Should I Take 40 Weeks Off Every Year?

Here’s a job description to consider.

 

Wanted: Anesthesiologist to work extraordinarily family friendly schedule. Work one week a month or three weeks every three months. Call is negotiable, but not required. Salary: $72,000 to $108,000 per year.

M.D. Financial ServicesWell, that sounds like a dream job, now doesn’t it? The salary would be enough to cover our typical expenses, and I’d have a boatload of time off to do all those things I wish I had more time to do. If I were willing to accept the low end of that pay scale, I wouldn’t even have to take call!

Where do I sign up?

 

This Job Doesn’t Exist. Or Does It?

 

This job description didn’t come from the classifieds; I made it up. In many ways, it sounds ideal. Although you’re not going to find a listing like this on gaswork.com, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There are groups out there looking for vacation coverage. One could find a group that has occasional needs to cover the busiest times and medical leaves, or a large group that will take whatever time you’re willing to give them.

As a locum tenens provider, you could create your own job that approximates that job description. You might work one week here, a few weeks there, and have long spells off in between. You could certainly limit yourself to ten or twelve weeks a year, or increase your workload if you so desire, and earn enough to not only cover your expenses, but also set some money aside.

An Ideal Position for the Financially Independent Physician?

 

Why wouldn’t I go for a setup like this? One of the biggest risks of an early retirement is the “sequence of returns” risk. If investments perform poorly in the first five to ten years of retirement, you could be selling low in order to cover your expenses, taking a larger percentage of your savings than you originally intended. Yes, the 4% safe withdrawal has been back-tested against such a scenario, but I’m not interested in cutting it close.

Working enough to cover expenses during those initial five to ten years of early retirement could pretty well negate the risk of a market dive in that first decade. You could continue to work until the market rebounds and avoid touching your nest egg throughout a potential bear market.

 

What are the Costs of a Job Like This?

 

To remain an active participant in the physician workforce, there are numerous, substantial fixed costs in terms of money and time. Dr. Roberson covered some of them nicely in a recent guest post, and The Happy Philosopher explored them in detail in his guide to working part time.

Additional costs exist that are more difficult to quantify. I can put a price on CME, licensure, and certifications, but what about opportunity costs?

Committing to work a week a month, or even a few weeks every few months makes it difficult to spend a year with my family learning Spanish in a place like Spain or Costa Rica. We might be able to coordinate a motorhome trip around the country with some locum tenens stints, but I’d rather be guided by weather and our whims than a few different hospital’s needs.

 

costa rica monkeys

costa rica has monkeys!

 

And what about stress? Although I think I handle it rather well, I’ve come to realize that this doctor job is more stressful at times than I was willing to admit. Work-related stress can materialize hours or days before the workday arrives. The last couple days of a week’s vacation can be soured by the thought of having to back to a particularly busy schedule on Monday. Prolonging a career in this manner seriously delays that tension-easing feeling I envision when the burdens of a medical career are lifted off my shoulders for the last time.

Is There an Alternative?

 

I wouldn’t ask the question if there wasn’t.

Let’s say behind Door One is extending a career by ten years, working just enough to cover expenses, leaving the 25-years-of-expenses nest egg untouched throughout the all-important first decade.

Behind Door Two is the alternative. Rather than slowing way down to a subsistence earning level for ten years, keep the pedal to the metal to match what you might have earned in those ten years over a much shorter period of time.

 

john mulligan dublin

look for me behind door two (the bar)

 

How many years is that? In a year of full time work, I can cover the year’s expenses and add another three to four years worth of expenses to our savings. Working one more year two times gets us through a couple years while giving us another six to eight years in spending money. Plus, if the decade turns out to have positive returns like nearly every decade has (1930s being the exception), we benefit from investing those dollars in the first couple years of that decade.

This plan — the Door Two plan — is essentially what I have decided to do since I realized we were financially independent just over a year ago. Every time I contemplate an alternative to full time work, I run some numbers through my head and come to the conclusion that I should just keep on keepin’ on a little while longer.

When I have enough, and I’m ready to leave clinical medicine behind, I can take 52 weeks off a year and leave my worries behind.

 

Other Ways to Cover Expenses

 

While I haven’t completely ruled out the Door One option I described — it would be a good way to keep my skills and license in case I have a change of heart — I’m guessing my doctoring days are probably numbered. My days of earning money may not be.

