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Retirement speeches and toasts

Retirement speeches and toasts can be funny or touching. People use the occasion of a retirement party to recognize the retiree’s work or personality. If you are the main speaker, your tribute should include humor as well as testimonials about the person’s character or contributions to the organization.    

businessman retiringThe main retirement speech
If you are honoring the retiree, you'll want your speech or toast to be entertaining and touching. Open your speech with a general greeting, a quote or funny story about the honoree. Since retirement parties are walks down memory lane, most of your speech should include recollections of what the individual has meant to the organization.

Conclude with something serious or funny but be sure to mention how much the person has contributed or will be missed. If you’re a pro, you’ll end your speech with a conclusion that ties back to your opening remarks. Hard to do but that is always a winning formula.

(If you are retiring and will be making a speech, See When you are the retiree for a suggested speech outline.)

Warning – watch your humor.

Over-the-hill remarks or nursing home jokes that were hilarious at a 40th birthday party may not be so amusing now. Most retirement parties old man with caneinclude members of the family, some of whom may be elderly. A safe option is to focus on funny things that happened to the person while at work or earlier in his or her life.

If the person is healthy, active and looking forward to leaving work, it’s appropriate for the retirement speech to include some light remarks about a laid-back future enjoying hobbies. But if you’re not sure of the person’s situation, focus on his or her past and role with the company. 

If the retiree is leaving the military, include some stories or sayings about military service that apply to the retiree and the branch of service. 

There are a variety of retirement sayings or quotes you can use but be careful. In all cases, avoid those dire predictions about a toothless, drooling, impotent future that, while intended to be funny, may embarrass others or make them uncomfortable.

Sample retirement speech honoring retiree

The following sample honors Joe Smith who is retiring after working at XYZ Insurance in Dubuque for 15 years. You can adapt this formula for retirement wishes with details for about your honored guest and using some of the retirement sayings on this website. 

Note that this is longer than a typical retirement toast which should last only a minute or two.


Open with general greeting and recognition of any special guests. You will want to recognize family members of the honoree as you begin. 

Tell a story about the retiree and his work habits. The story should relate in some positive way to others in the organization.

Make some comments about the retiree's role in the overall organization.

Tell some stories about his work or experiences others had in working with the retiree.

Mention that other people will also be sharing stories or giving toasts.

Make some overall comments restating how the honored guest has influenced the organization or his work area.

Work in some lighter comments to say how much the person will be missed but how happy everyone is for the retiree as he or she embarks on a new life.

End with some comments that refer back to one of your stories.

Invite people to applaud the retiree and close family members. Others should then share their own toasts.

Today is Joe Smith’s day. Look at all the people who have come to honor him and say farewell.

You didn’t know did you, Joe, that so many people would be celebrating your departure!

Seriously, Joe has been an anchor in our marketing department for the past 15 years. He was one of the first ones in every day and would watch these Gen X’ers and Y’ers come dragging in an hour after he’d finished his second cup of coffee. And he’d always have something cheerful to say before 8 a.m. Sometimes it was irritatingly cheerful for those of us who are night owls. (How could someone smile that broadly just after daybreak?)

He’s definitely not like those people who come in late but make up for it by leaving early.

Joe was always here, grinning from ear to ear. I asked him one time why he was always so happy and Joe told me, “You might as well smile because you’re here anyway and there’s no point in bringing anybody else down by complaining.”

That is a remark I always associate with Joe. And far from bringing anybody down, Joe has held up XYZ Insurance and kept the marketing team on a steady course for years. 

He may have been smiling all the time and he is able to laugh at himself. Joe has also provided the rest of us with some funny moments.

Remember that time when his team developed the campaign with the talking locks? The slogan of that campaign was, “XYZ makes every house a safe house.” This was Joe’s brainchild and his bright idea to the idea was to show everybody how we were the one property insurance company that would make every house a safe house.

The slogan – Let XYZ Insurance put you in a safe house today and tomorrow – was a great success until it was abrubtly ended. That was the same time, as you recall, that the Dubuque police launched a raid on a prostitution ring that covered five states and was headquartered in a safe house here in Dubuque.

Suddenly Joe’s idea of pitching XYZ as the backer of the safe house didn’t seem to fit.

We all had fun ribbing Job about his safe house campaign.

Looking back over Joe’s career with XYZ Insurance, we all have stories about special times with him. Others will mention some of those in a few minutes.

To Joe, I want to say how much we admire your dedication to your colleagues and this company. When Joe arrived at XYZ, this was a small agency with just 10 employees but with a vision of customer service that would transform us into a major player in this market. And Joe has been an integral part of our growth and prosperity.

It’s the people like Joe, who come into work with a smile, make our clients happy and understand that we always have to keep reaching and improving our service …those people like Joe are the ones who have made XYZ Insurance the success it is today.

It’s impossible to measure what Joe has meant to XYZ Insurance all these years. And I know I speak for everyone when I say this is a bittersweet moment….saying goodbye to a friend and coworker who has meant so much. But we are all happy that Joe and Laura will have time to kick back, pursue new dreams and enjoy their grandchildren.

We’re now at the point in a retirement party when someone presents the retiree with a watch. That’s a tradition I have never understood. When someone retires and he no longer has to leave the house by 7, worry about making that 8:30 meeting and see that afternoon deadline getting closer, …when time is no longer a matter of urgent importance…why do his colleagues present him with a watch?

We don’t have a watch for you Joe, but we do have some memories we’d like to share.

It is obvious from all these people gathered here that you will be missed. We wish you and Laura all the best and know that your smile will be even broader now that you don’t have to take that commute into work every morning.

And we know that if the Dubuque police ever break up another safe house, we’ll have them call you because you’ll know what to say.

Joe and Laura, would you please stand so we can say thanks. 

(Lead others in applause.)
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