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American Association for Physician Leadership
American Association for Physician Leadership

Now That You Have Retired — What’s Next?

Neil Baum, MD

David F. Mobley, MD

Mar 8, 2023

Physician Leadership Journal

Volume 10, Issue 2, Pages 72-74



How will you fill your time after retirement? Begin making plans now by working with your partner to find shared interests that will be stimulating, enjoyable, and within your bandwidth of physical capacity. This is the final installment of the three-part series on retirement.

Unless you suddenly find yourself retired because of a change in employment status or poor health, you should have plenty of time to plan and create a vision for your retirement. It won’t be like anyone else’s retirement and won’t mirror things you have read about or stories you have heard from friends and colleagues. It will be your own, and with that in mind, make the plan important and rewarding.

Plans, however, are always subject to change, even from your first day of retirement. As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” So, if you have time to plan, begin early. This third article of the series will discuss the many options available to the retired physician.

Plans A, B, and C

It’s important to have your plan A but also a plan B or even a plan C. As an example, you may have envisioned lots of travel, and then along came COVID, or a new partner, or health problems that make travel less likely. You may have envisioned yourself traveling the world, playing golf on distant courses, visiting wineries, taking distillery tours in Scotland, viewing the Great Pyramids, or hundreds of other scenarios, but as retirement nears, things may change. For many reasons, alternatives such as plans B and C must be considered.

One of the authors (NB) enjoys tennis, and the other (DM) is an avid golfer. These activities bring us pleasure and consume considerable free time. We have thought about “what if we can’t do this anymore, and what would be a suitable replacement in our lifestyles?” We’ll be considering plans B and C.

As a physician, you have spent your life educating yourself and giving to benefit others. That is what a physician is and does, and as you close that aspect of your life and distance yourself, you may find you miss it.

Many retired physicians lament the loss of meaningful engagement with patients and colleagues. Of course, many retired physicians find a satisfying life without those obligations. Before pulling the retirement trigger, think about yourself as a non-medical person. If you want to stay involved in medicine, consider the many opportunities in volunteering or locum tenens activities.

What about “fun” things to occupy retirement? They are too numerous to cover here, and books have been written on the subject of options for retirement. Let’s examine some of them. Consider your personality, health, desires, and the interests of your partner who will be sharing these years of retirement with you.

Deciding on the Where

One consideration, discussed in part one of this series, is where you want to live. Location can significantly impact the activities you choose in retirement. Leaving your present community can result in losing close friends, but it opens the opportunity for developing new friendships.

Do you want to live in a cold or warm climate? Do you want to live near water? Do you want to have more than one residence? Have you considered a retirement community such as The Villages near Orlando, or a Del Webb community, or the many others like these?

Retirement communities are especially numerous in warmer climates such as Arizona, Florida, southern California, and Texas. Amenities in these retirement communities include gyms, restaurants, golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, and interesting lectures\classes that make your retirement pleasurable. One advantage is that these amenities are within walking, biking, or even golf-cart distance from your residence.

When considering where and how you might want to live in retirement, would you consider apartment living? Living arrangements such as the “over 55” apartment opportunities appeal to millions of retirees. In renting, you allow someone else to do the upkeep! These and other living arrangements are plentiful. Each option has a unique set of positives and negatives, and unless you have decided you want to stay where you are on retirement day, there are many choices to consider.

Filling Free Hours

Are you more interested in sedentary or vigorous activities? How about both? What are your partner’s preferences? Do you want to do many/most things together, or do you have separate interests? Do you want to try new activities, or do you want to do the activities you are already engaged in or have deferred until retirement? As you retire, remember that all 24 hours a day are yours to enjoy.

Before retirement, your free hours were probably somewhat limited; now they are essentially limitless. Consider retirement as not retiring from medicine, but instead to something. Many physicians preparing to retire have thought of the projects waiting for them, projects that have been put on the back burner waiting to be done, but professional life did not allow the time, energy, or maybe the skills to do. Now you have a chance to develop a new skill. You may even have a list of projects you’ve put together and are eager to explore.