I don’t expect to do anything that pays as well as my current day / night job. I do expect to keep writing, because I enjoy it, and, as my e-mail subscribers know, I do earn a bit of money doing so.

With more time on my hands, I could consider taking on other projects that I would never be able to consider while working. I don’t have anything in particular in mind, and I may not do anything but the fifty things I said I want to do, and I might actually only follow through with ten of them. But the fact remains that retiring from clinical medicine doesn’t have to mean the end of an income. If I find that I’m bored, I might just find myself in an encore career.

Bring on the Internet Retirement Police.

 

Would you consider what’ behind door number one? A little bit of work for a longer period of time? Or would you press on at full speed as I am?

 


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79 comments

  • Cool, post PoF! In your case, Door 1 or Door 2 look spectacular. I guess it would really depend on which door will provide you more long term fulfillment. If you love being a physician, Door 1 is a great option to practice completely on your terms and still maintain your license. On the other hand, 100% freedom is pretty sweet as well!

    My cousin, who’s also an anesthesiologist, is grappling with his long term plans and location. He works a pretty good gig at a major CA university, but the COLA is killing him. We’re taking a guys trip out to TX next month so he can visit one of his friends who actually made the leap. From the sounds of it, he’s pretty happy and cash flow much healthier. We’re also gonna pig out on BBQ while we’re there. 😉

    • Your cousin could certainly benefit from some geographic arbitrage, but if he’s happy where he’s at, it’s hard to argue with happiness.

      Enjoy the Texas barbecue, and say hello to your cousin from one anesthesiologist to another. I’ll be at the ASA meeting this fall (Boston) right before Fincon, if he happens to be going this year.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • VagabondMD

    As I approach my version of Door #2, which will come to pass at some point in 2017, I have one lingering concern about the sustainability of it. Specifically, how long will I stay sharp enough and engaged enough to practice at a high enough level.

    I have two models for what happens to a radiologist when he/she works half-time, based on experience with colleagues over the year. In typical PoF lingo, we will consider Doctor A and Doctor B.

    Doctor A is a radiologist who loves the practice of radiology. He practices full time into his 70’s and then shifts into a half time role spending his free time in the medical library reading papers, going to the OR to see the outcomes of his interpretations, first hand, and staying active on multiple hospital boards and committees. He is around so much that many of his colleagues do not even realize that he is working part time! He has plenty of free time and more money than he will ever need, all the while being admired by his partners, patients, hospital staff, and referring docs.

    Doctor B is a radiologist who practices full time, at a very high level, for five years after training. After marrying an extremely highly compensated physician, Doctor B opts to go half time, in part to help with raising his children. His motivation at work starts to slip as the main priority is now the home front, seemingly trying to fit the work in while the children are at school or otherwise engaged, and frustrated when there are shifts required that conflict with the home schedule. He no longer keeps up with the literature, participates in hospital committees, and his relationships with referring colleagues starts to slide. After a few years, Doctor B is somewhat marginalized and expendable, and his group does not renew his contract.

    I personally know Doctor A and Doctor B. In fact, I was the guy who let go of Doctor B. We all like to think that there is an ideal balance, where you can perform at a high level as a part timer, yet reap the benefits (financial and increased freedom) of working part time. It may be easier said than done.

    • Mrsytf

      I hate to say I agree. I opted for door#1, aka doctor B. We are close to FI and my husband is still working so I was going to throw in the towel. At the urging of my dept head who kept stating I was so young in my career, the kids will get older, etc etc I opted for part time. They even let me create my ideal schedule. Sounded good on paper but in real life, I am having a hard time staying engaged. I think when you are ready to go, just go.

    • Thanks for sharing, Vagabond. Of course, I’d like to be seen as more of a Dr. A, but let’s be honest. That won’t be me.

      While I remain engaged and up to date, I do find the schedule conflicts and minor family hardships more frustrating. When the EHR doesn’t do what I want it to do, I’m more apt to lose my s^*#t.

      Having FI makes me realize I don’t need to be doing any of it. Still, the thought of walking away and quitting cold turkey seems unfathomable. Very slowly warming up to the idea.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Hmmm, if I had to choose one option, I’d go with door #2. Go full bore for a couple more years and then get out entirely. I think if you go for door #1, you’d limp along for ten years wishing you were completely out and potentially not enjoying your 40 weeks of vacation! It’s a risk.

