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  • partial or fully retired before age 55: questions for those who've done it

    If you cut down to 2 or fewer workdays/week prior to age 55, would you mind sharing your experience:

    1. How old were you when you did this? In what field of medicine? Why did you do it?
    2. To how many workdays/week did you cut down? Did this number subsequently change?
    3. What was your net worth at that time (not including your home and 529/UTMA)?
    4. What were the financial mechanics of your life post-retirement: what were your expenses and how did you pay for them? Did you have any other sources of income (real estate, non-clinical gig, significant other's income)? Did you structure your investments so that they would produce income? How much was your annual post-retirement income?
    5. Any advice looking back on it?
    Last edited by invest; 12-01-2020, 04:32 AM.

  • #2
    Bump - surely someone has some advice to offer, even if not every specific question?
    Our passion is protecting clients and others from predatory and ignorant advisors. Fox & Co CPAs, Fox & Co Wealth Mgmt. 270-247-6087

    Comment


    • #3
      > 200 views and no response, OK I’ll bite
      1. “Retired” at age 51, family practice. Despite reducing hours to 3 days a week for a couple years, overall work hours were not reduced from full time due to need to keep up with workload of a full panel of patients. Corporate mandated continued acceptance of new patients and unassigned hospital follow ups resulting in growth of panel size despite my desire to gradually reduce panel due to natural attrition. Added aspect of working short staffed for over a year due to inability of organization to hire medical assistant became final factor.
      2. Now working PRN ~2 days/mo hourly wage (less during this pandemic)
      3. I would consider equity of home in someone’s NW, but that’s another topic. Let’s call it 6M.
      4. Post retirement budget funded at 8K/mo from maturing of laddered bonds with remainder of investments in higher risk earnings sectors. By my working occasionally a few extra days any excessive expenses can be covered (surprising how much a paycheck can be without benefits or retirement taken out). SO able to obtain family health insurance by working 2 days/week but resulting in essentially no income.
      5. Advice: Gradually over time let people know your plans so they will have less of a shock when you say you’re retiring at an age that no one seems to think is possible. Have plans of what you may continue to do in your “work” life and most importantly your non work life. I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

      Comment


      • #4
        I am not sure that there are many “fully retired by 55” on this forum. Many of us here that are FI by 55 are still working, some 50-60% FTE, some 100% and some 120% or more.

        I turned 55 this year and was nearly led into retirement by the pandemic. I soon realized that there are enough non-financial benefits of work that I need for fulfillment (especially purpose, identity and community) that I will continue to work in some capacity for the foreseeable future, despite a NW now approaching eight figures. Even if I suddenly dropped out, my wife has a professional career that she plans to continue and could individually support our lifestyle, without drawing on our savings, retirement funds, and other resources.

        This community primarily consists of workers, all along the career arc, supporting each other and those docs striving to make good financial decisions. There are plenty of other online communities for early retirees, the FIRE movement and all that, and therein you might find the specific answers to your above questions. But stick around anyway, and you might learn a things or two and help someone else along the way.

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        • #5
          When I left full time employment in 2019, I had this fantasy that I would easily be able to find a 1099 gig that would let me work 1 week or a couple of weekends a month. Instead I’ve just gone from one full time contract to the next. The pandemic probably has limited the options. But even in the best of times I don’t think long-term PRN work is really much of a thing, at least in my neck of the woods in my specialty.

          What makes the puddle jumping difficult to sustain is the credentialing. A lot of jobs will want me to say I’ve seen a certain number of patients in the past year to get credentialed. That is pretty much just a WAG. Then there are reference requests. I’m not really worried about what anyone is going to fill out on the forms, but it gets pretty difficult to track down good references when you’re only working sporadically with people you hardly ever actually see (some jobs have asked for 4 or more from within the past year). This all becomes problematic if you have designs on taking a prolonged sabbatical from work.

          It goes without saying that ABMS doesn’t relax their standards for part-time/semi-retired physicians either.

