Ronald Inglehart, Photo by Eva Menezes


Occupation: Research Professor, Center for Political Studies; Professor, Department of Political Science

Age:  78

Time at U-M: Faculty member for 47 years

Current professional work:
Full-time professor and director of two major research projects, the World Values Survey, a survey conducted in 90 countries containing 90 percent of the world’s population, and TKTK, a research laboratory in St. Petersburg sponsored by the Russian government.

Why many people no longer retire by age 65:
Realistically, 65 isn’t what 65 used to be. You were toothless and feeble and about ready to drop. Now male life expectancy is about 78. I think I write better stuff now, and I actually publish more than I did. I’ve published more since I turned 65 than I did before turning 65. Some places still have mandatory retirement at 65. This is one of the few ways in which the United States is more advanced than other countries.

Evolving feelings regarding retirement:
I expected I would retire by the time I was around 70, but when I was around 70 I felt…I like what I’m doing. It’s loads of fun. I really would miss it if I quit teaching. So I said, why retire? Then I thought I might retire at 75, but when I hit 75 I thought, why should I quit? I like it!

Now vs. then:
Comparing me at 30 with me at 78, I could run a whole lot faster and I could work more hours a day. I was also much narrower. I started out as a specialist in European integration, focusing on Western Europe. Now I cover the history of the past 3,000 years of the world. I get new data all the time from the World Values Survey, and I can see history changing. It’s changing fast.

Advice for others interested in long careers:
Take care of your health. Don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. And get exercise. It sounds like mama’s advice, but sometimes mama was right. Then do what you like. Both of my brothers went into business. Both of them made a lot of money. They both retired at 60. Then they started to enjoy life. I’ve been enjoying life while I’m working.

Plans for eventual retirement:
I expect I will retire, probably when I’m 81 or 82. You want to be sure you quit while you’re ahead. But so far my grants are getting funded, my publications are getting published, I get good teaching evaluations, so I figured…not yet!