I See Dead People

A few weeks ago, I was handed a copy of the next day’s surgery center operating room schedule. Normally, my eyes scan down to the list of procedures, but I became fixated on the top of the page. For some reason, this particular schedule had a list of about twenty physician’s last names, the physicians who are credentialed to care for patients at the facility.

 

Two were dead.

 

Of the twenty or so physicians on the list, a list that hadn’t been updated in a couple years, two were now deceased. That’s ten percent.

Both passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, and one of the two had been about my same age.

That evening, I thought about the other docs I knew who passed away in their prime. The beloved pediatrician who died from cancer in his fifties. The anesthesiologist who had a tragic fall on an ill-fated walk home. The other anesthesiologist who never let on that he was privately fighting demons. They got the best of him in a very public way. And of course, I can’t forget our friend, Dr. Amanda Liu.

 

Risk of Death

 

Seeing a 10% mortality rate among credentialed physicians at our surgery center is a bit alarming, but I’m not about to start living as though I’m dying. My life is not a country song; in fact, I try to live a life 100% free of country songs.

So what is my risk of death?

According to the Social Security Administration, the mortality rate of being a 41-year old man is 0.224% or a 1 in 446 chance of dying within a year.

But I am no ordinary man. I am a “never smoker” and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute breaks down the risk of death over 10 years by gender for “never smokers,” former smokers, and smokers.

According to the chart, rounding down to age 40, I’ve got a 2.4% chance of dying in the next ten years, odds of about 1 in 42. Meanwhile, smokers my age have a 6.2% chance of kicking the bucket within a decade — or 1 in 16 odds of death, not to mention the 100% odds of a bad smelling wardrobe.

If I were to wait to age 55 to retire, as a non-smoker, I would have a 7.1% chance of death within a decade (1 in 14 odds) and at age 65, it jumps to 17.6% (1 in 6 odds). Smokers at those ages are more than twice as likely to die in the next ten years.

 

wild alligator

photographing alligators = increased risk of death

 

What to do About It

 

 

A few weeks ago, I shared a part of my story and my rationale for choosing to pursue an early retirement in a guest post at FinancialSamurai.com. Among the 116 comments were reminders like the ones I saw on the surgery schedule. For example, Jack Catchem said:

 

“In your shoes I would pull the cord too. Recently I lost a former partner and supervisor in the same week due to cancer. Their ages were different, but they were both at work until a few weeks prior. Swift and unexpected. “

 

Is the fact that some people die early and unexpectedly a good reason to retire early? Not necessarily, but to be honest, I’d rather be retired at an age where I’ve got a 97.6% chance of surviving the subsequent decade, as compared to the 82.4% chance I would have at a normal retirement age.


It’s best not to live in fear of the reaper, but there are some things you can do to reduce your likelihood of an early demise. Number one is to quit smoking, or continue not smoking — your lungs and clothing will thank you.

You can also avoid behaviors that are known to increase the risk of death. The risk of many activities has been quantified into units known as millimorts, a fact I learned recently in an interesting discussion on the WCI forum. Did you know that the risk of death from skydiving is equal to to death from running a marathon? Or that driving a car for 8 hours is as dangerous as the two combined? Neither did I.

 

The Role of Financial Independence

 

This is the part of the article where you might expect me to extol the virtues of chasing early financial independence so you can start living a more fulfilling life. You know, before the reaper comes knocking.

While I do condone making FI a goal, and living on half your take-home pay to achieve it in a reasonable timeframe, it’s equally important to enjoy the journey and not make every sacrifice possible to get there as soon as possible.

Las Vegas Paris Eiffel Tower

Vegas doesn’t count.

For example, don’t put off an amazing vacation indefinitely. If you’re waiting until you’re financially independent, fully retired, or an empty nester to take that trip to Paris, you may never make that trip to Paris.*

Focus on relationships and doing things that have been shown to make you happy. I’ve explored that list, and most of those things take more time than they do money. Don’t work 48 weeks and 30 weekends like one physician I know. Strive for balance.

As the Happy Philosopher would say, “Don’t add kittens; exterminate the alligators.” In other words, you’ll gain more by subtracting the scary, bad things from your life than you will by piling on more cute, fluffy things. If your job is sucking the life out of you, by all means get a new job.

