Article Date: 4/1/2010

It's Never Too Early to Begin Saving for Retirement
If I Had to Do It Over

It's Never Too Early to Begin Saving for Retirement

Start thinking ahead — even if you're just starting out.

By Janice M. Jurkus, OD, MBA, Chicago, Ill.

Optometry is a great profession. It offers us so many different modes of practice. We can be solo practitioners, partners or part of a group practice. We can offer our services in offices, stores, medical centers or hospitals. We can be part of large corporations, ophthalmic companies, drug companies or research groups.

I chose to be a teacher, because the field of education offers many unique opportunities. As a teacher, I've influenced the careers of thousands of students. By sharing knowledge about a specific topic — contact lenses in my case — and working with students in a clinical setting, I've been able to help them learn not only how to prescribe contact lenses, but also how to work with patients and help people see more clearly.

Optometric education also encourages collaboration with colleagues at other institutions. The Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators has teachers from every school or college of optometry in North America. We meet annually to share teaching techniques, and we work together to enhance each faculty member's ability to provide the highest quality contact lens education. During one of these workshops, I began to learn the differences between various educational environments and the benefits different institutions offer to faculty.

So, what would I have done differently? My role as an educator has given me many benefits, but I wish I had paid closer attention to retirement options.

When I started teaching, I was very happy to have a job. I had loans to repay. I wanted to enjoy the city I lived in, and I wanted to buy some new clothes that made me look like the professional I had become. Receiving a steady paycheck was a wonderful thing. I truly enjoyed the responsibilities of my new position, but I didn't think much about the future.

Sound familiar?

Many new graduates focus too much on the salary when they're considering employment opportunities. While salary is important, so are the benefits offered with each position. What type of health insurance is available? How much vacation time will you receive? Will your employer pay for continuing education fees and meetings? Who pays for your state license, professional society dues and malpractice insurance? Does the employer offer disability or life insurance? Is there a retirement package? If you want to learn more about benefits, a good reference is the new textbook, Business Aspects of Optometry Edition 3, written by the Association of Practice Management Educators (Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier, 2010).

Retirement may not be high on your list of considerations right now, but it's high on mine. Some of my colleagues at other schools have pension plans that guarantee a set income for life — in some cases, more than 80% of their salaries. Not so in my case. My retirement is based on my personal savings and employer contributions.

I should have started saving for retirement earlier and contributed more. After all, when the day comes and I decide to retire, I want to have the money I need to continue enjoying the city I live in and buying new clothes to reflect the newest phase in my life. nOD

Dr. Jurkus is a professor at Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. Email her at

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2010