Freedom 55? Who are We Kidding?

Category: Dental, Retirement

The advertising slogan “Freedom 55” was introduced by the London Life Insurance Company in the 1980’s.  It suggests that it is possible to exit your full-time career, more or less at the age of 55, and enjoy an exotic lifestyle, or a second, part-time career and live happily ever after.

In my father’s instance, this is definitely not the result.  My dad has just commenced his 55th year of working within the dental industry.  For him, “freedom 55” means a career length of 55 years of service to the dental profession, and not the age at which he will exit that career.

While there are many opposing views about what early retirement really means, and when it should occur, I predict that the entire concept of retirement will become a defunct lifestyle option for the baby boomer generation.  I have consulted with hundreds of dentists over the past 10 years about what they plan to do with their lives.  The most interesting and emerging trend is that retirement is not relevant to many baby boomer dentists.  I believe there are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, and most importantly, boomers are a generation of lifestyle people, with expensive lifestyle habits.  Retirement is a word that is usually equated with the immediate cessation of paid work.  Again, I believe that this will become a defunct concept for many professionals and that they will continue to work, long after the age of 55.  Once we choose to exit full-time work, we can always work part-time – sometimes for life – without actually “retiring.”

Next, witness the emerging trend towards part-time dentistry for life, which I have informally studied for several years, and you will see that more and more dentists think that complete and full retirement is a thing of the past.  Additionally, full-time work is also a fading concept as more and more dentists seek a part-time career.

It is my opinion that in the very near future, we will see a dramatic increase in the number of dentists working part-time and a decrease in those dedicating a full-time effort to dental practice.  The term retirement will fade away, and we baby boomers, as a generation, will simply say that we are still working – just less than we did when we were younger.  My father is a living example of this trend, as he continues to work – albeit only a few hours each week – yet work it is.  He continues to be remunerated for those efforts, so he has not effectively retired.

Let’s reconsider the freedom 55 concept for a moment.  What would you do if you actually quit dentistry – immediately – and let your dental license lapse?  Do you have a plan?  What hobbies can you participate in from the age of 55 until the end of your life plan?  Many return to work for lack of an answer.

I propose that we shift our thinking to enjoy both a modified lifestyle and income, and work forever!  I believe I will live to 100 due to the advances in medicine and that my career has another 60 years to go, since I turn 40 in 2003.

I will never retire. What an absurd, out-dated concept that is.

Ontario Dentist – January 2003