For example, you might want to improve your gardening skills, landscape your yard, paint the fence, clean the garage, and sit and watch the sunset. These projects can be fun and fulfilling, at least for a while, but unless you live on a large property, ranch, or farm, you are likely to complete such projects soon after retirement.

Sure, the house always needs some work, and as a retiree, you will probably find it easier to keep on top of things than you did as a working professional, but there will likely come a time when you want to do something else besides home improvement projects.

Active Mind and Body

Next on the list of concerns is keeping an active mind and body. Physicians know that ignoring a sound mind and body may have undesirable consequences. Keeping the mind and body active will reap great rewards throughout your years. Undoubtedly you have preached this to older patients throughout years in practice, and now it’s your turn to practice what you preached.

As you retire, the options for enriching the years ahead are endless. Would you like more education? After a lifelong pursuit of continuing medical education, is there something else? Have you had a passion for English literature, economics, political science, or history that you would like to pursue in greater depth? Would you like to learn a foreign language to make your travels more fun?

Look into courses at a local community college or university; many higher education centers allow individuals to take non-credit classes at a low cost. You’re probably not interested in a grade; you want to learn. Online courses are another option; examples are , which offers more than 150,000 online courses in the $100\course range, and The Great Courses Plus ( ), which currently offers thousands of topics for $15 a month.

As a physician, you have spent your life reading journals and medical textbooks to keep up with a constantly changing profession. Many of us enjoy non-medical reading, but time for non-medical reading may have been limited. Retirement offers ample time to read. You might join half a dozen like-minded friends to create your own book club. Usually, such clubs will read one book a month and get together for a discussion, which members have described as a highlight of their month. Your local library may sponsor such activities.

Retirement can be an excellent opportunity to improve your health. Gyms are plentiful in most suburban areas, and personal instruction can be a boon to your health. A gym is not the only way to get good exercise. Walking, jogging, and weight resistance exercising can be done at home or with online tutorials. An example of an online exercise program is the Peloton stationary bike or the Peloton treadmill. Classes to improve balance and calm, such as Pilates and Tai Chi, are available in many areas. How about improving your eating habits? You might consider enrolling in a cooking class. How about learning a new musical instrument?

Volunteering, of course, always comes to mind, and there are many worthwhile charitable organizations that need more volunteers, and these organizations would like to have a physician contribute; as a physician, you would bring a skill set that few organizations have. Your expertise will be appreciated without your returning to practice medicine.

Don’t Forget Plans B and C

As you embark upon this new phase of life, you are likely activating plan A. But as we all know, sometimes things don’t always go as planned. So, Plan B and maybe even plan C need to be considered in case unforeseen events occur to alter plan A.

Do you have elderly parents who may eventually need your attention? Is there a possibility that your children or your grandchildren will need your help? Is your health, or that of your partner, such that it will not be long before you may not be active or may require assistance? Can you envision needing assisted living arrangements?

It is important to be realistic about such possibilities. Many people will face contingencies in retirement that are not predictable but may be inevitable. We can’t predict or prepare for every contingency, but it is advisable to make alternative plans for potentially difficult issues, instead of the fun-filled retirement you envision. “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” as the saying goes. As a retiree, you are entering a phase of life where the opportunities can be endless. Enjoy each day as a blessing,

Bottom Line: As physicians, we spend one-third of our lives studying and preparing to become physicians, one-third practicing medicine, and one-third in retirement. I am unaware of any medical school or training program that spends even one minute discussing the concept of retirement. Yet, we will spend a considerable portion of our life there.

We hope these three articles have added new insight to the retirement process, which can be challenging and stressful. We have provided a simple roadmap that will make the process less daunting and even make those retirement years enjoyable and worthy of anticipation.

Neil Baum, MD

Neil Baum, MD, is a professor of clinical urology at Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, Louisiana.

David F. Mobley, MD

David F. Mobley, MD, is a practicing urologist in Houston, Texas. He is an associate professor of urology at Weill-Cornell Medicine.

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