Today’s interviewee is a young 45, has a single fund in his portfolio, and has an extremely low withdrawal rate to cover his even lower expenses.
Even in a high-cost-of-living area, this person spends less than the median household income every year and has a couple of million in the bank to live off of.
But he’s having a bit of a career transition conflict, finding little joy in the daily responsibilities he encounters as a part-timer, and is looking forward to what’s coming after the crossroads.
Read on to find out more.
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Getting to Know You
Where are you on your financial independence journey? Have you crossed the halfway point in terms of net worth and/or passive income?
I have achieved my FIRE goal. I am at a point where I could withdraw 3% of my assets every year to cover my expenses. My personal expenses are currently under $40,000 per year.
Tell us about your household. How many people and at what ages? Are you supporting anyone outside of your home? Where do you live?
I live in a 3-bedroom apartment with my girlfriend. I am 45 years old and my girlfriend is in her late 30s. We live close to Washington, D.C. I am not supporting anyone outside of my home.
How do I keep expenses so low in a high-cost-of-living area? I only support myself, and many of my costs are split between my girlfriend and me. My half of the rent bill is $1,200 per month, and utilities average $80 per month.
I buy health insurance off the exchange for $360 per month. My long-term disability insurance is $2,100 per year. Auto insurance for myself is $72 per month. My total dining-out expenses for 2022 were $3,200. My half of the groceries were $2,100 for the year, as well. My cell phone service is $25 per month.
In what field are you working? How is your career going? What do you like best and least about your chosen profession?
I work as a hospitalist. I would say my career is going well in that I don’t have to do a ton of hospitalist shifts anymore due to FIRE. I can pick how much or how little I want to work.
Currently, I am doing 5 shifts a month. I like that I can control my work schedule. I like that I get protected time off when my shifts are completed. I do not take any work home with me when my shift is completed. The actual day-to-day tasks of my job as a hospitalist are not enjoyable or rewarding to me.
Do you feel you’ve come to a crossroads of sorts? If so, tell us about it. What options are you contemplating?
I am ready to try a new career. I would rather not see patients every day. I am interested in transitioning to a different type of role in healthcare that does not involve rounding in the hospital.
I am currently taking some informatics classes to help me potentially transition to a new career.
How is your nest egg invested? Approximately what percentage is allocated to stocks, bonds, real estate, and alternatives?
93% of my assets are in VTSAX. The remaining 7% is in cash.
Are your investments primarily in tax-deferred, Roth, or “taxable” post-tax accounts?
Over 50% is in a regular brokerage account. The rest is in tax-deferred accounts. This includes a 401(k), SEP IRA, Roth IRA, and HSA.
Do you have investments in an HSA? How about 529 Plans?
Yes. I use an HSA account. I don’t have a 529 plan, as I do not have children.
What has been your best investment?
VTSAX, by far. It is really the only investment that I have ever made that has increased in value.
I tried individual stocks and individual mutual funds and they all lost money.
Your worst investment?
I bought some individual stocks in the tech sector that lost all of their value.
Into the FIRE
Numerically, what is your FI goal?
When do you suspect you will achieve financial independence? Will you retire from your career once you’re comfortably FI?
I have reached my FI goal. I will try and leverage the financial freedom I gained from FIRE to try and find a job that I somewhat enjoy.
What are your post-FI plans? How will your life change? What do you look forward to the most?
Really, I plan on doing the same things I am doing now. I hope that my life will change in that I don’t have to do hospitalist shifts anymore and transition to a new career in healthcare. This career transition is what I most look forward to now.
Have you made any major changes in your lifestyle or investments to accelerate your FI path?
Coming out of residency, I signed a contract for two years working full time for a community hospital. After completing the two-year contract, I realized that I hated this job and did not want to be a hospitalist.
I then started to do locum tenens work full time which worked out very well because I could control my schedule and did not have to work nights anymore. Since the locums company paid for my housing, this allowed me to get rid of my apartment. I was also single at the time, so I moved back in with my family and this allowed me to increase my savings rate to > 85%.
