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How Much Money Are Drs. Saving for Retirement?

A radiologist from Canada recently posted on the network asking his fellow physicians how much money they would need to have saved to comfortable retire:

“I’ve written about the ongoing negotiations between government and Ontario’s physicians before. We’ve been without a ‘deal’ since 2012. The government has made numerous cuts unilaterally since then. They finally agreed to mediation-binding arbitration…Through all of this, the morale of Ontario’s physicians has taken repeated beatings (not only have we been hit financially, but we’ve also been attacked in the media repeatedly). Subjectively, many more docs are talking about retiring now than I’ve ever heard in my career (albeit relatively short, at that). Others talk about moving to other provinces, the US, or elsewhere… They’ve been pretty clear that they would be retiring with less money than they had hoped to in the past (had they kept working longer), however, would still have enough to retire comfortably enough…”

A number of doctors responded, sharing their experiences and perspectives when it comes to retiring with financial security:

“I retired at age 63 with around $700,000 saved for retirement, far less than recommended. However, with Social Security, my income is a bit above the average US household income. I can’t afford a vacation home, a boat, or other things that most Americans would consider to be luxuries rather than necessities, but I’m doing fine with what I have.” – Physical Medicine

“My impression is that you can retire at any age if you only spend 0.75 to 1% of your saved amount per year. So if you have $1M, 1% is $10,000. $5M would yield $50,000 per year. That is extremely cautious but your money would likely last a lifetime. If you spend 3%, that is ok for a normal retirement, say starting at age 65.” – Ophthalmology

“There is a difference between needing and wanting to live off a certain amount. I can live off very little but HOPE to be healthy enough to WANT to spend significant amounts in retirement.” – Pediatrics 

“The entire idea of using ‘saved’ money to retire on is just odd to me. Why don’t physicians have passive income so they can retire with little or NOTHING saved in cash but in assets that actually EARN you a retirement income? That’s what we are doing. Owning assets like farmland that you rent out can maintain at least a $50,000 a year income without having to lift a finger in actual work.” – Family Medicine

“My retirement planner says that every $1 million in savings will provide $40,000 a year as a rule of thumb.” – Anesthesiology

“I could live on $40K in retirement, no problem.” – Family Medicine

“Really think how much you need for retirement depends on how much you intend to spend, and where you intend to live. You can live very well in Cambodia on $1,500 per month, for example. Not so much New York City, or metro Toronto.” – Emergency Medicine

“If you want to live the life of Riley, you would want to save 5-6 million. I grew up EXTREMELY poor. My wife and I can live on $10 food plus home expenses (no mortgage) say $2000 per month. We spent our earnings on establishing our children, and they are well settled.” – General Practice

“They say you need about 80% of your current income in retirement. The amount of savings you need is what will generate that from 4% of your savings based on a 7% growth rate. Other factors include your age of retirement, debt, length of retirement (How long are you going to live?), medical emergencies, etc.” – Pathology

“In my entire career as an FM doc, I started out making 40 grand a year in mid 80s, now up to 200,000. Not going to save 5 million, because I didn’t even make 5 million in my career over 30 years. Investments are now coming around, but only solution is to work longer, and possibly find a new field to work in. Problem in US is poor pay for primary MDs, far exceeded by 5-10 times by specialists.” – Family Medicine

“You can retire on whatever you want to, just have to adjust your lifestyle. My parents retired with about 100K in the bank, but had no debts, owned their house and main hobby was gardening. Insurance and utilities were the main expenses. They actually saved money while living on a social security check of 1500 per month.” – Family Medicine 

“I am 65. My wife and I live on $50,000/year with no problems. It all depends on what makes you happy. My ‘rich doctor friends’ are not doing any better with more money. We are worth over $4 million, but so what?” – Emergency Medicine

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