Rensselaerville woman elected president of Retired Public Employees Association

Diana Hinchcliff

RENSSELAERVILLE — Diana Hinchcliff, of Rensselaerville, was elected last month as president of the Retired Public Employees Association, a not-for-profit group in Troy that advocates for retirees who used to work in New York State’s public sector. 

Hinchcliff first got involved with the program four years ago, at the behest of a colleague who, like her, worked in state government. But Hinchcliff waited until she retired before she joined, and simultaneously became a member of the organization’s board.

“I’ve always been a doer,” said Hinchcliff, whose storied career includes a tenure as director of governmental relationships for the State Education Department and numerous presidencies at not-for-profit groups, as well as trade organizations. “I’ve always wanted to give back.”

And, now that she’s retired, she’s in a prime position to do so. 

“I always tell people that I love being retired because it gives me the opportunity to do what I love,” said Hinchcliff, who described career-work as taxing, especially when trying to balance family obligations. “Now I just do what I have time for. There’s more control in retirement.”

It’s something of a coincidence, then, that Hinchcliff lives in Rensselaerville, which she described as a naturally-occurring retirement community, where retirees, often from the city, seek a bucolic escape for their golden years. 

But Hinchcliff didn’t choose Rensselaerville as a retiree. Born in Brooklyn, she moved to Albany for a job and lived in apartments in the city and surrounding suburbs for a few years.

“I had never lived in a rural area,” Hinchcliff said. “I wanted something different.”

On what factors are of primary concern for retirees from the public sector, or people seeking retirement, Hinchcliff outlined two areas.

“One is … whether they’re going to have enough money,” she said. “Luckily, state workers are part of the State Retirement System, so we get a pension.”

However, the average pension in New York for state and local retirees is $26,000, Hinchcliff said, which is slightly less than an entry-level salary in the private sector.

The other area is health, where state workers also receive benefits.

“If we retire at a certain age and are a certain number of years into our government career,” said Hinchcliff, “we’re entitled to health benefits.”

Hinchcliff said government workers sacrifice big salaries and a lot of the perks and benefits that employees in the private sector get for these end-of-career payoffs. And that’s why it’s important someone ensures those payoffs are suitable for a comfortable life after years of public service. 

When asked if the nature of retirement is changing, Hinchcliff said yes.

“A lot of [modern] work is piecemeal work, a lot of work at home,” said Hinchcliff. “It’s a gig economy.”

She cited reports that suggested people weren’t retiring at the typical age of 65, instead putting it off so they could save more money, or, in some cases, not retiring at all.

“We’ve become a service economy rather than a manufacturing economy,” Hinchcliff said, “and service jobs don’t pay what manufacturing jobs pay, or government jobs for that matter.”

But for her, retirement doesn’t come down to having enough money to coast. 

“Whether I’ll ever be truly retired,” Hinchcliff said, “I don’t think so. I’m not the type to sit on the porch in a rocking chair.”

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