This was huge in terms of accruing wealth and learning how to use my savings to get to FIRE. It caused me to decrease my spending to very low levels and then I could strategize on how I could design a lifestyle that I felt comfortable with and also achieve FIRE.
Having the time and space to think and learn about investing changed the trajectory of my life. I feel that physicians are so busy with their clinical work that it sucks up the bandwidth from their personal lives where they don’t have the opportunity to learn about personal finance and investing.
Are you facing any unique challenges making FI or RE more difficult?
I’m not really facing any unique challenges. Just trying to figure out what a post-hospitalist life will look like.
What advice do you have for others who are seeking financial independence?
Stick to your goals. There are many things that I thought would change my life. I can only think of two things that actually altered the course of my life.
One was my education (i.e. going to med school), and the second was FIRE. It allowed me the freedom to think about many different options. It allowed me to pump the brakes on the course of my life. But most importantly, FIRE allowed me to start listening to my inner voice of what I wanted to do. I think that was THE most important thing.
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I thank today’s interviewee for sharing their story, and I’ve shared my feedback privately with them. I wouldn’t want my opinions to influence yours. Please give your take and answer any questions they have had in the space below!
Again, if you’d like to partake in a future Q&A, please download a FIRE Starter, FIRE Crossroads, or Post-FI Notes interview form.
7 thoughts on “FIRE Crossroads 036: FI at 45 With a One-Fund Portfolio”
Sounds like you are FI with a comfortable safety margin. Probably don’t need the disability insurance at this point either. Actually, have you considered that continuing to practice medicine when you’ve made it exposes your assets to malpractice lawsuits that may tip the balance of risk versus incremental benefit to “it’s time to GTFO”? Of course, you have malpractice insurance, (or rather the locums company may provide it— and that may be less rather than more reassuring), but when you don’t need the money and you are not on fire with the sheer joy of healing people, each patient interaction has a certain burden of risk that may not be appropriately balanced by reward in your situation.
Could you explain how you manage to spend such a small amount on groceries? Even with the restaurant tab it seems impossibly low!
Wow! Congratulations on your financial success. Very impressive!
At the same time, are you concerned that you do not find your hospitalist job enjoyable or rewarding? Given that you work perhaps 15 hours per week, as in 1 or 2 shifts, the stress level is likely fairly low. I found I became much happier with my work as a physician after I achieved FI and gave up nights and gave up working extra shifts.
Do you focus your mind on the help you are providing to help your sick patients get well? Are you at all concerned about your long term mental health? I hope you find something to do that you find meaningful.
What a dream to be FIRE and be able to afford to live near Washington D.C. That rent is not that bad at all! Congratulations on reaching your FIRE goal, and having a fulfilling lifestyle on such low expenses. I think you represent a lot of people pursuing FIRE, that you hit it in your 40s and did it via investing, not some crazy business exit. When it’s relatable like that it’s more approachable for many.
Congratulations on such a reasonable and well-balanced life! That said, I’m not fully sure if I could say the same about a portfolio that is 93% in US stocks and if that means FI were you to completely stop working.
Could that support a 3% withdrawal rate for 45 years? Possibly, but I don’t think it’s a certainty. 7% in cash supports you for a little over two years assuming no other income. (But maybe if you had no employment income you’d change your asset allocation?)
One underrated feat this guest has certainly achieved is finding a 3 bedroom apartment “close to” Washington DC with rent of $2400 and utilities of $160. Congratulations. Also – kudos on recognizing the value of family support in increasing your savings rate! Good luck to you in your next chapter, I hope you find something fulfilling and not just “somewhat enjoyable.”
Congratulations! You truly are at a crossroads!
So aside from a career change, have you figured out what you want to do? Like you said, physicians are so busy that they often don’t have the bandwith to explore what they want to do in the personal lives. For me, that’s the million dollar question for which I don’t have an answer. Once I have it, I will feel much better about retiring early.
Best of luck!