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Preparing for Retirement Goes Beyond Finances


How prepared you are financially may be a big determinant of how satisfied you are with your post-career life, but it will not by a long shot be the only factor.


Many of the articles for Physician’s Money Digest provide guidance and suggestions on how to prepare financially for retirement, invest and save, lower your debt, or better manage your practice. But there’s a heavy lifestyle component, too, and for good reason: financial considerations can significantly impact your life, but they don’t make up your whole life.

The same is true for retirement. How prepared you are financially may be a big determinant of how satisfied you are with your post-career life, but it will not by a long shot be the only factor. And just like with financial planning, there are things you can do now to prepare yourself for life after retirement.

Build a Community

Your career as a physician has put you in direct contact with many people across many walks of life. Some of those people are probably close friends or colleagues who will still be part of your life after you retire, but some of them will not. Whether you have a living spouse or partner, or a large social circle, you may find in retirement that you want to meet new, like-minded people. These are very personal decisions, of course, but some things you may want to think about:

• Volunteering: A great way to meet people, give back to the community, and enhance your sense of purpose.

• Joining a retirement community or association: The options are nearly endless, but think about narrowing them down by focusing on an activity you have a particular interest in, like a book, ski, or travel club.

• Seeking a part-time job: Part-time employment may defeat the purpose of being beholden to no one, but it is another good way to meet people, and it can create some extra income to fuel other pursuits, along with enough flexibility to actually pursue them!

Take Some Test Runs

One of my family members worked three jobs most of his life and couldn’t wait to leave it all behind to fish. On the day he retired, he bought a small fishing boat, an expensive rod, and a tackle box the size of a suitcase. He discovered within a week of getting his boating license that he disliked fishing rather intensely.

This can happen to anyone, of course, which is why it’s important to do a few test runs of the activities you imagine you might enjoy if you only had the time to devote to them. You may love taking the motor home on cross country trips… or you may find that you miss home and family, and darn it the traffic out there is terrible. Use the years leading up to your retirement to try out some different pursuits. You may not only find a great new hobby, you may discover something you love doing a few years before you otherwise would have.

Talk It Over

Your retirement is mostly likely not going to be solely yours. Your family will necessarily play a big role in what your life looks like after retirement. Perhaps you and your partner were thinking of retiring at the same time, but suddenly things are going great for her career, and she’s revitalized and engaged. Would this scenario change your decision on when to retire? Or, perhaps a son of yours is anxiously awaiting your retirement, thinking free day care for your grandchildren is right around the corner.

These are but two of an infinite number of hypotheticals. Make sure you talk with those closest to you to make sure your retirement plans are clear and set expectations—both for you and for your friends and family.

Just as with financial considerations, the other aspects of your looming retirement are better addressed with a clear set of goals, a healthy sense of anticipation, and a really healthy dose of preparation.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice