When it comes to retirement, there are those who hope and those who plan. For the planners who want to know exactly when they can clock out for the last time, some jobs offer a more clear end date than others.
It’s easier to count on a certain retirement date for occupations that have a defined contribution benefit — usually known as a pension — based on your age and years of service. Though pension jobs are getting rarer — just 18% of private sector workers had access to a defined contribution benefit in March 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — here are a few occupations where it’s still possible to know exactly when you can throw yourself a retirement party.
Police and firefighters. The Law Enforcement Officers’ and Firefighters’ Plan 2 under the Washington Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) allows a full benefits-eligible retirement with five years of service at age 53. This defined benefit plan also has the option of an early retirement at age 50 with 20 years in, according to the DRS. But shift work can be tough both physically and emotionally, and these workers risk their lives every day.
Teachers. The Teaching Retirement Services Plan 2 with DRS gives teachers in Washington state the option of an “early retirement” at age 55 with 20 years of service, or age 65 with five years, which includes employer and employee contributions to the plan. Diana Gay, 68, retired three years ago from the Issaquah School District. “The human resources department was really good and always bringing in people to talk about how to save and get ready for retirement,” Gay says. “It was like they were a partner in our retirement planning.” After selling her house in Seattle and downsizing to a condo, she says she felt good knowing exactly when she could retire. Teaching also has the unique benefit of time during summer vacations to try out new hobbies and interests that could continue beyond retirement or turn into a new career.
Commercial pilots. In the Seattle area, pilots earn an annual mean wage of over $126,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But they will need to plan their work life carefully to be sure they are on track to retire on time. Because of the Federal Aviation Administration’s mandatory retirement age of 65, most pilots need to think about their next moves far in advance or find related work in their field when they hit that magic number. After a series of bankruptcies and mergers, most airlines now have frozen or done away with pensions in favor of defined-contribution plans like a 401(k).
Military workers. After 20 years of military service, retirees can receive a monthly annuity, based on their highest 36 months of pay, for the rest of their lives. And this pension does not have an age requirement. This is another tough job, but one that can include free or low-cost health care upon retirement. Military retirees can sign up for health care coverage under the government’s TRICARE program until they are Medicare eligible. Note that those who began service in 2018 or later may have a different annuity calculation.