Retiring from Barnard

The Planning Process for Faculty & Administrators

The decision to retire is a very personal one and is based on many factors, including your family, career, and financial circumstances; eligibility for governmental as well as Barnard benefit programs; and your health.  We hope that the information presented below will assist you with planning for your retirement.  The following is only a brief summary; more complete information can be obtained from

  • The Human Resources Office, 

  • Benefit plan documents, and

  • The links we have provided to informative web sites important to retirees.

As you plan for your retirement, and review these materials, please remember to consider these key elements:

  • Social security benefits remain a very important part of most people’s retirement income, so it is wise to consider how those benefits can affect your decision to retire. 

  • You should become familiar with the provisions of Barnard’s retirement plan regarding benefit payouts. 

  • If you have a personal financial planner, plan to consult with that individual well in advance of your retirement date to make certain that you understand your financial needs and options.

When Can I Retire?

Full Retirement Age:

Until recently, age 65 was considered the “normal retirement age,” that is, 65 was the age at which you could begin collecting a full social security benefit and enroll in Medicare.  You may still enroll in Medicare at age 65.  However, your full social security benefit is now available only if you have reached your “full retirement age,” or in the parlance of social security, your “FRA.” 

If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your FRA is 65.  If you were born from 1938 on, your FRA is determined by a schedule based on your birth year.  Depending on your birth year, your full retirement age may be anywhere between 65 and 67 years of age.  Your full social security benefit will be reduced for each month you begin collecting your benefit before reaching your FRA.  Conversely, you would be entitled to a greater social security benefit if you retire between your FRA and age 70, when you must begin to collect your social security.

Similarly, your Barnard retirement plan has provisions governing when and how you may start your benefits.  We suggest strongly that you speak with a counselor at the company holding your retirement investments regarding the timing of retirement withdrawals.  Contact information for both TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments follows.

Early Retirement:

You may be considering retiring prior to age 65.  You may certainly do so, but remember that while you can begin collecting your social security benefit as early as age 62, if you do, your benefit will be permanently reduced because you are collecting in advance of reaching your FRA.  Also, your benefit will be further reduced if you continue to work, earn money over a certain annual threshold amount and collect your social security benefit prior to reaching your FRA. Keep in mind that you will also need to understand how your benefits would be paid out from your Barnard retirement plan if you retire early.  In addition, a decision to take early retirement will have an impact on the cost of your medical benefits until you reach your FRA.  Please see the retiree health section of this document for further information.

Phased Retirement:

Barnard administrative staff may wish to explore the possibility of phasing into retirement.  Phased retirements can be beneficial to both you and to the College.  A phased retirement affords you an opportunity to retire from your work at the College more gradually than traditional retirement and gives your department time to hire and train a replacement or restructure if necessary.   

A phased retirement could be accomplished by a mutual agreement among you, your supervisor and Human Resources.  These agreements are subject to the operational needs of the College and are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.  A phased retirement requires a written Agreement of Intent to Retire that specifies:  (1) a planned decrease in work load and compensation, and (2) the intent to retire as of a specific date, generally within two years.

A phased retirement agreement could allow you to retain full employee benefits and, depending on your age, you may be able to supplement any decrease in your pay with monies from your Barnard retirement plan.  These monies could be withdrawn without incurring a tax penalty when appropriate arrangements are made with the investment company holding your retirement account(s).  If you are interested in considering phased retirement, you should speak with the Human Resources Department.

Faculty who wish to enter into a pre-retirement plan should contact the Provost.  Accommodations are possible regarding waiving the provision about a return to teaching after an earned paid leave (e.g. a sabbatical) and converting time toward eligibility for a paid leave into a temporary reduction of teaching load before retirement.

Enrolling in Government Retirement Benefits

This information on government benefits is by necessity brief and is subject to change.  These matters can be quite complex and are dependent on your individual circumstances.  Please consult the Social Security Administration directly at the phone number and/or web address provided below for complete information. If you are working with a financial advisor to plan for your retirement, it is recommended that you include medical care in your discussions.

Social Security and Medicare Part A:

Contact the Social Security Administration by phone or online to review the monthly benefit for which you will be eligible on a given retirement date. The Social Security web site has a handy calculator that will assist you in determining the benefit for which you would be eligible, or you can discuss this with a representative on the phone.  Social Security representatives are well trained and helpful.  It is not an intimidating process!