          If I could really figure out how to stay in medicine on my terms working as much as I want, I might do it for several more decades. I’m not sure I really can (private practice is not in the cards), which may lead me to look for an escape hatch sooner or later.

          Comment


          • #6
            Ok I'll pitch in too.

            1a. How old were you when you did this? 52.
            1b. In what field of medicine? Ob-MFM
            1c. Why did you do it? Because I could. Busy call is quite difficult and didn't feel like I wanted to continue without doing it. Was tired. There were kids ready to fill in.

            2a. To how many workdays/week did you cut down? Now I do a couple of half days of teaching for 8 week sessions if I feel the urge. Nothing in May to Aug stretch. Also a bit of medicolegal work. Still teach and do a bit of work in Africa (suspended by COVID)
            2b. Did this number subsequently change? I had slowed down to maybe 2 - 2.5 days + 1 in 10 call for maybe 3 years before packing it in.

            3. What was your net worth at that time (not including your home and 529/UTMA)? Agree that house is part of NW but without it was about 7M.

            4a. What were your expenses and how did you pay for them? Don't really track expenses that well. In the 200k range. Covered by my side-gigs (majority) and DW's 1 day a week peds job and occasional teaching. Can't convince her to pack it in yet.
            4b. Did you have any other sources of income. See above. No real estate income.
            4c. Did you structure your investments so that they would produce income? No.
            4d. How much was your annual post-retirement income? From medico-legal and teaching about 150k.

            5. Any advice looking back on it? lol. LBYM, educate yourself about financial matters including behavioural, save, invest (index investing for me) so you have options. Try to find something you love doing. Keep avenues open. Make time for family and friends.

            Comment


            • #7
              Well, I initially decided not to respond since I consider myself a part-time (not semi-retired) doc working more than 2 days a week. But how can you ignore a bump from JFT!

              1. I burned out at 52, actually resigned from my anesthesiology group. I had enough money and no avenue to decrease to my desired amount of night call (zero was not an available option).
              2. Several months later, I received an unsolicited offer to work part-time at a surgery center. About 30 hours unevenly divided over 4 days a week. Still doing it 8 years later.
              3. I was solidly FI at 52, NW has more than doubled since then.
              4. My hourly wage plus my wife's FT job (modest income but provides health insurance) is more than enough. Investment performance is responsible for most of NW growth. For many years I pursued a dividend growth investment model and did reach a point where dividend income met living expenses. But as I prepared for future RMDs, I realized there was no way to get all of the income into pre-tax and none in taxable or Roth. So over the past few years I've been optimizing my portfolio by placing most of my bonds in pre-tax (70:30 AA) and Roth converting as much as possible. TLH from 2007-08 helped minimize the tax hit to reconfigure.
              5. While I thought I was through with medicine years ago, I am quite thankful for my part-time work now. Much less income but I enjoy the job, the people I work with and the environment I'm in. I don't need the money but don't want to quit. I never thought that was possible.

              Comment


              • #8
                I also didn't respond because I didn't fit criteria of "retired", but after the above posters....

                1) Upper 40s. EM. To have more time for family, more time to play, and to explore side projects.
                2) I work around 65 hrs/mo, cutting down gradually, starting roughly year 3 as an attending.
                3) I have liquid assets plus income to cover expenses, indefinitely, barring significant change in expenses or a second great depression. NW doesn't matter; and yeah, your house is a part of NW.
                4) I continue working to: cashflow luxury, add extra protection because I'm a worrier, take advantage of benefits (health insurance, 401k), possibly establish family wealth, keep me occupied as I still have a kid who is not keen on globetrotting for school.
                5) I am happier about some things (speaking my mind) and less happy about other things (I know less and less of the consultants). I have no mentors: a) my age/experience-matched peers continue to work 2-2.5x me with no plan to end any time soon, b) Internet comparisons, such as PoF, are apples-oranges given the "passive" income but also burn rate differences.

                invest, where are you on this discussion?

