After Retiring, Give Work Another Try

Retirement doesn’t mean that one can’t stay active in the practice.

America’s baby boomers are starting to retire—or at least they’re daydreaming about it.

While the economy is discussed at every turn, some veterinarians are wondering if they’re in for surprises once they take the plunge into retirement.

But seasoned retirees say, “Come on in, the water’s fine.”

Some retired veterinarians say they suspect the media are making matters worse by keeping economic talk in high profile. They say retirement is still the same–it’s all common sense.

“Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” says Everett Macomber, DVM, a Centralia, Wash., native and a 2006 retiree. “Eliminate all debts and try living on the budget you’ll rely on once your earnings have decreased. If you can survive financially, the rest will smooth itself out.” All the veterinarians contacted for this story said the mental preparation of retirement is more important than financial concerns. Veterinarians, known to be wise financial planners, probably have all their ducks lined up.

The big surprises will come once the traveling and golfing envisioned during long workdays gets old and the retiree needs to find something more structured and feasible to fill daily life.

The American Assn. of Retired Veterinarians (AARV) helps new retirees transition from working life to one that requires adjusting to living at a new pace. The group has about 350 members nationwide and meets at the American Veterinary Medical Assn.’s (AVMA) annual conference, along with other scheduled meetings.

“As a group, AARV members plan trips, provide support for one another, promote the advancement of veterinary medicine, sponsor senior veterinary essays, support AVMA initiatives and fund animal recovery efforts such as those conducted during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” says Frank Coy, DVM, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and a 2004 retiree.

“Keeping involved in extracurricular activities is essential to the challenging mental health adjustment necessary in retirement.”

Many retired vets stay involved with the same organizations they belonged to before retiring, but they can participate at a different level. Some suggestions from those in the know are to:

  • Maintain your license.
  • Practice on a relief basis.
  • Attend continuing education and association events.
  • Get a part-time job to simply keep active.

“I bowl in three different leagues, participate in Kiwanis, church activities and stay very involved with what’s happening in the profession,” Dr. Coy says. “Physical activities become even more important in retirement years, as your required duties diminish and you find yourself with fewer reasons to leave the house.”

Some AARV members say the most important point to remember is that retirement doesn’t mean becoming inactive mentally or physically. In fact, this realization is encouraging the AARV board to examine the ramifications of changing its name in a way that would remove the word “retired” from the group’s name.

“When many senior-age veterinarians spend fewer hours in the practice, they begin volunteer work such as entering local politics, alumni activities, reading and travel,” says Bert Mitchell, DVM, president of AARV and a resident of Sarasota, Fla. 

“I didn’t know what was ahead for me after retirement, but I knew I would find something. Actually, I characterized my retirement as just another graduation for me.  After retirement from full-time work, I’ve found many interesting activities.”

Keeping involved in extracurricular activities is essential to the challenging mental health adjustment necessary in retirement.

When Dr. Mitchell retired from private practice, he became president of his homeowners association, a leader of a cemetery board and substantially increased his knowledge and ability to operate computer software. He now tutors high school students in mathematics and science, assists in capital funds generation for his alma mater and made four tours of duty in 2003 to help eradicate exotic Newcastle disease in Southern California.  

While some veterinarians advise new retirees to find physically and mentally stimulating things to keep you busy, others say get another job.

“I’m really only semi-retired,” says Russell Anthony, DVM, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “I practiced from 1953 to 1988 and couldn’t see not keeping my foot in the door. I work part time for Avid Microchip Co., and before that, I operated the Cedar Rapids humane facility.

“I think it’s a mistake to not find some sort of occupation for your retirement years. You’ll be happier if you do.”

Roy Peterson, DVM, of Tillamook, Ore., says you’ll miss clients, staff and the interactions of the workplace, but new experiences await.

“I think most vets will find that after they’re able to unwind post-retirement, they’ll want to step back into the action,” Dr. Peterson says. “With all of our knowledge, we can offer up our expertise to help form legislation or even assist at local levels. I still attend Oregon Veterinary Medical Association meetings.”

Formed in 1986, the AARV is growing and wants to add more women. It recruits through AVMA newsletters, brochures given out at conferences and on its website, There is no minimum age requirement.

“AARV is beginning to articulate a role for senior-age veterinarians in expressing their views in support of or in opposition to proposed federal legislation that might affect the future of the practice of veterinary medicine,” Mitchell says. “We have established a closer relationship with the Government Affairs Division of AVMA in Washington, D.C.”

Overall, retired vets say, make sure you are ready to leave the practice, and if work has prevented your involvement in community involvement or other organizations, start now and forge ties that will keep you connected after retirement.


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