Reinventing retirement

Aug. 21, 2012
The new economy affects us all. Many dentists who planned to retire in 2008 altered their decision and continue to practice. Facing a 30-year retirement in uncertain times is intimidating.

BY Bill Blatchford, DDS

The new economy affects us all. Many dentists who planned to retire in 2008 altered their decision and continue to practice. Facing a 30-year retirement in uncertain times is intimidating.

Continuing to practice can be an excellent decision for many dentists. We own our own practices and make our own decisions about time and skills. Dentistry is the best-kept secret in America. We are in rarified air of the $250K income and above. We are known and loved in our communities, and we are members in good standing of an elite group. Why let our skills lapse? Or we can retire, hoping everything will turn out okay.

Which decision is right for you?

This is a worthwhile conversation to have regarding your future, no matter what your age. You have a very specific professional skill, which is of little use outside the field. Examine these criteria in your retirement planning:

• Do you have enough money to retire and live the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed?

• Do you enjoy some parts of dentistry enough to continue?

• Do you enjoy the generations of patients you have served over the years?

• If you choose full retirement, what structure have you established to fulfill the emotional and psychological void?

• Are you counting on the sale of your practice as an important part of your retirement planning?

In my 25 years of coaching practices on business, I've observed various choices dentists have made. I've seen dentists who think they're ready to retire at 55, drop their licensure, and, within a year or two they recognize their big mistake and have to retake the national boards to practice. We want to help you avoid the pitfalls of poor decisions.

In this new changing economy, finding peace of mind about the depth of your retirement package is a challenge. How much is enough to live the life you dreamed? What are you willing to forgo to retire at the traditional age of 65? If there is longevity in your genes, are you prepared emotionally and financially for 30 years of freedom?

Tackling the question of value of your present practice, keep in mind that it will sell for 18 months of your net and, in some areas, two years of net. Why not continue to practice for two more years and throw the key in the river on the way home? Your practice sale should not be a large part of your retirement planning.

How about reinventing retirement? Think nontraditionally. Our most successful doctors see patients three days a week and have eight or more weeks of vacation. You already have a brand in the community, a skill like no other, and the opportunity to keep supporting yourself for years without touching your retirement money. How can that help your peace of mind to know the final plunge is being delayed with meaning and contribution?

One problem with traditional retirement is that the inflationary Pac-Man makes sure your fears and insecurities stay at the forefront. Selling is a final decision. Do you have a clear plan for retirement regarding how you will spend your time? Many retirees have told me, "I looked forward to the freedom to play golf, have no time constraints, and develop some hobbies. What I found was one can have too much time on their hands and then feel pressure to play golf. Tell your clients not to quit completely. Keep something going that makes them feel valued and needed."

If you have the skills and passion for dentistry, you can continue to practice in any format and at any level you wish for as long as you wish. You could improve your skills in treatments you enjoy and refer out those you do not enjoy. The key is to make it fun and profitable.

Picture this: Work 100 patient-contact days a year with a team of two or three, doing treatments that you enjoy and for which you are skilled, on patients you choose to treat. This plan gives you 265 days off with many two- or three-week vacations, yet you can still maintain a presence in your community. Your gross could be $500K-plus and your net $250K.

Your question may be, "How?" Don't worry about the how. If others have already accomplished this, you can too. If this sounds inviting, make a plan and take action. With a continued income stream, recognition, structure, emotional reward, and less worry, isn't it time to reinvent retirement?

Dr. Bill Blatchford, America's premier dental business coach, has produced a new comprehensive business course called Blatchford in a Box - the Classic. Requiring no travel and no contact, Dr. Blatchford is offering his coaching lessons on leadership, profitability, bonus, strong systems, an accountable team, marketing, and sales. See Amazing results can be yours for $1,595. Dr. Blatchford is also author of two books, "Playing Your 'A' Game" and "Blatchford BLUEPRINTS." Contact him at [email protected] and

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