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                • #9
                  I meant to respond yesterday but even being fully retired I was busy. I have posted several times about my journey. To recap I am now 63 and divorced. I completely retired at 62. I have been FI since around 45. I owned my OB/GYN practice. I cut back on my office hours to 3 days per week at 50 but continued with full OB call. (I was call sharing with 6). I went thru a malpractice trial at 52 (I won). I found myself to be more risk averse after this. One of my hospitals increased unattached call so I decided to quit OB. I was 56 with 5.2 million liquid at Vanguard. I continued to work 3 days per week until 61. I closed my practice and took a local hospital job for 3 days per week for one year. I managed to leverage this job into 4 years of health insurance. My net worth has nearly doubled since I quit OB. I track my spending in quicken. I have a very low spending rate. It will increase when travel opens up I think. I own my house and car. I have never been an income investor but with portfolio growth over the years this becomes significant. I am busy with Roth conversions now. I find that retirement opens up a lot of time to pursue hobbies and learning that I did not have time for when working.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by GasFIRE View Post
                    Well, I initially decided not to respond since I consider myself a part-time (not semi-retired) doc working more than 2 days a week. But how can you ignore a bump from JFT!

                    1. I burned out at 52, actually resigned from my anesthesiology group. I had enough money and no avenue to decrease to my desired amount of night call (zero was not an available option).
                    2. Several months later, I received an unsolicited offer to work part-time at a surgery center. About 30 hours unevenly divided over 4 days a week. Still doing it 8 years later.
                    3. I was solidly FI at 52, NW has more than doubled since then.
                    4. My hourly wage plus my wife's FT job (modest income but provides health insurance) is more than enough. Investment performance is responsible for most of NW growth. For many years I pursued a dividend growth investment model and did reach a point where dividend income met living expenses. But as I prepared for future RMDs, I realized there was no way to get all of the income into pre-tax and none in taxable or Roth. So over the past few years I've been optimizing my portfolio by placing most of my bonds in pre-tax (70:30 AA) and Roth converting as much as possible. TLH from 2007-08 helped minimize the tax hit to reconfigure.
                    5. While I thought I was through with medicine years ago, I am quite thankful for my part-time work now. Much less income but I enjoy the job, the people I work with and the environment I'm in. I don't need the money but don't want to quit. I never thought that was possible.
                    I'm on a similar path but mainly noticed it helped me prevent burnout. Going from 8 calls/month with no post call day off in a non democratic private practice group (senior partner:junior partner unequal split) to now doing just 4 days a week for my hospital was life changing. I'm only 41 but can now see myself doing this or surgicenter work at this pace (3-4 days/week) until I'm in my 60s. I'm not fully FI yet, but have paid off my student loans and can reasonably live on half my salary, so I consider myself as having a miniFU fund in case my job changes/tells me they need me to take call. I've turned down a few unsolicited surgi center jobs in the past year and a half, and have standing prn offers so I can't ever see myself working a doctor's full time equivalent again.

                    If I do cut back more, I'd probably still try to work 20 hrs/week to qualify for health insurance. Deferred comp would be the first bucket I'd use to take money out if needed. Then plan to do roth conversions when income drops enough. And place new 401k contributions into roth if my income is low enough while still working 20hrs/week. But taxes and policies change, so who knows in 20 yrs if that will be the smart thing to do?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      1- Late 40's family physician. Cut back for time with family.

                      2- Currently cut back patient visits to 3.5 days per week in office, 8:30-5. Volunteering at charity health clinic 1/2 day/month. Utilizing hospitalists for inpatient. Planning to cut back further after hiring 4th provider for the practice. Enjoying the work, so unsure if I'm willing to fully retire early but happy to have options.

                      3- Net worth is rather high for my age and specialty due to business and RE ownership/expansions and aggressive investments, so more freedom to make choices. Comfortably 8 figures for reference.

                      4- Upon retirement from the practice of medicine, hoping to continue to run the business and continued income from RE. Haven't calculated income available in retirement as it appears I may have more than needed. For example RE income is close to $300K/year after expenses.

