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Early retirement and the "Good Life"

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  • #46
    I think everyone should spend mental energy, time, and money when they are younger exploring what truly makes them happy. I see so many doctors saying they don’t really love their work anymore, they want to retire early, but they are worried about being bored/don’t know what they would want to do. Or they have been frugal and have a lot of money and they really want x luxury good but they have some rule that they won’t buy it until they have x million in investments. Meanwhile they have never bought a luxury good so don’t know if owning it will be meaningful to them, they’ve just built up the idea in their head. Or they want more time to go on field trips with their kids, meanwhile they’ve never been on a field trip with their kids and when they finally go they realize they don’t enjoy it at all.

    Spend time/money/mental energy when you are younger figuring out what you want in life, in small doses at first and then gradually increasing, moving in the direction you want to go. It’s hard to know what you want without experiencing it. It’s easy to fall in love with an idea but not like the reality.

    I’ve always liked making things. Craft/art/cooking/etc. Takes time and mental energy. Takes a little bit of money but not as much as many other interests.
    I’ve tried more expensive hobbies but always gravitate back to the same thing. I have a good handle on what makes me happy, and how much it costs.

    I have a high tolerance for what people call boredom. I don’t get bored. I can spend a day wandering around and thinking, and when I have those days I feel happier on average than days where I am rushing around doing a ton of things.

    I have a low need for external purpose. I’m happy just being. I have a high ability to accept things being as they are and not complain, but I also get annoyed by people who complain about every little thing and expect everything to have a solution (I.e. many patients). I guess I should be able to accept that too, but I don’t like listening to it day in day out. I love learning about human physiology/pathology and especially human behavior but after a couple decades the practical application can get tedious.

    I spent money on more expensive things along the way, and realized that I don’t care about most of those things. I have had periods of time in my life where I was very busy with work and periods where I had lots of free time to do whatever I wanted. I started paying attention to what sort of things brought me the most happiness years ago…consistently having more time to wander/explore/create brings me the most happiness. And consistently when I am happier my spending decreases, and when my happiness decreases I spend more.

    Not everyone thinks like me. Actually, I thInk most people don’t think like me. Most people would prefer to buy something than make it, like receiving gifts, get bored fairly easily, need external validation of purpose, etc. My definition of the good life is different from many other people’s. Which is great, because if most people were like me our economy would come to a screeching halt. Most people probably won’t be happy in early retirement and will probably be best served by spending more throughout their lives, working a steady but not excessive amount, etc. I think you need to know what sort of person you are and what “The Good Life” really looks like for you and plan/act accordingly. Listening to other people talk about their good life can give you ideas, but you have to experience it to know what’s right for you.

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    • #47
      Am I the only idiot here who is not planning FIRE ?
      here are my reasons
      s$&@ happens in life and a steady paycheck is not to be underestimated
      little fun throughout the yr works better for me than 3 - 4 wks of concentrated fun
      My hobbies are not financially lucrative
      I had ambition to do mission trips in Eastern Europe but war messed that up for decades
      Health insurance is better if attached to large healthcare network and aging sucks
      I’m primary care so poorer than most docs , so better if I work even if it’s 0.5 until I die just to pay bills and leave some for kids.
      yes kids those suckers are expensive and unpredictable
      need to escape from my better half for sometime during the week.

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      • #48
        Originally posted by nastle View Post
        Am I the only idiot here who is not planning FIRE ?
        here are my reasons
        s$&@ happens in life and a steady paycheck is not to be underestimated
        little fun throughout the yr works better for me than 3 - 4 wks of concentrated fun
        My hobbies are not financially lucrative
        I had ambition to do mission trips in Eastern Europe but war messed that up for decades
        Health insurance is better if attached to large healthcare network and aging sucks
        I’m primary care so poorer than most docs , so better if I work even if it’s 0.5 until I die just to pay bills and leave some for kids.
        yes kids those suckers are expensive and unpredictable
        need to escape from my better half for sometime during the week.
        Hah, no, of course not. I prefer to separate considerations of FI from RE. The former (FI) is a net good to ensure options are available. Totally different frame of mind having to work versus wanting to work. The latter (RE) is a lifestyle choice.

