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Looking for advice/personal stories about cutting back in hours

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  • Looking for advice/personal stories about cutting back in hours

    I'm a pediatric hospitalist that is fortunate to have flexibility in my hours and I have been thinking about cutting back from a full time position to a part time position and am interested in hearing any advice or personal stories from others who have been in similar situations. I have been feeling a bit bored and burned out at my job and wonder if simply cutting back in hours would make the job more sustainable long term.

    I am the sole bread winner for our family of four (my husband has taken on the stay at home parent role for the past 9 years for our two children since I've been working full time) and I go back and forth with guilt over giving up the extra savings.

    I only recently got my financial house in order which adds to the guilt of losing the pay from cutting back in hours. Our only debt is our mortgage which is a small fraction of my take home pay since we live in the same house that we bought 11 years ago when I made 1/3rd of what I currently make (I was working part time at a lower paying job at the time we bought). This past year I've been able to save around 50% of my take home pay which has been great but my savings in previous years was much less so I'm worried that my nest egg requires more aggressive savings.

    I'm curious to hear from others who have been in similar situations and how they decided on how to prioritize money and savings over more free time and possibly less burn out leading to a longer career.

  • #2
    I know the feeling. I've certainly contemplated the same. I did write a post about working half-time, which led to a good discussion in the comments. A few docs who have cut back chimed in.

    I hope you are able to figure out what is best for you and your family. Also, check out the Happy Philosopher. He has guest posted on WCI, and is a radiologist who went half time for similar reasons.

    Best,

    PoF

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    • #3
      I am a 51 year old 20+ year interventional radiologist who "quit" his full time job and now expects to work part time (half time or so) starting in early 2017. I may just do it for a year or so while I try to figure out what else I want to do. In short, I had enough, and I had enough, so I decided enough is enough!

      From the financial standpoint, I am married to a woman with an excellent legal job, and she plans to retire at 55 or so (3-4 years). I have a decent size nest egg and enough put aside for the college education of my two teenagers and beyond. Anticipating a change in income, I have already started to pare down the savings and investing in taxable accounts and 529s.

      On the professional side, the job was getting to me. Younger docs underestimate the physical, emotional, and psychic wear and tear of the job--I know I did. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, and create a sustainable path.

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      • #4
        I am an Ob/Gyn who retired from Ob at 56. I am doing gyn 3 days/ week.  I like that I never feel rushed in my office now.  Most of the drama I would see in my practice came from the Ob patients.  I would guess that being a pediatric hospitalist is pretty emotionally draining as well as long shifts.  Depending on your age and nest egg you might have to work longer by decreasing your hours.  I was already financially independent when I quit Ob. I have been doing this for 2 years now.

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        • #5
          I'm just 2 years out of residency, but I def was burned out coming out of my program. I hated everyone and everything and was really unhappy. I knew the reason for this was that I felt like had no control over my life and was spending too much time away from my family. My #1 priority out of residency was finding a part time position. I was fortunate that my institution (the same one I trained at) was willing to do this. So I've been doing outpatient adult psychiatry in an academic setting since then. I work 0.75FTE, enough to get full retirement/vacation/sick time/insurance benefits. But I can't tell you how much of a difference it has made to work less hours (23 patient hours a week, no weekends, phone call once a month from 5-11PM). Because of my specialty, the academic setting, etc, this has come at the cost of making much less than my peers doing inpatient or working at the VA, etc. But money can't buy happiness. I wouldn't trade my situation for anything. I can say that out of my peers, I'm definitely the happiest with my career/life. I could literally work this job forever :-) I'm having baby #2 in a few weeks, and I'm taking 3 months of leave, followed by 3 months working 0.25 FTE, followed by an indefinite time (at least 1 year) working 0.5 FTE. At this rate, I will get full retirement benefits (14% of salary put into a retirement account for me) but not vacation/sick time. This works for us though. My husband works as a software engineer so makes a good salary, but together we make the same or less than my peers. But we could live on his salary alone given that we are pretty frugal. We aren't going to be able to retire in 10 years, but we both like our jobs, so don't want to. However, in 15 years, we'll be able to do so if we wanted to, given our current plan, which takes into account my cutting back. So I would ABSOLUTELY say that cutting back hours can make a HUGE difference in your quality of life while still being able to save for the future. I hope you are able to figure out something that works well for you, both financially and emotionally.