                      5- Marry someone like minded. Mind your family. Be generous. Be in control of your future. Know your worth to society. Control your spending, but live a good life. Minimize emotional involvement with big purchases and investing so that there is always clarity. Made many mistakes, just came back stronger. Broadly educate yourself outside of medicine too. Always learn from everyone then do what's best for you.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        one related question that hopefully the OP will also find useful...

                        what did you do for family health insurance and how much did it cost?
                        Last edited by Dusn; 12-03-2020, 05:37 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Not retired either.

                          1. Early 50's . IM , thinking about it and what I would actually do with my time.
                          2. work 4 days a week
                          3. NW @ 6m - cash, bonds and stocks , doesnt include paid off house or other real estate
                          4.
                          a. expenses include school taxes, no other ongoing personal debt
                          b. medical consulting business
                          c. not yet
                          d. not sure , probably my biggest hurdle is trying to figure this out
                          5. save aggressively when young, you get to a point in life where returns ROI far out paces actually working which leaves options open.

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                          • #14
                            1. I was one month shy of 55 when I retired from orthopedics this year. I reached FI last year, and was growing increasingly tired of community orthopedics (having some unfounded accusations against me from patients, lots of drug-seeking referrals from my local ER and extended providers, difficulties in obtaining pre-authorizations for studies and surgeries, having to learn a new EMR every few years, having to document “quality” for federal regulations, etc). In retrospect, I was burned out.
                            2. I was at a rural job where I saw patients at about 36 hours a week, but I was on-call to my local ER 24/7.
                            3. I was just over $1.8 million in investments, plus a military pension.
                            4. I retired from the military having accrued 24 years of service time. The pension is/was my main source of income. I was fortunate to start investing as soon as I was commissioned as an officer after college, and I was single until the age of 34. For most of my working career, I was a novice investor and had nearly 1/3 stocks, 1/3 fixed income, and 1/3 cash, so I did miss the opportunity to capitalize more on the market. My current retirement income is from pension, dividends/capital gains, and distributions from my 457(b) over the next 5 years. That will get me to age 59.5 where I can then further withdraw from my TSP and IRA as needed. We feel we are in a position to buy anything, just not everything.
                            5. I’m glad I started investing and living below my means at a young age, but I wish I knew earlier about the 3-fund portfolio, high expense ratios, back door Roth, Bogleheads and WCI. I know my path cannot be replicated by most readers, but I wanted to chime in as a comparison.
                            Last edited by BruinBones; 12-04-2020, 06:40 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by invest View Post
                              If you cut down to 2 or fewer workdays/week prior to age 55, would you mind sharing your experience:

                              1. How old were you when you did this? In what field of medicine? Why did you do it?
                              2. To how many workdays/week did you cut down? Did this number subsequently change?
                              3. What was your net worth at that time (not including your home and 529/UTMA)?
                              4. What were the financial mechanics of your life post-retirement: what were your expenses and how did you pay for them? Did you have any other sources of income (real estate, non-clinical gig, significant other's income)? Did you structure your investments so that they would produce income? How much was your annual post-retirement income?
                              5. Any advice looking back on it?
                              I didn't "retire." I escaped. I was terribly burnt out (cardiology) in my early 40s.

                              My average annual expenses over the last 5 years (supporting a wife and 2 poodles) were 3.288% of my inflation-adjusted portfolio value at the time I left medicine (when unmarried and supporting only myself). Based on FIRE dogma, I was financially independent and ready to live the good life forever.

                              I can tell you that was not the case. That is, I was concerned about money all the time, and for the first time in my life. It wasn't fun. Based on my previous experience, I don't intend to retire again unless I have a very large surplus, or unless the job is intolerable. If the latter, I'll leave but seek something that is tolerable.
                              Erstwhile Dance Theatre of Dayton performer cum bellhop. Carried (many) bags for a lovely and gracious 59 yo Cyd Charisse. (RIP) Hosted epic company parties after Friday night rehearsals.

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