Beyond Enough

Today’s article is an original guest post from the White Coat Investor.

Like the good Dr. Dahle, I have crossed the threshold of having Enough to consider our family financially independent, but I continue to work one more year after another.

Read further as he delves into some of the lifestyle and financial considerations for those of us in the extremely fortunate position of having Enough and then some.

 

Beyond Enough

 

Physician on FIRE (the blog, not the person) is all about Financial Independence and Retiring Early. Over the last year or so, I’ve had to grapple with an issue that is new to me.

While I’ve discovered that both financial independence and retirement are a little bit squishy rather than some hard and fast concept, I’ve basically arrived. And I’m not done. I’m not done working. I’m not done saving. I’m not done giving. Whenever possible, I’m trying to align my actual life with my ideal life. But, like PoF, I’m trying to figure out what the rest of my life is going to look like.

 

Enough” is a critical concept in life. If you have never bothered to figure out how much money is Enough money for you, i.e. Enough that you never need to work again, it’s certainly a worthwhile exercise. If you never do that, you might blow right through it doing something you don’t want to do for much longer than you should have. In this post, I wanted to explore what happens when you get “Beyond Enough.”

 

Changing Goals

 

One issue I have run into is that I seem to keep revising my original financial goals. Whereas I used to think that $2 Million was Enough ($2.7M in today’s dollars), we seem to have found Enough other stuff to spend money on that brings us additional happiness, especially when combined with our progressive tax code, that $4-5M now seems to be our number.

Our old plan for our children was to provide Enough money to cover tuition only at our alma mater, something like $25K. Now we’re thinking $50-100K a piece saved up in advance for college and graduate/professional school.

We also donate more to charity every year and while we don’t have hard and fast charitable giving goals, would also like to be able to do more in that department.

 

Reducing Risk

 

William Bernstein, MD famously said, “When you win the game, stop playing.” Once you get to “Enough,” especially if you plan to continue engaging in paid work of some type, you can reduce the financial risk in your life.

That can refer to having a less aggressive portfolio (more bonds, fewer stocks) or deleveraging your life (paying off the mortgage.) You can even hire a low-cost financial advisor to reduce the risk of your partner mismanaging the money if something happens to you. Or buy longevity insurance you would not have gotten otherwise. The point is, you can afford to take less risk, so consider doing so.

 

Changing Professionals Goals

M.D. Financial Services
Once you no longer have to work, or even just as you approach that point, it is time to take a deep, introspective look at your professional and life goals and what is likely to make you happy.

Most of us like our job at least a little bit. Why not find those things you like, and do more of them and find those things you don’t like, and do less of them?

While you may not like working 40 hours a week, working 10-15 might be much better than zero for various non-financial reasons. There are also parts of your job that you may not like, in addition to the sheer volume of work.

Perhaps you can drop call or night shifts. Perhaps you can arrange to work at a slower pace, spending more time with your patients. In my case, as I approached FI I reduced my total hours by 25%, dropped my overnight shifts, and dropped some administrative duties that were eating up an additional evening a month.

Now I enjoy work much more. One more reduction in hours and I could actually enjoy practicing medicine well into my 60s.

[PoF: I’ll be starting my own “work less” experiment this fall,  when I drop 40% of my clinical workload.]

 

Perhaps you want to do a completely different job, such as the classic encore careers of cooking, art, or being a river guide. Now that you no longer need your career to pay you gobs of money, you have all kinds of additional choices available to you.

 

louvre sculptures

future museum guides?

 

Not Having To Maximize Financial Assets

 

Another beautiful aspect of being “Beyond Enough” is you no longer have an obligation to your family and yourself to maximize your financial assets.

You can leave your money in a bank that pays a little less interest than is possible, just because you like the location. You can keep your business in the family, even though someone else is offering you more than a fair price for it. You can make business and personal decisions that earn less money, but align better with your values.

 

Asset Protection

 

Asset protection becomes a more important aspect of your life as your assets grow. While purchasing personal and professional liability insurance, maxing out your retirement accounts, placing rental properties and other toxic assets into LLCs, and titling your home properly probably compose an adequate asset protection plan for someone who is still accumulating, as your assets grow you may be willing to spend more and give up other benefits in exchange for additional asset protection.

