Top 5 Reasons to Retire Early

Have you ever seen the John Cusack film, “High Fidelity“? No? That’s OK, you don’t really have to see the movie to understand and appreciate the concept of a Top 5 list.

Physician Financial Services

Cusack’s character, Rob, is a big fan of them; so am I. David Letterman had his Top 10 lists, but half the list was nonsense and the lame answers distracted you from laughing at the 4 or 5 funny ones. So I’m taking Rob’s approach. My top 5 reasons to retire early are:

1. Because You Can

If you live below your means, save and invest along the way, and avoid financial catastrophe, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to retire early. It sounds simple because it is. Don’t be a big spender; avoid huge debts. Stay married (or stay single if you like), avoid super risky investments, and don’t try to keep up with the Dr. Joneses. 15 to 20 years of a physician’s salary should position you nicely for an early retirement. Of course, you can continue working long after you’ve achieved financial independence. It’s your life. I tend to enjoy my vacation weeks more than my workweeks, but that’s just me. So retire early, because you can!

2. For Your Health

I like to exercise, or at least I like to say that I like to exercise. I’ll train for a race and run for a few months. I’ll start feeling soft and go back to some strength training. My buddies sign up for another crazy muddy obstacle course at the ski hill – OK, I’m in (reluctantly). But when life gets busy, and my life does get busy, exercise is usually the first thing to go. If I didn’t have a day job (and occasional night job), I would have a lot more time to exercise. I’m not promising I would do it, but I would be fresh out of excuses.

Speaking of fresh, there would be more time to prepare healthy meals with fresh ingredients. And time to enjoy the fresh air, biking and walking places instead of driving everywhere. Living healthier can extend your living years and your healthy years. Retiring early will give you so much more time to enjoy them before you’re too arthritic or suffering from scarier ailments. If your job is the greatest source of stress in your life (it is for me), eliminating that stressor can do wonders for your mental health. Retire early, for your health!

3. Free Time

I have 2 boys, ages 5 & 7. Every night at dinner (when I’m home for dinner), we talk about our favorite part of the day. Without fail, the boys will point to a part of the day where they got to do whatever they wanted to do. Recess! Lego time after school! Some days, it might even be Reading! But it’s reading a book of their choice on their own time.

I don’t think my answers were much different when I was their age, and I don’t think I’ve matured all that much since then. My favorite part of the day almost always happens outside of work. It’s pushing the boys on the rope swing, jogging on the bike path, biking on the jogging path, beers in the hot tub, that sort of thing.



pliny the elder hot tub

a great place to be. free time required.


Take a few minutes and imagine all the things you might do if you had more time. Learn a language? Volunteer? Travel in a less hurried way? Read more? There are many ways to improve your life and improve yourself, but they all require free time.

I’ve heard that when you’re retired, every day is a Saturday. That sounds fantastic. Retire early, for the free time!

4. For Your Family

Physicians work lousy hours. Not all of them, but in most situations, it’s unavoidable. Personally, I’m an anesthesiologist. The workday starts around 0600, when the boys are sleeping. When I’m on call (about 73 days a year, but who’s counting), I don’t expect to home for dinner. I’m happy when I’m home for bedtime – and that’s my bedtime, forget about the kids’ bedtime.

In the summer, my wife likes to spend a lot of time at our second home*, a cozy little cabin on a lake. Our second home used to be 9 miles away from our primary home, but now it’s over 500 miles away. So… not exactly a weekend drive. I can expect not to see the family for at least a few weeks every summer. Because I am working a job. 500 miles away.

When the boys are teenagers, I expect they’ll be involved in some extracurricular activities. Athletics, music, maybe debate or chess club. Whatever it is, it’ll be happening in the evenings and on weekends, and I’m going to want to be there. Coordinating schedules with my partners and their obligations, working around my boys’ 2 schedules sounds like a nightmare. I’ve come up with a solution. You’ll never guess… oh wait, you did. That’s right. Retire early, for your family!

5. Reduce Your Liability

[knocks on walnut desk] I have never been involved in a malpractice lawsuit. I would really, really like to keep it that way. I treat patients and their families with respect. I use evidence-based practices. I stay current with the literature. I’m willing to say “I’m sorry” if the situation calls for it.

The fact remains that bad things can happen to our patients despite our best efforts. I don’t approach each patient as though they are a potential lawsuit, because that would be a terrible way to live. The job is stressful enough without that dark thundercloud overhead.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that any surgical patient could have a complication, and a complication could result in a lawsuit. It is also true that when you stop treating patients, you stop adding encounters that could ultimately result in a malpractice suit. I’ve heard those nasty things can drag on for years and be absolutely miserable. I want nothing to do with that [knocks desk one more time]. For your sanity, reduce your liability by retiring early!

