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Your Financial Life
By Catherine Tsai / Mar 2, 2017

Take It From Me: Retirement Talk From the Doctor

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When Dr. Larry Mills was younger, he says, he wasn’t at all sure what his retirement would look like. He had built a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon but knew he wanted to retire early after his father, also a doctor, was forced to stop practicing due to Alzheimer’s disease.

“He never enjoyed any retirement time,” Mills said.

Mills retired from medicine more than a decade ago but is enjoying a new seasonal career: He’s a ski instructor at Snowmass for Aspen Skiing Co., which runs Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk.

“It’s actually wonderful,” Mills says. “I wake up every morning and figure out I’m very lucky.”

His path from surgeon to ski instructor and a comfortable retirement hasn’t been all about luck, of course.

“I’ve never been an extravagant spender or acquired expensive toys,” he says.

Mills was kind enough to talk with us one morning before he and his wife took the dogs for a walk. Here are snippets from our chat:

What he would say to younger people about how to have an enjoyable retirement:

“Start saving, and get out of debt as early as possible. That means learn to live within your means. And get an education,” he said. “I have four grandchildren. Their college educations are paid for. I was able to finish medical school without debt. That’s what I gave to my children. It’s what I intend to give my grandchildren. It’s a life lesson I hope I will pass on.”

On growing up when students were drilled to climb under their desks, in case the Russians attacked:

“I don’t envy kids growing up today. I really don’t. They’re facing a difficult and unsettled world. I grew up in an unsettled world … They have different kinds of worries. Every generation has its hard times.”

On the notion of having a good time while you’re young and working later:

“My notion is, you work now and have your good time later, because your later good time becomes so much better. … It’s not as enjoyable a life when you’re still scrapping to survive. You get the hard part out of the way early, keep yourself healthy, and really enjoy your retirement.”

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