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          • #6
            I've chimed in on this issue on PoF's blog, as well as this one.  I am 10+ years into my career and am now financially independent, so the "sacrifice" aspect of working less just isn't there.  For you, I know that the prospect of bringing in less money and seeing that retirement date get pushed out into the future may be daunting.  But I also think that you've hit the nail on the head by realizing that cutting back now may prolong your career longevity.

            For me, I've not had to make financial sacrifices to cut back, so take this FWIW: I am happier than I've been in years.  I've only shaved off a couple of hours from the end of each day, but that was my pain point - the time when I was least engaged in the exam room and just wanted to get the heck out of the office.  Now I get out while it's still light outside and spend more time with my daughter, working out, etc.  It's truly wonderful.  And it makes me feel like I could potentially do this job for another 10 years, whereas I previously wanted to clock out as soon as financially feasible.  I don't think I truly appreciated how many aspects of my personal life were affected by my burnout until I cut back.

            And for some second-hand experience...I have a close doctor friend who cut back a few years ago to 50%, and she feels like her job is so non-taxing that she could do it (almost) indefinitely.  Of course, as we (doctors) get squeezed to do more and see more with less, the headaches increase and career longevity likely will decrease.  But cutting back can mitigate the pain to an appreciable extent, so consider it strongly.

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            • #7
              I cut back to 70% clinical (0.7 FTE).  I too am FI.  That gives me more confidence to say NO to a lot of offers to do more work.  I definitely feel a lot better and have time to enjoy my patients, sleep, exercise, read, and see my kids while they are awake.  It is easier to maintain a healthy perspective when you have time for a life.  I don't get too stressed about charting requirements or some other silliness.  There is a diminishing marginal utility to extra dollars for most doctors.  After a certain point you just end up paying more taxes (I'm at the 40% + federal rate).  I wanted to shoot for RE when I was starting out but now I think career longevity is the key.  Early FI is still helpful in opening up options.  Even a 30-40 hour work week can feel like "semi-retirement" for many doctors.  Good luck and congrats on thinking and posting on this important issue.

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              • #8
                I wanted to thank everyone for their responses. It's always interesting to hear other people's perspectives. I think it would be a no brainer for me if I were financially independent or close to being there--I'd definitely cut back on my hours. But my net worth is pretty low--roughly $350K and I've been out of residency 13 years. It was also a no brainer for me when my kids were really young. I worked part time for the first 4 years out of residency but then felt restless and started thinking about doing a fellowship. Ultimately, I found a more intellectually stimulating and challenging full time job that I initially loved and I just imagined I'd work there for decades. Fast forward 8 years into the job and the idea that I'd be doing this until I am 60 seems unfathomable. I think for now I am going to stick with my full time hours and try to boost our retirement savings but I am keeping an open mind about reconsidering each year. I am lucky that the shift work nature of hospital medicine gives me flexibility to cut back, that the director of our group is supportive of FTE changes, and that we have people always looking to pick up a few extra shifts here and there so that cutting back in hours doesn't negatively affect the rest of the group.

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                • #9
                  Another option for individuals facing burnout in emergency physicians and perhaps other specialties is the option of working in a lower volume location.  I started working in a lower volume location approximately four years ago (or about 10 years out of residency).  The money is not as good, but the work is far more enjoyable.  I now plan to work full time for another 5-10 years.  I am no longer exhausted after my shifts and have time to really talk to our patients and nurses.

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                  • #10
                    ^^

                    I agree. Find a job that is sustainable and relatively easy, if possible.

                    As an aside, there was an amusing post on KevinMD on how to prevent burnout, written by an ER resident. I thought it was rather preternatural, kind of like a seven year old lecturing on practicing safe sex or something.

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