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Time to stress test your retirement plan - Top tips for GPs

06th November, 2019

The phrase ‘Life is short’, is usually meant as an encouraging prompt towards a positive course of action, however this well-meaning, seize-the-day advice ignores the fact that life is actually pretty long – and, as anyone in your profession knows, it’s getting longer. As we embrace healthier and better-informed lifestyles, we’re living far longer than our predecessors which is great news, especially for those people approaching retirement age.

Retirement, however, must not be treated as something that happens to you but as something that you make happen for yourself. And whatever your idea of a ‘successful’ retirement, it likely involves a lifestyle where money is not a pressing concern. 

If you feel that you’re not quite retirement-ready, we’ve outlined a few significant but simple steps in this article to help you get things in order:
 

Identify exactly what you want in retirement

Let’s go back to that idea of what you once might have imagined your ideal retirement to look like. Less work and more play for sure. Perhaps a round-the-world trip or a house in the sun? Balance this with some consultancy or locum work and it sounds like a winning formula, right? Yes these scenarios all sound good – but they’re too vague. You need to know that you’ll be able to afford your planned lifestyle, which means quantifying exactly how much that lifestyle is going to cost. Be as specific as you can about what you want to do – not just ‘travel’ but where? With whom? At what time of year? Aim for say one big trip per year and one main activity per season (night class, staycation, family reunion) and start writing down figures as you go.

The more tangible and specific your planning process at this stage, the clearer and more focussed you’ll be on your retirement number.

Embrace the change

The biggest challenge to transitioning to retirement is often not financial but personal. It can bring fantastic opportunities, but it can be a challenge to an individual’s sense of self impacting you professionally and personally.

In practice, GPs carry a lot of responsibility and influence. Your opinion is constantly sought, the surgery is busy, and the phone never stops ringing. The reality is that the phone will stop ringing and someone else will step into your shoes. The realisation that life goes on regardless can sometimes be a shock to the system. We recommend talking to colleagues or friends who have gone through the same experience in the run up to your retirement. Ultimately, you’re going to be happier if you prepare for change and accept that this feeling is normal.

It’s a family affair

It might sound obvious but your retirement can impact your spouse and family just as much as it will impact you. You may have ideas about spending your golden years with family, children, even grandchildren when a busy surgery isn’t occupying your entire day. A word of warning though_- it’s a good idea to talk these plans through with your spouse or wider family in advance, for the sake of maintaining good relations! Communicating your plans in advance will certainly help. It’s also a good idea to put some long-term planning into creating interests and activities as a couple or as a family, while retaining each partner’s individuality and social network.

Tackle your pension planning head on

As a GP, you face some of the most challenging clinical situations imaginable on a daily basis.  It’s understandable then that decisions surrounding your pension may feel like the last thing you want to contemplate after a busy surgery. There is often very little support provided in explaining pension complexities. All the normal day-to-day activities that take priority can mean that there is limited time set aside to understanding what the implications are for you and your family.  

When confronted with the challenge of making sense of an extremely complex pension system and a barrage of alien terms – from “professional added years”, to “chargeable excess tax”, “dual public/private encashment option” to “personal fund thresholds”, GPs can often experience the dreaded inertia in dealing with their own finances that they are all too familiar with seeing in their own patients.

Time to take stock of your own health, physical and mental

You’re used to dispensing advice to patients on a daily basis, but how much consideration do you actually give to your own mental and physical health? Retirement, of course, is about more than just money. There’s little point putting in all that hard work during your working life if you’re not in good enough shape to enjoy the fruits of your labour when the time comes. 

Obvious as it may seem it’s time to plan your own health check. So follow your own advice to patients, bite the bullet and just get it done.

And don’t forget about your own mental health. In a stressful job like yours, it’s equally important to pay this the same amount of care and attention as your physical wellbeing. 

Build your own network, social and professional

Retirement can come as a big shock, no matter how long it’s been on the horizon. The best way to mitigate against possible boredom and that all-too-common sense of pointlessness is to have a network of people around you. Don’t leave this to the last minute, and don’t expect to rely on another person’s network – it doesn’t always work like that.

If you are planning on staying in the healthcare sector in some capacity (e.g. doing consultancy) it’s even more important that you build a network of contacts well in advance. Social media can be a great way of extending your reach. The old-fashioned approach of picking up the phone and meeting for coffee still works well too.

The sooner you start…

We all dream of being ‘rich’ in retirement but, as I tell all my clients, there’s more to wealth than money. It’s vital that anyone approaching retirement does so in a holistic way, paying close attention to family, health, friends, activities and the other building blocks of a happy and well-rounded life.

On the financial side, solid advice is the place to start. Once you have a clear idea of  how much moneny you will need in retirement, you can shape your strategy and adapt your portfolio to give yourself the best chance of getting there. As with all major financial considerations, the sooner you start the better – we’d be happy to help.
 

Find out more about our financial planning solutions for GPs

Talk to Niall today on +353 1 614 9929 or Request a call below

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