Top 5 Things I’ll Miss When I Retire Early

Physician Financial Services

I started thinking about an early retirement about 18 months ago. I’ve read extensively on the topic in the interim, and I started writing about it 4 months ago. When you write about early retirement, you think about early retirement. A lot.

I ask myself questions. Why do I want this? What will retirement look like for me? How will it change life for my family and I? I think I’ve got some pretty good answers and of course I’ll be sharing them with you in due time.

The fact that I actually like my job most of the time makes these answers a little tougher to answer. Today’s posts comes with some bonus material that hasn’t been published on this site. I’ve written about how my job and financial security gives me fulfillment at Fulfilled Physicians. I shared with the readers of the Top 5 Reasons I Didn’t Retire at 39.

Being an anesthesiologist is actually a pretty cool job as far as jobs go. It comes with some drawbacks, and I’ll be writing about those, too. When I contemplate my future, I think about what I can look forward to, but I also have to consider the things I will miss. Retirement doesn’t have to be a permanent decision, but I’m not going to take the early retirement path on a whim. After all, to borrow the closing line from the underappreciated 2009 movie Fanboys, “Wait, what if it sucks?”

After a string of some pretty rough call shifts, it would be really easy to write about the things I won’t miss. But my glass remains half-full. When the job beats me down, it’s a good time to focus on the positive.


Presenting, The Top 5 Things I’ll Miss When I Retire Early


1. Camaraderie.

Teamwork is a key component to a successful O.R. experience for both the patient and the entire O.R. crew. I spend a lot of time with our surgeons, circulating nurses, nurse anesthetists, scrub techs, pre-op and PACU nurses, and ancillary staff around the hospital. We learn how to work best with one another, and we learn about each others’ families, upcoming vacations, childhood stories, etc…

We also save lives together, and rely on each other to do what needs to be done and find what needs to be found in crisis situations. Bonds are formed.

Your coworkers may not be your best friends, and there may be a few you won’t miss, but once you retire, you will never again do the incredible things that almost seemed routine when you worked together. On the golf course, you won’t direct one of your buddies to fetch an 8 French introducer, send another to the blood bank while the third member of your foursome sets up for a crash ex lap. And that’s probably a good thing. But the type of camaraderie you develop with coworkers in the hospital and operating room is tough to replicate.


2. Being with patients at critical times.

As an anesthesiologist, I take care of patients during some of the most memorable and important days in their lives. I take away their labor pains on the day Mom brings a child into the world. I might be called upon to intubate the newborn baby in the first few minutes of her life. Sometimes I get involved in the final minutes of one’s life, intubating or securing IV access when our team is taking desperate measures to combat what is often an inevitable and unfortunate endpoint in a code situation.

Even “routine” surgeries are not routine for the patient. What happens every day in my world only happens a handful of times in most people’s lives. I see patients on the day they receive a new knee or hip, have a cancer removed from their body, or a port placed to help fight one. These are crucial events for my patients.

It is a privilege to be part of a team that does extraordinary things to help ensure the patient’s comfort and safety throughout their surgical experience. I enjoy connecting with patients when we visit before surgery, answering questions and alleviating fears.

While the perception of anesthesiologists is that our patients are “sleeping”, I typically supervise three or four rooms, and I spend much of my day speaking with patients and their families. Earlier this week, I visited with 33 surgical patients at our surgical center before noon. I also filled out a preoperative evaluation on paper for each of them, performed three ultrasound-guided peripheral nerve blocks, and held several small hands while the other held a stuffed animal as child and animal drifted off together into another world for a brief spell. While I won’t miss the frenzied pace of a day like that day, I will miss the patients. And the animals.


3. A paycheck.

Once I hang up the stethoscope, the direct deposits will end abruptly. [Thank you, Dr. Obvious.] While this won’t really be a problem, as I have a plan to have more than Enough and I’ve got a drawdown plan as outlined in my IPS, I’m going to miss watching the net worth get a nice little nudge every couple weeks. I track mine with Personal Capital and it’s rather addicting.

Early retirement wouldn’t be a consideration unless I knew my family and I would be fine without the paycheck. But I reserve the right to miss it.



can’t we negotiate just a little? but i’ll miss you!


4. Gratitude.

Most patients are really thankful for the work that I do. Not only do I get to be a part of some landmark moments for them, but they are happy to have me on their side. When the aforementioned labor patient makes the transition from a writhing, screaming hellhound to smiling, happy puppydog in a matter of minutes, the magic man with the epidural skills feels very much appreciated. Not only by the finally-calm patient, but also by the Dad, the parents and in-laws, and especially the patient’s nurse.

