Joe Ellis, O.D., remembers the financial advice his father gave him when he first started his optometric practice about 30 years ago in Kentucky. Dr. Ellis' father repeated that advice so often that he remembers it like it was yesterday.
The advice was rock solid but hard to hear, as the young doctor of optometry was struggling to meet his practice's payroll.
"If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail,'" says Dr. Ellis, noting that his father, Raymond Ellis, now 82, earned a living as a financial planner.
"I am 60 now, so I've had to make plans. I go to meetings and I hear people my age saying, 'I'm going to sock away money later.' Well, that is not the way it works. You need to plan the day before you start."
Dr. Ellis says he was fortunate to have his father nudge him in the right direction. During National Retirement Security Week Oct. 15-21, doctors of optometry can find retirement planning solutions with AOAExcel® and endorsed business partner AXA Equitable. AOA members can sign up for a complimentary, 15-minute consultation with a retirement program specialist, whether you need help in getting started or just want to make sure your current savings plan is on track to meet your retirement goals.
Planning for living longer
People are living longer. The average life expectancy in the U.S. has grown from 68 years in 1950 to nearly 80 years old today.
Also, people are working longer. According to a Pew Research Center study, 18.8% of Americans 65 and older were employed either full-time or part-time in May 2016, compared to 12.8% in May of 2000. Americans who might have dreamed of retiring at age 65 are working longer—many because they believe they have a second act in them and others because they need to. Retirement savings don't always cover expenses, such as rising health care costs.
National Retirement Security Week is a fitting time for doctors of optometry to take stock of their savings strategies and ensure they're on track for the kind of financial security they envision.
AXA retirement resources include:
- Estimate how much you need to save for retirement with this five-step calculator from AOAExcel-endorsed business partner, AXA Equitable.
- Find more information here.
'Have a plan'
"Saving for retirement is one of the last things anyone wants to think about, no matter what your age group is," observes Dr. Ellis, who is chairman of the AOAExcel Board and past AOA president.
"But it's something you've got to think about," he says. "People in my era were told that 'hey, you'll have a practice and you'll have equity and that's your retirement nest egg.' Well guess what? That's no longer true."
And when you're right out of optometry school and trying to make a go of it in practice, Dr. Ellis says, it's hard to think that far in the future. But it's never too soon or late to start planning and saving.
"Even when times are hard, you need to put something away for retirement," Dr. Ellis says. "That's what my dad was saying. I can retire today if I wanted to and I know what my income will be and I've tried to cover the cost-of-living adjustments. You need to have a plan."
The AOA will use the time to evaluate its collection efforts and create a registry for the future that is most useful to improving eye health and vision care. The AOA launched the registry in 2015.
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Under new rules for the 21st Century Cures Act, doctors of optometry will need to prepare for changes going into effect April 5. Doctors should check in with their health IT vendor in order to make sure they meet the new requirements.