If and when you do achieve a state of financial independence, which should happen in 15 to 20 years if you’ve followed my advice, you can choose to do whatever you please with your life and your time.

 

Make the most of it; you never know how much you’ve got left.
Set For Life
*We’re taking that trip to Paris next week as a family of four. Would such a trip break the bank of someone in pursuit of financial independence?

I’ll detail the our spending after our return, but I’m guessing it will be under $5,000 all in, including a couple days in Iceland on the way back. You don’t have to spend tens of thousands to have a grand family vacation, and I’ll be happy to show you how we did it, no travel hacking required.

 

Do you see dead people? Has your career outlook been affected by the tragic, too-soon loss of a friend, relative, or coworker? Let’s continue the conversation below.


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90 comments

  • I also try to live a life 100% free of country songs-love that line. Yes I’ve seen co-workers pass away while still at their jobs, likely working towards an eventual retirement that never came. And of course there’s my husband, whose near death from septic shock completely altered my worldview. I have no desire to wait to enjoy life, because tomorrow may never come. But as you mention, enjoying life doesn’t need to equate to spending a ton of money. We get some of the biggest enjoyment out of free activities, and just spending time together.

  • Working with cancer patients every day, I usually get a weekly or even daily dose of perspective. Seeing cancer patients in their 40s, 30s, or even 20s on a given workday makes you go home and hug your wife and kids and appreciate everything you have.

    As you said, it also makes you want to be thankful for each day you have, and to enjoy every step of the journey of life, not put your nose to the grindstone for years in the hopes of a comfortable retirement later.

    Thank you for this wonderful article, PoF.

  • These are good thoughts! Balance is key. Most people don’t even consider these things…
    I lost a friend and co-worker three years ago to a motorcycle accident. One day he was there and the next he wasn’t. It was so extremely sudden for everyone in the office (it’s not like he had cancer) and I still think about him often. It really makes you want to drive safer, get the most out of life, and be nicer to people in general. -Aaron

  • You read my mind here. I am cleaning up documents at work and had to remove two peers names from a crisis chain call list. They were both my age and died…swiftly. As I walk the halls at school, I think of them both everyday. I also look at the home health aide pull in across the street from our house to take care of a woman my age (non-smoker, was in good health) – who had a massive stroke 2 years ago. I have a draft of a post ready that includes this exact topic and one of the key lines is “I go to many more funerals than weddings”. So even though I don’t fear the reaper and understand the stats, I agree that retiring sooner than later makes sense. And at a few weeks shy of 50 and with my husband at 58, as each year passes – we want to make the most out of the years of good physical health we have.

  • VagabondMD

    There were a total of six guys in my fellowship class. By the age of 50, two had died of cancer, one of glioblastoma and the other of renal cell carcinoma. While this has no direct bearing on my odds of dying, I do think about it often. Life is short and most do not get to choose how or when they leave it.

    Enjoy Paris. My family did that trip a couple of years ago. It was fabulous! Bring your running shoes– there’s a great path along the Seine.

    • That’s sad. It’s too bad each death is a mutually exclusive event, because what are the odds of three of you not making it to 55? Tiny, right?

      Please live long enough to respond to the comments on your upcoming guest post, due out in two days. Thank you for that!

      Best,
      -PoF
      p.s. running shoes packed. We’re staying a block off the river. 🙂

      • VagabondMD

        Looking forward to it. I promise to avoid riding motorcycles, picking and eating mushrooms, base jumping, and Everest adventures until next week.

  • My grandfather was a paraplegic by 32 and dead by 41. As such it’s always in the back of my mind that you never know. As such like you I’m living each day to the fullest, but I’m also planning to enjoy later life as well. Converse to my grandfather the avg male in my family makes it to 70s or 80s. So I have to plan for both possibilities.

  • We just watched one of my Best friends Dads pass away from cancer (57) – from diagnosis it was only two months. He was actually an early retiree and very active.

    Definitely a shock/wake up call that it can happen to anyone.

  • Doc sees dead people, and it changes his view on living. Great post, and a good reminder to never take a day for granted. Minimize the millimorts, and find a way to enjoy life. I lost my brother-in-law unexpectedly, and I had similar thoughts to yours. Live is for the living, don’t put off for tomorrow something that could be done (responsibly) today.