I feel that gratitude when I tell parents of young children having surgery that I’ve got young children of my own, and they’ve been through this, too. I feel it when I speak confidently with a patient about what to expect in surgery, and from the kids and grandkids when I reassure them that Grandpa’s hip’s going to be fixed and I’ll be there to see him through surgery safely. I’ll miss that feeling.


5. Free Food!

What can I say? I’m kind of a frugal physician and there’s no better deal than free. Over 18 years of education, training, and work, I’ve been treated to hundreds of free meals and thousands of free snacks. I’ve worked locums at places with spectacular physician’s lounges where hot meals are catered three times a day. Our staff and patients bring baked goods in to the lounge all the time, and my wife is a frequent contributor. Reps aren’t allowed to spoil us like they once did, but we still seem to get more than our fair share of doughnuts and bagels.


michoacana meat market

omg, this place is such a meat market.


Again, food is something I can easily afford to pay for myself. It will be weird though, to be expected to actually pay for nearly every meal, cookie, and banana my belly desires. Thankfully, there will always be samples at Costco. Good old Costco.

Maybe retirement won’t be so bad after all.

Do you think about what you might miss when you retire? If you’ve retired already, what do you miss the most? Look for the comment box below to let me and our readers know!


  • CC

    Finishing up EM residency in 2 months, not sure if I want to dive in to the FIRE crowd because of many of the ideas mentioned above. I see myself missing the hectic shifts and the amazing stories. Being there during a stressful part of someone’s life is one of my biggest joys as a physician. I appreciate this, as well as your other posts. Whether I will work for 10 years before hanging up the stethoscope or 30, I’m not sure. I do know I’ll pay off all my debt, including mortgage in 6 years, and likely cut down to 0.75 or 0.5 time past that, but walking away from something I have invested my entire life in is so hard for me to imagine at 30. Thanks again for sharing your expenses!

    • Lily & Carlos

      I see FIRE more as having the freedom to choose what you want to do. My husband is EM as well, worked 14 years with the same organization. It’s hard to let go, he described it as an abusive relationship. He loves what he does, but after being assistant chief for so long, he is just tired and wants to spend some time traveling. Some time off will make him a better doctor. We could never give it up entirely although pouring wine in Sonoma looks like a fun gig. So we have decided to do per diem and some locum tenums.

    • You’ve got a great plan CC, and congratulations on your upcoming graduation from residency.

      It sounds to me like you’ve already “dived in” and you can be FI without considering RE. I could easily change the subtitle on my header to “Financial Independence. Retire Early?” because the second part is completely optional, but not advisable without the first.


  • The Green Swan

    This is a good list and I think it is good practice to weigh pros and cons of early retirement and that includes the things you’ll miss. This list is definitely job specific, I may put my own list from the eyes of a banker together. I’ll let you know when I do! Thanks PoF.

  • this is so true! thanks for sharing this, it’s awesome!

    i definitely agree with some of the reasons you listed as why I wouldn’t retire at 38 either.
    before I started IR (interventional radiology), I was so sure that I wanted to pursue diagnostic rads. After rotating in IR for a month, and working harder than on all my other rotations physically, emotionally, & equally intellectually, I realized how much I love the human touch I get from IR, enough that I will accept the call schedule of IR.

    we are drawn to medicine because of a somewhat cliche but true fundamental inclination we have to connect with and impact others in a positive way. This unique therapeutic relationship between care provider and patients is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of our jobs 🙂

  • Sometimes I wonder if retiring early would be waste since I spent so many of my years studying to get to where I am today. Perhaps if I finish early, I’ll do more volunteer work in medicine or simply more in the community. I think it ultimately depends on what you like to do in your free time. I have colleagues to have other hobbies that could potentially become full-time endeavors, which some surgeons I know choose to operating during their vacations as well!

  • Hatton1

    Your points are well taken. I find that by going to part-time at 56 some of the camrederie went with the decision. I still like the friendships I have with anesthesia for example but I miss the l and d staff. I still visit but it is different. I think I will miss the critical times with patients when it completely goes away too. My paycheck has decreased significantly since going part time and you do readjust your thinking. You have to plan for bigger expenses because the money is not in your checking account. My portfolio only grows now when the market grows but I enjoy watching it. It grows faster and drops faster when those balances increase. Deposits have very little effect. Most of my patients are more like old friends so I enjoy most of them and will really miss them in retirement. I too will miss the free food. Don’t tell my hospital administrator but I have been supplementing my dogs diet with doctor food for years. I am sure my dogs want me to keep working.

