Doctors: Is Retirement Overrated?

Shelly Reese


April 24, 2018

In This Article

The Road to Happily Ever After

Although retirement can pose challenges, it affords even more opportunities for individuals who are open, aware, and prepared. Here's some advice from the front lines:

Ease into retirement. Taking an incremental approach is a great way to acclimate to retirement. "Transitioning gets you away from thinking about medicine all the time. When you're not so supersaturated with it, you can realize how much else there is," says Moskowitz, who spent 17 years transitioning from clinical practice to coaching. Today, he coaches half-time and spends the rest of his time traveling, taking classes, learning to cook and fly fish, "and getting to know myself a little better."

Know what satisfies you. While working, doctors often enjoy the gratitude of patients and the respect of colleagues. "In retirement, they have to find new sources of ego satisfaction and recognition," says Moskowitz. "They need to find new ways to contribute, and that can come in innumerable ways, such as volunteering, teaching, mentoring, and writing."

Segan advises others to "try to know yourself better than I did. Everybody is different. If you know you get all your validation from being a practicing physician, then I would say there's danger ahead, but if you are validated knowing that you are the best gardener on the block or bowling a 200 game, go for it."

Focus on the beginning, not the end. Because of their training and life experiences, doctors have a unique relationship with death that can dramatically affect their happiness in retirement, Hudson says. Whereas some doctors embrace retirement as an opportunity to try something new or pursue long-deferred interests, others wonder how they will fill their time. "That is completely the wrong perspective, because they are approaching time from the perspective that it is limited. They see retirement as the end of something rather than the beginning."

Reject perfectionism. Perfectionism may be an asset in the operating theater, but it's a hazard for those pursuing deferred dreams and new interests late in life. "Don't expect to become a concert pianist in your mid-60s," Hudson says. "I've had several clients who have gotten serious about music in retirement, but they could never get good enough for their high standards. For them, it was a question of perfect or not at all." In contrast, he describes a physician who plays guitar in a band with a few other retirees. "They play in bars a few nights a week, and they love it. The social contact is unbelievable."


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