When do doctors retire, and what are they worried about in the future?
When do doctors retire?
In the next decade or so growing numbers of doctors will face the question of when, or whether, to retire. In 2016, 30 percent of physicians were 60 or older, according to the U.S. Census.
In a 2017 CompHealth survey of physicians age 50 and older, the average age at which respondents intended to retire was 68. That compares to an average retirement age of 63 among Americans generally. Why the difference?
Why doctors retire later
Due to the many years of training medicine requires, doctors start their careers later than most other professionals. It also means they have fewer years in which to build retirement savings.
Because medicine is such a demanding profession, often it becomes a large part of a doctor’s identity, making retirement difficult to contemplate.
Many doctors worry they will miss the social aspects of their work. In the CompHealth survey, that was one of the biggest reasons doctors gave for planning to work past 65, second only to enjoying practicing medicine
Older doctors still practice because they feel useful
Even doctors who are fairly late in their careers feel they still have something to contribute.
91 percent of the CompHealth survey respondents said they can still provide useful services, and 89 percent believed they could still be competitive in the healthcare field
“When you consider what gives you energy, it turns out to be doing medicine and solving medical problems”-ENT practitioner Murray Grossan, MD, age 90
Still, aging doctors have late-career worries
Even with enjoying what they do, significant numbers of doctors acknowledge concerns about working past age 65
When asked by CompHealth what concerns they had about working past full retirement age, 38 percent of respondents cited “ability to stay competitive in a changing healthcare environment”
Other worries included concerns about their own health (37 percent), being able to provide high-quality care (26 percent) and concerns about staying abreast of technology (23 percent)
Even retired doctors want to keep practicing
Many doctors contemplating retirement believe that part-time or volunteer work will allow them to enjoy the benefits of retirement while remaining active in medicine
When asked in the CompHealth survey to describe an ideal retirement, 51 percent said it would include working occasionally or part-time, and 40 percent said they looked forward to doing mission or volunteer work
How doctors want to spend their retirement
Asked in the CompHealth survey what they most looked forward to in retirement, 76 percent said they wanted to travel more
Other top responses included being able to pursue other interests (66 percent), dedicating more time to personal hobbies and activities and spending more time with friends and family (65 percent for both), and being able to work part-time or volunteer (48 percent)
“I’m very busy and I can’t find enough time to do everything I want to do”-Alfred Narraway, DO, retired cardiologist since 2015