I knew in January that I was going to retire later in the year. That was good. It meant that I had a lot of time to plan.
Retiring doesn’t mean that you just stop working. There were a lot of things to do before I retired. And since I’m married, my wife and I did them together.
- We met with our financial advisor to go over our assets and liabilities. From his viewpoint, he used many financial tools to estimate how successful our retirement would be. He also helped us map out our incomes and living expenses.
- We checked out social security and determined the right time to take advantage of it.
- We met with a Medicare adviser and determined the best plans (medical, dental, and prescription) for myself and my wife. We also selected a good supplement program.
- We sold our house. We did this a few years back— before retirement. We downsized into a two bedroom condo/apartment about three blocks from our daughter and her family.
- We updated our estate plan. We prepared a one-page document listing where we stored our wills, insurance policies, and bank accounts. We also listed contact information and phone numbers for all our advisors and doctors. We gave our daughter a copy of this document.
Determining A Plan
Retirement should be a good thing. I’ve worked hard all my life. Now I was ready to do what I wanted.
Now I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve retired and they all gave me the same piece of important advice.
You have to have a plan. You can’t sit on your porch all day and watch the paint dry. You have to keep yourself busy. And they’re right!
Imagine your first day of retirement. You sleep until 10AM. Eat breakfast. Read the paper. Eat lunch. Take a nap. Eat dinner. Watch TV. Then go to sleep.
If this were my retirement plan, I would be jumping out of my skin by the third day!
My plan was different. I had three things I wanted to do when I retired:
- I wanted to return to teaching pharmacy technicians at my local community college,
- I wanted to work in a daycare school with young children, one day a week, and
- I wanted to work at the information desk at one of my former hospitals.
And you know what? None of my plans worked out. So I tried different plans until something did work out. I’m now writing articles, reading books, making videos, playing with my grand kids, and immersing myself into my temple’s activities. I was happy with retirement because I had been told about the importance of having a plan. And I was satisfied with the plan that I put in place.
Around the time that I was retiring, my friend was retiring too. He was also a pharmacist. For me, hospital pharmacy had always been my passion. He, on the other hand, worked for a pharmacy in a supermarket chain. I was familiar with supermarket pharmacy because my roommate had done it for several years.
My friend’s supermarket pharmacy was opened from 9AM to 9PM, six days a week. And from 9AM to 1PM on Sunday.
The pharmacy was also a loss leader in the supermarket. It was only responsible for 2% of the store’s revenue. The logic was that a customer would come into the store and drop off their prescriptions. They would be told to come back in an hour. They would buy $100+ of groceries. And then get a dollar or two off their prescription. Everybody would be happy.
My friend was one of two full-time pharmacists who worked in the pharmacy. They did have a part-time floater pharmacist who provided some coverage. Thus, it was not unusual for my friend to work 50-60 hours per week including some twelve hour days.
Sometimes, he had a pharmacy technician helping him. But most times he was the only person in the prescription department. He put up with the phones, the doctors, and the customers. He also battled his boss, who wanted him to work faster, because his numbers were below accepted benchmarks.
Furthermore, the pharmacy never closed for meals. Thus, my friend was on his feet for more than twelve hours a day. He grabbed his lunch and meals when he could. He ran to the bathroom between customers.
He was a pharmacist. He was a professional. He was treated in a very demeaning manner. And the work was grueling.
So why did he continue to work there? Because the salary was outstanding. It was way more than I was making as a hospital pharmacy manager. Second, the benefits were excellent. Finally, the bonuses for hitting certain benchmark levels were very, very good.
That was my friend’s life. Then he retired.
But he didn’t stay retired for long. He hadn’t made any plans prior to retirement. So when he retired from the supermarket pharmacy, he floundered around for a while. He grew bored and eventually became very unhappy.
It was almost like a vicious cycle. The more he floundered, the more bored he became. And the more bored he became, the unhappier he became.
It was sad. Financially and health wise he was able to retire. But, where other people might have embraced the retirement situation he had, he hated it.
Eventually, he went back to work part-time. He’s currently working several days a week as a part-time floater pharmacist for his supermarket chain.