Perhaps you want to establish some irrevocable trusts. Maybe the low returns available on cash value life insurance matter less to you. Perhaps the expense of setting up a family limited partnership now makes sense.

One of my partners, now retired, at the advice of his advisors, decided the risks of practicing medicine now outweighed the joy he got from it. He simply had too much to risk it all on an above-policy-limits lawsuit, despite the low likelihood of that ever occurring.

 

Estate planning

 

If you continue to work, earn, and save “Beyond Enough,” you may find you are now going to have an estate tax problem you never anticipated.

Perhaps a business you started is going to cause you liquidity issues. You now have Enough money that if you left it all behind to your children, it would ruin them. Warren Buffett plans to leave Enough to his heirs that they can do anything they want, but not nothing. Estate planning used to be a rather minor part of your financial life. It is now probably a lot more significant.

 

“Beyond Enough” is a great place to be. The problems it brings are all “first world problems.” But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth solving.

What do you think? Are you Beyond Enough? Did you continue earning money after hitting Enough? How did that change your financial plans? How did your life change “Beyond Enough?” Comment below!

 


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19 comments

  • I certainly feel like I’m beyond “enough”, but that won’t stop me from continuing to play monopoly. 🙂 I think it’s important to keep growing, building, and giving – for myself as well as for others.

    Having “enough” does allow you to play the game differently and at a pace of your choosing. You can take breaks, pursue passions, and simply smell the roses (especially with your family & friends).

  • Congrats on getting to this point! I’m sure it hasn’t been easy and most people will never realize just what it’s taken for you to get here.

    I’ve been wrestling with the same concept of “enough” as I’ve begun to reduce my clinical hours as well. Posts like this really help, so thanks! I hope I’ll know when I’ve arrived.

    Good luck in the “beyond enough” era.

  • Just the title of this post when I saw it in my inbox gave me so many thoughts to consider. While this is a great post, my mind initially went to “stop complaining; stop worrying; look around and count your blessings.” I also have beyond enough and I, personally, need to remind myself of that. Then take time to slow down and appreciate… well, everything!

    Thanks for inspiring these thoughts in me this morning! 🙂

  • I hit what I call ‘financial flexibility’, about 4 years ago, where I realized that I didn’t have to work full time, and I could find fun hustles. So, I left full time work at that time. But, then last year, I hit the point where my rental income covers all my basic living expenses and I have enough in my retirement accounts to never work, if I so decided. However, I do continue to work part time. Right now, I’m averaging a little over 20 hours a week. I will also be taking extended months-long breaks in between projects. This is a good balance for me, because I do like my career and I don’t have children. Plus, with the extra income, I don’t have to tap into my retirement funds right now and that is helpful in case the market takes a turn or I experience a major set back with the rental properties. It also allows me a nice hefty travel and giving fund. 🙂

  • My goal is to go beyond enough. Mainly because their is a disconnect between my dollar target and my retirement date. The latter is planned for much later. I think I can deal with more then enough,

  • Congrats on your rapid ascent to “enough.” It isn’t easy to grow wealth faster than the appetite to spend.
    I think there are stages of enough. Being debt-free and having a year of expenses set aside provides “enough” financial security to change jobs slowly. Having several years of expenses would allow a mid-career sabbatical. Having enough assets to produce income covering the basics of food, clothing, housing, insurance, etc. provides a lot of options. Having FI -which is the “enough” here- covers all of your needs and a lot of wants allows the most choices including cutting back or quitting. Financial freedom – maybe “beyond enough”? offers a more self-actualized life of values. This could be world travel, or more charitable donations or more time to focus on helping patients. It is a journey worth traveling. Thanks for helping so many doctors get there!

  • HarjotSingh

    Changing goals is a major thing- it’s about what life shows you as you go through it. There is a new vantage point and things look different- such is life. The point you raise about college expenses is a big one. Higher education expenses are so variable – you can get it next to nothing and of course, there are super expensive options. Would it feel like a denial of opportunity if one of your children wishes to go to an Ivy league school and does get in? I am not looking for an intellectual answer here, how would it feel if you think you are under-prepared financially and now your child may end up with big loans. But going to such school can make getting to a good graduate school and then getting a good job easier, especially outside of the field of medicine.

