10 Oct 2019

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness, But It Certainly Helps

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This time of year sees an influx of pension queries so it has been my aim to address the specific arrangements that medical professionals should be aware of.

Preparing financially is so important to protect your future lifestyle, security and meet any costs that may arise. Simply look at the classic example of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (for those of you who haven’t experienced the joy of Psychology 101, this is a widely referenced theory proposed by Abraham Maslow to demonstrate a classification system that reflects the universal needs of society in order to be happy) to see how the two largest categories are dependent upon finances. Our Physiological needs of food, shelter etc and Safety needs of resources, property etc are secured by an income.

True Fulfilment

But what of the remaining three categories – Self actualisation, Esteem & Love/Belonging? In order to be truly fulfilled, this theory dictates that we need to address all five. This really came to the fore recently, as we conducted an in-depth survey on Retirement Readiness with the Irish Dental Association. We had a very strong response from their membership with one piece really standing out. This group is by and large well prepared for retirement financially but when asked if they intend to continue working in some capacity after retirement, 57% of them said yes. When probed further, it turns out 80% are doing so with career satisfaction as the primary goal and only 20% with finances driving this decision.

Retirement is a stage of life that needs to looked at holistically, not just as a dash to the finish line with the bottom line as key focus. ‘What will I do next’ should be treated with equal importance. There is a great Forbes article by Michael F Kay called “Why You Need To Buy Green Bananas”. The author talks about a very accomplished friend of his, Pete, who proclaimed “I’m at the stage of life where I don’t buy green bananas anymore” with the underlying message being that he might not be around by the time that they ripen. For someone in their early 70’s this seems prematurely morbid but it was his lack of holistic retirement planning that created this headspace. Pete had loved working ‘was creative in business; would make business deals from his favourite booth at the diner, on the golf course, in a coffee shop or standing on-line at a grocery store.’ He had an ability to read people and create opportunities. So when he retired, ‘his demeanour shifted from gregarious to introverted’ as he lost his sense of who he was and what would bring him satisfaction.

All the money in the world is of little use if you’re not feeling happy and fulfilled. Medical professionals invest a huge of amount of time and resources into their careers so it is natural that their personal and personal identities are heavily intertwined. Certain restrictions around retirement age exist however the good news is that planning ahead can help to sidestep negative outcomes.

In recent times, the retirement age for GPs working in the public system was extended to 72 with Consultants facing a compulsory retirement age of 70. Whilst the increase is welcome, there remains a cohort of Hospital Consultants who would wish to continue working post 70. While clinical work would cease to be an option, clinical teaching and assessment, research and medicolegal work can provide pathways for those who seek to continue.

So as you take the time to look after your pension each year, it would be wise to give equal focus to your actual retirement and what that looks like. We all know the things that irk us about our work but its worth writing a list of the things that make you happy and motivated. Studying, charity work, spending more time with grandchildren, local sports clubs, travel and of course work itself. Maybe you have always meant to be more heavily involved in these activities but simply haven’t had the time. By starting to increase your involvement you will begin to find more worth in those areas and avoid the identity crisis that many describe post retirement. If work is a real driver for you, find out what your options are way ahead of time so you can plan the transition positively and not from a place of panic.

It goes without saying, finances solidify options so continue to fund for it well, just pay as much heed to your future satisfaction, outlook and personal wellbeing.