In A systematic review of physician retirement planning, MP Silver et al lists the following reasons for physicians delaying retirement:
1. being satisfied with their career
2. institutional flexibility [regarding on-call, job sharing and other accommodations]
3. a feeling of responsibility for their patients
4. a desire to be healthy and keep active
5. financial reasons
6. a lack of interests outside of medicine
I asked my colleague, Dr. Lil Miedzinski, what prevents some physicians from retiring. She is a retired infectious disease specialist who works part-time with PFSP. She mentions factors like debt, the loneliness of widows and widowers without family and blows to the ego through loss of income, identity and status.
She thinks physician fear is a big factor. Fear of not having enough money. Fear that the days will be long and lacking in stimulation. Fear about the loss of community and a lack of social interaction. Fear that no one will care who we are.
One more potential reason for delaying retirement is captured in the title of a recent Canadian Medical Association Journal article: Doctors who retire early often met with scorn.
Some considerations near and far as you continue your retirement planning
- One in six Canadians in 2018 is over 65.
- The boomer demographic bulge is flattening as these physicians age, retire and die.
- Gender equity in medicine is not far off – quantitatively, if not qualitatively. There are more women than men currently enrolled in Canadian medical schools. Women and rural doctors retire a few years earlier than their male colleagues.
- Financial considerations remain and economic downturns will continue.
Psychologists Dr. Judith LeFevre and Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concluded from a study in 1989 that many people have “an inability to organize [their] psychic energy in unstructured free time.” A generation later, some physicians’ attitudes about leisure and work-life balance are changing. “Leisure is a capacity,” according to David Frayne, a Welsh academic who wrote The Refusal of Work (2015). To enjoy leisure time, sometimes you have to work at it.
A few unknowns lurk down the road. It is hard to predict how our golden years will be affected by extreme weather events, environmental degradation, food and water insecurity, unimagined technological change, terrorism, the rise of ultra-nationalism and global insecurity.
Enjoy the journey. May we all arrive at our chosen retirement destinations.
Banner photo credit: Gimono, Pixabay.com