    Have a great trip to Paris. It’s what life is all about.

  • hatton1

    Yes when people in your age bracket die it really gets to you. My best friend from high school and college roommate died at 43 from breast cancer. She had 3 small children so it was a huge tragedy. On the flip side several people that I know who are still working at an advanced age believe they will die if they retire.

  • Nice post – I don’t plan on living like I’m dying or using YOLO as my FIRE battle cry, but it does keep persepctive that you’re not guaranteed tomorrow.

    I’ve definitely had more than a few colleagues pass away unexpectedly. One was planning on retiring in the summer – heart attack in the spring, another 2 had fatal heart attacks over a weekend. One of my friends in my home brew club finally retired, got the flu and ended up dying less than 2 weeks into retirement. He was fairly healthy but just had a one off with the virus and didn’t come back from it.

    My dad was an early retiree but followed a path similar to Dr. Lui. While those are different from the above cases I mentioned, it reminds me to take care of my mental health as much as my physical health. They can both do you in unexpectedly.

    • Sorry to hear about your father and the others, but especially your father.

      Influenza kills so many — we get the vaccination every year — it’s not 100% protective (I still got confirmed Influenza last year), but the shot can decrease the likelihood and severity of the illness.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • “For example, don’t put off an amazing vacation indefinitely. If you’re waiting until you’re financially independent, fully retired, or an empty nester to take that trip to Paris, you may never make that trip to Paris.*” This hit home for me. I’m 46 and I’m “behind” in my pursuit of FI, but I also don’t want to let life pass me by without experiencing amazing things, especially because I have the financial means to do so…something I didn’t have two years ago. I’m doing a big trip to Europe in May. Not that every year has to be epic travel, but if there is something you are really, really craving, make it happen.

  • Ricky

    First time comment at POF (coming over the WCI so congrats on the merger). Great article. I remember during my dental residency while working at an outpatient center our anesthesiologist had a heart attack during the case. Took 2 hours to have another one from the group come finish the case…

    Definitely makes you rethink what you are doing.

  • It’s interesting how the subject of death, and an acute awareness of time begin to consume more of people’s thoughts around the age of 40. I’m finding myself thinking about that more often than normal. It usually hits home when you read about someone who passed away suddenly at a relatively young age <50. This is why I strongly believe in maintaining the proper balance between FIRE goals and happy life goals. Paris should be a lot of fun, make sure to clog those arteries with some chocolate/banana crepes!

  • Good perspective to remember to live a little too. I know a lot of us super savers sometimes forget that a little bit, although we also take joy in non-money spending activities too.

    Have fun in France! My cousins are doctors over there and it’s a totally different world doctoring (is that a word?) over there. They don’t make a ton of money (so they tell me). And med school was free for them.

    • Yes, FP, you can say “doctoring.” I think it’s used more often to imply tampering or falsifying something; goes to show what society thinks of our profession these days.

      I’ve heard it’s very different in Europe. Better pay in training, lower pay after, significantly fewer hours worked all along, and no school debt. Tough to compare apples to apples, or crepes to crepes.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • My parents are late 70s and early 80s, but health conditions beginning about 10 to 15-years ago begin to affect their ability to travel and enjoy what they had saved for retirement. So be responsible, bit live a little.

    BTW, I like country music. And as a bonus, when you play it backwards you get your truck, dog, and girlfriend/wife back. :O)

    Be Blessed, bless others, and man, enjoy that trip to Paris.

  • True! With all the scrutinizing the other tail event (50-60 years of early retirement horizon) it’s worthwhile to consider the even more devastating risk. And dying is only one risk. Disease and accidents may not take a life but the quality of life. So, your probabilities even understate the urgency of planning for FIRE! Good reminder to not delay early retirement too long.
    Enjoy your trip to Paris. We’ll do a similar trip to Paris in July, also returning via Reykjavik, though without a stopover there. But we plan to visit Iceland in 2018. Putting this off by one year, should be safe, right? 🙂

    • Let’s hope so!