    With option #2, you could always decide to go back in the first year or so, but you would know that it was 100% optional which would be a very different mindset.

    Frankly, either option is great, but I would say that #2 is the way to go.

    • I think you’re right. It makes more sense to me. There will probably be some kind of taper if I can manage it. A year working part-time with some longer stretches off will give me a better idea of what it’s like to not be so busy.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Great post!
    Please continue to explore this important subject. Maybe eventually you can add a few more doors? Doctors need an array of choices.
    I am ambivalent about my choices. FI brings options but also makes the choices less clear. I cut back from 60 hours/week to 40. I enjoy it more and the money is still good. I am also 70% clinical and 30% admin. I have time to lead, learn, travel and teach. Maybe I will continue or cut back more?

  • I’m definitely a door number 2 type of person. Door 1 does have stability risks. Also there is no guarantee a lower pay encore job will be enjoyable. It could be even worse then the full time gig if your unlucky enough to get a bad boss. I do plan on working post retirement and have even kicked around the idea of being a professor a few hours a week. However if I do go there it will be a hobby with a paycheck, not something I measure in my numbers.

    • Good point, FTF. The “encore career” might be a better way to go. For a physician, one that doesn’t have the malpractice risk and the heavy carrying costs.

      I didn’t mention it above, but working only a week per month might not be enough for many docs to keep their skills sharp.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • I would press on for a year at my higher paying job over working a lower paying job to hedge.

    If I am going to “work” then it will be something I want to do, not something I feel obligated to.

  • When the right opportunity comes along, you’ll know it. Several things including Mrs CK finding a dream retirement gig, hitting FI, and the potential for some sweet travel made me call it earlier than planned. If it were not for the opportunity I might have stuck on a few more years and had a tougher time making a decision.

    Whether it’s something like option 1 or something completely different, you mind might change when presented the right opportunity.

    I also think income might still come my way one day. For now I plan to do what I love and maybe an opportunity to make money doing those things will come along. I’ve already been places and met people I never would have sitting in a cubicle.

  • your ideal job description is interesting. At our current hospital employed job we use locums whenever we travel.. Our locums job is probably the best I could imagine. We use them about 5-7 days a month on average…just covering call for our patients and ER. It is a 24/7 gig but usually not busy at all. Interestingly, the trend I’ve noticed is that the docs working these gigs are in rough financial situations rather than working to supplement financial independence…..one guy is in his 70s and told me he does it because he didn’t save enough for retirement, another is in the military and uses his vacation time to supplement his military salary which doesn’t quite cover his mortgage, kids private school, and Range Rover, and another works to supplement a new solo practice that still isn’t making overhead after two years. Yikes. Needless to say I’ve (strongly) recommended your website to all of them. Also, I think a PoF book could also add to your income stream regardless of door 1 or 2…just saying.

    • Interesting take, MMD. I was an eager locums doc early in my career. I worked all the hours I could get. Now, a gig like you describe does sound pretty nice.

      Maybe that fill-in job will be available to you when you’re ready to slow down and someone takes your place. You could vacation 2 – 3 weeks per month!

  • Mr. Mt and I both really enjoy working, but in this season of life, it’s better to do it on our own terms. We could have pushed through for 3 or 5 more years and never had to work a day again, but knowing us, we will be working anyways. So taking a year off seemed to make more sense.

  • mike

    When I turned 50 , I took approx a week off per month and started to give away call . Then 55 came I started to take 2 weeks off per month but still on the call schedule with occasional weekends and holidays which sucked. Finally at 59 , I retired and help maybe 4 days a month and help by filling in afternoons for somebody that needs to get out . Having a great time with my grandson in the afternoons.

    • That sounds like a great life, Mike.

      Are you required to keep up with certifications, like MOC, ACLS, BLS, PALS, NRP, etc…? I think anesthesia has more requirements than most.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • mike

        As far as MOC goes no , I am grandfathered in (pun not intended 🙂 ). Our institution does not have continued ACLS upkeep requirements for anesthesia on a formal basis.