Social Security will also assist you with enrollment in Medicare Part A (Hospital Coverage).   Keep in mind that you are eligible for Medicare Part A on the first of the month in which you reach your 65th birthday.  It is easy to enroll in Medicare Part A on the telephone, and it is recommended that you enroll when eligible, even if you are still employed.  There is no premium for Medicare Part A coverage.  You have paid for that through payroll deductions over the course of your working years.

Medicare Part B (Medical Coverage):

If you are covered currently by Barnard’s medical insurance for active faculty and administrators, you will not need Medicare Part B until you stop working and your current Barnard coverage (for you and your spouse, if covered) ends.  You will have an Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and, if you are working, a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).  We suggest strongly that you speak with a Social Security representative about enrollment dates that will apply in your particular circumstance as enrollment periods can be somewhat complex and very specific.  If you are not covered by Barnard’s health insurance or other private health insurance (through a spouse, for example) you will also want to make certain you understand how to enroll in Medicare Part B when you are eligible.  As is the case for Medicare Part A, eligibility for this benefit occurs on the first of the month in which you reach your 65th birthday, but please consult Social Security regarding specific enrollment dates that apply in your circumstances.

Keep in mind that you will need Medicare Part B to enroll in Barnard’s retiree health coverage, if you are eligible, or any private retiree medical coverage you might be considering, such as Medigap or Part D (prescription drug) coverage, so Part B enrollment is very important.

There is a monthly charge for Medicare Part B.  For the majority of retirees, that premium will be $104.90 per month effective 2016; however, if your income in retirement will exceed certain income levels, your premium could be higher.  If you miss the Part B enrollment deadline that applies to you, you could be subject to financial penalties when you do enroll.  It is very important to enroll in Medicare Part B when you are eligible and your employment circumstances warrant enrollment.

Here are the relevant telephone numbers and web sites for further information about these important government benefits:

Social Security Administration – 1-800-772-1213

Enrollment for both Social Security benefits and Medicare is handled through the Social Security Administration.

Medicare – 1-800-MEDICARE

Contact Medicare for general information and helpful online search programs to identify types of private coverage, such as Medicare Advantage, Medigap and Part D drug plans.


Information About Barnard Retirement Benefits

In addition to the benefits to which you may be entitled from the federal government,  you may also be eligible to begin drawing from the contributions that Barnard has made for you to the Barnard College Retirement plan and those that you have set aside through a Supplemental Retirement Account.  Depending on your age, years of service, and the health benefits coverage that you have as an employee, you may also be eligible to participate in Barnard’s postretirement medical program.  The details are provided below.  

Accessing Funds from the Barnard Retirement Plan


If you have not already done so, we urge you to register on the TIAA-CREF web site to secure regular access to your account(s).  The site provides several tools for your use in calculating retirement financial scenarios.  The web address is  In addition, TIAA-CREF representatives visit campus regularly to conduct retirement planning workshops and to provide one-on-one counseling.  You may also contact TIAA-CREF directly at 1-800-842-2776 to make an appointment with a counselor to discuss retirement planning.  There is no charge to you for this service. 

Fidelity Investments, Inc.:

As of January 1, 2008, Barnard is also offering Fidelity as a retirement investment option.  You will have complete web access to your fund accounts and planning materials through Fidelity’s site.   In addition, there are Fidelity workshops and one-on-one counseling available on campus.  Fidelity’s customer service number is 1-800-343-0860 and their web address is at work/barnard.  As with TIAA-CREF, there is no charge to you for Fidelity’s counseling services.

Look for mailings from Human Resources throughout the year with information on campus workshops and private sessions for both Fidelity and TIAA-CREF.

Post-Retirement Medical Programs

In order to qualify for participation in any of Barnard’s post-retirement medical programs, you (and your spouse, if you want spousal coverage in retirement) must be enrolled in Barnard’s health plan for active employees for at least a year immediately preceding retirement.  Retiree medical coverage is not available to those active employees who have been insured elsewhere while working at Barnard – for example, through a spouse.  The specific programs, eligibility requirements, and related premiums are described below:

Post-Retirement Medical Coverage for Retirees Aged 65 and over:

Retirees aged 65 and over who have worked at the College for 10 or more years, and are covered under Barnard’s active employee plan at the time of their retirement are eligible to participate in Barnard’s post-retirement medical programs. 