      I think you’ll have plenty of time to visit Iceland in 2018, right? This will be my third 2-day stopover. I’d love to spend a month or more one day. Soon enough, we’ll have that option, too.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Hey now, sometimes all you need is a good country song. 😉 But maybe that’s my boonie roots coming back to the surface.
    My mom passed away at the age of 42 and it was extremely unexpected. She worked her entire life, right up to the days before she died. I think that’s incredibly sad. None of us know when we’re going to die, but it’s best to live happily and fully as we can. Of course, avoiding risky behaviors is also a big factor, too.
    I do think seeing my mom pass away while working her tail off motivated me to get out of debt. I don’t want to work for two more decades and have nothing to show for it.

  • Kiwiozearlyretirement

    Enjoy your trip to Iceland. It’s awesome – we spent 10 days there in 2015 at the Scandinavian anaesthesia conference. Fascinating country. So much to see. Take a raincoat and layers. It will be cold and windy most likely.
    Have you looked at locum jobs in nz? Consider invercargill or Greymouth. They always seem to have long term locums. There is nothing wrong with the cities it’s just the weather is slightly worse than other places. I trained in the South Island.

    • I wish I had 10 days or 100 days to explore Iceland! 48 hours at a time is definitely not enough. I was there in June once. I felt like Al Pacino in Insomnia trying to block out the sunlight from our hotel room at 3 a.m.

      I have considered locums in NZ! I have a friend who has worked a couple stints in Dunedin. Recently, I came to the realization that if I were working and blogging, I would have little time to appreciate the amazing surroundings.

      We may go for an extended period of time, but I don’t think I’ll be working.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

      • kiwiozearlyretirement

        I would also love to spend an extended time in another country and have strongly considered Iceland. But how to do it without high cost of living? You will have a similar problem adjusting to life in NZ or Australia. Unless living regionally both are high cost of living. You basically have to not eat or drink out (except in student/ethnic areas) and change your diet to eat what is cheap. Forget about eating what you want all year round as you cannot just import it from another state/country near by. NZ being small and without tropics is far more vulnerable to this. In January the whole country just ran out of apples for 3 weeks. Australia does not import any bananas, so 6 years ago a cyclone meant bananas were over $10 a kilo. We did not eat them for 18 months. Its all doable though – you just adjust. There are plenty of grey nomads in Australia cruising around in motor homes from beach resort to sleepy little towns. They do this permanently. Not to mention the house sitting industry. I know many people in Australia who have not owned homes or paid rent for years and are permanent house sitters. Might be slightly less attractive with kids though.

        • Those price variations are wild! Good tips on adjusting your diet with the cyclones and regional differences. We do that to some extent in the States by eating more of certain fruits and vegetables when they’re in season, abundant, and lower cost (i.e. summer / fall).

          The house sitting / house swapping circuit is certainly intriguing. I may have to dive deeper into those options in a future post. Thanks for the idea!

  • That grim old reaper, lurking in the dark, taking swipes at us all. Longevity does not run in my family. My oldest grandparent lived to his early eighties. Two of the four died before the age of 65 (one was a smoker). Every time I’m playing with cfiresim and enter a retirement end date of when I’m 95, I have to chuckle a bit at my unending optimism.

    Have a fun trip PoF! Make memories. Those are even more fun to make than money.

  • Losing two co-workers early to cancer definitely affected my perspective. Maybe the possibility of sudden death for a 35 year old isn’t huge, but it still puts into perspective how fleeting our time here is. The best route is to try and stay healthy while pursuing your passions, even before early retirement. Financial independence is about maximizing your time to follow passions, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your happiness on the journey 🙂

  • A dollar saved is four earned in business. So maybe an alligator avoided is four kittens added.

    It is a fine balance but I think remembering that tomorrow is not promised while also saving for tomorrow allows for a nice middle of the road path.

  • By age 30, I’d lost my mother, my father in law, three first cousins that I was close to, a beloved uncle, most of my grandparents, several classmates, and several friends close to my age or younger had lost their parents. Mortality has always loomed large in my life, but it was even more poignant when I realized that the only few times my mom had enjoyed free time was when I’d saved enough to send her to a Bocelli concert, and when I flew her to a cousin’s wedding. She always worked twice as much and four times as hard as the average American, and she never got a chance to enjoy the fruits of her labor, or her grandkid.

    Meanwhile Dad’s a lifelong smoker and refuses to quit, so it’s only a matter of time before I bury another parent.

    With my chronic illness, retiring early and actually enjoying life is a priority. We may never get another chance.

