Dear Bill | I Can't Retire and I'm Scared

Posted by Bill Esteb on May 13th 2022

Dear Bill,

"I'm approaching retirement age, but I don't have enough saved. Frankly, I'm tired, scared and feeling like I'll have to work until I drop. Any suggestions?"

No question that having to practice produces a different vibe than wanting to practice—regardless of one's age or retirement prospects. So, that's my first suggestion: change your self-talk about the future.

Just as a patient can't undo the abuse, neglect or poor health choices of their past, so too do you. That's my second suggestion: accept, even celebrate your situation—it is what it is. Stop the self-condemnation and the coulda, woulda, shoulda. Not only is it unhelpful, but it also takes you away from the here and now where you have power to change.

My third suggestion is to fall in love with practice. It's a choice that you control, regardless of your circumstances. It's virtually impossible to excel, have fun and be attractive to patients if you don't recognize your blessings and resent or devalue the skills you've learned and the opportunities you have. You may feel trapped, but millions, probably billions of people would trade places with you instantly.

That means falling in love with the business of chiropractic, embrace its fundamental philosophy and worldview. If you've never been exposed to it, look for others who already have it. Get your questions answered. Get your doubts resolved.

My fourth suggestion is to start growing again. Many in your situation simply phone it in and rarely subject themselves to the intellectual stretching that occurs when we grow. That may mean learning a tonal technique, acquiring a diplomate, becoming an expert in pediatrics or simply learning how to manage your website and email. But you may be too tired.

Which is my fifth suggestion: up your exercise regime, improve your diet and get adjusted regularly. In other words, start taking your own advice. (Reminds me of the bumper sticker I saw years ago: Take My Advice—I'm Not Using It.)

With your headspace turned around and your energy level rising, it's time to implement all the known ways to grow your practice, earn a professional income and finish strong. These are delineated in more detail elsewhere, but here's a dozen to remind you:

Conduct a thorough exam – Explain what you're learning as you complete what most patients report as the "most complete workup I've ever had."

Give a formal report of findings – Patients are unlikely to take their case seriously, if you don't. Review your findings, what they mean and propose an appropriate care plan.

Schedule multiple appointments – Schedule "chunks" of 12 visits in advance and cluster book so you're not constantly negotiating with patients to follow your recommendations.

Call the patient the evening of their first adjustment – It's probably one of the most impressive and commonly-mentioned procedures by patients in focus group settings.

Become a master of your technique – This is where the rubber meets the road. Make sure you deliver the adjustment "with that something extra" suggested by B. J. Palmer.

Listen – It's one of the most important, yet underrated social skill you can implement immediately. Avoid interrupting, making assumptions, judgments and jumping to conclusions that is often justified as "saving time."

Be 100% present – When you're with patients, be with patients. Maintain a healing consciousness by not mixing admin duties between your clinical obligations.

Educate patientsEducated patients are more likely to follow your recommendations, remain under care longer, ask fewer inappropriate questions and be better referral ambassadors.

Charge an appropriate fee – If you're like most, you're overdue for a price increase. While you're at it, give yourself a raise—you're a better chiropractor today than when you raised prices last time.

Conduct regular progress examinations – Patients may be feeling better, but are they better? Compare where they are with where they were and chart a new course of care based on their goals.

Have a great websiteWithout a web presence you're telling your community of potential new patients that you've given up, coasting, withholding or can't afford it. Projecting your anti-technology attitude is as unattractive as it is self-defeating.

Keep in touch with your inactives – Many are simply waiting for an invitation to return but think you're angry with them for not following your recommendations or dropping out of care with saying thank you or even a goodbye.

There is no shame in working up to the very end. Especially if you still find practice fulfilling. While others may want to travel, play golf and spoil their grandchildren full time, I can't find a single reference to retirement in scripture. It's a relatively new invention that should only be attempted if you're willing to surrender your identity as a doctor and have an even greater purpose and passion waiting in the wings.

Thanks for the question!

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