        Personally I am considering if I should RE at 64. Not as easy a call as one might think. My wife definitely believes the old saying, “I married you for life, not lunch.” So why indeed choose to do work elsewhere, paid or not, if I am good at what I do, make a difference, and get paid at the top of my game? (I have answers, and probably will bail at 64, but just saying this is how I have been enjoying myself for the past few years at work.)

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        • #49
          Great discussion on this thread as well as on the original blog post comments.

          something that I have been thinking about a lot lately is the "next step" as I am in fellowship and the hours/lifestyle are rough and I am hoping for attendinghood to be worth all the years needed to get there. But likely just as it was getting into medical school, then residency, and now fellowship - after the initial happiness of meeting the goal, life goes on and you get used to the accomplishment. I continue to search for work life balance especially with a small family now as compared to when I was single in medical school and could spend my time how I wanted. I know that attending life will be better but at the end of the day there will be new obligations and expectations and I am still struggling to find a balance between giving my all to medicine and still having time left over to help my wife with the kids. Currently I attribute this workload to academic training but when I talk to my peers most of them seem to think that I am crazy for spending my weekend/evening time calling patients back, catching up on research, or finishing clinic notes etc. I just feel that I dont have enough time during the regular weekday hours to get it all done.

          Turf Doc just a word of caution since I do the exact same thing myself (i.e. reading a lot of physician blogs, fire subreddits, etc) that you will inevitably start to compare yourself to these attendings (which is a losing game since I am just at barely positive net worth) or dream of getting out of medicine via FIRE when times get tough and they definitely will - residency is much worse than medical school regardless of the field in most cases - that I have been trying to consume less of it recently.. I am not sure of if that makes sense but it seems to me that in your previous comment that you already are aware of this.

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          • #50
            Thanks everyone for all the replies. It's been great to get all the different stories, insights, and suggestions.

            The major takeaways for me are:

            A) I probably sound pretty naïve when estimating the challenges of parenting that lay ahead. Noted . In my defense, I was also pretty naïve about what being a physician entailed as a premed but I managed to adapt to it in the end.

            B) Medicine will take as much of your life as you'll give it. I find my work very fulfilling now but I am definitely conscious of the potential to miss out on some great parts of life if I don't make time for them. I appreciate the words of caution.

            C) The RE in FIRE is kind of a spectrum. Reducing hours may be a good way to get the most out of medicine and my personal life. Seems to underscore the importance of building financial independence. I may have been looking at it as an all or nothing option earlier when there are plenty of variations.

            D) Frontloading earning/career vs Maximizing time w/ children. I think I'll have to really feel this one out once I have kids. In the meantime I will continue to build a war chest to minimize this tradeoff as much as possible.

            E) "Work hard, stay late, don't complain": I see this as an asset that I developed in residency/fellowship. I can't say that extra rigor is always pleasant but I have learned that I am capable of pushing myself for extended periods of time without breaking down. I did it for peanuts for half a decade so I know that if my wife gets sick or there is some emergency that pops up I could push myself even harder to earn more if necessary. Long term this is probably not too healthy and knowing how to turn it off will be important.

            F) On that note, I probably need to get more of a life.

            Thanks everyone

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            • #51
              Its interesting, Ive just recently committed to dropping Fridays in Q1 2023. I should be excited about this, but I find myself anxious and apprehensive for a couple reasons:

              -Income loss. My rational brain needs to tell me Im still going to make an excellent living working 4 days a week. Instead, I find myself looking at the opportunity cost (I could make an extra $XXXXX working only one more day a week!)

              -I worry I wont like it. I hear stories from early retirees becoming the school aged kids chauffer and becoming depressed. I love my kids dearly, but honestly I handle the stress and chaos of young kids poorly. Something I need to work on.