Barnard provides medical coverage for retirees through One Exchange.  Retirees may choose individual plans from a wide selection of Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans.  Certified benefit advisors at One Exchange will assist each retiree in making a plan selection that best suits the retiree's needs.  Additional information about One Exchange is available at and also via customer service at 877-389-2315.

One Exchange administers a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) that may be used to pay plan premiums and other health care related expenses for retirees.  Barnard makes a quarterly contribution to the account in the amount of $825, the equivalent of $275 each month.

Post-retirement Medical Coverage for Retirees between the Ages of 62 and 65:

If you are between age 62 and 65 when you retire, and you have completed 10 years of service, you are eligible to participate in Barnard’s post-retirement medical programs.  From the time of your retirement up until your 65th birthday, Barnard will enroll you in its active employee plan or its closest equivalent.  You will be responsible for paying 50% of the premium.  Effective January 2016, half of the monthly premium for Barnard’s active employee health coverage is $426.45 per month. Once you turn 65, and become eligible for Medicare, you must then switch to either of the retiree medical options described above.  If you choose not to participate in this program when you retire, you will not be eligible to re-enter Barnard’s postretirement medical program until  you reach age 65 and have enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B.

Post-retirement Medical Coverage for Retirees under Age 62:

The College provides access to post-retirement medical coverage for faculty and administrative employees who meet the “rule of 80”.  At Barnard, this means that you must be between the ages of 55 and 62, and have sufficient years of service that add up to 80.  For example, a 55 year old retiree would need 25 years of service to qualify for post-retirement medical benefits.  From the time of your retirement  until your 62nd birthday, Barnard will enroll you in its active employee plan or its closest equivalent.  You will be responsible for paying 100% of the premium.  Effective January 2016, the monthly premium for Barnard’s active employee health coverage is $852.89. When you reach your 62nd birthday, your premium will be 50% of the then current premium cost, as described above.  If you choose not to participate in this program when you retire, you will not be eligible to re-enter Barnard’s postretirement medical program until you reach age 65 and have enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B.

Your Barnard Email Account

If you are a full-time member of the faculty or a full-time administrator who has retired from your position at Barnard, you may choose to keep your email account active.  Such retiree email accounts are available upon request and will remain active for three years after your retirement date.  You may extend your retiree email account in additional three year increments by contacting the Provost's Office if you are a retired member of the faculty and by contacting Human Resources if you are a retired administrator.

Library and Auditing Privileges

If you are Faculty Emeriti, a full professor who has retired from the Barnard Faculty and has been appointed to Faculty Emeriti status by the Board of Trustees, you may request to continue your library privileges at both the Barnard and Columbia Libraries.  This access requires a Columbia ID, which may be obtained at Columbia with approval from the Barnard Provost’s Office. 

Other retired faculty and administrators have reading privileges in the Barnard library.  Reading privileges require a Barnard retiree ID which is available through the Provost’s Office for faculty and Human Resources for administrators.  Retirees wishing to have access to Columbia Libraries may do so through the Friend of Columbia Libraries program.  Information about this program is available at

Retired faculty and administrators are able to audit most Barnard classes at no cost. Approval of the instructor is required, and some classes are restricted or may involve digital learning tools for which retirees do not have access. Retirees are encouraged to obtain the instructor's permission during registration week or during the first week of classes.  There is, however, no formal deadline for registration.  Retirees wishing to audit courses must have a Barnard retiree ID which is available through the Provost’s Office for faculty and Human Resources for administrators.

Benefits That End With Retirement

Please be aware that Aetna dental coverage, long-term disability insurance, life insurance and accidental death & dismemberment policies end when you retire.  You may continue your Aetna dental coverage under federal COBRA regulations for up to 18 months after your retirement date, if you pay the full cost of the coverage.  The Human Resources Office can supply you with information.  Please also note that benefits provided through voluntary payroll deduction such as TransitChek and flexible spending accounts will also end when you retire.

Useful Links for Retirees – The official site of the Social Security Administration. – The official Medicare site. – Register on this site for access to your accounts and for planning information. – Register on this site for access to your accounts and for planning information. – American Association of Retired Persons – This website provides information about health care plans available to Barnard retirees. – The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

As with all Barnard’s benefit plans, those concerning retirement are subject to formal plan documents, which are available in the Human Resources Office.  If there is a discrepancy between the plan document and information presented here, the plan document will govern.  Barnard reserves the right to alter or end benefit programs at any time with or without prior notice.