  • Oooh this is a good point. I’m of the Door #2 mindset so I’m done with work after a shorter amount of time. But on the flipside I can see how working less would be emotionally beneficial. Hell, I would probably love my job if I only did it part-time and had more time to devote to the things I love. Maybe all we really need is a more balanced work schedule, who knows.

  • I would think Door #2 may be the most beneficial to all, as long as you do finally make the exit. You’ve hit the theoretical number already, you just want to be sure. It allows you to be sure doing what you already know and are use to, which is probably lower stress when compared with Door #1. Lots of unknowns in #1.

    Of course, couldn’t you do door#2 in a foreign location and thus kill two birds with one stone?

    I’m so glad that you have worked incredibly hard to even have the options.

  • Most doctors I know would probably want to go full throttle a few years and just hang up their hats, simply because some professions just aren’t amenable to locums work. Who would want their oncologist to be there for only a week?

    Some groups often allow senior partners to slowly cut back until they retire, but there is a cost to the employer certain full-time benefits. If you work at a university, part-time options would be few and far in between.

    Would I take Door #2? Absolutely. Shoot, I’d still be willing to work 20 weeks a year!

  • Just rip off the durn band-aid, Doc! Spending 10 years trying not to mangle any follicles just sounds like torture.

    And my experience with “dream jobs” is that they’re kind of a moving target, anyway. All of which is to say that Door #1 sounds kinda like a prison sentence you’d get from a grumpy judge who should’ve retired about 10 years ago.

    I’ll also add that the sequence of returns risk is often overstated. Dialing a 4% withdrawal rate back to 3.5% and keeping approximately 75% of the portfolio in equities is basically bulletproof in all scenarios. Plus, even a modest spending reduction in the face of an equities market correction/bear market pays big dividends. So I certainly wouldn’t sentence myself to a decade of mealy-mouthed soap-dropping because of sequence risk. 🙂

    • Huh, Mr. FL has said a bunch of stuff on my mind. Even Dr. PIE (aka Dr. Conservative Pants) is amazed how much emphasis seems to be put on the SoR risk. Saying that, I am fortunate to have a pension so that level of base-line income supports a lower WR for us already.

      I think with your portfolio, the $ numbers you showed on Investment Zen, plans to add to it considerably over next two years and your smarts to dial things back as necessary (I doubt you will have to do that much), you and your family will do just tickety-boo. Hang that white-coat up, get out of dodge and live the lifestyle you and and your family deserve. Now that’s you told!! :>)

      Seriously, kick through door#2 like it is part of a wild-west saloon. Down a six-pack of your favorite beers and don’t look the hell back.

    • There are a couple of other strategies to help with sequence of return risk. One: have several years worth of cash and short term fixed income securities. That way you won’t be forced to sell equity shares in a down or declining market. and/or Two: Just spend the dividends from the equities (along with any bond interest) without selling the shares. That way the income can continue while reducing SoR risk and reverse dollar cost averaging risk.

  • I chose door 1.5, or part-time fairly consistent work, so take what comes next with a grain of salt.

    Door 1 makes the most overall sense if you can handle it for a while longer.

    Door 2 sounds great in theory, but you mentioned the stress that can rear its ugly head days before and days after a rough shift. It gets worse the less you work because the difference between your normally lovely life and your shifts becomes more noticeable. Your baseline, or ‘normal’ life is vacation, not work, so work seems more abnormal and more stressful.

    Add to this that you’d potentially be at a new place with a new EMR, new staff, and new protocols, and a boatload of credentialing paperwork every few months, and it’s like you’re starting a new job every time. Even at the same job, a lot can change in three months.

    I always found the first few weeks of any new job incredibly stressful, especially when lives are on the line. You don’t even know where to park or where the restroom is, much less who you can trust when S#%! hits the fan.

  • Those are some nice doors to choose from. We’re sort of already in that situation. Currently, we need to keep full bore for another 2 years to get our “free and clear” number. However, Mrs. SSC is loving the teaching gig and could see herself doing it for much more than 2 more years. If she were to get a position outside of Houston in under 2 years, we’d be close enough to our number that depending on her salary, we could relocate and go that route – Door #1.

    I’d be a stay at home dad, and she’d teach and we’d have summers free, long breaks, and a lot free-er schedule. We wouldn’t hit our FI number for 4-6 yrs after that because our growth would be pretty much only thru the market growth. However, if her position covered our living expenses, we’d take it in a heartbeat. Fingers crossed!

