For most of us, the idea of retirement sounds fabulous. You have a lot more time to spend with your family, you’re relieved of your incredibly hectic schedule, and you no longer receive those after-hours emergency calls. But many physicians still struggle with the dilemma of when to retire. Sure, retirement may seem like a great milestone in the golden years of your life. However, many newly retired physicians quickly realize that it’s not easy to hang up the white coat for good. When the initial grandeur of sleeping in fades away and you suddenly find yourself with a critical case of cabin fever, you may start to rethink your retirement decision.
So, when should a doctor retire? What are some pastimes you can take up when you’re no longer practicing? Should you consider going back, even if it’s just part-time? Continue reading as we wade through these tough questions and help you answer the age old question of “when should a doctor retire?”.
When Should a Doctor Retire?
This is possibly one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. There are so many factors that go into your choice to retire, making it very hard to navigate. In the end, this answer will always depend on your situation. There are a few major players in a doctor’s decision to retire; age, financial status, and health.
For those that fall into the age range of 60-70, the impending thoughts of retirement are beginning to creep in. The average age for retirement is 65, however many physicians continue to practice well beyond that. So, it poses the question – when should a doctor retire? Age is one of the many deciding factors that play a role in one’s decision to retire. Studies show that after the age of 70 there is a chance of cognitive, motor, and overall health decline. Being pushed into retirement is one of the many hard pills for doctors to swallow, but it’s often in the best interest of the hospital or medical facility to bring in a younger crowd of physicians. So, while you may be well over 70 and still enjoying your life as a practicing physician, it may be time to come to terms with the reality of age.
Another major element to consider when thinking about when a doctor should retire is financial situation. Make sure you consult with your spouse as well as a financial advisor to ensure that you can afford to retire. If you have been an avid saver for most of your life, lived a frugal lifestyle, and paid off your debts, chances are you’re ready for retirement. You have the funds to live a long and happy retirement without having to worry about money. For those that have little saved up and are worried about living comfortably after retirement – don’t worry! You still may be able to retire. There are resources out there to help you navigate these financial decisions.
It’s important that you retire while you are still healthy enough to actually enjoy it. You may still be physically capable of practicing medicine, but it’s not always the best option. You want to be able to actually live life after you’ve retired your physician title! After dedicating your entire adult life to your practice, it would be a shame to enter retirement too old or sick to appreciate the much-earned relaxation. Spending time with family, chasing after the grandkids, and traveling to your dream destinations all require you to be active and lively.
Life after retirement
The hard truth, and the one that physicians have the hardest time accepting after retiring, is that they are no longer a doctor. It seems obvious, but when you have spent your years practicing medicine as a doctor it leads to a bit of an identity crisis when you no longer have that title. After you retire, you may feel as though you have lost your entire social network. You no longer get up and go to work every morning, spending your days working with your favorite coworkers. The loss of social interaction leaves a lot of physicians feeling lonely and depressed.
You spent your whole life dedicated to medicine and sacrificed your time every day to help those around you. You put in countless hours staying up to date on the latest science, all so that your patients could receive the best possible care. Now you’ve entered retirement and feel lost and confused. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this! Many physicians feel like they’ve lost their purpose and esteemed title. Whether you feel lonely, lost, or just plain bored, we’ve you got you covered. There are plenty of engaging pastimes for doctors who have retired.
Ease into it
No one said you had to quit cold turkey! Stopping all at once can make the transition difficult for some doctors. It’s important to give yourself some time to process this change in your life and ease into retirement slowly. To do this, you can talk to your employer about relaxing your hours. This will allow you to phase out of physician life at your own pace and avoid the shock of stopping abruptly.
Another option is to become a locum tenens physician. These temporary travel positions allow older physicians to earn good money, travel to new places, and have the flexibility to only work short increments. This gives you the ability to determine how long you will be working, allowing you to take periods of time off when you need a break. This flexibility can help ease you into retirement. In some cases, doctors that are already in retirement decide to come back into the profession by taking on travel assignments every few months. If you’re someone that likes change, doing a few short assignments away from home a year could be a viable alternative to leaving the field completely.
Find engaging pastimes
After years of taking care of others, it is time to take care of YOU! Retirement is a wonderful time to focus on what helps you live a more fulfilling life, so be sure to take advantage of it!
It’s easy to ignore your hobbies when you’ve put your career first for so long. But now is a great time to indulge in all the leisure activities you were always too busy to try. Whether it be an old hobby or a new one that has piqued your interest, you finally have the time to enjoy it. Not sure where to start? See if any of these are up your alley:
- Learning a new language
- Tackling a DIY project
Still not feeling fulfilled? Maybe try stepping into a larger role in your community.
Educating young people after leaving your practice is a great alternative to “full-time” retirement. Why not share your experience and expertise with future physicians? It can be very rewarding to know that you are still contributing to the field. You also get the opportunity to socialize with like-minded individuals. The hours are easier, the stress is more manageable, and you can stay up to date on what’s going on in healthcare. It’s a win-win!
Giving back to the community
Although volunteering is not a paid position, it still can be a great way to continue helping others as a trained physician. You can showcase your talents and be rewarded by making a difference in the community. Perhaps you can guest-speak at a university or volunteer to help the less fortunate. There are plenty of opportunities in your area, all you have to do is look for them!
For your years of service as a medical professional, you’ve more than earned this time to focus on your personal interests.
Are you a retired or semi-retired physician? Please share your experience with us in the comments below. Your story could help others determine when to retire as a doctor!