Retirement planning timeline

You probably should be planning for retirement – no matter what your age or stage. Smart planning can mean you’re able to reach all your post-retirement goals. Here’s how some USC retirees are living out their dreams:

Retirement planning

USC is serious about helping you reach your retirement goals. To that end, we provide many educational opportunities through our retirement account providers (Vanguard, Fidelity and TIAA). See our retirement guidance page.

No matter far away retirement is, it’s never too early to start planning:

Retirement? It’s not even on the horizon…

  • Participate in USC’s Retirement Savings Program or the Keck Medicine of USC 401(k) Retirement Plan, if eligible, and contribute enough to receive the full USC match.
  • Consider making additional contributions to the supplemental retirement plan.
  • Evaluate if making contributions on a Roth after-tax basis is right for you.
  • Review your asset allocation by comparing options available through the retirement investment providers.
  • Plan to regularly increase your contributions—up to the IRS limit.
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of purchasing additional life insurancelong-term care insurance, or cancer protection.
  • Set an estimated retirement savings goal.
  • At least once a year, assess your progress toward your financial goals. Tally your assets and liabilities. Review your account balances.
  • Attend an individual counseling session with a representative from your retirement investment provider.
  • Make sure that the beneficiary designations on your retirement savings are updated online with the investment provider, and insurance policies are up to date in Workday.
  • Evaluate your need for a will or trust and keep them up to date.
  • Decide whether you would benefit from hiring a financial planner. The USC Credit Union offers some financial planning services, and H.E.L.P. is highly recommended for financial and legal guidance for seniors. H.E.L.P. also offers a sliding scale for those with low income.
    • Learn how various financial advisers are paid (i.e., fee-based, fee only, etc.)

Beginning to seriously think about retirement…

Retirement is a couple of years off…


  • Acquaint your dean, department chair, or immediate supervisor of your interest in a retirement date in adequate time to initiate the search for your successor. Request their assistance in the process of transition.
  • Inquire about emeritus/emerita status if you desire this honorary designation, which is not automatically bestowed. See Article 10-A in the Faculty Handbook for more details.
  • Discuss with your dean, department head, or immediate supervisor the possibility of a phased retirement. See the Faculty Early Retirement Program webpage.
  • Consider meeting with the faculty retirement navigator (more information at the Faculty Early Retirement page).
  • Join the Retired Faculty Association.


Faculty and staff

  • Attend Transitions seminars and other retirement-education programs for information on financial, health, and lifestyle issues during your pre- and post-retirement years. Invite your spouse, partner or friend to join you.
  • Review relevant documents and plans with your spouse, partner or friend.


  • Calculate your projected living expenses in detail and compare to your anticipated income from all sources. Continue to save and prepare financially.
  • Review your annual Personal Earning and Benefit Estimate Statement from the Social Security Administration. Tentatively set the best time to begin taking Social Security benefits.
  • Re-evaluate the asset allocation of your investments.
  • Use the free services available to you from the investment providers managing your retirement accounts. They can provide extensive information about investing during retirement and income-distribution options.
  • Consult with your tax and financial advisor or consider hiring a financial planner.
  • Organize important documents. Track down information about retirement plans you may have from previous employers.
  • Review your will, trust, or estate plan, if applicable.


  • Calculate your projected healthcare and medication costs and coverage options. For free forms, information, and counseling related to issues of Medicare Parts A (hospital), Part B (physician), Part D (if applicable), MediGap (Medicare Supplement), and Medicare Advantage (HMO/Regional PPO), contact Medicare or the Center for Health Care Rights. Determine what coverage will be best for you during retirement and, if necessary, make a change during USC’s open enrollment period in the fall for coverage effective the following January 1.
  • Review your insurance policies. Identify gaps and duplications.


  • Discuss with your network of peers their experiences regarding retirement planning, retirement decisions, and use of advisers.
  • Consider post-retirement use of time, including part-time work and long-term commitments such as family, friends, community, health, and fitness.
  • Join or volunteer for an organization or group to which you would enjoy giving your retirement time, effort, or support.
  • Start the decision-making process on whether or not you will be relocating and selling your home when you retire. Visit possible relocation destinations before making a decision to relocate.
  • Begin education or training for new career or vocation.
  • Begin on a limited basis any new activity you plan to do during retirement.
  • Build a network of friends, associates, and contacts of any age, including some who are already retired.
  • Consider a Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) or other senior-travel experience.