Now I love pharmacy. And I really enjoyed working as a pharmacy manager in the various hospitals throughout my career. But I could never, ever throw myself back into the daily aggravation of working for a pharmacy— hospital, retail, or otherwise. I’d rather watch the paint dry on my porch.
But this is what he wants. He working 12 hour days, several days a week, by himself in a supermarket prescription department. He fights with the patients, doctors, and customers. He travels to a different store every time (remember he’s a floater). And he’s lucky if gets a chance to eat.
This is his retirement. And this is what happens when you don’t have a plan.
Surviving Without Me
Our hospital was merging with another local hospital. We were the bigger facility and the smaller hospital was coming on board. It was going to be quite exciting.
My boss had resigned a few weeks prior to the merger. Thus, there were only two management people left in my department.
Due to the merger, we were revamping the management team. The person in charge of the smaller hospital pharmacy would become the Director of Pharmacy (my new boss). I became the Pharmacy Manager at the bigger facility. A woman became the Pharmacy Manager at the smaller hospital.
Each facility had its own pharmacy department which allowed it to continue serving their patients. Thus, each pharmacy’s day-to-day operation would be independent of the other. This was good, because it kept each department’s rules, procedures, and staffs pretty much intact.
But there were some items that we did share. We shared policies, committees, and safety procedures. And when my boss proposed new ideas, both pharmacies benefitted.
I worked as the Pharmacy Manager for eleven years. I accomplished many things. I renovated the entire pharmacy, I implemented many safety projects, and I instituted many new technologies. I helped the pharmacy pass many important inspections.
I also developed a management team. It consisted of an Assistant Pharmacy Manager, an IV Supervisor, a Clinical Pharmacist, an IT Pharmacist, and a Technician Supervisor.
I was well-respected by my boss, my staff, and upper management.
And then one day, it was decided to outsource the pharmacy department. They brought in an outside team to manage the pharmacy. They got rid of my boss, my management team, and me.
After many years of making major improvements in the pharmacy, they were getting rid of me. How would they survive without me?
But they did. The pharmacy opened up the next morning and it's still going strong.
It’s the same with retirement. I had this friend who worked at her job for many years. She was the manager. Prior to her retirement, she organized her files, updated her reports, followed up with her contacts, and made detailed notes for her staff. After all, whoever was going to succeed her had to know everything.
As time went by, she fretted. There was so much information for the next person to know. How would the place exist after she retired?
Yet, it did. A new director came on board and the place continued to flourish. He instituted his own plans and procedures. The department was around for a long time.
When it’s time to move on, I’ve learned that no one is indispensable. Jobs and positions continued to exist long after I was gone. Thus, when I was ready to retire, I focused on me. Because, I knew that the facility that I was leaving would be just fine.
Having No Regrets
A few months ago, a famous comedian died. I remember seeing him on various television shows and sketches.
He wasn’t the “star”, but instead, he was the “second banana.” Sometimes he got funny lines to deliver. But most times he was the setup man, where he said stuff that allowed the “star” to get the funny lines. He was good in his role.
The comedian’s death made the news. It was reported on the evening news programs and discussed on the morning news shows.
And not just mentioned. Many programs did a five-minute piece where they remembered him. In fact, one late night talk show had a segment where various celebrities talked about the comedian while his routines played in the background.
Around the same time, a prominent scientist died. He was a brilliant individual and worked on many complex systems. He was 84 years old.
He applied his principles to many aspects of biology, physics, and epidemiology. His work had altered many aspects of various scientific fields.
Aside from the obituary on the internet (which I had to look for), there was no other mention of this scientist. There was no mention on the evening news or morning programs. And there was definitely no tribute on any late night talk show.
At times, it may seem unfair. Here a second banana comic gets all the attention while a prominent scientist gets barely a mention.
But that’s how it is. It’s not always fair.
Which is why you have to make yourself happy— especially when it comes to retirement. You have to do everything in your power, so that you don’t have any regrets in life.
Retirement is a special time in most people’s lives. Hopefully health and finances are there, but being happy is a major component. You must be pleased with yourself. You must be happy with what you’ve accomplished. And not jealous or annoyed with someone else’s achievements.
Daniel Shifrin, R.P., M.S. is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy. He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.