Advice from Music Teacher Retirees to Soon-To-Be Retirees

Tips and Resources on Bridging That Transition to Retirement

“Your problem is to bridge the gap which exists between where you are now and the goal you intend to reach.” – Earl Nightingale

Retirement is a life-changing event, perhaps the most significant “final transition” in our lives involving an ongoing process of emotional adjustment.

The research of counseling psychologist Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg is worth reading. She identified the following ways in which people approach retirement, as quoted at

  • Continuers who continued using existing skills and interests;
  • Adventurers who start entirely new endeavors;
  • Searchers who explore new options through trial and error;
  • Easy Gliders who enjoy unscheduled time letting each day unfold;
  • Involved Spectators who care deeply about the world, but engage in less active ways;
  • Retreaters who take time out or disengage from life.

Soon after being appointed to the position of Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) State Retired Member Coordinator, I realized that we have three types of PA music teacher retirees responding to the challenge of this time-honored passage:

  • People who do not see themselves as retired, just leaving a full-time job in music education, and moving on to new goals, employment, and/or volunteer work.
  • People who are relieved from the stress of day-to-day employment, and now feel ready to fill and complete new “bucket lists,” spend more time with family, travel, and hobbies, and perhaps even explore several new areas/levels/skills in music and education.
  • People who are happy to leave the profession and want nothing to do with any part of music education or PMEA.

With the exception of the latter group, it is worth repeating the message I wrote in my Winter 2015 article in PMEA News:

“PMEA has a lot to offer, and, in return, we retirees can ‘give back’ in a way that is both meaningful and beneficial to our professional association. It comes to no surprise that PMEA retirees have filled numerous district and state officer, committee chair, council, and ex-officio positions. You know what they say – What we know in our little pinkies….”

There are numerous opportunities to “lend a hand” or “keep our feet wet” in our profession:

  • Sign up for the PMEA Retired Members’ Retiree Resource Registry (R3) to share your vast wealth of teaching experiences and expertise, archiving your special skills, interests, awards, and past professional assignments, and being willing to be called upon to serve as an informal adviser or go-to person for help. Complete the survey at
  • Volunteer to serve as presiding chair or member of the planning or listening committees for the PMEA In-Service Conference.
  • Participate as a guest lecturer or panel discussion member at a conference or workshop.
  • Judge PMEA adjudication festivals.
  • Offer to help plan or manage a local PMEA festival or workshop.
  • Accompany, coach or guest conduct music festivals or local school ensembles.
  • Call up the local music teacher and offer your help in music technology, instrument repair, etc.
  • Submit articles to PMEA News.

Additional suggestions from successfully retired members were sent and shared in PMEA News (Summer 2015) :

  1. To prepare yourself for retirement, have something in place to do – private teaching, performing, traveling, and/or volunteering.
  2. Have a plan! Figure out some idea of what you want to do with the rest of your life after teaching.
  3. Build your social network of friends, colleagues, and people with which you want to continue spending time. Relationships are important in retirement.
  4. Stay involved in music – somehow. Once retired, you can revisit your roots in creative self-expression (the things that inspired you to become a music teacher in the first place), while avoiding the day-to-day stress and routine of your former job assignments.
  5. Do not micromanage or “try to help” the new guy appointed to your position. If (and only if) your replacement asks, perhaps you can meet for breakfast or lunch to “pass on the baton,” offering to share with him/her where are the closets (if not the skeletons), and information for smooth transition such as the location of the music library database, curriculum guide, classroom instruments, etc. However, keep in mind it is not your responsibility nor is it appropriate to give the newcomer philosophy, methodology, or minute details on how or what to do in your former job. The new professional is not you (and probably will make many mistakes), and will have to find his/her own way to realize success in the position.
  6. Travel to those places that you always wanted to see but never had the time. Try a warm sunny place in the winter and see what your students always enjoyed while you were stuck in the classroom during January and February.
  7. Get involved in advocacy, either for music education or something else that is important to you.
  8. For assistance in making the smooth transition to retirement, read the Fall 2013 PMEA News article “Retirement – Now What?” archived on the Retired Member section of the State PMEA website ( Also review the other links posted on the same site.

Be sure to read the other retirement blogs on this site, “Are You Ready? Thoughts on Retirement for Music Teachers” (July 2, 2015) and “Retirement, Exercise, and Balance” (July 6, 2015).

Finally, peruse the following links and books which analyze the psychology and stages of retirement, and provide thoughtful recommendations for happiness and fulfillment after a career of full-time employment. Happy trails, retirees!

Sample of Online Links

Honey I Am Home – for Good – Ohio State University Extension (by Kirk Bloir):

Stages of Retirement – Ohio State University Extension (by Christine Price):

3 Ways to Successfully Transition into Retirement – U.S. News and World Report Money (by Dave Bernard):

Journey Through the Six Stages of Retirement – Investopedia (by Mark P. Cussen):

Transition into a Healthy Retirement – SPARKPEOPLE (by Rebecca Pratt):

25 Things to Do When You Retire – U.S. News and World Report Money (by Phil Taylor):

Emotional Stages of Retirement – Ameriprise Financial:

Life After Retirement – What Do I Do Now? – Forbes (by Mike Lewis):

Thinking About Retirement? Time to Think About Your Psychological Portfolio – American Psychological Association:

Behavioral and Psychological Aspects of the Retirement Decision – U.S. Social Security Administration:

Psychological Effects of the Transition to Retirement – University of Alberta (by John W. Osborne):

Recommended Books to Read

How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free by Ernie Zelinski

How to Love Your Retirement: The Guide to the Best of Your Life by Barbara Waxman

The Joy of Retirement: Finding Happiness, Freedom, and the Life You’ve Always Wanted by David Borchard

The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked by Ernie Zelinski

65 Things to Do When You Retire by Mark Evan Chimsk


© 2015 Paul K. Fox

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