    Though for a while, our anthem has mostly been Rodney Atkins’ If You’re Going Through Hell, now I hear echoes of Tim McGraw, thanks! 😉

  • I work in a professional services environment and it’s fairly common to see co-workers stress out and other professionals commit suicide and land on the news. Another downside for us professionals is that we are constantly away from, so we are never able to see our loved ones that often and if something happens to them while we are on the road, it just takes a toll and hurts our heart even more.

    It is important to balance life and work, because we don’t always know what will happen in the future, but we can always try to mitigate the dangers through the actions and options we choose to take today.

  • Considering that life is short need not be a morbid thought. It can actually be quite exhilarating.

    I love the scene from Dead Poet’s Society the the teacher (Robin Williams) gathers the boys around the old pictures prior students. “Seize the day, Boys! Make your lives extraordinary.”

    Defining extraordinary is the challenge. Does that mean FIRE? It sure appeals to folks like us that hang out on these sites. I’m still trying to figure that out for myself.

    • Contemplating one’s mortality can certainly be motivating. If it leads to positive changes made, all the better.

      I’ll let you know if FIRE is the answer for me. It’s worked well for some, but certainly not for all. I’ve known many a physician to fail retirement, donning the white coat again mere months after hanging it up.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • I confess I like lots of country music. I think mostly because I can actually make out the lyrics. I’m surprised you don’t like it. At least half the songs seem to be about beer.

    I think it is really important for people to sit down and draw out their ideal life and then try to align their actual life as closely as reasonably possible with their ideal life.

    http://whitecoatinvestor.com/using-a-venn-diagram-to-decrease-burnout/

    I did this a couple of years ago and I’m getting awfully close to my ideal life. I recently asked my wife to do the same thing. If you’re living your ideal life and keel over, you shouldn’t have any regrets, whether that ideal life includes work or not.

    • I knew there was a reason my wife and you got along so well — I try to live a life free from country, but because of her, I fail.

      I can’t say for sure whether or not my ideal life contains any doctor work, but it certainly contains less. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make that happen later this year.

      I’ve been talking the talk of financial independence, but haven’t done much to take advantage of the benefits I suggest.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

    • Hatton1

      Glad to know the WCI likes country music. See above comment.

  • I LOVE The Sixth Sense! 🙂

    This is how I think about the “what if you get sick and/or are given so much time to live” question about early retirement. People are quick to bring this up as they believe they must hold on to a job in case health problems arise.

    It’s actually the opposite. If health problems arise, do you really want to have spent all your healthy days at work?

    In the end, you only have so many days left. That could be thousands or it could be one.

    How many of those days between now and then do I want to spend at work?

    My answer: 0

  • It is not only losing friends and family at an early age but also the injuries.

    In the past two months, I have had a medical school classmate, and fellowship classmate suffer devastating brachial plexus injuries. One a skiing accident and the other an ATV accident.

    It made me double check my disability insurance policy. Two guys less than 40 years old in great health who might never recover full use of their dominant hand.

  • I think there is definitely a balance… you never know when you might go. Tell your family you love them, be kind to others, don’t hold grudges, etc…. These will go a long way of having no regrets.

    Also, as far as statistics, when I used to fly small airplanes and gliders (engineless), people would tell me that they were too afraid to fly, and I would remind them that, statistically, the most dangerous part of the flight, is the drive to the airport. 🙂

    • I make similar statements in regards to general anesthesia, although now I’m not sure if that’s true. I’m pretty sure it’s not true for small planes and gliders, but it’s been awhile since I looked at the data.

      For commercial airlines, the statement is true.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • I guess I should have clarified that when I make that recommendation to people, I’m referring to flights flown by commercially licensed pilots, whether glider rides or a scenic flight in a small airplane. Even in gliders, you have a distinction between a private license and a commercial license. Like many statistics, when you do a deep dive, you will see where it is skewed to a certain sector. General aviation encompasses a very broad range of flight activity. Most incidents in general aviation are from pilot error, and often for poor judgement…. and then drilling down deeper, it is far more common in inexperienced private pilots vs. commercial pilots.