    The alternative, Door #2, is our current plan, with the agreement that we’d take Door #1 as soon as it’s available.

  • PathMD

    How timely. I have wanted to go part-time for a few years but for group reasons I was unable to. This placed me at door#2 for the last few years and can now completely retire. However, I have decided to go part time about 1-2 weeks a month after taking a brief break. I will give this a year and if I don’t enjoy it will then retire completely. Being FI gives me the flexibility to continue the parts of pathology that I enjoy without the administrative HAs. I suspect that I will enjoy working again on the occasional basis with plenty of time to cycle, travel and family time.

  • Either door looks enticing, have to say it’s better if you can take door #2 as that seems like a better long term choice…. although it could be potentially more stressful.

  • With your stash, door #1 looks awesome! Working 1 week on, 3 weeks off might get old fast and you might want to work 0 weeks on and 4 weeks off though 🙂

  • Laura

    I’m using locums as door #1.75. Cutting back on my hours from 100+ to 50-60 with 10 weeks off per year instead of 2, and getting to travel with my family at the same time. I think I’m getting the best of both worlds here, since I am keeping up with my clinicals but getting to see how others manage things.

    • Wow! You’ve cut your hours in half and are still working like mad.

      How is the family enjoying your travels? I did my full time locums work prior to having children. Our boys are now old enough where they could travel pretty well, though.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • So what do you do when a pension is involved. If I work until 60 years old (sounds like forever) I get a hefty sum of money each year and free health insurance for life. I am still considered eligible for the pension working 60% (12 days a month). So my thoughts were to go full time for 5 to 10 years, then decrease to somewhere between 60-80% and ride it out. I agree with the thought, knowing you have to go back to work can damper the spirits near the end of a 2 week stretch off, but the financial benefits of a pension are pretty amazing.

    • Golden Handcuffs. Definitely complicates the decision making.

      I think you’re approaching it intelligently. Work full time, get yourself a 7-figure net worth, then slow down and take it one year at a time. Finding a good work-life balance from that point on might make 60 quite feasible.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • I walked through door #2 and I am putting in the extra years right now. I have to admit though, that I am still not 100% sure that this is the right decision. Will it buy us peace of mind for years to come? Absolutely. Is my daughter growing older every extra year that I put in? Damn. Yes.

  • I think I would pick neither door and just peace out and retire early. For me, my job is just a job. It’s a means to an end. Granted I am several years away from reaching the point of financial independence, but that’s what I hope I would do. I think when the time comes I’ll be ready to hang up my stethoscope and leave medicine.

    • Peace, out!

      I wonder if I would have felt that way if I had started earnestly working toward FIRE years earlier. I feel like I have to give it a couple years, just to make sure I’m not having a midlife crisis of some kind! #NoRegrats

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • GXA

    Great post. We are in similar situations – similar age, recently FI, still working full tilt.

    My plan is to continue full time for some more years and then cut back to part time. The part time work will provide benefits, eliminate the sequence risk, and in EM give me 3 weeks off a month. So I guess I will be exploring both doors.

    The beauty of FI is that there is no pressure…

    • Right on, GXA!

      I plan to press on until all financial goals are met. After that, it would behoove me to give part-time a shot, or at least hang on to my licenses and credentials until I am absolutely certain that I am OK walking away.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • If you are happy and not burned out then door 2 gives the most options in the future, while door 1 trades those future earning for more time now. All being equal door 2 is the better option if you are happy with your job. There are many options between 1 and 2 though. The challenge is making that calculation and trying to figure out what will make you the happiest in the long run. It sounds simple, but is quite challenging to juggle all the variables and make a rational decision.

  • Honestly, that sounds like a great job! If jobs like that actually existed (in one place), I might be tempted to go back to work!

    In my field there are no certifications that need to be kept up to date, so worse case if the sequence of returns kills me, I can probably just jump into a lower paid contracting position.

    I wouldn’t look for a highly paid job anymore, something low stress and easy if I ever go back.

    Interestingly enough, I probably make as much today NOT working as I ever did working… for the time being, there’s little incentive to do w-2 work.

    • That’s the beauty of having a big old portfolio doing the work for you, isn’t it?