*Yeah, yeah, I know owning a second home is entirely inconsistent with the usual way of thinking among the frugal early retiree crowd. The Bogleheads would politely ask me to reconsider the extravagance, while Mr. Money Mustache would straight up punch my face and ask questions later.

Well, if he had asked, I would have told him that I bought it at auction. It cost me less than the used Chrysler minivan I bought later that summer. I did eventually spend more to fix up the place, but the total cost of my now renovated second home and my primary home is a bit less than one year’s gross salary. So BACK OFF!!!

Do any of these reasons speak to you?  Got a #6 you care to share? Find the comment box below!


  • I too am a physician on FIRE. Happy to have found your blog. My reason for FIRE is number 4. Before I had kids I imagined a completely different career trajectory, but given the number of hours I spend away from them, now it doesn’t seem worth it. I thought about locums to stay in the game but not give my life to it, but the travel aspect of it is not as appealing.

    • Happy to hear from you, yuppietofrugal. I found your blog and read your story; congrats on starting down this path with me. It looks like our careers have spanned roughly the same years. We are a one-income household, although our expenses are lower since my wife has been home with our boys from day 1. Good luck with the blog; I hope to read more posts soon.

      I have done a lot of locum tenens work and will devote a post to that experience eventually. There are some great perks, although there are some obvious disadvantages once your kids are tied down to a school schedule.

  • Excellent list, and I am hard pressed to add anything meaningful to it. But if I did…

    6. Find or create your dream job– Many of us who went into medicine believed it would be our dream job. Well, the job changes over time, and we change over time. Perhaps there are other occupations or an enterpreneurial idea that you would like to pursue. Teaching American history, working at a gift shop in Yellowstone, opening a gelato and waffle shop, whatever! With financial independence you have the opportunity to follow your passion to Career 2.0.

    • #6’s are always welcome! And very true in this case. Retirement doesn’t have to be early bird dinners and a farmer’s tan.

      A second act could be invigorating. This blog could be my second act if I continue to come up with worthwhile things to say. Or maybe I’ll invent the next big dessert: gelato-filled waffle sandwiches! Thanks for chiming in.

  • Dr. FISRE

    Graduating Fellowship this year. My plan is to invest/save like crazy to make it as fast as possible to Financial independence and then drop to part time/have more options. I love medicine and I love what I do but the “system” sucks the life out of you to the point of even questioning if you really want to move forward. Fortunately with some moonlighting work this year I realized that I liked being a Dr. and that most of my burnout came from being a trainee for 6 years. I see my current attendings and I do not want to be like them in 1,5,10 or 20 years from now. From my moonlighting experience I learned that I enjoyed to be more in an outpatient setting, away from the corporate/hierarchical system of hospitals.
    I am very optimistic and really looking forward to be in the real world and very excited to see positive numbers in personal capital instead of the negative – sign that is there. Ha.

    I am an avid reader of MMM and EER and others and I am happy I found your website recently as obviously the others don’t apply to Drs. I love the whitecoat investor but that tailors more to the “old schoolers” where early retirement is more like 50.

    I am thinking more of Financial Independence SEMI retirement extreme(FISRE) where one would just go into part time early in their career. Hopefully i’ll get there around 37-40 y/o. I have so many hobbies that I want to do/learn. Music/instruments, travel, exercise, etc and most importantly family. It hurts me when I go to my son’s soccer games and the surgeon’s son is there with his nanny because daddy and mommy are busy working.

    There is an old saying about living like a resident for the first 3-5 years before going crazy. But I see residents with lexuses and high end bmw and even teslas, others traveling and/or hanging out all the time and spending all their money. That advice probably wouldn’t work for them.

    For me I would live like a resident (around 50-60k expenses without debt) for the rest of my life with possibly a very minor increase in lifestyle. Maybe 10-20k more after 5-10 years of investing/saving. I can’t see anything missing in my life other than having more time with my family and to do hobbies and travel and the way to get the is to do FIRE/ FISRE.

    THanks, and I’ll be reading and commenting some more.

    • Congratulations, and welcome to the outside world! I see you’ve gotten a taste of it from your moonlighting activities; it gets better, without a doubt.

      I’m glad you found the site. You identified the main two sites / people that influenced me to start this blog – WCI & MMM. I’m trying to bridge the gap while offering my own perspective that other physicians can relate to.

      Your plan sounds fantastic. In a low cost of living area with no more debts or mortgage, my family of 4 is living quite well with expenses right in the range you’re projecting. I’ll share more details at years’ end when we have the numbers tallied.

      I identify completely with the sentiment stated in your third paragraph. There is so much to see, do, and learn and we only get one shot at life. My boys are in soccer, too. And my personal physician is my younger son’s coach. There are places where you can have a life and a career, fortunately. But as long as you have the career, there will be sacrifices.


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