        I also used to be an airport manager, so I would read a lot of publications and articles regarding crash investigations, plus I’ve had conversations with tons of pilots about this. And I would feel very comfortable saying that the risks are much lower taking a scenic flight in a small airplane with a commercial pilot, and it is much higher of a risk to go up with your buddy who just got his license and only flies 1-2 times a month. 🙂

  • I was just hired by my group and then one of the more senior partners died in the OR at a few years older than I am now. You hate to inherit a practice in that way but I got very busy very quickly because of that.

    I’m extremely interested in hearing about the trip to Europe with kids in tow. My wife and I have never been and it is definitely a dream trip, but with five kids tagging along I don’t know if we can afford it or keep our sanity.

    • As for Sanity, when my wife and I took our six kids to Disneyland, long ago, we basically paid for a young gal to accompany us and help keep track of the wee ones. We figured we could each handle 2-each. It worked out pretty well. At least we came back with the same number we left with. :O)

    • Five kids? Six kids?!?

      I don’t know how you all do it. Maybe the older ones help take care of the younger ones?

      I’ll let you know how it goes, but we’re not outnumbered like that.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

      • We are now half-nesters. The older 3 are mostly on their own. But, it wasn’t so much, the older ones taking care of the younger ones, but everyone having chores and helping out. We use to pay a baby sitter when we went on dates, but once the 2nd oldest was 14 or 15, she did watch them for an hour or 3. :O)

  • Thank you for this well-written post! I just wish I hadn’t read it just before bed…good luck sleeping tonight without a few cold-sweat panics, me!

    • Totally jinxed me, PoF. Not even making this up: Wife had unusual abdominal pain that was so severe last night that we elected to go to the ER. Spent all night there from about midnight until 5:30 a.m., then she was discharged. She’s fine – really only resulted in a very long day at work for me after no sleeping and continuing thoughts of mortality. Thanks a lot! (This is somehow you fault, but I need a good night’s sleep to figure out how.)

  • Tyler A

    Good post. I kept thinking: I wonder how many millimorts a trip to paris is? haha.

    • A few I suppose, but I’m not worried about it. I think a lot of people do fear terrorism, though. That’s why they call it that. The fright probably has something to do with the low fares to Europe. That, and increased competition.

      Our flights were $417 apiece.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Several of my favorite attendings from residency have died. They were young and seemed healthy, and while I don’t know the circumstances of their deaths, they were taken from this world way too soon.
    The morbid curiosity is real: what happened? how can I make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to me or my family?
    These are the same questions I ask myself after seeing every critically-injured trauma patient. Were they drunk? Were they wearing a seat belt? How can I avoid the same fate?
    May all of our colleagues and teachers rest in peace, and may we live with happiness, love, and peace as well.
    While we shouldn’t necessarily live our lives as though we have a terminal illness, we can all benefit by filling our time with and spending our energy on things that mean the most to us.

    • A few years back, I saw one of my former attendings from across a crowded convention center hall, and figured I’d catch up with him later when we weren’t both rushing in opposite directions.

      I didn’t see him again at the meeting that year, and by the next annual meeting, he had passed away. I wish I had gone out of my way to say Hi. Too late now.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • I totally agree! That’s why I’m taking a trip to Europe next year haha

  • I think being in medicine we are more acutely aware than most of the fragility of life and how it either change dramatically or go away in an instant.

    I like the perspective on this post. So much of traditional personal finance teaching focuses on delayed gratification and making your money last a lifetime. Especially the FIRE mentality as it’s often preached (especially the MMM approach). I look back at 20s during college/med school/residency/fellowship and some of the excesses of those times (going out with friends, vacations, even some purchases/hobbies). Many of those (and I suspect many of my friends/colleagues) would defy the financial wisdom I hold now. However, given the uncertainty of life I think its important not to keep the purse strings too tight.

    • Thank you, PICU MD. While I am naturally frugal, I have recognized that there are times to set those tendencies aside.

      As a medical student studying abroad, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on evening snacks and pints with my classmates in Sweden. I don’t regret a single kroner I spent.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Great post! I lost my father when he was just 48. While his loss was tragic, it has been a reminder to prioritize the things that matter to me. It’s also one of the driving forces behind my pursuit of FI.

  • Great article. We also had an unfortunate death once where I work, but I think it’s important to note the sad lifestyle choices. The person who died, who left behind a husband and 3 kids, was around 40, already had lap band surgery and was a current smoker. This is not to judge her, just to point out that one should avoid obesity and smoking if one wants to live a long, and I’d say happy life.

