Don’t Be Your Father: Retire to, Not From

Christopher Glenn, Editor in Chief
12/9/2013

As someone who harbors a fantasy of actually retiring one day and whose most obvious pastime is making mistakes, I am unavoidably drawn to something that has become a cottage industry: articles about the mistakes we make in preparing for retirement. Did you know that 7 million baby boomers will retire in the time it takes to read this sentence? I think I read that somewhere, but I could be mistaken.

Our readers are not unlike the rest of society in that a significant percentage are nearing retirement age. Many of the articles that you encounter today touch on the same financial shortfall that marks physicians’ preparedness as that of the rest of us. In April, the AMA Insurance Agency released a survey revealing that nearly half of the physician respondents consider themselves behind in preparing for the financial future of themselves and their families. There is more than enough financial advice out there for us to add to it, so we won’t.

Our two feature articles this month cover many of the top-level concerns that need to be addressed when making the transition from active practice to ... whatever the heck else you decide to do.

Physicians have an additional burden the rest of us don’t. Unquestionably, there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done in leaving an ophthalmology practice, and Chris Kent’s article on p. 22 provides an excellent starting point. Before weighing you down with that, we thought it would be nice to start with proof that it can be done, and Walt Bethke does so in his article on p. 34.

There’s another equally important but less-often discussed aspect of retirement prep for physicians. I could be mistaken about this part as well, but my impression is that we differ from our parents’ generation in that today we retire to. Our parents (OK, usually our fathers) retired from. The actuarial tables say most of us will have another couple of decades in this next phase of the ride.

A surgeon whose opinion I trust recently told me that one of the “dirty little secrets” in ophthalmology is this: In the push to get through medical school, residency, the grind of setting up a practice and the increasing challenge of keeping it all going while devoting time to raising a family, too many ophthalmologists either wait too long, don’t make or just don’t have the time to simply consider, let alone prepare for, what they might do with themselves once that happy day finally arrives when they lay their burden down.

Don’t be that person. With any luck, you’ve got a whole other act to get through before the final curtain. Learn your lines.

A very happy holiday season to all of you. See you in 2014.