Dentists fear retirement. Many people view retirement as an opportunity to enjoy life without the hassles of business or employment. Dentists, on the other hand, fear retirement because it represents change and most people don’t like change and would prefer to avoid it if possible. Dentists tend to feel that retirement means they have reached the end of their productive years and that they are now being “put out to pasture.”

Many people believe that retirement is anything but unproductive. It represents an opportunity to focus on all those things in life that have been put off because of the pressures and responsibilities that accompany their “productive years.” Dentists tend to think that retirement represents “throwing in the towel” before the “game” is over, it means admitting that they are mortal.

Putting off retirement is usually an attempt to avoid acknowledging one’s mortality. The average dental practice is composed of patients who represent an average cross-section of society, or more accurately, a cross-section of the local community, with different social and economic backgrounds. Many patients lack the financial resources to approaching retirement with the sense of security and rewards that a dentist should expect to enjoy. Many retired patients are tired, burned out, of poor health, or have little money to enjoy their “golden” years. Television becomes the way to pass the time and those retirees quickly become bored and restless. They fondly recall their “productive working years”... forgetting about the stress that was so long associated with those memories.

Retirees need more care and see doctors more often than other people do, and are accustomed to talking to as many individuals as possible about their problems. They often complain to their dentist (who happens to be a captive listener) about their inactivity, boredom, sickness and often financial woes. Some people will die shortly after retirement, and their families members believe the cause of death was retirement rather than the years of being overworked and overstressed. The advice frequently heard by dentists from their well-meaning patients is, “Avoid retiring, Doc!”

As a result, a dentist’s perspective on retirement is greatly influenced by his patient base. He begins to associate retirement with inactivity, boredom, and even death. As years go by, the doctor slowly starts to realize that he is approaching retirement age as the kids finish school and get married, his mortgage is paid, and he does not have the same responsibilities he once had. He then begins to think about all those patients he has seen over the years. They retired, became sick, complained a lot, and then they died. They did not enjoy retirement. Well, he is not going to fall into that trap!

This is where it becomes interesting. Some people might view this scenario and come to the conclusion that to enjoy retirement one should retire as early as possible while still healthy, and not put it off until his health is spent. Retire early, live longer and enjoy more healthy, happy, and productive years. Take the time to pursue the things in life you’ve always wanted such as world travel, theater, sports, reading; the activities that there was never time for before retirement.

Yes, this would seem to be a logical conclusion for most people. It is safe to say that this is the advice a dentist would give to his or her children if given an opportunity to advise them on this same matter. What do most dentists do instead? They practice until they die! Instead of retiring early and having a long, happy and healthy retirement as a reward for a lifetime of service to others, they let death become their final reward. Instead of time spent with their loved ones, instead of traveling and seeing the world, fishing, golf, hunting... they work until they die.

Dentists do have options few others can afford. Most dentists do not have to practice until they die. Dentists can have a long, happy and productive retirement, and if they’d like, they can even sell their practice now, eliminate the responsibilities associated with ownership and continue to practice full or part time. Dentists can phase into retirement years before they thought possible, and live longer as a result. Correctly planned, doctors can have it all. It’s time to call AFTCO!

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