Retire as you go!

July 1, 2003
Times have changed for boomer dentists who anticipated an easy retirement from a well-managed stock portfolio and the sale of their practice.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

Times have changed for boomer dentists who anticipated an easy retirement from a well-managed stock portfolio and the sale of their practice. If you have not prepared for retirement or have to make adjustments in your first choice, we have the answer.

Retire As You Go is created for the dentist who enjoys practicing, is interested in the latest technology, is curious, and enjoys people. Regardless of the amount of money you have set aside for retirement, Retire As You Go is a viable opportunity for bright, highly skilled dentists to feel wanted, needed, and known in the community. Continuing to stay involved encourages a healthier, longer life.

Dentistry offers many blessings. We are able to make our own decisions as we create our own path. Boomers have chosen unexpected paths throughout their lives. Retirement will be no different, and dentistry is a perfect vehicle for independent thinking. As dentists, we can be mentally engaged and earn a decent income with little need for Social Security, even if we have not planned well.

Unlike large corporations, we have no mandatory retirement regime. Commercial airline pilots must retire at age 60, regardless of perfect health. Their livelihood, status, and responsibilities are taken from them, many against their will.

The retirement age of 65 was created during Roosevelt's New Deal for the advent of the Social Security System. At that time, the life expectancy for males was 63 years. In that 60-year span, our parents have lived longer, and we will live longer. We are healthier, more active, and more accomplished.

Insurance actuarial tables indicate the average male dies within 18 months of retirement and the spouse follows within six years, regardless of age at retirement. Psychologists warn that many busy people who felt needed and important in their work retire without vision and time frame. This sudden emotional jolt creates depression and apathy. We are encouraged to stay busy in order to feel needed and to add purpose to our lives. Retired people advise, "Don't quit completely, keep something going. Three years of daily golf becomes boring." A number of dentists are re-entering active practice, saying they retired too early. Once you retire, the inflationary Pacman goes to work on your funds. Continuing to produce at a lower level with a lower overhead equals a nice net income.

People's financial retirement plans cover a wide spectrum, from $3 million in retirement assets to 55-year-olds who know they should start saving soon. Social Security statistics indicate only 5 percent of self-employed people are able to retire with funds beyond their Social Security.

Some dentists believe the sale of their practice is an important part of their retirement funds. Don't count on it! Recent dental graduates total less than half during the boomer years, with associateships the favored route. Some dentists are closing their doors because they can't find a buyer. Since the selling price is close to one-and-a-half times net, I suggest they continue to practice for 18 months to be financially even.

Retire As You Go is creating a plan to practice at the level you desire. Work three days a week, or combine it in one-and-a-half weeks a month. Practice three weeks on, three weeks off. Two dentists could practice six months on, six months off. Select the kinds of treatment you enjoy. Stay engaged and proficient. Practice with other dentists doing the same thing, with staff members who also want to work part-time. If you want to move in your "retirement," more than 40 states have licensure by credentials.

There are many scenarios worth exploring. We recently heard of a 95-year-old dentist couple who just retired. The best part of dentistry is the independence ... and you can create your own independent path in retirement as well.

Dr. Bill Blatchford's Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with more than 1,100 offices, Dr. Blatchford's custom program involves minimal travel and maximum personal time with the coach, interaction with other doctors, and tons of support. Leadership, systems, case-presentation skills, communication, and profitability are emphasized. Dr. Blatchford is speaking at Genr8tnext in Miami, Discus Dental in Las Vegas, and Ross Nash's Extravaganza in Williamsburg July 31 to Aug 3. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit

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