    • It’s interesting to hear that the camaraderie has fallen off even in part time work. I suppose if you’re not catching babies at all hours of the night with them, they don’t see you in quite the same way. Bummer.

      I go back and forth on the idea of part-time work. I probably wouldn’t consider it until I’ve hit or exceeded my lofty financial goals. At that point, I would only be doing it for the reasons I outlined in this post. Particularly the patient interactions – I can get by without the free food!

  • Arrgo

    In general, I don’t mind working.The security of a paycheck, benefits, perks, etc are hard to give up (even if you won’t be that dependent on them) The problem is when working that there never seems to be enough time (and energy) to do all the other things in life you want to do. Working 40+ hours plus commute time doesnt leave much left. Hard to fit in quality time on other things when the best hours of your day are spent at work. Weekends and vacation time doesnt seem to be enough.

    • Absolutely, Arrgo. On a WCI forum thread, Dr. Dahle talked about the FIRE crowd all hating their jobs. He backed off a bit after a few contrarians replies, but I totally agree with you. It’s not that I dislike the job. It’s just that it keeps me from family time, from exploring hobbies, from having the time to get to achieve Inbox Zero on my now multiple e-mail accounts…


  • Lily & Carlos

    Financially, we can retire right now in our early 40’s but we don’t want too. The past 3 years we both have had a bit of a beat down with all the healthcare changes (especially in the ED) but we like what we do. For my husband, it is his hobby. But, this year, to keep our sanity and to be able to still work with a smile, we have decided to do some work travel at part time hours. I feel that is what we saved for, not necessarily for early retirement but for the ability to choose. We can choose how much and where we want to work. We can choose to take a couple months off and live in another part of the world. I think that is the best part of being in our field, we don’t necessarily have to just stop, we have so many options.

  • It sounds like you are one of the lucky few that really enjoy and find satisfaction from your job. Hold on to that, it’s quite rare!

    Most of us working stiffs don’t have that luxury…and there’s tragically little free food.

  • Dr. Mo

    I really enjoy reading your posts, you give everything in your life a good amount of thought and reading your perspective on things is enlightening. I’m sure your satisfaction with some aspects of your job comes from the attitude you display at work. I am a family doc doing mostly urgent care, it would be tough for me to imagine the tough cases you (anesthesiologists) have to deal with, kudos because it’s very valuable work.

    All that said, I stopped feeling guilty that I won’t miss those things about medicine. And I’m not saying anyone should or is feeling guilty but that was my hurdle which I had to overcome. I value them when they happen (except free food, that would be awesome) but I think I’m ready to pursue something else and built collegiality in another setting and learn new things from a different perspective. There is always the fear of the unknown as well, and that’s probably the exciting part now, trying something new which likely will not result in the desired outcome…. but I’ll enjoy the s#&! out of the process.

  • Off the top of my head I’ll miss the camaraderie, nice dinners out, the paycheck, and free travel. But when I weigh those with the freedom of not having to work at all, they all lose pretty easily 🙂

    • How did I leave out free travel?!?

      In some professions, business travel is an unwelcome chore, but in medicine, it can be great. Usually, I travel for conferences, which tend to be held in places that people like to visit. With a generous CME allowance, it’s a chance to live pretty high off the hog, setting aside my frugal tendencies aside for a few days.

      I think the allowance is more than enough, but in a use-it-or-lose-it proposition, I might as well use it.

  • I can definitely see how you’ll miss the human aspects of your profession (in addition to the paycheck of course!). We’ll definitely miss our coworkers and the more fun moments. And, not gonna lie — I will miss having fancy pants airline and hotel status. Flying is MUCH more civilized that way, but we’ll have to adjust to going back to the back of the plane and rejoining the cattle herd. 🙂

    • ONL,

      What profession are you in that allows you to have nice status? As an employed physician, I do get more options for hotel status (through credit card spend) but limited on airline status.

      • We’ll share more detail after we quit next year, but we’re both consultants. We travel a ton for work, so I actually earn my United 1K status and Marriott Platinum status the hard way: 60 flights and 40 hotel nights so far this year! 🙂

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