Laurentian faculty face tough, tight decisions around retirement and pensions

A Sudbury financial adviser whose clients include Laurentian University professors says they've been given a four-day window to decide whether or not to retire. "It's a very short term to be able to make a long-standing life decision with regard to if you want to retire."

Financial adviser says faculty members he's working with are emotional, angry and frustrated

A financial adviser in Sudbury, Ont., says several of his clients who are professors at Laurentian University have been given an ultimatum to decide to retire by April 1. (Erik White/CBC )

A Sudbury financial adviser whose clients include Laurentian University professors says they've been given a four-day window to decide whether or not to retire.

It's one of the latest twists in the university's insolvency story, which began Feb. 1.

Richard Malette, who's with Assante Capital Management, says a memo to Laurentian faculty dated March 28 gives professors until today to provide irrevocable written notice of retirement.

The memo is characterized as a retirement incentive. But Malette says it's more like an ultimatum and has caused a great deal of stress for several of his clients who are senior faculty.

"It's a very short term to be able to make a long-standing life decision with regard to if you want to retire — and you only have 72 hours to do it," said Malette.

"From what I understand, some of the incentives might be working for some and probably not for many."

He says the incentives aren't monetary and promise benefits for a few years and access to an office.

"After April 1, there's no guarantee of what options might be available in the future," he said, including taking out a lump sum or deferring their pension.

CBC reached out to the communications department at Laurentian and to the Laurentian Faculty Association, but has not received a response.

Richard Malette, a financial adviser for over 30 years whose clients include Laurentian profs, says the memo on the retirement decision has caused stress for several of his clients who are senior faculty. (

Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde, a professor with the faculty of science, engineering and architecture at Laurentian University's department of biology, said he's too young to take retirement, but doesn't see this incentive tempting senior faculty.

"I appreciate the university does need to shed faculty positions. But I can't see myself taking a package like that. It's not really a package," he said.

"It's just saying we can retire late April or mid-May and we can keep our graduate students for a couple of years, and we can have our library privileges. And you can commute at least part of your pension."

He said this is not the kind of normal incentive package that a university offers for retirements.

"At least not from what I've seen in other institutions.

Albrecht Shulte-Hostedde, Canada Research Chair of Applied Evolutionary Ecology at Laurentian University and director of Centre for Evolutionary Ecology and Ethical Conservation, says he's too young to take retirement. (Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde)

"One of the underlying issues here is that the university does have a number of faculty that are over 70 years old that are earning a salary and also collecting their pension," said Schulte-Hostedde.

"I can only imagine that if I were the university administrator, that would be a group that I would try to incentivize to retire."

But he points out that 10 to 12 years of post-secondary education is undertaken by those pursuing an academic career.

"Most of us don't start our career-paid position until we're in our early to mid-30s or even later. So it's understandable why some people work beyond 65. Our earnings window for our career is relatively small compared to perhaps other careers or other professions," he said.

"So I don't begrudge faculty for working beyond 65 at all. But I think, given the current circumstances, I think it's really difficult to confront what the university requires of us as a faculty."

Like adding 'gas to the fire'

Malette said he's spending hours on the phone with his clients who are affected.

"Nobody wants to go backwards. You definitely want to go forward, especially at retirement," he said.

"Your income will always be at a lower rate than what your income was while you were working, which is which is understandable. But you don't want it to be excessively lower than what you thought it would be."

Malette said faculty members he's working with are emotional, angry and frustrated.

"People have been very frustrated since Feb. 1 and on edge."

And the short period of time they have to make decisions about their retirement "sort of adds the gas to the fire. It's not a very good feeling with clients," he said.

"I've had discussions with clients as late as midnight the last day or so because there's only so much time in a day. And you have to basically address everybody's concerns as quickly as you can."


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