Your hard work has paid off. You’ve planned and saved, and now it’s finally time to retire. Perhaps you’ll take the Bali vacation you’ve always dreamed about, read all those books stacked precariously on your shelves, or install the accent wall you and your partner have been talking about for years but never got around to.
But before you can move on to the exciting adventure of retirement, you’ll need to bid farewell to your employer. You’ll want to make a graceful and professional exit so that you leave on a positive note. And part of this bittersweet process is writing your retirement letter.
A retirement letter is a formal resignation letter to your employer announcing your intention to leave the company and the working world entirely.
Since you’re not leaving because you have grievances with the employer — or they with you — you should be able to end your relationship on good terms. And perhaps even open the door for future possibilities, such as consulting work.
In a retirement letter, you’ll graciously thank your employer, inform them of necessary details and provide information to assist them with the transition.
Before you put pen to paper, it’s important to note that your retirement letter “really is a follow-up to a face-to-face conversation,” says Eloise Eonnet, a career coach and the Director of Coach Connect at The Muse, whether it’s a video call or in-person chat.
So how do you write a formal retirement letter? While you’ll personalize it according to your relationship with your employer and the nature of your work, you should follow these basic steps to get you started.
Include the date you plan to retire in the first paragraph of your letter so that it’s one of the first pieces of information the reader notices. And there’s no need for beating around the bush — according to The Muse, in any official resignation letter (whether you’re retiring or not), it’s best to keep this section short and to the point.
Be respectful and give your employer ample notice so that they don’t need to scramble to find a replacement or redelegate your duties. “It’s always good form to give a little more time than what is in your contract because oftentimes it’s not that long,” Eonnet says. “Two weeks is not enough time to wrap up a career.” This is especially true if you’ve served a long tenure at the company, in which case you may want to give notice even further in advance of your retirement date, considering that your employer may need your assistance in finding and training your replacement.
This isn’t the time to hash out any issues you may have had with your employer. Instead, express your appreciation for the relationship you’ve had, and thank them for the opportunity to hold your position and work with the talented people that make up the organization.
In the same vein, you can also remind your employer of your greatest accomplishments while working for them and thank them for giving you the opportunity to have had these successes. This enables you to leave on a positive note and potentially set the stage for ongoing consulting work, if that’s something you want to pursue in the future. However, it’s entirely up to you — you don’t have to include accomplishments in your retirement letter by any means.
Be courteous and offer to help your employer with the transition in whatever capacity you’re most comfortable. Perhaps you’re willing to be involved in the hiring process or to help onboard and train your replacement. Offering your assistance reinforces the goodwill you’ve built and shows your investment in the company.
However, if you’re part of an organization that demands way too much of you, you’ll want to be very specific about how you’re willing to help throughout this process. First, make sure you “have clarity on what you contractually have to do to not be on bad terms,” Eonnet says. Go back to your contract and look at what exactly is required of you before you can completely step away. Once you have that clarity, you can list whatever it is that you’re willing to do beyond that. Eonnet warns, however, that you should be careful here, because as soon as it’s in writing, it “becomes an expectation” you’ll have to uphold.
This doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship. In fact, it could be the start of something new, such as a consulting relationship where you offer your expertise on a freelance rather than full-time basis. You have the ability to define “what you want the relationship to look like moving forward,” Eonnet says. Intriguing, right? Consulting allows you to scale back on the number of hours you put in and focus on the aspects of your work you enjoy the most, so consider offering your services in that capacity.
Specify what you need from your employer in regard to healthcare, any benefits that extend beyond retirement, stock options, or your 401(k). If you aren’t paid through direct deposit, it’s important to inquire about when and how you’ll receive your last paycheck.
Eonnet also suggests requesting from your employer “a list of exactly what you need from me to wrap things up smoothly and make sure you have everything from me in a timely manner.” In other words, put it on the employer to tell you what they need from you. It might include things that you hadn’t thought of — such as clearing private information from your work computers.
Even if you’re not performing consulting work, your employer may need to get in touch with you to send over tax forms and benefits information, for example. Include your contact information towards the top of the letter to make it easy for them to get in touch. (Make sure it’s not your company contact info, since you probably won’t have access once you leave.)
[Your mailing address]
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
[Your supervisor’s name]
[Your supervisor’s title
[Company city, state, and zip code]
I am writing to inform you of my upcoming retirement. My official last day at [name of company] will be [date of your retirement].
I am very grateful for all of the opportunities [name of company] has provided me over the last [number of years you’ve been with the company] years. I have greatly enjoyed my work as a [title] and am proud to know I helped to achieve [name of company]’s mission of [state company’s mission]. Specifically, I am proud to have [describe a significant accomplishment you made during your time with the company].
Please let me know what I can do to help ensure a smooth transition, including a list of steps you’ll need me to take prior to my departure (e.g., filling out paperwork or clearing my information from the company computer). I would also like to offer my assistance as a consultant, should you have any opportunities in the future.
Thank you again for the opportunities. I am excited to see how [name of company] grows in the coming years.
[Your full name]
Head of Communications
830 Riverwalk Road
Wilmington, DE 19801
April 17, 2023
Chief Communications Officer
2900 Belvedere Avenue
Wilmington, DE 19801
I am writing to inform you of my plan to retire effective May 31, 2023.
I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work at Browser Financials over the past 20 years, starting as a communications assistant and rising in the ranks to become the head of communications under your leadership. During this period, I have overseen a successful merger, streamlined our partnership with Youngsman Trust, and worked with an exemplary team through it all. It has been such a pleasure to learn from and with you and our other talented colleagues.
Please let me know if I can be of any assistance during this transition, including what steps you’ll need me to take prior to my departure in late May (e.g., filling out paperwork or clearing my information from the company computer). It would be my pleasure to continue working with Browser Financials as a consultant while I enjoy time with my family. I can be reached at the email address and phone number above.
“With all the emotion that can come with bringing a career to an end and leaving a team behind,” Eonnet says, remember that “this letter purely serves a contractual purpose.” To that end, “The only information it really needs is the phrase that clearly states that you are retiring on a given date.” Including the elements above is important for a smooth exit, but they should still remain short and to the point.
And don’t forget that retirement isn’t just an ending, it’s the beginning of a new stage in your life. Congratulations on your fresh start!
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.
Fairygodboss team editors contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.