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              • #52
                Originally posted by 8arclay View Post
                -Income loss. My rational brain needs to tell me Im still going to make an excellent living working 4 days a week. Instead, I find myself looking at the opportunity cost (I could make an extra $XXXXX working only one more day a week!)
                I get it! In Dec, we zero out our books (so big bonuses to those who bill a lot)...I can't say that it is fun to get a teensy-weensy bonus, but it does get easier with each cycle as the internal barometer adjusts.

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                • #53
                  Originally posted by CaffeineNepenthe View Post
                  Thanks everyone for all the replies. It's been great to get all the different stories, insights, and suggestions.

                  The major takeaways for me are:

                  A) I probably sound pretty naïve when estimating the challenges of parenting that lay ahead. Noted . In my defense, I was also pretty naïve about what being a physician entailed as a premed but I managed to adapt to it in the end.

                  B) Medicine will take as much of your life as you'll give it. I find my work very fulfilling now but I am definitely conscious of the potential to miss out on some great parts of life if I don't make time for them. I appreciate the words of caution.

                  C) The RE in FIRE is kind of a spectrum. Reducing hours may be a good way to get the most out of medicine and my personal life. Seems to underscore the importance of building financial independence. I may have been looking at it as an all or nothing option earlier when there are plenty of variations.

                  D) Frontloading earning/career vs Maximizing time w/ children. I think I'll have to really feel this one out once I have kids. In the meantime I will continue to build a war chest to minimize this tradeoff as much as possible.

                  E) "Work hard, stay late, don't complain": I see this as an asset that I developed in residency/fellowship. I can't say that extra rigor is always pleasant but I have learned that I am capable of pushing myself for extended periods of time without breaking down. I did it for peanuts for half a decade so I know that if my wife gets sick or there is some emergency that pops up I could push myself even harder to earn more if necessary. Long term this is probably not too healthy and knowing how to turn it off will be important.

                  F) On that note, I probably need to get more of a life.

                  Thanks everyone
                  Great summary on all in intake. Develop your ISP then set earnings AND savings goals to meet that ISP. Set mile markers along the way to reassess. : Net Worth zero (getting to broke), 1st child, 2nd child, education needs. 1st home. career reassessment. FI. glidepath. retirement.

                  IMHO - the journey is just as important as retirement and developing life outside of medicine. That was really underscored when I attended an ortho regional meeting on retirement and finances. The majority kept working simply because their entire identity was wrapped up completely in their practice. They had NO WAY OUT.

                  That's the cautionary tail.

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                  • #54
                    “something that I have been thinking about a lot lately is the "next step" as I am in fellowship and the hours/lifestyle are rough and I am hoping for attendinghood to be worth all the years needed to get there.”

                    ”IMHO - the journey is just as important as retirement and developing life outside of medicine. That was really underscored when I attended an ortho regional meeting on retirement and finances. The majority kept working simply because their entire identity was wrapped up completely in their practice. They had NO WAY OUT.​“

                    Much wisdom in the above. A CAUTION for those finishing training. There is a transition period after fellowship/residency, probably a year to 2 years.
                    Not done yet! A new attending has significant personal and professional growth ahead. Production and efficiency and how you mesh with in the system you are in will take work and you will improve substantially. Your practice development will take extra work, you have board certification etc. It takes time and effort to build a well oiled engine that some here have reached.

                    I think of you as a jet pilot, you just took off but you still haven’t reached cruising altitude. That first two years will have a big impact. Once you reach cruising altitude, that is when you put it on autopilot at the speed you choose.
                    Takeoff, cruising altitude, then the landing.
                    New attendings have another year or two.

                    That’s why you don’t buy a house, you may need to change your flight plan. That first two years is really important.

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                    • #55
                      Originally posted by vtpaca View Post

                      And those interested in finance and investing in undergrad probably choose to not go into medicine.
                      I went into medicine with that background. I even had several successful careers/business ventures beforehand.

                      I wanted to pursue medicine and knew that it would give me an edge and a back up plan if/when medicine completely goes to crap. It has worked out well so far.

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