Sunday, January 13, 2019

Senior Discounts

On January 1, 2019, I officially retired from the position I held for 28.5 years. Let the new era begin!

In the interest of transparency, I have to tell you that this was not entirely by choice, and I am assured that there was no problem whatsoever with my work. But be that as it may, my life's schedule is now pushed up just a bit. The metamorphosis from practicing physician to private citizen (and eventually, I suppose, to patient) is a process I had started a few years ago, when I cut back to working 26, and then 22 weeks per year, dumping call in the process. There were those who couldn't understand my action at that time, those who said I was not a "team-player" and that I was "gaming the system". I strongly disagreed then, and I still do. If anything, at part-time rates, I was a bargain for the niche expertise I provided, but the attitude betrays a level of pain, both self-inflicted and externally-sourced, that many physicians experience, but won't discuss.

I'm not totally out of business, however, which is one of several reasons why I demurred on the retirement party the group wanted to give me. (They remind me too much of wakes anyway.) Our med-mal carrier allows us to work up to 60 days per year without additional tail coverage, and so I'll be able to keep my hand in the till, I mean the practice, for a while longer, and so I'm not quite gone from the old place just yet. This little reprieve gives me, at age 60, a bit longer to reinvent myself. I love travel, and had planned on doing more in retirement, but the abrupt loss of revenue (not to mention having to pay $37,000 out of pocket for health insurance and deductible) will limit that. There will be no 'round the world cruises for the foreseeable future.

Some have asked: "Is it wrong to retire early from a medical career?" Some, including me, have answered, "No." "Wrong" implies that we retirees are pilfering something by going about our merry way, which is certainly not the case. As with everything else in life, this transition represents a balance; retirement obviously stops the emotional hemorrhage, the drain on our psyches and our souls inherent in this business, but we are then deprived of the many joys of healing as well. It's a tough choice...maybe I'm lucky I didn't have to make it all on my own.

Retirement brings seismic changes in my personal finances, and so I've had to make some adjustments. Obviously, it's hard to know how much cash you need until you know how much you spend. To that end, I created the Google Form illustrated below, which allows the entry and subsequent monitoring of every single expenditure. Every single dollar. Every last cent. EVERY. LAST. BLOODY. CENT. I am going to have an absolute and complete handle on this if it kills me, and it just might.

There are any number of fairly painless ways to save a buck. The home thermostat, for example, is now set to a reasonable 68 degrees, instead of the more comfortable 72. Should have done that years ago. I suppose when summer hits down here in the Deep South (usually sometime in late February), I'll jack it up to, oh, maybe 75? I'm already wilting at the thought.

Reaching age 60 will facilitate some savings, although I had a minor intestinal disturbance when the kid at the grocery check-out announced, "And since today is Wednesday, you get the Senior Discount!" I used to think the average age of those taking advantage of Senior Day was dead. But hey, I'm getting pretty good at value shopping. I can tell you which neighborhood grocery has the best deal on Veuve Clicquot. What?! I may be un(der)employed, but I haven't yet reached the level of eating dog food. Or the dogs. Yet.

Everyone now wants to know about the next chapter. The short answer is that the book is far from finished, and I'm just starting to type the first word or two of the first line of that next chapter. I mentioned above that I will continue to work for the old practice for a while. Of the 60 days I'm allowed this year, I have 29 booked so far, and that will at least help with health insurance. In addition, I've been asked to give a talk to our state Nuclear Medicine Society meeting in a few months, and I've found that the best way to keep my skills sharp is to share them.

In the meantime, there is quite a bit to do around the house. My two little dogs alone can keep me quite busy; their favorite activity is requesting to go outside so they can come back in again. The laundry basket magically fills itself up at least every other day, which must be addressed. In case you wondered, I haven't ruined anything in years. No, I don't wash it all in hot water.

There are drawers that need dumping, their contents sorted and reloaded, stuff to be taken to Goodwill, and things to be moved from one shelf to another. Like the gym ad, I find myself picking things up and putting them down again, although the objects do end up in other places, thank you. And the yard always needs something done to it. I do have a service, but they don't weed, and they have a very bad habit of blowing leaves into the bushes, thinking I won't notice. I've been known to use a Shop-Vac to literally vacuum out the azaleas; the last time I did that I accumulated a pile of leaves about 3 feet high, which the yard guys charged extra to haul away, even though it was all their fault to begin with. And I seem to have discovered magic weeds (no, not those!) that happily ingest and thrive on Round-Up. All that exposure to a potential carcinogen for nothing.

My main achievement in retirement so far has been the establishment of the "For Better Or Worse But Not For Lunch" club:

"Club" is perhaps too fancy a word for a gathering of a bunch of retired guys who need to get out of the house once in a while, but call it what you will, we had a great time at the first lunch meeting. The plan is to reconvene on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. Assuming I make them all, that leaves only 331 more days to fill...

And fill them I shall. There are still a few trips I've had on the books since before the Lessened Event, and you'll eventually see pics here from some far-flung places. (Teaser...several destinations are islands, one is in a desert, and one will involve Star-struck photos with Famous People!)

The elephant in the room is, of course, what I will REALLY do when I grow up, since there doesn't seem to be a way to avoid adulting at this late date. Honestly, nothing seems to fit perfectly. I've tried writing, but obviously I haven't been quite as motivated as I once was. Maybe that will change. And while I enjoyed my mission trips, I found they are more for the young and strong, and those who think well on their feet, even after multiple sleepless nights. I don't want to do locums, and the VA here needs to fill several full-time spots before I could even be considered for a part-time NM position. I've sent out some feelers to various PACS and equipment vendors, but surprisingly, they are not yet squabbling with each other to be the first to have Doctor Dalai on the payroll.

No doubt the real answer is something else I haven't considered or even thought of as yet.

So, for the moment, I'm going to wallow in my (mostly) retired status. I'll sleep late on occasion, and be the best house-husband I can be. I've been advised by other retired docs to just relax and enjoy it for a while. The proper path will become obvious. Eventually.

But for now, you must excuse me...the clothes dryer just buzzed...