      While I couldn’t go back to anesthesia after a few years away, it’s not like I couldn’t find gainful employment of some kind if I wanted / needed to someday. I have no idea what that might be, but I’ll bet my MD is good for something.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • Curt Morrison, MD, FACC, CFA

        I know of an anesthesiologist who was away 10 years before returning. She arranged a preceptorship for some period of time and then resumed independent work.

        I was away for 13 years before returning to cardiology, albeit non-invasive upon my return. It can be done if you are determined.

        Consider a one-year sabbatical. I sold my critical care staffing business at 34 and applied for cardiology fellowship. I was accepted to begin the following year and I spent the year checking off bucket list items. I’ve known quite a few physicians who have done something similar. You may find yourself looking forward to a return by the end of the sabbatical, but if not you can simply sail off into retirement.

        • Thank you for sharing, Dr. Morrison. It’s comforting to know not all is lost after an extended absence.

          I’ve decided to approach my upcoming resignation as just that — a sabbatical. It could become permanent, but if I find I miss it for any reason, I could return to a job that suits me best, i.e. one that doesn’t require call!

          Glad to hear you were able to check off some bucket list items as a young man.

          Best,
          -PoF

  • I’m standing at the doors right now trying to make a decision. I even did a Twitter poll about it the other day. 76% said take the “Door 2” option. After a highly stressful day today, I’d close Door 2 real quick. But after a quieter day – it seems like a no brainer to hang in there one more year and then not deal with the part-time work at all. I have a couple months to decide – which is a very good thing. Even with a doctorate in decision analysis this one is a challenge…

  • ER guy

    This is such a great discussion and love all the input.

    I am not financially independent but well on the way. I made the decision to go half time last year which as an ER doctor is pretty easy to do. I work around 7 shifts a month and do a few admin things which average me out to around 80 hrs / month.

    Could I have gone full bore and retired in a few more years? Yeah, probably. However, I am so so much happier with my job and life overall after making this decision. I know that I am a better doctor this year than I was working full time. When you are tired, burned out and working because you have to , you just aren’t as good of a doctor. I read vagabond MD comment and thought, wow, I may be the exception. I really think I am better at my job working half time.

    For now, I know that this was the right decision. I get to spend a ton of time with my kids while they are still young and enjoy work again. True, I will have to work longer to get to FIRE but I think the trade off is worth it for me .

    • Drsan1

      Er guy, I appreciate your comment. As a hospitalist I already do shift work so that’s what I wonder, would I be happier or more miserable working half time or in stretches and taking selected months off. For me it’s still about 10 years away (when my youngest is done with school). I would probably need to travel some for various jobs. Again this thread has given me a lot to think about.

      • ER guy

        There are different ways to look at this. Why would you wait ten years to decrease your work? Why wait until your kids are gone? To me, that is the time to be home and enjoy being a parent. I would rather be home a lot and work a little than work really hard to be done when my kids are out of the house.

        I get the idea of losing skills but think that working a week a month allows you to keep up your skills IF you enjoy your work and are engaged in it.

    • Excellent perspective.

      I think it’s definitely possible to have the best of both worlds. Happy to hear it’s working out for you. I may just follow in your footsteps eventually.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Jacq

    I am hoping work in FI can be remote, showing up to an office 12 weeks a year or less. I’m in!
    Only I figure I have about 10 more years to FI. I do need some time to build up my reputation of my work ethic so people believe I will work just as hard from home as the office. Plus saving up money. 🙂
    My aim for FI is possibly consulting work, but less stress about always having a gig, or working a job that pays less maybe part time that is a smidge more fun (park ranger or working at a winery are top contenders). 🙂

  • Great comments today, and I hope to respond to many of them individually.

    With an ACLS refresher class, family dinner, leccion de español, homebrew club, and curling playoffs, today was a good day, but left almost no time to reply.

    The in between option, working half time, is one that I’ve explored in detail, and remains a shorter term possibility. Thank you all for continuing the conversation.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  • Drsan1

    This is an awesome Post!! As a hospitalist that has always been my pre/semi retirement plan… do locums and work less. But your right and so many of the other comments have pointed out that it may be more beneficial to just go full steam longer and quit all together. I’m still at least 10 years away from either option, but this thread has really given me a lot to think about. There’s defenitely ups and downs to both.