    At my work, we sell software to physician practices, and it’s not uncommon to get a note from a customer that a physician left “due to death.” However, that doesn’t mean young, many Physicians tend to work to older ages or at least a “normal retirement” age as you stated.

  • Dr_JB

    48 weeks and 30 weekends: sounds like residency.

  • You just had to have that picture of an alligator didn’t you…

    It’s OK, my heart rate is back down to normal now.

    Realization of my mortality is one thing that pushed me towards early FI. There were just too many people I knew in their 30’s 40’s and 50’s that were dying unexpectedly. Suicide, cancer, ALS you name it. It brought my life into crystal clear focus. I felt like I needed to really take action and stop coasting though life mindlessly.

  • Recognizing how mortal we all really are can really make you re-evaluate a lot of things.

    My wife’s aunt recently passed away suddenly and I know it’s made us reconsider some of our plans. Not majorly so but it made us pause and consider what we truly want to do in life and part of that is inline with what you said. We don’t want to squirrel away all of money and not enjoy it all. We will take sudden and sometimes expensive vacations at the expense of part of our early retirement goal.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Great Article, I guess statistics and chances of death are not common sense and according to my wife a non-starter conversation. I often try to articulate life in these terms. Bravo on understanding not only the odds but also how to play them as best you can. Now I only wish my patients understood the odds when it come to the care receive!

  • DoubleMDs

    I happen to love country music but get the sentiment and still got a laugh. This thought of our own mortality is often difficult for people to think about or discuss. Usually comes up in disability and/or life insurance posts but even then I’m not sure I’ve ever seen these exact statistics. Thanks.

  • I couldn’t have said it better! Love this post PoF!

    Each and every one of us could die tomorrow….make the most of the time you have! FI is just another way to do that.

    Enjoy yourself in Paris!

  • pulmdoc

    Another wonderful post, PoF. I have already lost siblings, friends, med school classmates, residency classmates, young attendings, and young co-workers and I’m not even 40 yet. In addition, working critical care gives you a very acute sense of how random fate can be; the 27 year old with a ruptured berry aneurysm could just as easily be you. Carpe diem is definately sage advice, and not easy for those of us who are masters of delayed gratification.

  • Hi PoF, very insightful post! Very humbling.
    It helped me out of a dilemma.
    We have been planning to move. There are too many choices – each with its own pros and cons.
    We have kinda agreed as a family on one place but internally I go back and forth at times. A shiny thing pulls me at times – a place to show off.
    But your post helped me center again.
    I just mentally listed all the suicides, one murder, and one murder-suicide, and a few near deaths, that happened just during my training. All Medical Students or Doctors.
    What a sad sad waste of life.
    Thank you.

    • Sorry to hear of the sadness you’ve witnessed in your training. The Happy Philosopher recently wrote a powerful piece on the topic of physician suicide.

      If I helped in some way, I am glad to hear it.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • You did help me by helping me refocus. It’s an eternal battle and it goes on inside. We are raised, especially in our training, to not admit it because it makes us look weak.
        I had a discussion today with an IT guy who works in a hospital. He looks at us from the outside and said that doctors have very hard time showing weakness – I was very surprised that we on the inside don’t realize it. We do teach this in our Burnout training, but an outsider can see it so easily.
        Now think about it – we live in such a crazy world that some people will think of my admission of ambivalence as admission of weakness. After all, I am supposed to be the Burnout expert coach and trainer. But no one can deny me my humanity. I don’t really care anymore about those people, they do a lot of damage, and sadly we feel and act under their pressure – unwritten scripts of head trash.
        I realize that I had sort of retreated from engaging Physicians socially a whole lot because I had created a happy life for myself, until I decided to help all of us with this issue, with coaching and training. And suicide is at the center of it. In 2016, there were 435 reported Physician suicides in the US alone, anesthesiologists leading the pack. That’s more than a Medical school full of doctors.
        I presented to the American College of Physician Executives yesterday as an ongoing effort, and I intend to turn this tide.

  • I seem to be in something of a ‘death phase’ right now, and have been for a while. Death, my own and of my loved ones, is always in the back of my mind. Not in a morbid way, but I’m keenly aware of mortality. I’m greatly looking forward to moving into another phase in which I can just enjoy the moment for what it is.

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