Determining Your [PHYSICIAN] Retirement Vision?

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Determining Your Retirement Vision

Dr David E Marcinko MBABy Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP®

There’s an aspect to retirement that many physicians do not plan for … the transition from work and practice to retirement. Your work has been an important part of your life.  That’s why the emotional adjustments of retirement may be some of the most difficult ones.


For example, what would you like to do in retirement? Your retirement vision will be unique to you. You are retiring to something not from something that you envisioned. When you have more time, you would like to do more travelling, play golf or visit more often, family and friends. Would you relocate closer to your kids? Learn a new art or take a new class? Fund your grandchildren’s education? Do you have philanthropic goals? Perhaps you would like to help your church, school or favorite charity? If your net worth is above certain limits, it would be wise to take a serious look at these goals. With proper planning, there might be some tax benefits too. Then you have to figure how much each goal is going to cost you.


If have a list of retirement goals, you need to prioritize which goal is most important. You can rate them on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being the most important. Then, you can differentiate between wants and needs. Needs are things that are absolutely necessary for you to retire; while wants are things that still allow retirement but would just be nice to have.

Recent studies indicate there are three phases in retirement, each with a different spending pattern [Richard Greenberg CFP®, Gardena CA, personal communication].

The three phases are:

  1. The Early Retirement Years. There is a pent-up demand to take advantage of all the free time retirement affords. You can travel to exotic places, buy an RV and explore forty-nine states, go on month-long sailing vacations. It’s possible during these years that after-tax expenses increase during these initial years, especially if the mortgage hasn’t been paid off yet. Usually the early years last about ten years until most retirees are in their 70’s.
  2. Middle Years. People decide to slow down on the exploration. This is when people start simplifying their life. They may sell their house and downsize to a condo or townhouse. They may relocate to an area they discovered during their travels, or to an area close to family and friends, to an area with a warm climate or to an area with low or no state taxes. People also do their most important estate planning during these years. They are concerned about leaving a legacy, taking care of their children and grandchildren and fulfilling charitable intent. This a time when people spend more time in the local area. They may start taking extension or college classes. They spend more time volunteering at various non-profits and helping out older and less healthy retirees. People often spend less during these years. This period starts when a retiree is in his or her mid to late 70’s and can last up to 20 years, usually to mid to late-80’s.
  3. Late Years. This is when you may need assistance in our daily activities. You may receive care at home, in a nursing home or an assisted care facility. Most of the care options are very expensive. It’s possible that these years might be more expensive than your pre-retirement expenses. This is especially true if both spouses need some sort of assisted care. This period usually starts when the retiree is their 80’s; however they can sometimes start in the middle to the late 70’s.

[A] Planning issues – early career

Most retirement lifestyle issues do not have to be addressed at this point. Keeping a healthy, balanced lifestyle will help to ensure a more productive retirement.  This is the time to focus on the financial aspects of retirement planning.

[B] Planning issues – mid career

If early retirement is a major objective, start thinking about activities that will fill up your time during retirement. Maintaining your health is more critical, since your health habits at this time will often dictate how healthy you will be in retirement. 

[C] Planning issues – late career

Three to five years before you retire, start making the transition from work to retirement.

  1. Try out different hobbies;
  2. Find activities that will give you a purpose in retirement;
  3. Establish friendships outside of the office or hospital;
  4. Discuss retirement plans with your spouse.
  5. If you plan to relocate to a new place, it is important to rent a place in that area and stay for few months and see if you like it. Making a drastic change like relocating and then finding you don’t like the new town or state might be very costly mistake. The key is to gradually make the transition. 


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One Response

  1. What are the estimated health care costs for couples in retirement?

    Fidelity: Estimated Health Care Costs for Couples in Retirement

    1. 2016 – $260,000
    2. 2014 – $220,000
    3. 2010 – $250,000
    4. 2006 – $200,000
    5. 2002 – $160,000

    Source: Bloomberg


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