A colleague of mine retired recently. She and I had worked together for nearly 30 years, journeying together from Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines to our exciting adventure creating the UroPartners Laboratory. She shares a birthday with my son and son-in-law and is about the same age as I am. And at her retirement luncheon (she declined a dinner party, at which we could have had an adequate liquid toast,) one of our lab assistants popped the question to me. "Dr. Raff, are you going to retire soon?"
Of course, retirement is something Barb and I have been thinking about; something we have discussed frequently. Barb retired last month, but I am not ready to hang 'em up yet. Health insurance concerns are enough to keep me working until I can tap into what I hope will be a non-bankrupt or gutted Medicare system. And I still feel young. Maybe not as young as when I was the absolutely most junior member of a hospital medical staff or the perpetual junior member of the Board of Education, but still young enough to feel embarrassed about getting a Senior Discount. I may be a grandfather, but I am not the elderly gentleman that I remember my own grandfather to be, though I do share the thinning white hair he has in my memories.
So what will help me know when it is time to pull the plug? Five keys for me:
- Health, health, health. I am presuming mine will hold up, and the work vs. retire decision will not be based on my physical abilities. Knocking on wood.
- Finances always play a role. Our money advisors tell us we are ok, though a few more years will ensure all our financial goals are met.
- The state of the Tri-State. We built our new home in part to shorten my daily drive. As long as I can continue to cruise down the tollway at what I consider optimal speed, my commute won't be a factor. But if IDOT starts tearing up the roadway up again, I'll be tearing out my hair. And I can't afford to lose more of that.
- The medical environment is continuously changing. Our type of physician's office laboratory provides an excellent, cost-effective means of providing care for our patients, but should a change in rules and regulations put an end to this model, it might spell the end of my career.
- Having a plan. What will retirement look like for us? More time with the family is guaranteed, until the kids and grandkids say "enough already." Certainly we will travel; still so many places we want to see. Beyond that, adult education and volunteer work are appealing and have proved rewarding for retired friends of ours who have followed those paths. As long as it all leaves time for the Three R's: Reading and writing and really bad tennis.
How did I answer my young interrogator's question? It's all in the definition of "soon." My day will come, but it won't be in five days or five months. Five years may be soon enough.
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