The transition from the workforce into retirement is always challenging, but for physicians accustomed to working long or odd hours, it can be especially difficult. The American Medical Association (AMA) surveyed more than 1200 retired physicians for the 2018 Report on US Physicians’ Financial Preparedness, gathering advice on what makes for a successful retirement.1,2

There is good news for physicians for whom retirement is just around the corner: 80% of retired physicians report having a satisfying retirement. In an article for the AMA Wire, author Amy Farouk documented some suggestions that retirees had for moving into retirement.

Ms Farouk pointed to the value of “growing into retirement” through a gradual process. One of the physicians who participated in the survey noted that his practice, “has allowed me to work two-and-a-half days a week for the last five years in the office. No call or surgery. It has been a nice transition — and fun.”

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During the transition to retirement, other physicians have found it helpful to create a new life with new activities, independent of medicine, that can be embraced once medical practice concludes. Ms Farouk described this method as retiring “to something, not from medicine.” One survey respondent suggested the simple strategy “[having] a plan,” adding that “golf or fishing won’t fill every day. Volunteer and give back to your community. Stay physically and mentally active.”

Ms Farouk also emphasized the importance of committing to this new stage of life. She quoted a respondent who urges those approaching retirement to “plan on enjoying it. Have a clear focus appropriate to your family, personality, and means. Clarify the things that would make you awaken with enthusiasm and pleasure, then plan on doing them.”

Taking care of physical and financial health is also a crucial part of a fruitful and happy retirement. Respondents urged retirees not to put their health on the back burner, instead suggesting that retirees take the time to make themselves even healthier. A retirement spent ailing is not an enjoyable one.

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Although money cannot buy a happy retirement, a sound financial plan can reduce anxiety and allow a physician to use retirement as an opportunity to do things the person could not do while practicing. To this end, respondents recommended making sure retirees are “comfortable with [their] financial plan,” adding that it’s important to have all affairs in order, including wills, advance directives, and power of attorney directives. Financial plans should include enough money to provide for potential illnesses and to maintain a desired standard of living. To this end, it is advisable for physicians to hire financial planners who understand their situation and have their best interests at heart. It is, of course, important for a retiring physician to consider the well-being of his or her spouse, bearing in mind that the spouse might outlive the physician.

To ensure a sound fiscal future, it is important to mind spending habits. As one respondent put it, “Live within your means. Downsize if necessary. Bigger and better is not necessarily the best.” Other respondents caution against risky investments, debt accumulation, and a focus on material things as a path to happiness.

Retirement should be an opportunity for a physician to enjoy the fruits of decades of education, hard work, and service to the community. It is important that those planning retirement take steps to ensure their future happiness and well-being.


  1. Farouk A. 6 key physician retirement insights from doctors already there. AMA Wire. November 8, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.
  2. AMA Insurance. 2018 Report on U.S. Physicians’ Financial Preparedness: Retired Physicians Segment. November 7, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.