  • eric

    I think it would be nice to always have money coming in. Part time work like this and taking 2% instead of 4% until 65 yo would be a good idea. Especially if you are a doctor and have to work in order to maintain a medical license.

    Once you fully retire at 65 you can take 3, 3.5 or 4%. Since you didn’t take as much in the early years, odds are you money has grown as well. Win Win.

    In my situation I recently started to look at my schedule and started to put in much more vacation time.
    I guess I’m building up to that one week a month schedule.

    • “eric: December 14, 2016 at 5:01 pm
      I think it would be nice to always have money coming in. Part time work like this and taking 2% instead of 4% until 65 yo would be a good idea. Especially if you are a doctor and have to work in order to maintain a medical license.”

      Eric, I love this idea. I haven’t seen it explored much. I’m thinking about cutting back more and using my investments to supplement the difference. One easy way is to just stop reinvesting dividends. That income is taxed at a lower rate. The rest can come from my municipal bond income. That way there is minimal damage to my portfolio or tax bill. Since I’m only spending dividends generated by the shares and not the shares themselves they can continue to grow over time. What do you think? Does anyone know someone who did something like this?

      • Jeff D

        Go check out MrTakoEscapes.com, that’s exactly what he is doing.

      • Based on what I know about you, I think you would be fine if you retired yesterday, but there is a psychological benefit to spending the dividends only. The benefit is psychological only, but I get it.

        I prefer to look at total return only, as dividends are essentially a forced sale of a small portion of your holdings, but when you’re not the one pulling the trigger, it feels more like “free money.”

        Best,
        -PoF

        • Yes, you are right. I would be fine, financially. I would miss working though. I love having time off but the true calling of medicine is something special to me. At any rate, back to the topic at hand: I basically agree. It isn’t all clear in my head well enough to be able to articulate though. Maybe it is all just psychology. That’s ok if it is. I know investors who live off dividends though and they think there is more too it. Some of the things I have heard include focusing on dividend producing companies helps us focus on companies with excellent management and who are conservative. They are older and with a proven track record or even a monopoly. Dividends are just a share of a portion of the extra income that the company generated that quarter. The investor still owns the shares but is sharing in the profits. During a down market selling shares can cause problems with SOR risk and rDCA. But in a down market the dividend yield actually goes up and the cash -generally- keeps coming. Over time the equity grows outpacing inflation even though cash is siphoned off every quarter. I think there are many ways to tap into investment assets. Cashing dividend checks is an easy, hands-off way though. Yes, they decide how much and when but it is based on what the directors think is a safe, conservative payment. I think I will stop rambling now though .. .since I have to go deposit my dividend checks from December. They total to more than the average American family’s annual income. It is a little embarrassing but mostly a blessing.

  • Great post, I have thought about this many times. I am currently working as a traveling physical therapist taking 3 month contracts around the country and am about 3.5 years from FI if I continue to work full time straight through. On the other hand, I could take a three month assignment then take three months off to travel and then repeat, effectively only working 6 months per year and still be at FI in 7 years. Every time I consider doing this, I decide against it because I feel that I would likely become rusty with some of my skills and lose some confidence after a 3 month break. It’s definitely has some appeal to me though, especially being able to travel in the fifth wheel all over the US between assignments.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Jared. With a locums job like that, you’ve got the freedom to find the schedule that works best. Maybe it’s three months on, three weeks off and FI in 4 to 4.5 years. The reality is, when you’re as close as you are, the return from your investments will likely dictate your FI date as much or more than monies contributed from work. The fact does remain that you’ll get there quicker by working more, though, regardless of what Mr. Market delivers.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Andrine

    This is the one instance where being a veterinarian can “pay off”. I’m not quite at a point where I could chose door A anyways, but I would remain engaged as a door B person. A habitual moonlighter, having a full time schedule gives me an excuse and reason to say no. If I tried to go full-time locum work, I would way overpack my schedule, figuring I will make money while its available to me and then take time off….but I never take the time off. It would be a real struggle for a workaholic like me. I would need to be on or off.

    But, for someone that doesn’t have that personality, its easy to be a part-time vet. You either find a practice where your treatment options consistent of a scalpel, dexamethasone, or cephalexin (sadly, a fair number of these places still exist) or you do vaccine clinics. Clinics are fun and easy and pay quite well. The benefit of being in a less-specialized field…we have more options than physicians do in the part-time/take it easy market.

