How I used the RECIPE mnemonic as a planning tool for retirement

Using her own experience, Dr Mandy Goldstein shares thoughts on how you can best plan ahead for your retirement, noting, "as medics we are also teachers, managers, financiers, mentors, disciplinarians."
Dr Mandy Goldstein

Coming up to retirement, I felt I had run out of compassion for seeing patients and families and I struggled with the evening resident shifts. I went home after a shift and worried about the patients in a way I hadn’t done for years. I was double-checking everything, concerned about making an error in the months leading up to retirement.

When after retirement I tried some day shifts to help over Christmas, but I was too anxious for it to be worthwhile. 

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We were financially secure (my husband was a GP). However, we had to consider what to do with our lump sum, providing for our grown-up, but much less well paid, children, and support needed for ageing parents. I had recently been driven mad by the constant calls to the pensions and finance office. Don't underestimate the time and energy required to sort this out, and allow plenty of time.

It felt a privilege to be able to undertake unpaid post retirement 'work'.

Exercise 

Exercised was - and is - very important in my life. As preparation for retirement, I got a new road bike and started to have long days out for pleasure. One beautiful sunny day, I cycled past an enticing pub garden, and thought, why not have lunch! Having spent the last 30 years accounting for every wasted minute it was very strange and lovely.

I also tried or resumed physical activities that I previously did not have had time for - yoga, running... and a single triathlon, which I hated and will never do again!

Coping strategies 

I retired in spring with the whole summer to get used to the idea of not working. We took a trip to Canada and I enjoyed the time away much more as there was no anxiety about return to work. Holidays had been really important to me, but I always lost the first and last two days winding down and then worrying about the volume of work I would find on return. Short breaks hadn't really worked, but now they do.

Before I would never take holidays in the UK – summer sunshine was so vital to my wellbeing that the risk of two weeks camping in Scotland in the rain was more than I could tolerate. But now we have explored all sorts of places previously 'out of bounds' - the Hebrides, Shetland, Anglesey, Scilly Isles.

Coping with the stresses of work had been made easier by family, work team spirit and doing some of what I really enjoyed (training the next generation) - and much of this I carried through into retirement. I had more time and energy for family (helping with their job applications, listening to their woes), I had a new team (my band), and I continued in a College training role. 

Intellectual activities

I remained RCPCH Officer for a further two years. Being in post before retirement meant I was able to continue until my term of office was up. It was really nice to be able to focus on this with no 'day job' to do. I felt appreciated, as I was available at much shorter notice and could give more thought to difficult issues. Having been interested in global health I was invited at short notice to Somaliland to help with undergraduate exams as part of the Kings – Somaliland THET partnership.

Purpose 

I was not overtly worried about loss of status. But I still call myself Dr Goldstein – does that say something about status? I did keep the College work up as I really enjoyed the teaching / training elements of my work. There are plenty of opportunities on offer at RCPCH certainly in the first three years post retirement – exams interviews, START, external for appeals. And things I didn't do but knew were available - sub-specialty (GRID) interviews, invited reviews, mentoring. I have continued with career advice and effective educational supervision training, which require GMC registration but not licence to practice.

I also love living in my home, having felt during my career almost as though I was just passing through it. I have never been a house-person (PC term for housewife perhaps!) but found a new purpose in tidying and cleaning as I could enjoy the consequence of doing this, rather than tidying up and coming back from work the next day to a mess again!

Engagement (social support) 

One of my favourite aspects of work had been the team. Well, a new team replaced this! Eighteen months before retirement, I was bought a trumpet and found a teacher, having never played a band instrument before. For the first six months I really didn't have much time to do anything, but then I knuckled down and started practicing. Six months before retiring I joined a band, and this has now become a major part of my life.

It provides my team (other band members), purpose (have to practice as am without doubt the least able musician), intellectual activities (as I have taken over as treasurer - having run a multi-million pound budget as Clinical Director and chairing medical and MDT meetings, how hard can having financial responsibility for a community band be?!). When it became clear someone in the band was being bullied, I realised what skills and value we all have, and I felt confident in sorting this out.

As medics we are also teachers, managers, financiers, mentors, disciplinarians.