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Work life balance and when to say no

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  • Work life balance and when to say no

    I have an excellent gig set up in Emergency Medicine, with a combination of administrative and clinical work. I'm about 5 years out from residency and my wife is 10 years out of dental school and just finished paying off her loans We are debt free, have a paid off home (about $3000/mo spend for home expenses, health insurance, basic food etc monthly fixed expenses plus we spend another 7-10k/mo on various discretionary items like nice travel, I love fancy wine etc). We are currently at a Lean FI level of savings and able to coast up to a very comfortable retirement in 10-20 years assuming no big mistakes and reasonable investment returns.

    My big question is whether it's a good idea to ease off the gas? I work a ton, and work at one hospital with an great contract in a rural area where the 1 hr commute is well worth it and I really enjoy job. I'm also at 2 other hospitals locally that are part of a bigger health system and am getting pulled into that system with regional admin projects etc. I've been good about being sure to get compensated for all of this work and was able to grow income into perhaps 2-2.5x national average for my specialty (though most of this was just working extra hours rather than any magic).

    I have been pushing this hard figuring that I should maximize income while I have a good gig going. Many expect physician reimbursements to not keep up with inflation, EM has a lot of negative momentum at least these last few years as a field, and my most lucrative contract is always at risk for takeover as we are doing a great job and admin really appreciates it but I'm sure that a bean counter could find some warm body willing to show up for less if hospital priorities change. If reimbursements drop 30% I'll be very sad to have missed the chance to work now, especially with the power of compound interest on my side earlier in career. On the other hand, I could work 4 shifts a month and cover all expenses, put away the phone with the various emails/calls I now get for admin.

    Any thoughts on finding balance vs opportunity cost? My current plan is to push until 40 yrs old (2+ years) and then start to gradually pull back from there?

  • #2
    I like your idea of pushing it for 2 more years. No one knows the future but the more you can save now the easier your future will be.

    Comment


    • #3
      What would you do if you pulled back? If you'd just be bored at home, no reason to. But if you want to travel, spend time with family, etc, then that changes the dynamic. You really need to ask yourself the question of now that you're in a steady state, what does your ideal life look like? Is work part of it? Only you know. But grinding for a couple years to make hay while the sun shines isn't a bad plan. You will need a mechanism to pull back though (i.e. is someone there to fill in if you want to go to 0.8 FTE).

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      • #4
        How many hours are you putting in a wk/mo? I'm a few years from retirement and have eased off a lot but earlier in my career I worked a lot of hours and was the highest earning partner in my group for many years due to taking on others shifts. I don't regret it. It put me in a very nice position financially and opened up a lot of options that FI brings. As long as your not working insane hours that are affecting your marriage/family life and your spouse is alright with it, I say go for it. No one knows what tomorrow will look like reimbursement wise.

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        • #5
          Yea it totally depends on what you plan to do with the extra free time. DW went part time 3-years out of residency, and while we have given up income over the past few years, that time has been spent at home with our young children and there is no chance looking back that we would take the extra income over the extra time with the kids. Except for maybe a few weeks ago when there was diarrhea everywhere.

          But every situation is different, at your level of compensation and current happiness (based on your post), grinding it out for another few years seems totally reasonable.

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          • #6
            I’m a year or two further out from residency than you but sounds like in a not too dissimilar situation. I had spent most of my time making hay to get everything set up financially. I’ve cut back a shift or two a month and it’s been nice. We don’t miss the extra money and it’s been nice to be home more during my weekdays off to spend with our young daughter. I think if you cut back a few shifts you’ll find that nothing has changed financially but you’ll likely be happier overall

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            • #7
              Life should not be an annex of work.

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              • #8
                If you are happy and all is good keep working, but now is the best time to say no to shifts you dislike and the places you dislike working.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hatton View Post
                  I like your idea of pushing it for 2 more years. No one knows the future but the more you can save now the easier your future will be.
                  Thanks. My wife has just gone part time this month so maybe one major change at a time. I guess I see her making all these new plans and several other friends who are working 3-4 days a week too.
                  Last edited by Hoopoe; 03-18-2022, 04:56 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Random1 View Post
                    If you are happy and all is good keep working, but now is the best time to say no to shifts you dislike and the places you dislike working.
                    I now frequently will post uncomfortable night shifts for pickup at the least and try and get rid of them, and have been careful to schedule vacations several times a year many months in advance and then protect those. I am working 170-190 hrs/month while standard "full time" in my group is usually 125/mo so that is where some of the extra income comes from. This doesn't count various admin stipends which range from monthly to a few $/hr consulting things here and there. I am getting all the big trips and vacations I want but have some strain on the day to day with finding regular time to work out and just sit back during daylight hours and relax at home with spouse. I feel like that would have some intangible benefit with mental health/relaxation but it's such a vague "want" that it's hard to plan around.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Hoopoe View Post
                      I am working 170-190 hrs/month while standard "full time" in my group is usually 125/mo so that is where some of the extra income comes from.
                      You're going to burn out spectacularly if you continue to work that much in EM.

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                      • #12
                        I am also 37. I have a 5 year old at home. I try to balance my extra work by doing it during the school year (and freeing up summers).

                        I didn't hear whether or not kids are in the picture, but for me --- I am going to grind until 50. That said, my goal is to have near $10 mm by 50 (but realistically it will be closer to $8.5 mm). $10 mm is my # to retire early and allow me to walk away from medicine entirely PRN.
                        Last edited by IlliniGopher; 03-18-2022, 12:09 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CordMcNally View Post

                          You're going to burn out spectacularly if you continue to work that much in EM.
                          Better to burn out than fade away?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            If you think there is a good chance you will change your mind about working 20 more years/want the option of true FIRE to do something totally different in 5 or so years keep it up. If you are certain you will be happy doing the same type of work at a slower pace for 20 years then you almost certainly can (and probably should) slow down now.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Hoopoe View Post
                              My big question is whether it's a good idea to ease off the gas? I work a ton, and work at one hospital with an great contract in a rural area where the 1 hr commute is well worth it and I really enjoy job. I'm also at 2 other hospitals locally that are part of a bigger health system and am getting pulled into that system with regional admin projects etc. I've been good about being sure to get compensated for all of this work and was able to grow income into perhaps 2-2.5x national average for my specialty (though most of this was just working extra hours rather than any magic).

                              Any thoughts on finding balance vs opportunity cost? My current plan is to push until 40 yrs old (2+ years) and then start to gradually pull back from there?
                              Do you have any young kids who are below high school age. If so, make sure that you make time for them.

                              Pushing the gas and all that is good but what is the use when you miss out on time with growing kids and have a ton of money at 50 and proudly proclaim Fat Fire when life has sailed by you. If you don't have kids and have made time for your spouse, then all is good.

                              Comment

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