Are Nurses Ready for Retirement? Apparently Not

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Photo by Judy Schmidt/CDC

Photo by Judy Schmidt/CDC

If you ask many nurses in their sixties if they’re ready to retire, they may heartily say, “Yes, can’t wait.” But if the question is whether they are financially ready to retire, the answer may be quite different.

In their article in this month’s issue of AJN, “Preparing for Retirement in Uncertain Times” (free until the end of January), authors Shanna Keele and Patricia Alpert note that surveys reveal nurses to be unsure of how to begin preparing for retirement. A 2011 survey reported that “71% felt they were not saving enough for retirement”; another survey revealed that “59% of nurses do not know how to begin the retirement planning process” and most do not feel knowledgeable about investing and other related financial processes.

Keele and Alpert, who’ve conducted research around nurses’ readiness to retire, “explore the obstacles that nurses, especially female nurses, confront in planning and preparing for retirement. We outline steps nurses can take to begin the process; discuss various types of retirement accounts; and refer readers to helpful, free online resources.” There’s also a box that lists crucial steps to take if you’re getting a late start on retirement planning.

Whether you’re decades away from retirement or approaching retirement in the near future, this is a good read to start off the new year—especially if you’re planning contributions to accounts and retirement plans for the year. One thing that’s certain: you can never start planning too early.

Bookmark and Share

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Kathy Doyle February 6, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Cynthia, I share your age, years of nursing expertise, job loss (actually 3), use of retirement savings, and career reflections. It is SO painful. Business practice: BSN students are replacing experienced RN’s. This is what I have been doing these past 4 years. At 58 I went back to get my BSN, of course accruing loans, and now am working on my MSN. The program is outstanding and because I started last fall (at 62) I signed a senior waiver and only pay $241 per course! I am a proponent of nursing programs to offer a similar waiver. Why not? The baby boomers are retiring. Many are doing so because they have encountered similar situations and backs are against the wall. I find myself reinvigorated as I work part time as a clinical instructor for LPN’s while attending a hybrid graduate program. There is a fabulous blend of age, cultural, and experience diversification. I made this decision because I wanted to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem of nursing shortage and lack of faculty. I still am far away from ‘out to pasture.’ I refuse to let others view our baby boom generation as no longer valuable. Instead, institutions ought to become more creative utilizing us for their advantage. Don’t give up the ship or lose hope! 40 years in ED-is considerably valuable. Student nurses need us-reconsider, reflect, and know you have much to offer. Create a new future for yourself! Who knows, I may just go on for my Doctorate! Thinking of you and many other talented seasoned nurses who are experiencing the same situation-I wish you the best!

  2. Miss Lynn Marie Leighton January 14, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Yes I have lost a few significant positions and I think the Nursing Administration is more focused on the patient and the bottom line than on the security of the nurse. and more sensitivity is needed to help the nurse with fiancial issues in her career because even if you are a prudent money manager you never know what may happen to upset your plan if you do not fit into their master plan.

  3. Wanda Wright January 12, 2015 at 9:34 am

    You are so right about the wonderful world of nursing…but the healthcare field is one of the most corrupt industries in the work force. Depending on the state that you work in…without a contract…you are an at will employee. Unions in hospitals are not beneficial..this creates more havoc for the employees…A good example: I have been an RN for 20 years…I applied for a position on a Med-Surgical unit…in a large facility. Near the end of my interview, I was ask to speak with two of the team members for this unit. One nurse being an RN for six months. Her statement to me still makes me laugh out loud at times when I think of what she said to me. This six month RN told me, “There is no standing around, or sitting on this unit, you have to be ready to really work!” I smiled, and commented, Med Surg. is a tough unit, isn’t it, that’s why I have worked Med Surg. for twenty years!” The other nurse being experienced as well, just smiled at me and stated,”Me too!”…I love the nursing industry, but Nursing is like everything else today, it’s more political. A lot of facilities hire new graduates because of the money, but actually there is no replacement for an experience Nurse, that knows the ropes. Again, I am not speaking against the new graduates, because I was there once, myself, and I know what a difficult time that can be. I think a Nurse should be allowed to work, and be considered an asset to her profession, as long as she is productive, and enjoys the job that she is hired to do. Too many times we hear the same complaints from healthcare facilities. Again, the money is a factor in most facilities. An experienced RN of twenty -twenty five years has maxed out their potential for increases in pay, so…most companies just retire the higher paid nurse, or in some cases, terminate the experienced nurse, and hire a nurse at the other end of the pay scale. Sometimes, it’s referred to as, “you retire…or we fire!” Believe me, if a facility doesn’t want a nurse there any longer…a paper trail of paperwork will appear out of no where…and as quickly as it may appear…the employee, will disappear.

  4. LifeCoachRN January 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    The other reason nurses are not ready for retirement is we often move around from hospital to hospital or to different jobs. There should be a national plan that nurses could belong to or even at a city or state level like police officers, firefighters etc.

  5. Cynthia Taylor January 5, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    I think you are correct, about nurses in their 60s not being ready or preparing for retirement. But how about those of us who have to accept FORCED retirement? After 40 yrs. of RN nursing, mostly ER, but some public health nursing, I was terminated suddenly from my ER part time job. At age 60, I had thought about retiring, but not ready yet because I was trying to catch up on finances after divorce, cancer then cataract surgery. It would have been much better to terminate me or force me to resign with a little warning or heads up! Now, after only five months of unemployment benefits–all that is now available to anyone, no eligibility for social security, and no hope of finding another job at my age, that is not a 12 hr. shift on-your-feet job, I am “high and dry”, with no means of supporting myself except retirement IRA. What few people realize is that when a person pulls from an IRA early, not only do taxes eat you alive, the medical insurance denies subsidies if you have any kind of pre-existing conditions, and the absurdity of health insurance at over $300-$800. a month is unavailable also! Have you ever tried to get a job doing work that has always been done by nurse aides or techs? I found that I do not qualify to do EMT or paramedic ER tech work, as I was not licensed as either one. Same with CMA or CNA, etc. So now what? Do I go back to school for a CNA or CMA, care tech, or such? What a mess our nursing careers have gotten into! Folks, plan early! You never know when a supervisor is going to decide you don’t need to work.

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

%d bloggers like this: