutoring to docents to health care assistance.