How This FI Physician Decided When to Retire

There are numerous facets to deciding when to retire. The event is usually spurred by some combination of “I have enough” and “I’ve had enough.”

My friend Dr. David Graham, the infectious disease doctor and part-time financial advisor behind the FI Physician blog has realized that the time has come for him to circle a date on the calendar and leave the medical profession while still in his forties.

What was the impetus for change? How much notice is he giving? I’ll let the good doctor from Montana answer those questions.

This Friday Feature was first published by the FI Physician.

 

decide when to retire

 

 

Well, it is done. I emailed my boss this week telling him I am retiring on 4/1/2022. April fool’s day next year, in fact, and that’s no joke.

How did I pick my retirement date? Well, I had to get approval from my better half, and she will learn about this decision from this blog. She doesn’t often read my blogs, so it will be interesting to see if she notices. And no, it is not an April Fool’s joke either… I can’t hardly plan for next week let alone a joke carefully planned out a year in advance.

So, what process goes into picking your retirement date? Which date will it be for you?

 

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Early Retirement and the “One-More-Year” Syndrome

 

I am retiring early. I will be 48 when I retire from medicine. I wanted to “FIRE” a year ago, but I got one-more-year syndrome.

Reading FIRE blogs, it seems the one-more-year syndrome is common. After all, if you are retiring early, by definition it is a choice to do so. You are not being forced out of the job; you are leaving for the greener pastures on the other side of the fence. It is a decision.

I don’t think many of us take out a blank sheet of paper, put a line down the middle and write on each side the reasons for and against retiring on a certain date. But it is more than just a gut feeling. There is some reason or logic applied to the decision-making process.

Sometimes, the one-more-year might indicate that you are not sure you have enough money. If I work for one more year, then I have a year’s more resources (and a year’s less expenses) at my disposal. This is a math problem: 25x your yearly expenses and you have hit your FI number.

But what if you are not the only source of income for your family? Truth be told, I am not retiring, I am going to be a stay-at-home dad and my wife will continue to work. She makes more than enough to support our young family.

So, the retirement police can call me a stay-at-home dad instead of an early retiree. Fine with me!

I waited one more year for non-financial reasons. I am worried: what will I do with my time?

 

 

What Does it Mean to Retire?

 

What do retirees do with their time? Asked another way: what is retirement?

There is controversy aplenty about the definition of retirement. In fact, most people who “retire” early go on to do other things. Perhaps the emphasis is on no longer getting a paycheck doing what you’ve been doing before.

You can still do work, and you can still get a paycheck if that brings you value. But early retirement means that you can live on your accumulated assets if that is what brings you value.

More importantly, then, what do you do with your time when you retire? This worry is what kept me working one more year. [Well, there is this global pandemic too… is it poor optics for an ID doc to retire during one of those?]

I will, in fact, keep working when I retire. It is my hope to take my kids to school and pick them up at the end of the day. Between then, I’ve got this blog. I made $250 off it in the last two years, so that will go a long way. Aside from the massive paycheck this blog brings in, it also is a lot of fun. “Flow State” for me is at 2AM writing a blog. Sick, but true.

But the purpose of the blog is to promote my job: Advice-Only retirement planning for physicians. That is what interests me. That is a passion of mine. Helping well-to-do physicians who are DIY investors retire. That’s a nice niche to be in! It has taken all of my interest but 10% of my time over the last few years. What would happen if I gave it more time? Some Passion, even…

 

Passion Drives the Decision to Retire

 

It is hard to let go of what you know and try something new. That is perhaps what is the most difficult part of this decision, to stop working. “Better the devil you know” and all…

There is great camaraderie in the hospital. I do enjoy talking to colleagues, though the covid conversations become challenging in the last year. Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve had one foot in the grave and one out ever since I knew I wanted to FIRE. There is much to miss but staying here means staying stuck.

It took many years to get my job just how I like it. Once you have “F-You” money, you can start working on improving your job. For instance, list the top 5 things you like about your job and the 5 things you like least about your job. Stop doing the 5 things you like least about it, and do more of the top 5 things if you want to. And if your boss won’t work with you, find one that will. FI means you can work because it brings you pleasure to do so.

Many doctors will never quit, either because they are “old school” where being a doctor is your identity, or because it is all they know. That is fine. Most of them would probably die a few years after quitting anyway.

