When contemplating retirement, many doctors focus solely on the financial aspect, calculating how much money they will need to sustain themselves in the absence of a regular paycheck.
They consider the effects of inflation, behavioral biases, and bucketing strategies to manage their finances during their retirement years. During their accumulation years, they often work to maximize investment returns to build a comfortable retirement corpus.
However, it is essential to remember that retirement is not an event, but a journey that may last up to one-third of an individual’s life. Money alone cannot guarantee a fulfilling retirement. It is crucial to focus on other aspects of life and find answers to many questions beyond money before and after entering retirement.
For instance, Dr. Rohit, a 52-year-old Surgeon, came to me with all the numbers and investments he had made in mutual funds, National Pension Scheme, Employee Provident Fund, real estate, etc., seeking my opinion on whether he could retire immediately.
He was not very happy with his work. Though he was earning well, and making around 8 figures income annually, working with 4 hospitals simultaneously but still dissatisfied with his job and finding challenge in continuing working.
He just wanted to stop working, and believed that his assets would suffice to lead a comfortable life and maintain the high end lifestyle going forward.
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Mathematically, he was correct, as his assets could take care of his family’s basic and lifestyle expenses until a certain age. However, I posed a question to him that he could not answer confidently at that moment.
What will you do, once you Retire?
I understand Surgeons’ work life must be very tense. Surgeons are responsible for performing complex procedures that can have a profound impact on a patient’s life. They must make quick decisions under pressure and work meticulously to ensure the best possible outcome for their patients. Even the smallest mistake can have serious consequences.
Though money may be good but the stressful environment may be taking toll on Dr Rohit’s mental and physical health
Currently, he had a reason to wake up every morning and follow a set routine, whether he liked it or not. But post-retirement or leaving the active work life, he would have no such routine.
When I asked him what he planned to do, he said he would live life at his own pace, sleep a lot, travel more, and live an easy life. But I could sense a question mark on his face.
I probed further and asked him what else he planned to do, to which he got irritated and said he would figure it out if he had enough money.
This brings me to my point: retirement planning isn’t just about financial preparedness but also psychological preparedness. (Also read : Financial Planning for doctors at different Life Stages)
The images of couples enjoying time on the beach or playing frisbee with their kids may excite you, but they may not be your reality. You may count yourself successful in your working career, but how do you define success in retirement?
Monetary investments are crucial, but are you investing enough in your health to avoid spending your retirement savings on medical treatments? Do you want to spend your old age just like your parents, or do you envision a different path for yourself? What are your plans?
As relationships become more complicated, how secure do you feel with the people around you, and what are you doing to maintain those relationships? Who do you want to be around in your retirement years? While no one knows how long they will live, you can determine how active you will be during those years.
Dr. Riley Moynes discussed the four phases of retirement in his TED Talk and wrote a book on the subject.
Phase 1 is the vacation phase, where you can live the way you want without worrying about a budget, go on holidays, and have no set routine. For most people, this phase lasts for a year or two, after which they start feeling bored and wonder what comes next.
This leads to phase 2, where people feel a sense of loss, including a loss of routine, identity, relationships established at work, and purpose.
Phase 2 can be dangerous, and it’s best to avoid it by being proactive and deciding what you want to do in retirement.
Watch Dr. Moynes’ video to learn about phases 3 and 4, and don’t forget to read the comments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMHMOQ_054U
What Can You Do in Retirement?
It’s essential to answer the question of what you want to do once you retire, based on your own preferences, priorities, and values, not influenced by social media.
Like what I discussed with Dr Rohit on the various options he may consider, After retiring from active work as a surgeon. Here are some possibilities:
- Teaching and mentoring: Many retired surgeons choose to use their wealth of knowledge and experience to teach and mentor aspiring medical professionals. They may work as instructors in medical schools, supervise residents in teaching hospitals, or serve as mentors to younger surgeons.
- Consulting: Retired surgeons can also work as consultants for healthcare organizations, medical device manufacturers, or insurance companies. Their expertise and experience can be valuable in helping to develop new products, improve patient care, or analyze healthcare data.
- Volunteer work: Retired surgeons may choose to volunteer their time and skills to help underserved populations or provide medical care in developing countries. This can be a fulfilling way to give back to the community and continue making a difference in the world.
- Research: Many retired surgeons choose to focus on research, studying medical conditions or treatments and contributing to the advancement of medical knowledge. This can involve working with universities or research institutions to conduct studies, analyze data, and publish papers in medical journals.
- Pursuing hobbies or other interests: Finally, retirement provides an opportunity for surgeons to pursue hobbies and interests that they may not have had time for during their busy careers. Some may take up new hobbies like painting, writing, or traveling, while others may choose to spend more time with family and friends.
In short, retiring from active work as a surgeon does not mean the end of a fulfilling and productive career. There are many opportunities available to retired surgeons to continue making a positive impact in the world, whether through teaching, consulting, research, volunteering, or pursuing personal interests.
Nonetheless, keeping your mind and body active and finding purpose is crucial. You can also spend time with relatives needing assistance in caregiving or education, select community activities that provide social engagement, or seek social, environmental, or political causes that promote doing good.
Sometimes the answer might be right in front of you, as Dr. Rohit found coaching society kids in cricket.
Whatever age you are, retirement planning is incomplete without finding answers to these essential questions. Financial planning is equally important, and thoroughly assessing your portfolio, estate plan, and cash needs is vital. Without a certain level of comfort, existential exploration is almost impossible.
So, what do you plan to do once you retire?