  • Ahh having beyond enough would be great. Right now we have enough, but not beyond that. The beauty of FI is that you can choose what to do next based on desire and not cash!

  • Cardonfire

    Totally agree to this article. Myself has reached ‘enough’ and kind of burned out so looking to change to part time with more time to be mom and hopefully keep myself from totally quit to work 5 years or longer. It’s kind of nice to know that options are there when not have to stressed out about bringing home enough money to live.

  • We reached more than enough over a year ago but decided to work until last October, which was when my husband became eligible to collect a small pension. It covers approximately half of our expenses.

    Having more than enough helped me reframe my last year of work, when my job duties and stress took a turn for the worse. The fact that I could have quit in an instant if I wanted to helped keep me sane.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post. I’ve been formulating some personal goals but haven’t come to a conclusion about several things. One is whether I still have any passion to explore my singing talent, which has been dormant for decades.

  • As these terms of enough and beyond enough start to apply to me, I notice I start to redefine them. When they are far away they have a solid definition of “enough” (4% SWR or 2 million dollars or whatever), but as they approach and I get there I change the goal posts. (Maybe I need more for medical care, or if taxes go up, or for charity or…whatever).

    JD Roth talks about this stage as abundance, the final stage of financial freedom. I like that framing.

  • Martdoc

    Would WCI rethink/post the blog post on how much you need in retirement then? If the number he thinks he needs in retirement more than doubled compared to his earlier estimates, I am guessing he rethought his assumptions on what a physician needs in retirement and how much wealth is needed to provide that throughout retirement.

    • As noted in the post, partly the “number” increased with inflation, and partly just with the fact that we consciously decided to spend more and give more to our kids. I bet a lot of people in our situation have the same dilemma with moving goalposts and realizing that enough might be a little higher than you thought it was. Hopefully they don’t keep moving.

  • Definitely not to enough or of course beyond enough. I think I will asses everything as I get closer, although I do have a vision of how I want my life to look and the kind of “work” I want to do…since I will have more time. I know it involves me doing passion projects, but I won’t necessarily depend on the income. Of course it would be nice to have too. 🙂

  • eric

    Thanks for helping us with this journey!

    I always say arrgggh when I try to assess ‘enough’. For me (and I think lots of others in my situation (married, young children)) I believe that it is hard to define.

    Sure, I can retire now, watch my spending and live comfortably until the ripe old age of 100, but for me enough is the point where I’ve been able to set my kids on the road to success and don’t have to worry too much about what I spend in the future. So, like $100 million dollars??? No, that’s more than enough… $5 million, no that’s not enough…. Arrrggghhh. Maybe I’ll just work until I keel over….. No, that’s not right either.

    Thanks for helping me continue to think it through. 10 more years, that’s enough of work, no, that’s too much…., 5 more years, no that’s not enough….. See how much progress I’m making!!!!?????

    😉

  • I’m also at the point of enough but like many people I’ve moved the goal posts a bit to target “enough +” for the extra financial peace of mind and to give me a little extra to take investment risks with (as a hobby). Most importantly, my wife and I are still sorting out what our new lives would look like. Until we have something we are both excited to retire to (vs from), then it makes sense to stay with our high paying jobs and high savings rates since we generally like our work.

    I’m jealous of those working part time since that seems like a perfect option to rebalance both fulfilling work and personal activities. In my job that isn’t possible so I’ll have to make a complete transition away from my current work if I decide I no longer want to continue as-is.

    It’s certainly a beyond-first-world problem but it’s still a stark life transition to face that is psychologically challenging.

  • Really good article. For me, beyond enough is part of my goal of wanting to leave a sizable legacy and am completely committed to ensuring if something were to ever happen to me my wife and daughter would be better than “just OK”.
    I like how you discussed reducing risk. I haven’t exactly thought of it like that. Something new to ponder. What’s interesting to me, is as the trend of the rising interest rates continues, it could become a matter of reducing risk but still getting a decent return with bonds or even something as simple as a CD. crazy thought.

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