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What Does A Retired Doctor Do All Day?

Besides how to fund their retirement, many feel anxiety regarding how they are going to spend their time in retirement. The good news is that you can pursue whatever interests you. And yes, that can even be work. Yes, it can even be income generating work. It can be travel, reading, learning, or just doing things at a much more relaxed pace.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to spending your jobless time. During retirement, you are likely earning most of your income passively and spending the rest of your time doing the things you enjoy doing most. It doesn’t mean you can’t be productive but you do the things that you want to do on your own terms.


Working During Retirement

Naturally, some will have problems with your ‘retirement’ designation if you are still working or earning an income. They will see you at work and say “See, I didn’t think you could stay away for too long!” Then they see you weeks/months later and ask “What’s going on, you’re barely working!?” You remind them that you’re retired and that you work just enough to satisfy you various urges. Their disapproval of your employment status soon turns to curiosity as to how you did it.

You’re always going to work when young, it’s in your genes. That’s why you went into healthcare. So don’t fear that you’ll be couch bound upon deciding to retire from your job.

The hardest part isn’t going to be cutting back on work but making sure that you don’t work too much during your retirement years. For the first 1-2 years you’ll be overwhelmed with the choices you have of income producing work opportunities.

Think about it, you have your garage and you always fiddled with woodworking, could you just make & sell that one end table that everyone keeps asking you about? My friend M. has been wishing he could do that but he’s too busy with work as a PA.

You love crafts and you made your own holiday cards for your friends and family which turned out better than anything you’ve seen in a store. Could you sell those on Etsy?

You may find that you love working for company X doing patient care but would love to find a different role outside of clinical medicine with that company. They are a solid brand, you believe in their mission, and you could see yourself dedicating a few hours a week to further their cause.


You enjoy investing and learning about ways to optimize it. It makes sense to you. You don’t want the mind-numbing pace of index funds but you don’t want the headache of options trading. Those real estate crowdfunding websites look fun, maybe you could get into those.

Your friend wants to open business X and needs capital. She’s willing to sign a contract to ensure that you’ll get your money back, you’d love to both help her out and get a return on your investment. I recently missed out on such an opportunity when my friends S. & J. opened their second coffee shop location in Portland and needed an investor.

The house next to you just went on the market, it’s too small for a family to live in but perfect for a vacation rental. You have a great contractor so you could buy the house, renovate it, and put it up for rent on AirBnb.

Moonlighting As A Doctor

Whether you’re a surgeon, an NP, a PA, or Family Doctor, you probably have some moonlighting options which you may want to pursue either to keep up your license, your skills, or feed a little extra income into your household.

Why not just go part-time? It’s a whole different world when you’re a moonlighter than when you’re a part-time employee. Sure, you get the benefits of the latter but you don’t need the benefit any longer – it’s nice to have, but enough is enough.

When you’re part-time, you have to deal with being on call, being on back-up, dealing with work politics, going to meetings, filling out reports, keeping up with department expectations, dealing with unfavorable colleagues, and bidding for vacation time. 

When you’re a moonlighter, a per diem, you just sign up for a shift and either show up to it or call in sick for it. Then you collect your paycheck. That’s it. Done.


Just Take Some Time Off

I am one of those people who gets an empty feeling in my stomach when I’m not productive. It’s not a favorable characteristic and something I’m working on. I constantly feel the need to produce. Unlearning the go-go mentality will add a lot to your quality of life.

You could spend the first 1-2 years of retirement reading a few books, spending more time exercising, visiting the library, cooking, and catching up with friends/family.

I’m not a surgeon so I don’t know how much practice is needed to keep up one’s skills. If a lot of practice is needed then I can’t imagine it being hard to either moonlight, volunteer, or assist interesting surgeries in order to maintain your skills. As an urgent care doctor I do worry that I might lose my skills to diagnose a URI or deny a Percocet refill… but you know, sometimes you just gotta sacrifice that shit.



Though nobody needs to be retired in order to exercise, we often put exercise way down the list of commitments during our hustling years. Having more free time in retirement helps you prioritize your life a little better.

Frankly, now that I’m almost 40 I’m realizing that whatever time I spend ignoring my health is the time I’ll spend suffering in my older age.

And it’s not easy, even with a ton of free time, I have gotten used to making exercise one of the last commitments of the day; something that I squeeze in when I can get to it or just plan for haphazardly.

I have made it a habit to start my day off with some exercise. It could be pull-ups or push-ups or dips in the house. It might be going for a walk around my neighborhood or heading to the gym. There have been plenty of days when I do several things in one days – that’s always fun. Cardio in the morning, weight lifting/bouldering in the evening, and then a little bike ride.



I have been cooking for myself since 2006 and I’m still learning. I keep changing my diet around, trying new cooking methods, experiment with different spices. It’s a ton of fun. I’m a tinkerer by nature, so maybe others won’t get as much enjoyment. True, half of the stuff I make is inedible but that’s why ketchup was invented!

I fish for recipes online a few times a week. Then I make a mental ingredient list and over the next couple of weeks I collect the right stuff. Finally, when I have it all, I attempt the recipe. If it works then it goes in my recipe folder.

And when you’re home and can watch over a slow-cooking stove while tending to other things, it’s a beautiful thing. I’ve cut back a little on baking, though I’d love to do more of that again. I got a little disheartened by vegan baking… it’s akin to eating different types of shipping material, cardboard, styrofoam and on rare occasions packing tape.



I always thought intense cardio was the best exercise. Nope. For me it’s walking. You can run a few times a week but the recovery and preparing for a run is exhausting unless you’re a natural runner and been doing it all your life.

Walking can be done anytime, with nearly any footwear. The more you do it the better you get. I thought I was a pro walker in Portland but now in Barcelona, it’s a whole other level. My calves are stronger than they’ve ever been and my lower back is getting stronger as well, including my abs.



In high school there were a few subjects which I was always excited to learn: physics, bio, math, and art. All the other classes sucked major ass. And it wasn’t until I got to college when I realized that pursuing both and education and a medical school admission were mutually exclusive. I learned very little in college – I would say that I stopped learning new stuff starting in 1996, when I started college.

Medical school doesn’t count as learning, that’s preparing you for a job, it’s not learning for the sake of learning. But now that I’m retired I can and have learned anything I’ve wanted. Some structure is needed because certain topics are more in-depth. Fortunately, there is no shortage of resources for learning skills in this information age.

For now the internet is mostly free when it comes to learning but that’s changing slowly. Those who are the most adept at teaching are moving their skills behind a membership site in order to curb costs and avoid selling out to advertisers.


Move Slower

I start making my lunch/dinner every day and I’m rushing through the chopping and preparing the rice and veggies… I become aware of that hurried sensation and realize that I’m not in a race.

I stop, pour a glass of wine, turn on the music and smile and take my time. Maybe I’m weird… well, for sure I’m weird but it’s something I keep having to remind myself of. And when I do slow down it’s a pleasant feeling.

When I go the gym, I don’t have a time when I have to get back. Sometimes I meet someone there and can strike up a conversation for as long as I want. Good things happen when you can stay in the moment and enjoy random encounters without the need to rush off.

I can go take a late night stroll because I don’t have to be up at a certain time the next morning. I can work on projects without having to cut them short for another major engagement. Of course, there are still phone appointments, dentist appointments, etc., but for the most part the flexibility is exponentially higher.

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