Preparing for retirement – through one Boca physician’s eyes

by By John Johnston

Where am I going in life?

An age-old question – and as we grow older, one that involves more of the practical, rather than the philosophical.

“A time comes to change our priorities and to slow down, change directions or retire. This is very threatening to many people, especially physicians,� according to Dr. Frank J. Weinstock, a surgeon and professor of ophthalmology, who lives and works in both Canton, OH, and Boca Raton.

He smiles: “And I’m not yet retired,� he hastens to note.

First Stage

Weinstock told The Boca Raton News he’s been proactively planning for retirement “for many years.�

In fact, he said, “With proper planning, the transition to retirement should be natural and gradual. This planning should ideally begin early in our careers so that the need to change does not create unexpected major financial and emotional issues.�

That includes most importantly, according to Weinstock, “developing as to how life would be without one’s job and income. I have done this thru specific planning as to where I am going and getting financial management advice to allow me to keep my journey on course.�

Unfortunately, too many persons spend most of the time and energy on only the financial elements of retirement planning.

“And then what do you do when you wake up everyday? he asks.

Weinstock said that eight years ago he made the decision to give up ophthalmic surgery- the major part of his ophthalmology practice.

“It was a gradual decision, mainly motivated by my desire to take more time off. I didn’t feel that it was fair to my patients or my colleagues to operate then leave town during the post-op period. Although my surgical skills and results were good, I didn’t want to spend the necessary time to keep these skills up to date or to learn new surgical techniques. Lastly, I wanted to make this decision before anyone asked me to do so.�

This was the first stage toward eventual retirement, Weinstock said, adding that for persons in non-medical professions, “it may mean to stop traveling, going to a lower level position in your company, etc.�

Second Stage

Weinstock acknowledged that he wondered whether he could “emotionally handle the change and spoke to a few of my colleagues and friends who had discontinued surgery.�

“The thought of ceasing to operate may be very frightening – especially if you are forced to do so because of illness or loss of competency (not the situation in my case). However, the apprehension stems from the lack of preparedness and goal setting; it is important to have an organized plan, for the future, which is reviewed on a periodic basis. Unfortunately few people do thisâ€?

But in general Weinstock said that persons looking at the big picture and who want to slow down gradually would want to consider the following:

• Have you or do you want to keep up with the advances in your field.

• How long can your past success keep you going?

• Do you want to expend the energy to keep up and to keep running at the same speed?

• Is there a way to cut down and still be involved in your field?

“In any field, it is difficult to keep up with everything,� Weinstock said. “Using medicine as an example, I wanted to cut back my practice before anyone asked me to do so. I wanted to stop surgery while I was “on the top� and still continue my office practice that I am still doing on a limited basis. Medicine is an area where we our skills are constantly being observed and assessed- by nurses, hospitals, our associates and patients.

In this ‘slowdown’ and venture towards actual retirement Weinstock said the growing void can be filled “by having or developing new areas of interest and expertise and decide whether you want to continue to work in some capacity and what you will do in your free time,�

Such interests outside of work “should have been cultivated since you have started in your field of work,� Weinstock said, and could include such things as traveling, outdoor activities, painting, photography, woodworking, reading – “the opportunities are limited to your imagination. Starting these interests early will enable you to develop some expertise in whatever turns you on.�

Spending Time

In his situation, Weinstock said he spends “much time in Boca and practice ophthalmology in Canton, Ohio 3 days a week during much of the year and more during the summer when I am in Ohio.�

Contact lenses have been a large part of Weinstock’s business, he said, “and I’m still involved in clinical studies of new lenses and lecturing on contact lens topics.�

Weinstock said he also continues “to lecture nationally, teach in Ohio, write for medical journals and newspapers, serve on multiple editorial boards and serve as Director of Risk Management for a malpractice insurance company plus various types of consulting. With the computer, except for patient care, almost all of my activities can be carried out wherever I am and where there is Internet capability.�

But it’s not all work and no play – even in the movement toward full retirement, Weinstock said. “Traveling is still a priority, as is tennis, jogging and other types of exercise. Reading books (in addition to the reading necessary to keep up on new advances in ophthalmology and medicine), playing bridge, volunteering, spending time with my wife, children and grandchildren and generally socializing take up significant portions of time.�

Beyond that, Weinstock said he still serves on national committees, “and active in community activities in Ohio and in Florida.�

Thinking and then planning are the two keys elements to successful retirement planning, said Weinstork.

“And if the future is here and you haven’t really planned, it is not too late. The abundance of activities and opportunities for you to embrace are more than enough to fill any time that you have available and to make you satisfied with your current status in life.�
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