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The age-old question is how much to spend on a retirement gift for a co-worker? No one wants to look cheap, but how much should you contribute? And what if you don’t even like them?

As a general rule, $5.00 to $20.00 is deemed appropriate when contributing to a group retirement gift for a co-worker. This should increase to $30.00 to $50.00 when it’s a gift from you. Factors to consider include how close you are, years of service and what else is being done for them.

How Much to Spend on A Retirement Gift for A Co-Worker?

Most progressive companies provide service awards including something when employees retire. 

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In these situations, you may not be asked to contribute anything. When this isn’t the case or something extra is called for, the question is how much should you spend?

For instance, if everyone in the office is kicking in ten bucks, you probably should do the same. If there were ten of you, this would allow for a decent gift commemorating their special occasion.

On the other hand, if there were only five of you, this might up the ante to twenty dollars, again with the intent of buying something nice.

When they’re a personal friend, you might choose to do something on your own. A $30.00 to $50.00 gift is generally appropriate as an individual gift.

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Gerd Altmann from Pixabay">Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Do You Have to Contribute to A Gift?

You are under no obligation to contribute to a gift.

While it’s customary to celebrate retirement, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to give away your hard-earned cash. In fact, some folks can’t afford to spend much.

Other times, it comes down to principle rather than the cost. As a retirement gift is considered optional, no one should feel pressured into donating. In some situations, a retirement card signed by each team member is completely appropriate.

Having said that, if all your co-workers want to do something, it might be best to match what they’re doing and throw in five or ten bucks. The last thing you want is to be perceived as cheap or not part of the team.

If you choose not to participate, you’ll want to be diplomatic in how you handle it. For instance, if you really can’t afford it, perhaps you could offer to help out in another way. Such as coordinating the event and making arrangements.

Another aspect is when you don’t particularly like the person.

What If You Don't Like A Person?

Let’s be candid, we don’t always get along with everyone. So, how much to spend on a retirement gift for a co-worker becomes a very tough question to answer.

In particular, I recall a certain boss who made my life misery. Not surprisingly, most of my team mates felt the same way. Needless to say, we didn’t organize anything and were glad to see him leave.

In other instances, it may be more of a personality conflict between you and the person. You just never got along and you don’t feel inclined to participate. As mentioned above, assess what the rest of the team is doing before opting out.

When a Retirement Gift Isn't Required

Often, a gift or celebration isn’t called for or required. These could be when your employer has a budget and is planning on an event. In addition, our work cultures have changed dramatically in recent years.

Taking them out for a meal, in itself, is a form of a gift. Finally, if it’s involuntary retirement when they’re being forced out the door, you’ll want to be sensitive to the situation.

The Company Event

As mentioned above, progressive companies often have a budget set aside. In this case, how much to spend on a retirement gift for a co-worker becomes irrelevant.

This might be based upon $10.00 to $20.00 per each year of service. Thus, your employer might assign $200.00 to $400.00 for a twenty-year employee.

The event might be hosted in a boardroom with a presentation sharing highlights of their career. This could include cake, refreshments, as well as a retirement gift(s).

 Alternatively, the venue could be a restaurant with the company picking up the tab.

Long gone are the days of presenting a gold watch. More appropriate, and especially when conducted in a group setting, are some fun and light-hearted gifts. Our post Funny Retirement Gifts for Women provides examples perfect for such an occasion.

Changing Work Culture

A retirement party used to be a big deal! Everyone had thirty plus years in with the company and this was their crowning moment. The times and expectations have changed.

Unlike previous generations, few employees remain with the same organization for decades on end. According to a 2019 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average baby boomer has changed jobs 12 times throughout their lifetime.

Where we work has also changed with fewer people in the office. In part due to “do more with less” policies and technological advancements. In addition, flexible work remotely options further diminish the number of employees in the office.

For these reasons, a lot of the time, no retirement party will be planned. Unless someone takes the lead, the retiree often unceremoniously slips away on their last day.

When they’re a personal friend, you might decide to do something on your own.

Then Luncheon When You Pay Your Share

Sometimes a luncheon is organized with each person paying their own way, plus chipping in to cover the retiree’s cost. Social etiquette suggests there’s no need for additional gifts.

However, how would you feel? This is their big day and a small gift would certainly be appreciated by the recipient.

Involuntary Retirement

Unfortunately, there’ll be situations when it’s not their decision to leave and may not be appropriate to celebrate. 

For instance, after 25 years of dedicated service, I was the victim of corporate downsizing. Needless to say, no party was planned for me and it would’ve been awkward.

Our post How to Deal with Forced Retirement outlines how to cope with such job loss. To the credit of my co-workers, each of them signed a farewell card and chipped in to buy me a bottle. 

Their dilemma was whether to congratulate me on leaving the rat race or offer something to “drown my sorrows”.

When They're a Personal Friend

When they’re a personal friend, you might choose to do something on your own. This could be in addition to a larger group gift or on your own initiative. The best retirement gift is one that is thoughtful and something they’ll appreciate.

For instance, a wine lover, would appreciate a fine bottle of wine. Even better would be a wine glass commemorating their special day. 

Then, whenever they poured themselves a glass, they would have something to remember. Check out Amazon to see personalized wine glasses.

Alternatively, taking them out for lunch and sharing some time together can also be a great idea. Especially if nothing else is being done for them.

This was precisely the position my wife. She chose to leave a toxic work environment which she shares in her Bad Boss post. When two of her work friends insisted on taking her out to lunch on her last day, it really meant a lot to her.

Closing Thoughts

Retirement gifts are generally considered optional. While it’s customary to do something nice for the person retiring, it doesn’t always mean you need to buy them a gift. Think about how much can afford to spend and if you want to.

There are situations when it’s not necessary, such as your company has a budget set aside. Even if everyone else in the office is contributing to a group gift, you aren’t obligated. Especially when you don’t like a person.

Yet, the closer you are to the person retiring, the more appropriate it is to do something special for them. This also paves the way to keep in touch and deepen your friendship. We offer additional insights in Surefire Ways to Make Friends.

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