Twenty years ago, I first came across a dentist’s ‘fear of retirement’ for the first time. We had been working with “Dr. John” for a long time. We had just advised Dr. John that he had achieved financial independence and was able to sell his practice and retire. At first, he seemed celebratory, but within seconds I saw fear and panic come over him. He did not know what came next – what retirement would actually look like, and how he would fill his time without dentistry.
Since then, I have seen this exact phenomenon many, many times. In the early 2000s, 90% of our client base was in active practice. Today, all but five dentists have now sold their practices and are retired. Having worked with so many dentists into their retirement, I can tell you that many share this fear. But within a year of selling their practice and retiring almost all the people we work with do not know how they ever had time to work. Their days are full.
Younger Next Year
One of the most useful resources in understanding your life in retirement and dissipating this extremely common fear of retirement is the book ‘Younger Next Year’ by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge. I have been recommending this book for over a decade and have been told by many dentists that it changed their lives. The book dives into the importance of focusing on your health both before and during retirement and outlines how to prioritize your health as your ‘full time job’ once you stop practising. The authors argue that you can maintain the health of a 50-year-old well into your 80s if you follow the correct process and treat exercise as though it is your career. This is not to say retirement means becoming an all-star athlete – in fact, the focus of this exercise has little to do with results, and more to do with feeling better as you age, not worse. By prioritizing exercise and rational consumption habits, you can postpone and reduce the likelihood of many of the perils of aging that are too often thought to be inevitable.
Approximately 70% of premature death is lifestyle-related, not genetic predisposition. 50% percent of illnesses and injuries in your retirement age can be eliminated altogether through lifestyle changes.
In this book, Dr. Lodge explains that approximately 70% of premature death is lifestyle-related, not genetic predisposition. 50% percent of illnesses and injuries in your retirement age can be eliminated altogether through lifestyle changes. These numbers, simply put, mean that those who do not take the time to change their lifestyle and focus significantly on their health as they age are at much higher risk than those who do.
None of this is to say that retirement is about exercising 24/7 and having no more time for the things you love to do than when you were working full-time. The book discusses the many opportunities for adventure in your retirement that involve being active and that can be made better through focusing on exercise in your day-to-day life. For example, a ski week in the Alps; a hiking trip in British Columbia; a bike tour of France – all things that seem to be too difficult for an individual in their 80s but entirely doable for those in their 50s – can be a part of your retirement for decades to come if you make an investment in your health of an hour per day, six days per week.
Beyond your health, Younger Next Year illustrates the importance of devoting time to your passions, rekindling commitment to community, and focusing on relationships; things that all contribute to a busy, productive, and meaningful life after retirement.
At McNulty Group, we work with dentists to help them sell their practices and finance their retirement. But without subduing the fear of retirement, our clients’ financial success cannot be celebrated as it should be. However, nearly 40 years into operation, we know as a certainty that concerns about filling your time and finding a purpose in retirement can be overcome, and your retirement can change from a looming question mark to an exciting new adventure.