  • Kristina

    I would recommend you think about what other members of your family want out of the coming years. I’m a pediatrician and mother of a 12 and 15 year old. I have 6.5 years until I have an empty nest and will make my life choices based on what is best for me and my husband, but for now, my kids want to be here, in their home town with their friends. They want me around a little bit, but not too much. A year and a half ago we took a 6 month sabbatical and traveled around the world. We all enjoyed it, but we’re happy to come home, especially my kids. We have reached a minimal FI now, but if I quit work now, my adolescents would not want to follow my dreams and I would not want to leave them. For my life, I’ve decided to pace myself for theses two decades while I’m (trapped or having the prove ledge of) raising the children. I’ve always worked a 0.6 or 0.5 FTE which has allowed me to have a life outside of medicine, but also have the benefits of a career. Vacation is more fun in contrast to work and work is better appreciated when you get a chance to miss it a little. I learned this especially on my sabbatical. Part time work also gives you the time to explore and persue other actives. I would think it would be hard to go from full throttle to nothing, and hard to abandon your lucrative and hard won skills. Obviously, I’m biased towards the choices I’ve made and every family is different, but I offer my perspective for your consideration.

  • Kristina

    Ok, what I really want to tell you is take your sabbatical or cut back your hours now before your kids become tweens and start the separation process. If you need more money you can work later when they don’t have time for you anymore. Not to be harsh, but these life stages are normal and often take parents by surprise.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s insightful to hear from someone who has been in similar shoes.

      What makes the most sense to us right now is exactly what you did — take a sabbatical. Ours will be open ended, and if I decide to return to an anesthesia career, I know what to look for to have the life I want. Flexible schedule, no call, etc… Fortunately, jobs like that are out there in my specialty. Might be more difficult in other fields.

      Thanks again, Kristina!
      -PoF

  • pulmdoc

    For me, it all comes down to why I would be working part time. If it’s to improve my financial security, I choose door #2. If it’s to keep from going stir crazy at home and to keep my foot in the door in case I had to work full time again, I choose door #1. I am fortunate to be in a specialty (pulm/CC) that easily amenable to part time/locums work, and my full time job already involves 26 weeks off as an intensivist (although I work part time during my weeks “off” to speed along FI). It’s hard to long for retirement when you already have a good amount of free time available in your regular schedule.

  • John

    This article, especially with the comments, is really on point. I’m very early on in my anesthesiology career (which I hope will be short FIRE style), making an incredible salary, and I’ve been gearing towards Door #1. I love the work and income but hate the drama, interpersonal dynamics, committee meetings after committee meetings, single location lifestyle and cookie cutter vacation weeks, and everything else that goes along with a full time employed position.

    This leaves locums as a very attractive option, allowing the freedom to work semi-retired on my terms while also being able to work in exotic places, do some more wandering shoestring traveling while I’m relatively young, medical missions work abroad (a high priority for me to do at least once), etc. Sure; I could go all-out on banking as much salary as possible and be in your position by 41, but I’d rather be a little more free a little younger, and find my balance between the work I enjoy and the freedom I want. And as you mentioned, there’s always the option of working more in some years if desired and traveling more in some years. A full time employed position offers none of this, no matter how many more “just a few more years” cycles one goes through to become just a little more secure.

    I do think there’s a big difference between considering these questions in the early 30’s vs. once you’ve already hit FI. I wonder if your plan would be different if you wrote this article 10 years ago instead of today.

    • You make some great points, John. When I started in 2006, I did nothing but locum tenens for two years, working in 5 states over that timeframe. I actually e-mailed the Guinness Book of World Records to see if practicing in all 50 states would land me a spot in the book. They said “No.”

      I did take a three-week break to travel around Europe with my bride-to-be and later that year a couple weeks off for a honeymoon in Alaska. But most of the time, I worked pretty hard.

      I hear you on the location independence and freedom. It was awesome when we were engaged and newlyweds. Less appealing when we had babies at home. Now, we’re in a spot where our boys are becoming more independent with ADLs and are getting that wanderlust back.

      I will be transitioning to a great part-time schedule this fall (an update since first writing this post).

      Cheers!
      -PoF

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