Retirement is about six months off…

Faculty and staff

  • Work with your dean, department chair, or immediate supervisor to prepare for transfer of duties and responsibilities.
  • Prepare and send your resignation letter to your dean or supervisor.
    • Faculty should preferably send this letter of intent early in the fall if they plan to resign in the spring. This will give your department time to find a replacement for the next academic year.
    • Staff should send this letter two to four weeks prior to their retirement date. Generally, the greater the responsibilities the more notice you should give.
  • Locate your original birth certificate and, if applicable, marriage certificate (or divorce decree). You will need to present these when you apply for benefits.
  • Review your vacation accruals. Unused vacation days will be included in your final paycheck. (Not all faculty accrue vacation.)


  • Collect and review applicable information and forms, if necessary, for retirement plan distribution.
  • Review your most recent pay stub or advice slip. You’ll need to make arrangements to continue deductions such as USC Credit Union, School of Dentistry payment plans, retirement plan loans (Vanguard loans are payable in full upon employment termination), and ticket office purchases.
  • Set aside transition funds in a savings or checking account to take care of any unexpected expenses or delays in expected retirement payments.


  • Review your retirement medical coverage. Compare premiums and benefits of USC Senior Care to other Medicare supplement plans and make adjustments to your coverage as needed.
  • Collect and review applicable forms or enrollment procedures for Medicare Parts A and B (and Part D, if applicable), USC Senior Care or other MediGap policy, or Medicare Advantage. Contact Social Security Administration, the Center for Health Care Rights, or Medicare if you need assistance.
  • If you are under age 65, compare the costs of an individual purchase of health coverage to COBRA coverage.


  • Explore how to continue your involvement in professional organizations (possibly without paying active-member dues).
  • Set personal goals for the first three months and first two years of retirement.
  • Continue to consider what you love to do – more of the same or a pursuit of something entirely different.

Retirement is about three months off…

  • Review and submit applicable Social Security forms. You should apply three months before you wish to receive benefits.
  • Sign up for Medicare. You should apply three months before you wish to begin coverage.
  • Contact the HR Service Center with questions on accessing retirement funds, and when benefits will end.
  • Contact your retirement investment providers to discuss your distribution options. (Please note that USC cannot sign off on your distribution paperwork until your termination has been fully processed.)

Retirement is a month off…

Faculty and staff

  • Review the general Leaving USC information as some of it will apply to retiring employees.


  • Defined contribution plan participants: Finalize and complete paperwork for your retirement plan distribution. Once distribution plan option is chosen, investment provider will send you appropriate forms – note that if married, your spouse will need to have his/her signature notarized. Return forms to USC Benefits. Note that USC cannot sign off on paperwork until your termination has been fully processed.
  • Defined benefit plan participants: Contact the HR Service Center for information on necessary steps – be prepared to provide proof of age and copies of marriage certificates, if applicable.
  • Verify that you have applied for Social Security if your financial plan includes benefits at this time.
  • Review your payroll advice slip and, if desired, make alternative arrangements to continue any payments you are currently making through payroll deduction.


  • Finalize decisions on healthcare and enroll in Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, Medicare Part D (if applicable), MediGap, and/or Medicare Advantage, as planned.
  • Enroll in USC Senior Care or other MediGap policy if this is part of your healthcare plan.
  • Arrange for continuation of any USC-sponsored insurance (life, long-term care, cancer protection) you wish to retain by contacting the applicable providers directly.


  • Inform business-related organizations of your address change if you will no longer have an office on campus and want to keep in contact.
  • You may continue to get football tickets at the employee discount rate when you retire; contact the ticket office for clarification.
  • Choose three things you wish to accomplish during the first month of retirement and share that information with your spouse, partner or close friend.
  • Give yourself permission for “down” time as needed.
  • Continue to think about what you always wanted to learn or do, but never had time for it.
  • Make commitments and arrangements to prepare for new endeavors.
  • Enjoy your freedom to experiment with your new wealth of time.
  • Know that goals and plans may change.
  • Plan your first day of retirement to celebrate this new phase of your life!

The annual Staff Retirement Luncheon honors those staff members who’ve retired the previous year.

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