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October 11, 2022

Balancing financial priorities as a mid-career physician

What will retirement look like for you? In Episode 18 of the Financial Checkup, we talk with Dr. Rose Zacharias, president of the OMA. She shares what retirement looks like to her and how she’s preparing for the retired life.



Dr. Rose Zacharias (00:03): Our first portion of income, we actually give. And our second portion of income, we save. And it's really the last portion of income that we spend. And so doing it in that order has given us freedom.

Speaker 2 (00:20): Welcome to The Financial Checkup, a podcast series devoted to improving the financial health and retirement readiness of physicians and their spouses or common law partners. This series is brought to you by the award-winning Advantages Retirement Plan from OMA Insurance.

Otneil Trejo (00:37): Good morning. I'm Otneil Trejo, manager of OMA Insurance Advisors, sponsor of the award-winning Advantages Retirement Plan for Ontario doctors, a unique group retirement savings plan designed for physicians and their spouses and common law partners. The purpose of the Advantages Retirement Plan is to help our members start saving for retirement at any stage of their life and career. In today's episode of the Retirement Talk Series where we invite physicians from across the province to get personal with us about what they're planning to do for retirement, I'm extremely excited today to introduce our special guest, our current OMA president, Dr. Rose Zacharias. Welcome Dr. Zacharias.

Dr. Rose Zacharias (01:21): Thank you so much. It's good to be here.

Otneil Trejo (01:24): And thank you for joining us. Before we begin, Dr. Zacharias, do you prefer if I call you Dr. Zacharias or would you prefer if I called you Rose?

Dr. Rose Zacharias (01:31): Oh, please call me Rose. Absolutely.

Otneil Trejo (01:34): Okay, excellent. So Rose, for those who are listening, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, who you are, and maybe what's led you to medicine?

Dr. Rose Zacharias (01:44): Absolutely. Well, my medical career began really with a big dream. I knew that even getting into medical school and being chosen for one of those coveted spots was quite a competitive goal. And so even now as I am able to meet with incoming medical students, I talk about the day I found out I was granted admission. And for me, there in my mid-20s, I also met my husband in my medical school class. So we were a McMaster Medicine Class of 1999, and we couples matched to our residency programs. And after our training, we moved two hours north here in Aurelia and have been here with our pediatrics practice and my hospital-based general family practice for the last 20 years.

Otneil Trejo (02:31): That's fantastic. Thank you for sharing with us what your journey into the medical field. And I agree, I think it can be a little bit challenging to be accepted, but it's important to have big dreams. And then the ability to be granted admission is even more exciting. And when I think of the medical profession, it's something to me that it's life-changing. And like you said, I think we just need more. So thank you for sharing that with us. Now when we talk about retirement, and Rose, I know this is something that probably might seem something that's far, far away for you, but if you were to fast forward and retire today, what would that look like for you?

Dr. Rose Zacharias (03:12): Sure. I would say at this point, about mid-career, I'm 20 years in and I feel as though I've really done a fair amount of clinical time. As I've said, my clinical practice has been hospital-based. And so although I graduated family medicine, I have been working in the emergency department for the last 20 years also as a hospitalist and assisting in the operating room. And I've also been doing another very valuable pursuit, and that's raising my family. My husband and I have four teenagers. And so that certainly comes into financial planning and looking ahead.

(03:54): And so I would say at this point, it's just become really a privilege for me to define what matters. And to be able to leverage my own real passions, I'd say in the medical profession, physician wellness and advocating for my peers around the experience of burnouts is really what's become very important to me. And so when I look ahead to my next 20 years and on, even beyond, I don't know, some milestone of retirement, I just see myself continuing with this advocacy work because it's become very clear, it's what matters a lot to me.

Otneil Trejo (04:34): No, thank you. That's very interesting. And I think it's important to understand how important it is to be able to just have that mental awareness, that mental ability to just not burn out at such an early stage of your career. And it's important to find that way to continue to do, to advocate, and continue to do what you do best for longer, another 20 years as you had mentioned. So I think that's important to talk about it, to have that awareness, and to inform others of what they can do to succeed, so that they can plan for their retirement.

(05:12): And so I appreciate that. I think those are important values to have it and to be able to want to do that, especially when you're looking to plan for your retirement goals. For me, I think it would've been a lot more, something a little bit more exotic with sand somewhere running in between my toes. But I think your answer is much more valuable. But thinking about planning for your retirement and that preparedness and readiness for retirement, when speaking to your colleagues and other physicians, there seems to be some concern of being able to achieve that. What would you say your biggest worry is when you think about retirement?

Dr. Rose Zacharias (05:53): Well, you mentioned, first of all, sand running through your toes. I'm not dismissing the fact that even as a family, even three years really into this state of the pandemic, returning to travel has been so awesome. And as a family, we have plans and we look forward to even this winter hoping for a family vacation that I'm planning for that to involve a beach and the quality time that we'll be able to have as a family. Although I would say that really the contentment and the joy of that experience is to come away from work that really matters to me and I feel is making a difference, I am all for taking some relaxing time and a break from work.

Otneil Trejo (06:44): Maybe you can take us back a little bit to help us because I feel like you're doing a lot of great things building those habits. But maybe if you can take us back to when you were introduced to finance. Was there someone that influenced you or taught you or helped you create some of these habits? Or is there anything additional that you're doing to prepare for your retirement?

Dr. Rose Zacharias (07:04): Yeah. I think my own parents had a fair amount of influence on me. I know that the first person I trusted with my finances back when I got into medical school was the same financial advisor that my parents had built a relationship with. And so that's even when my husband and I got married, who we sat down with and started to plan with. Now, she has since retired. We relied on her advice to connect us with someone who she trusted in, and then we've continued on with that relationship. And so my parents were very practical about how certain overall principles with their money that we have adopted. And it may be a little upside down, I'm not sure if everybody operates this way. But our first portion of income, we actually give. And our second portion of income, we save. And it's really the last portion of income that we spend.

Otneil Trejo (08:03): If I were to reflect on my retirement planning, one of the things I regret is I wish I had the ability to turn back the clock a little bit, so that I could have started saving at an earlier age to really take advantage of that long-term horizon. And it sounds based on what you've experienced and your journey, you created those habits from an early age, which is fantastic, to seek help and really trust those around you to help you get to accomplish your goals and to get to where you want to go. So the Advantages Retirement Plan program, even though they have lower fees, I wanted to just inform you that as of today, one of the offers or benefits of the program is that we're waiving fees while you're a medical student.

(08:48): So that like yourself, our younger physicians, our future physicians can really start creating those good habits or great habits of starting to save at a much earlier age, and like you alluded to, fancy cars. And I think our physicians, after completing students and going through residency, they deserve the flashy cars. They earned it. But also just going back to your advice: give, save, and spend, being able to save a little bit while you're younger, creating those great habits really does go a long way. Thank you so much. You have been inspirational for us. Thank you for sharing your journey. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

(09:31): And we appreciate you. And thank you so much for coming out today and really getting to know you, Rose. And for those who are listening, thank you for listening to The Financial Checkup. If you're an Ontario physician, check out the Advantages Retirement Plan at under Protect Your Retirement section on our OMA Insurance website for more tips and education on retirement readiness. Like Dr. Rose mentioned, we do have an advisory team who's here to support you in answering any questions that you may have. We also have AARP specialists who can really provide that support that you're looking for and give you that peace of mind. Thank you, thank you to everyone. Have a wonderful day.

Speaker 2 (10:10): The Financial Checkup Series is produced in collaboration with OMA Insurance and Commonwealth, the administration and technology partner for the Advantages Retirement Plan.