Retirement and dental practice are two topics that don’t mix well together. Dentists are Type AA personalities. The current developing economic environment and competition levels between practices only makes dentists even more focused on practice. The incredible amount of time devoted to education before actually practicing and its associated astronomical costs put dentists in severe long-term economic stress.  Add liberal student loan policies, and dentists initially have few reasons to remain frugal and conservative.  This leads to a culture of work and career that are realistically non-sustainable.

We hope that you are able to sit back on the beach someday and really relax.   Enjoy life and think back on a long rewarding career.   This is a common goal among all of us, and we strive to earn the right to transition to a new phase of our lives.   Be prepared for some challenges.  They include unexpected disability. Look to our posting on actions to take if you are disabled.  Looking for opportunity in disability.  We now present the ten most common myths associated with dental retirement.

All of us will retire someday. WE PREFER TO CALL IT TRANSITION.

MYTH NUMBER ONE.  We aren’t dentists after we retire.

You will always be a dentist. Even if you stop actively practicing, you will be considered the doctor.  It doesn’t matter to friends, acquaintances, or family; you will always be Dr_______.  Use this and keep relevant.  Take pride in your title and never let it leave your consciousness.  You are a dentist until they write your name in stone.

MYTH NUMBER TWO.  We will retire when we want to retire.

Many of us will get to choose the date we officially retire, but not all. At least 30% of us will be forced to retire due to sudden disability. Many more will retire early due to personal or family/spouse health reasons.  A number will be required to retire due to loss of skills and functional capability.  Many will work a significant number of years too long due to financial concerns.

MYTH NUMBER THREE.  We will be financially comfortable in retirement.

Do you really ever have enough saved to retire? Probably, maybe, no. You will probably have enough, but will you be comfortable.  Probably not for a majority of us.  It is a very subjective topic and there is no concrete answer.  Comfort is in the eye of the beholder.   We know that quite a few will be fine, but far too many will be on edge indefinitely.  Make smart financial decisions now while you can.

MYTH NUMBER FOUR.  We won’t miss going to work everyday.

You have invested a lifetime or what seems like a lifetime in your dental practice.  The relationships you have with your patients and staff are extremely strong.  These are very personal bonds and are too deep to cut overnight.  They will always be a part of your soul. You may deny it, but be honest; you loved your job and wanted to go to work everyday.  You will miss your job, patients, and staff from time to time.

MYTH NUMBER FIVE.  We will never want to return to practice again.

You will encounter many dentists in their late 70’s and early 80’s or older.  WHY?   We actual like our profession. You can still practice to advanced ages in this profession.  Not all of us, but some can effectively.  Whether this is wrong or not of significance is another topic. You will always have that urge to work. You fight that urge through dental volunteering, consulting, or teaching.  We always want to be relevant.

MYTH NUMBER SIX.   We will know went its time to retire.

You may think you know the right time to retire, but do you?   For some of us, it’s a financial decision, for others it’s a health related decision.  Practicing too long is just as bad as practicing too short.  Negating the financial question, personally this is a question we often fail to ask our family, spouse, and  staff.   You may think this is your decision only.   In reality it is a decision that effects many lives.  You can’t do a good job, if a job is all you do. Work to live, don’t live to work. No one should die with a dental handpiece in their hand.

MYTH NUMBER SEVEN.  Your spending will go up in retirement.

With the average retiree, this may be true. Many rely solely on social security.  For the dental retiree, savings and investments should allow for a stable income that matches their spending habits. We would expect some early fluctuations, but this one of the reasons you became a dentist. Financial security is an added benefit of our profession.

MYTH NUMBER EIGHT.   Affordable healthcare will be readily available.

We hope not to burst the bubble of unrealistic expectations, but reality requires us to inform you that healthcare is in crisis mode. Whether the Affordable Healthcare Act is repealed, modified, or replaced with a national single payer system; it doesn’t matter.    For the foreseeable future, healthcare insurance coverage is going to be a major problem. Plan accordingly  and be prepared. We are all in the same boat.

MYTH NUMBER NINE.  Social Security won’t be there for me.

A couple of thousand dollars a month is nothing to shake your head at.  Social Security is at risk but will be there for the next generation.  Modifications are coming, but will be incredibly difficult to pass.  Due to the boomer generation now retiring, you will likely see benefits for at least the next 25-30 years. This should cover those finishing dental school just now.   For the rest-GOOD LUCK. You will be paying a big bill.

MYTH NUMBER TEN.  You will live in the same place throughout your retirement.

Moving is a major part of retirement. We are a mobile society and often relocate. You will likely need a smaller home and will consider moving close to your children in retirement. You may sell your primary residence and move to your vacation home.  Residing in a retirement community is likely for many.  Seeking freedom from snow and bad weather may influence your decisions after retirement.

We hope this article doesn’t rain on your parade. Retirement or transition as we call it should be fun and rewarding.  More important is being held in high regard and considering yourself as valuable. Continue to be relevant and volunteer, teach, or consult.  Keep active with your profession even from a distance. Don’t feel guilty about traveling or relaxing. You earned it.  Use our suggestions to gain perspective and have fun.

WE ARE DENTISTS HELPING OTHER DENTISTS.

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