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How does a physician “retire well”?  That answer, unsurprisingly, has been changing over time. Historically, physicians were inclined towards an early retirement, hanging up their white coats in their 50s or early 60s.

In recent years, however, there has been a notable shift, with many doctors choosing to delay retirement or continue practicing in some capacity well beyond the traditional retirement age. In this article, we delve into the reasons behind this evolving trend, explore how retired doctors envision their retirement years, and provide essential financial planning tips to help doctors secure a comfortable and fulfilling retirement.

Why Doctors Are Retiring Later?

Financial considerations are paramount among the factors contributing to the current trend of delayed retirement for physicians. One significant reason is the extended training period required to become a doctor. Medical school, residency, and fellowship can easily add up to 12 or more years of education and training. This means that doctors are often starting their careers later in life, and as a result, they have less time to save for retirement.

Despite being high earners, doctors also grapple with the burden of substantial student loan debt, a reality that is compounded by the escalating cost of living and uncertainties surrounding economic stability. These financial pressures necessitate continued employment to ensure a comfortable retirement.

Further, the advancement of healthcare has significantly extended life expectancy, allowing individuals to lead longer, healthier lives. Doctors who enjoy robust health and an unwavering passion for their work are increasingly inclined to leverage their expertise for an extended period, surpassing previous generations in their tenure of practice.

In addition to these financial factors, the nature of medicine as a calling, beyond a mere career, can play a prominent role in a physician’s reluctance to retire. Doctors may find satisfaction in the intellectual challenge of medicine, the opportunity to interact with patients, and the sense of fulfillment that comes from helping others. These are all influential factors for many physicians choosing to continue practicing well into their 70s or even 80s.

Continuing to practice medicine in “retirement”

Many doctors want to continue working in some capacity after they “retire.” Some physicians enjoy the work that they do and find it difficult to give up completely. Others may have a wealth of experience and knowledge that can benefit others and find that practicing medicine is a way to stay active and engaged in the community. These doctors may continue to practice in a part-time capacity, pursue locum tenens work, teach medical students or resident, or may volunteer their services at a free clinic or hospital. Some doctors may also choose to start their own businesses or become involved in academia or medical research.

Whatever the reason, the fact that many “retired” doctors still want to keep practicing is a testament to the importance of the medical profession.

Personal pursuits in retirement

The aspirations for retirement among doctors are as diverse as their motivations to continue working. While some seek to sustain their medical affiliations, others envision retirement as a period of exploration and enjoyment—traveling, pursuing hobbies, and cherishing moments with family and friends. Their profession, having consumed a significant portion of their lives, often leaves physicians with limited space for personal endeavors. Retirement, therefore, offers a precious opportunity for doctors to indulge in leisure and rediscover or embark on new passions.

No matter how they choose to spend their retirement, doctors often want to stay active and engaged. For many, retirement is a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor, but it is also a time to continue to make a positive impact on the world.

Preparing financially for retirement

The cornerstone of a fulfilling retirement is comprehensive financial planning, tailored to the unique circumstances of each physician. Effective strategies encompass aggressive saving, judicious investing, and meticulous debt management, alongside safeguarding assets through adequate insurance, effective asset protection and astute tax planning. These strategies combine to form the bedrock of a secure retirement, ensuring that doctors can confidently navigate their post-practice years.

Doctors should consider these keys to a successful financial plan:

  • Start saving early to take advantage of compound interest and grow retirement savings over time.
  • Effectively manage debt to free up more funds for retirement savings and reduce financial stress.
  • Maximize retirement accounts to benefit from their tax advantages and allow for steady accumulation of retirement funds.
  • Invest wisely, by developing a well-diversified portfolio and considering risk tolerance and time horizon.
  • Consider additional income streams, including part-time work consulting or teaching, to supplement retirement savings.
  • Plan for potential healthcare expenses, including medical treatments, long-term care, and insurance premiums when designing a retirement budget.
  • Seek professional guidance from a qualified financial advisor with experience in working with physicians and their unique challenges

Working with their advisor(s) to regularly review and update their financial plans is essential for doctors nearing retirement. This involves assessing their current income and expenses, estimating a retirement budget, and making necessary adjustments to their savings and investment strategies.


With the right strategies and a clear vision, retirement can unfold as a rewarding chapter, offering continued involvement and engagement, whether through sustained medical practice or rewarding personal pursuits. A professional advisor and a flexible long-term financial plan can be indispensable resources as physicians navigate this transition.