For me, one foot in the grave keeps me from exploring my future passions.

 

Retirement is the Wrong Word

 

Early Retirement is the wrong word. It is a transition from being a doctor to being a stay-at-home dad with some other interests.

As I mentioned, I feel like I cannot move on and allow myself to explore the next step while I’m still at my current job. There are the hours in the day, after all, you can do anything you want to do with your time. But until you have those empty hours stretch into weeks and weeks into months as a retiree, it just feels different.

So retirement is the wrong word. What should we call it? Finding a new passion?

What about finding Ikigai in the next phase of your life?

Ikigai, or “a reason for being.”

 

 

On the top, do what you love. Right: do what the world needs. Bottom: do what you can be paid for. And finally, on the left: do what you are good at.

Are you working a mission, vocation, profession, or passion? If all of them, then it is Ikigai.

Is Ikigai just for work, or does it work in retirement, too?

 

Ikigai During Retirement

 

Ikigai during retirement is a little different. No longer do you need to worry about the bottom half circle: do what you can be paid for. After all, you don’t need the money.

But interestingly, that doesn’t mean that vocation is gone: you still must do what the world needs. Similarly, profession is still there too: it is what you are good at.

So Ikigai during retirement means finding your mission and passion, with less emphasis on vocation and profession. What you love, what you are good at, and what the world needs.

It is time to take one foot out of the grave and find Ikigai in retirement.

I have the sense that it is time to move on. April 1st, it is.

You: maybe you will know when your retirement date is as well by pondering Ikigai in retirement. Remember meanwhile, though, FIRE is JOY!

For me, I have an idea of what comes next. More time with the kids, my consummate wife, and more time to discover Ikigai during retirement.

 


 

Do you know your retirement date? How will you pick your retirement date?

6 thoughts on “How This FI Physician Decided When to Retire”

  1. Congratulations David! Do you and Heather plan to stay at your farm in Montana once you retire? I know you’ve got a huge collection of critters there!

    Reply
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  3. I’m curious about how you chose the actual date. Did you look at how much you’d put into social security in 2022? Did you decide that being retired in the spring was way better than retiring in the winter? What effect did the kids school schedule have on the April 1 date?

    Reply
    • Amy, thanks for the comment. It was a process. First off, I thought it best if I picked an actual date rather than, say, “spring.” Then, I figured out how quickly I could fund the 401k and NG-457 (as well as FICA on both since the Government gets their part off the top). And then, it was as early as I could talk my wife into allowing (she is worried about what I am going to do with all the time)! And finally, I thought April fools was as good as day as any, since that’s just the kind of person I am. The school schedule had nothing to do with it! The twins have an amazing nanny who is flexible and will work what ever hours are needed, and I am 40% administrative already at work so I pick up and drop off the other one.

      Reply
  4. Congrats, I guess? Why now? From this post don’t know why/how you decided on this date. Perhaps other posts talk more about your age, your kids’ ages, etc but that would also be good to know.

    For me, retiring to “discover” would be too vague. There are some folks who can succeed at this, probably a similar percentage to the young adults who take a gap year and successfully “find themselves” and don’t just sit around playing video games, waiting tables, and going our to bars at night with their friends for Taco Tuesday and Trivia Thursday. I am not one of those people!

    I am fortunate that Ikigai is my profession. It’s not just that it’s an identity, though it is. But if I quit and – best case scenario – discovered something else I was good at, the world needed, what I loved, and what I could get paid for, it is highly likely I would be paid less than I make now. So that’s not much incentive.

    I have interests, hobbies, and passions and make time for them already. Sometimes I wish I could take a month and go live in a tent but it’s not my job stopping me, and barriers to those fantasies would remain if I were retired or not.

    I plan to work part time indefinitely. I’m full time now but because of seniority PTO that adds up to only 200 days per year. I could do 100 days per year til I’m 70 or 80. I’m mid 40s and FI now.

    Just consider myself lucky/blessed, I guess.

    Reply
  5. I retired at age 59. One physician whom I don’t know made the comment that they should not have given me a seat in medical school since I wasted it by retiring early and not working till I couldn’t.
    It’s been 20 months—I have focused on healthy living, exercise, eat better, lost weight. I now read finance and travel. Have grandson whom I love to play with. What a blessing in life. I don’t know where my day goes now

    Reply

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