Inevitably, once I share with people that I have a retirement business consulting company, they share their thoughts and ideas about their own retirements. People really want to talk about retirement, especially Baby Boomers. And , not about working in retirement. But actually about their plans to step off the professional track and start to enjoy a life of leisure. One group who is preparing particularly well are in health care. They’ve seen it all. Let’s look at a nurse’s plan for retirement and get an idea of what we all should really be thinking about.
Who’s Ready to Retire?
Many of the Boomers I talk to are not “rich” folks. They are middle-class, hard-working, middle-managers, nurses, teachers. And, they can’t wait to have control over their own time in retirement.
What I find most interesting is how much thought they are putting into their plans to retire. This is not a last minute “Oh, I think I’ll retire at the end of the year” sort of plan. There is no one checking Priceline.com or Hotels.com for any last minute bargains when it comes to their retirement planning. Many years before stepping off the job track, these folks are doing some serious planning.
One such discussion was with Kathy, a nurse in her early-50’s (a lagging-edge Boomer). She is in the midst of the college years. Like my older daughter, hers is a junior in college. Her son and my younger daughter are rising sophomores in high school. We’re in the thick of college financial hoopla – FAFSA forms, CSS Profile forms, scholarship applications, loans, dwindling savings, cash transfers to checking accounts, helping our kids get summer jobs, and on and on. We agree that there is a constant strain and drain on cash flow these days.
Kathy Has A Nurse’s Plan for Retirement
Right in the middle of talking about college funding, Kathy commented that even though college bills are a reality today, she remains focused on saving for retirement. In fact, it’s her first priority. “A nurse’s plan for retirement is very important,” she said. Since nurses tend to be focused on everyone else – a hazard of the profession – it’s important to put a good retirement plan in place. I just had to know more. How is she juggling college funding for two kids and keeping retirement as the top priority?
Kathy is very down to earth and extremely practical. She and her husband came from modest backgrounds and have built a very nice life through incredibly hard work, daily commitment, and lots of discipline. Family comes first, and they are raising two nice, well-rounded kids. From the time she was a new nurse just getting started in her career, she knew it was important to save for what you want.
She set up and maintains her savings discipline. She set aside money for buying a house, for emergencies, and for retirement. Regardless how expensive other things became over the years (like all the kids’ activities and sports and such), those savings into her retirement account came first. She has saved for almost 30 years in a variety of 403(b) plans that are offered through hospitals. And, she’ll continue to save in the retirement plan every paycheck. Her husband also saves in his company plan in the retail sector.
Retirement Has A Date
She shared how she and her husband are thinking about retirement in 12 years – when they are 64. They have decided to stay in the house they are in now. But, it needs some modifications. So, they have planned to do selected renovations. They’ve already made some changes, like widening the doorways. As a nurse, Kathy knows that many of us will need walkers or wheelchairs at some point in our older age. Since they were changing some of the floor plan a few years ago and knocking down walls anyway, she expanded the size of the doorways. Who would have thought about that so far in advance!
Now, they want a full bathroom on the first floor, so that is in the plan. And, the long driveway is a pebble stone drive. Not ideal as one ages, so paving is on the docket. There are other improvements to be made. But her goal is to complete all of them in the next 7 years. This way they will be done at the same time her son is graduating from college. And, then she can increase savings to her retirement plan for the last 5 years before retirement.
The Realities of a Profession
I asked her if nurses work well into their 60s or even 70s. She said that some do, but not usually the nurses in the high-demand areas like the ER or cardiac surgery. The pace and demands and stress of those positions are just too much. But, if you plan your career well, as she has done, you can move to a less intensive environment in your late-40s or early-50s. That kind of planning helps to prolong your career if you choose to do so.
Nursing is terribly demanding. After 40 years of on-the-job, on-your-feet, working 12-hour shifts, dealing with all kinds of patients and their crazy families, most are ready to step off that path. It’s time to focus time on other things.
That’s what Kathy is looking forward to. And planning for. Time when she doesn’t have to be up all night. A big break from dealing with life and death situations. Time to spend with family and friends. And, her savings discipline that started all those years ago, plus her 12-year nurse’s plan for retirement should help her get to the finish line. Time to get out of nursing and into the chapter called “retirement.”
Resources for a nurse’s plan for retirement
There are lots of ways to build a nursing career with good benefits to save for retirement. The Gypsy Nurse covers the trials of being a traveling nurse.
This article covers some of the more common sources of income for nurses once they retire.