So, Doc, . . . when are you planning to retire?”
“I hope you’re not planning on retiring anytime soon.”
These are two comments/questions I hear more often these days. Some of my patients are getting increasingly anxious as they see more grey hair on my head (or maybe it’s that they are seeing less hair!). They also hear from the media and their social circles how challenging it is to find a family physician who is accepting new patients. Our medical office receives countless calls every day from people trying to find a family physician and asking if any of us are accepting new patients. As is the case with most family physicians, the answer is in the negative.
Our local division of family practice has successfully attached thousands of patients over the last few years and continues to do so, despite a number of family physician retirements from our community in recent years. As with the rest of the province, we still have a long way to go. As the province launches its Health Connect Registry through HealthLinkBC, it will be interesting to see if the recent Longitudinal Family Physician Payment Model will have any effect on attachment numbers.
Back to the question that many of my patients are asking me. My original plan, earlier in my medical career, was to start thinking about retirement in my 60s and to spend more time with my friends and family. Well, stuff happens, or something like that, as the saying goes. Five years ago, as this journal was celebrating its 60th anniversary of publication, I made a difficult personal decision, which some people call the worst financial decision a person can make. However, you can’t put a price on health and happiness, and my health and personal happiness have improved significantly since that decision. As a direct result of my decision, I have some financial obligations that continue for another 6.25 years, but who’s counting? I harbor no resentment about this. I just look forward to paying off my debts as anyone else would.
Additionally, I purchased my dream home a few months ago. This added significantly to my happiness and to my financial obligations for the foreseeable future. When my bank’s mortgage professional was assessing my qualifications for a new mortgage with a 25-year amortization, one of his questions was about my retirement plans. He was very polite and professional in his questioning: “So, Dr Chapman, we are approximately the same age, and I am easing into retirement this year. May I ask what your plans are for retirement?” My answer to him was that with my new mortgage in place, if my health allows (G-d willing), I plan to work well beyond my original 6.25-year retirement plan!
I love coming home from work each day to my new home; it feels like I am on a permanent vacation. Besides the financial obligations, I also love going to work each day. My work is now affording me my dream home. I have great partners and fantastic staff. My life partner is also a family physician, and she is another reason why I enjoy my work and my life.
The last time I opined on the topic of retirement was more than 11 years ago [BCMJ 2012;54:118-119]. In that editorial, I spoke about retiring in stages. The next stage of my retirement will be to retire from this esteemed Editorial Board (likely in late 2024). I have completed 15 years in this role, and now that term limits have been introduced, I have exceeded those limits. I also plan to retire my pager this year. Although I still juggle 3 call schedules and am on call on average 4 times a month, my cellphone has made my pager obsolete. The pager has been useful when on call and in an area of poor cell reception, but its retirement is long overdue.
From a work perspective, I am at the same stage now as I was when I wrote that editorial in 2012, although arguably I may be further away from retirement now! However, from a personal perspective, I am far happier in my life.
—David B. Chapman, MBChB
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