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  • Writer's pictureMark Fonville, CFP®

The Ultimate Checklist for Retiring Physicians

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Are you getting ready for your golden years? Being a physician offers you a challenging and rewarding career, but you likely don’t plan to do it forever. Moving toward successful retirement requires planning and preparation if you want to live comfortably—especially if you’re hoping to retire early.

What steps do you need to take in the years leading up to retirement? Get a quick breakdown of everything to keep in mind with our retiring physician checklist to make sure that you are in good shape for your financial future.

Meet with a Financial Advisor

It likely goes without saying that you’ll benefit from expert help behind you as you move away from that steady paycheck in your practice. A financial advisor can help you start planning as soon as possible—and the earlier you can meet with them, the better off you will be in retirement.

Set a Budget

Income often takes a substantial hit when you transition into retirement. This is why it is crucial to set a new budget to ensure that you have enough money to live off when your career no longer supports you.

Set Goals

Understand what you want to do in retirement: travel, charitable giving, paying for a grandchild’s college tuition, or something else entirely. Knowing your goals helps you budget accordingly.

Maximize Employer Benefits

Many employers offer assistance to those who are focused on the future, matching employee contributions to retirement savings accounts. Take full advantage of these matches and start to contribute the maximum allowed to your retirement.

Even if your employer doesn’t offer a match, it will still benefit you to contribute as much as you can toward whatever doctor retirement benefits are offered through your employer – whether that is a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), 401(a), HSA, or a combination of these.

If you are old enough to qualify, don’t forget about catch-up contributions.

Map Out a Succession Plan

If you own your own practice, then you need to think about what will happen to the reputation you built after you retire. Plan out who will take it over, whether that means passing on the business to family or selling it, and what role you will play in the business in your golden years.

Use Vacation Days

Take advantage of the perks offered by your employer including those vacation days you have saved up over the years. This is a great way to continue receiving your steady paycheck, maximize the benefits your employer offers, and take some much-needed time away from your work instead of allowing those vacation days to go unspent.

Rebalance or Reallocate Your Portfolio

As you look toward retirement, you want to make sure you have enough after-tax liquidity in order to cover your expenses. For many physicians, this means rebalancing their portfolio so that they can withdraw some of their money if and when the need arises instead of waiting around for something to sell.

Immediately before retirement, you will likely need to rebalance again to optimize your portfolio for income and preservation.

Have a Withdrawal Plan

When you have multiple retirement savings accounts, understanding which one to pull from first often poses a problem. Partner with a financial advisor to help you understand the implications of pulling from each account and to make a game plan for which accounts you will tap into first.

Build a Tax Plan

Just because you no longer have a steady stream of income from an employer doesn’t mean that you will be exempt from taxes. A financial advisor can help you come up with core strategies that will help minimize the taxes you will pay in your retirement on the money that you worked hard to earn.

Tax planning in retirement is one of the most important items to address to help make your money last.

Explore Health Insurance Options

One of the perks of working is that you have access to benefits like health insurance, but these go away when you retire. You won’t be eligible for Medicare until age 65. For physicians who are retiring before age 65, you will need something else to cover you until it kicks in. Do some research now on where to get coverage and how much it will set you back so that you can budget accordingly.

With proper advice from a financial advisor and tax planning, it’s possible to substantially reduce the premiums you pay out of pocket for private health insurance.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Do you still hold a mortgage on any of your properties? Maybe you have a high interest rate on your mortgage or you want to lower monthly payments to help out your budget. Refinancing your mortgage, if applicable, is a great step prior to your official retirement because you may not get approved once you are no longer employed.

Pay Off Debt

Paying off debt may not be for everyone, but it is something you will want to consider as you make a budget and meet with a financial advisor. Some physicians will be better off putting their money toward investments that have a higher rate of return. However, paying down debt could be necessary to reduce monthly expenses.

Prepare for Retirement with Confidence

In case you haven’t already gathered from this retiring physician checklist, one of the most important things you can do to prepare for your golden years is to meet with a financial advisor. A qualified financial advisor like the ones you will find at Covenant Wealth Advisors can walk you through each step of this checklist to make a comprehensive retirement plan that works for you.

This is not necessarily a one-and-done type of appointment. Rather, you should meet with them multiple times leading up to retirement to ensure that you are on the right track and can make small adjustments as needed.

Are you on track to retire early? Download the Financial Planning Kit for Doctors Considering Early Retirement today!


Author: Mark Fonville, CFP®

Mark is a fiduciary, fee-only financial advisor at Covenant Wealth Advisors specializing in helping individuals aged 50 plus plan, invest, and enjoy retirement without the stress of money.

Forbes nominated Mark as a Best-In-State Wealth Advisor* and he has been featured in the New York Times, Barron's, Forbes, and Kiplinger Magazine.


Disclosures: Covenant Wealth Advisors is a registered investment advisor with offices in Richmond and Williamsburg, VA. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. The views and opinions expressed in this content are as of the date of the posting, are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This content contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected. Please note that nothing in this content should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax, or legal advice. If you would like accounting, tax, or legal advice, you should consult with your own accountants or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Covenant Wealth Advisors unless a client service agreement is in place.


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