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Afraid of success

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  • Afraid of success

    I don't know who else to talk to, without fear of being judged. I can't talk to my family because they don't understand this aspect of physician's lives. I can't talk to my friends because they may think I am subtly flexing, or humble bragging, which I am not. Thank you in advance for being kind.

    After graduating from fellowship in 2016 my wife and I started working and have since managed to accumulate a net worth of $1.6M. It is not much by the standards of many physicians here, but it was significant for me as our specialties are amongst the lowest paying. We've paid off our house, and have no debt. All the money is in stocks and bonds, and the house we live in. I'm 42 and my wife is 38.

    For some time I was very happy and content. Our lifestyles were simple, our tastes were inexpensive. Our children, now 10 and 8, have been growing and my wife and I feel very much part of their lives. My work has been satisfying, nothing prestigious or flashy, but I continue to feel that I make a difference in the lives of my patients. I am ready to maintain this simple lifestyle for the rest of my life.

    Slowly however I've been sensing some grumblings of discontent. My wife no longer likes her job, and wants to quit. Now maybe the house is too small for her taste, or the taste of her family who would visit. The kids are growing up, and perhaps need less time with us on a daily basis. I still love spending time with them.

    I've now been confronted with questions on whether we should invest more in real estate, whether active or passive. I am attending courses offered by Peter Kim, and trying to broaden my horizons. However, I've not had a natural liking for it. But its benefits of cashflow, more independence are things that appeal to me.

    There are some things that hold me back: the idea that more success is "unnecessary", or that more success will not make us happier. I suspect this to be true, as I've never really found happiness in things and possessions. That's why I resist trying to learn about real estate, or taking the plunge in buying direct real estate, because I doubt it will have significantly positive effects on our happiness. But are there benefits? Yes of course, some additional money for the kids to go to school, some more security. But I'm not sure if aiming for more 'success' will cause more harm than good, to me, my relationships, our time. Does that make sense?

    The grumblings are getting louder it seems. My physician wife is more and more unhappy as a PCP. I'd love to support her, and have asked her to quit her job. But she is aware of how important the goal of FI is to me, and for our household, and that her quitting this early in the game will delay that goal much longer. For the last few years all her income has gone to savings/investments.

    I am afraid too that I'm just burying my head in the sand, wanting to keep things as they are, not recognizing that my family is changing, maybe moving on while I'm still here stuck in the happiness of the past.

    Any helpful insights? Have you experienced this before?

  • #2
    Happy wife, happy life.


    • #3
      Why doesn’t she consider something sort of quitting? Part time, concierge, fellowship, admit, etc?


      • #4
        You seem to be in great financial shape. At that point, I would encourage you to pursue happiness.


        • #5
          I don’t get the theme of “fear of success” in what you wrote, it sounds more like you don’t value the typical American benchmarks of success whereas perhaps your wife is starting to. And you are happy at work and your wife is not.

          I think your first investment should be in marriage counseling, and probably individual therapy/perhaps career coaching for your wife.

          Remember that marriage counseling isn’t just for fulminant marriage crises, it’s to help you guys communicate better about what is and isn’t working for you so you can move forward.


          • #6
            How much equity do you have in the paid off home? If you and your wife want to upgrade, go for it! Nothing wrong with having a mortgage if you need to. Part time is ok too if your wife doesn’t want to quit completely.


            • #7
              And can we please stop with the cliche happy wife happy life. Happy spouse happy house. Both of your happiness matters equally. If you just do what she wants (which isn’t even clear—does she want to work less or have more stuff/a bigger house?—real estate is not the answer to everything—it’s work, and it’s risk, and if neither of you actually enjoy it it’s not going to be worth it) you eventually may be the unhappy/resentful one.


              • #8
                I agree with all of the above. Don't mess with real estate especially until its clear why your wife isn't happy and what she wants exactly.


                • #9
                  She wants to quit and get a bigger house? Yeah that would annoy me too. How well does she understand the money situation?

                  Maybe she needs a change. New job or part time? But seems silly to quit now when the kids are older and in school most of the day.

                  I do not understand why getting into RE has anything to do with it? Who cares about cash flow. You have tons of cash flow if you are putting away that much every year. Cash flow is just more taxable money. You do not need that.


                  • #10
                    It seems to me that your wife should go part-time.


                    • #11
                      Why can't your wife quit? Provided you two are willing to live like a normal middle-class couple and not Rich Doctors, you have ALREADY achieved financial independence. She could cut back or even change careers entirely, and financially you'd be fine.

                      I think you need to have an open and honest talk with your wife, and see if you two can figure out what's really making her unhappy and how best to fix that. That, not money, is your big problem. I agree with Anne that the two of you might benefit greatly from some marriage counseling.


                      • #12
                        You need to stop guessing why your wife is unhappy and stop guessing what the solutions are. Get her to tell you clearly what those things are. Through marriage counseling if need be. Until then, you two are just going to be stuck in this malaise.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lithium View Post
                          You need to stop guessing why your wife is unhappy and stop guessing what the solutions are. Get her to tell you clearly what those things are. Through marriage counseling if need be. Until then, you two are just going to be stuck in this malaise.
                          Yes - and bear in mind she may not know those things herself. It's easy to know you're unhappy; figuring out why and what to do about it is a lot tougher. Counseling can help with that. She may benefit from some individual counseling, where she is free to talk openly about anything without fears that you are listening and might be judging her.


                          • #14
                            I agree w other posters that you need to sit down with your wife and work out your relationship; and perhaps think about yours with your kids as well. "They don't really needed us as much" typically happens much later in a lot of families.

                            But more to the issue, there is such a focus (not only by you, but by many docs on the forum, Facebook, etc) of "getting to FI," like that's some holy grail. It's not, and this focus robs you of simply living and enjoying work and life. Stop obsessing about it. You're already wealthier than most people on the planet, and if you relax and just keep saving and spending reasonably, it will increase and take care of itself. The RE investing is optional; I only started when I was way-past FI by any measure, and as nearing 60, the "FI" term wasn't even a thing until a few years ago. We simply saved and spent reasonably. You're overthinking all of this.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Anne View Post
                              And can we please stop with the cliche happy wife happy life. Happy spouse happy house.
                              "if the warden isn't happy, nobody is happy?"

                              OP, this sounds like a good time for a babysitter, a bottle of wine, and couples-listening to the "Happiness Curve" curled up in front of a fireplace.