The Top 5 Reasons I Want to Retire Early

Personal finance is personal, and personal posts tend to be more interesting than the typical clickbait lists that penetrate our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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I’ve written a couple not-so-personal Top 5 lists, including the Reasons to Retire Early, and the Reasons Not to. The writing comes easier when I’ve got something more personal to say, as I did when I wrote the Top 5 Things I’ll Miss When I Retire Early.

Today, I’m going to give you my own reasons for wanting to retire early. These aren’t the best reasons to retire early, or reasons you should retire early; these are just mine.

Editor’s note: This was written before I switched to a part-time schedule. Life has gotten better since then, particularly in the case of number 1, but the following reasons still apply.


The Top 5 reasons I Want to Retire Early:


1. More Family Time


My boys are growing up right in front of my eyes. Well, sometimes they are. On weekday calls, I have about a 20% chance of seeing them. I always leave for work before they’re awake for the day, and on hospital days, usually return after they’re in bed.

In the summertime, my wife and boys spend a good deal of time at our modest second home a couple states away. They’re out there having a grand time with friends and family, and I’m missing out because I have a job.

It’s a choice we’ve made as a family. And before too long, I’ll make a different choice. The choice to retire early.

If you’ve attended high school graduation parties and chatted with parents, they’ll tell you they cannot believe how the time flew by. I don’t want to wonder where the years went. I want to be a full-time Dad. Most of the physicians I know do their best to find a balance between work, family, and play, but I’m going to take work right off the scale. I expect to find the perfect imbalance when I retire early.


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2. Because it is There


I haven’t always planned on retiring early — in fact, it seems as though early retirement chose me. Two years ago, the concept wasn’t a blip on my radar. It wasn’t until my nose was buried in anesthesia books to study for a silly $2,100 computer exam that I started to wonder if I would have to do this all over again in ten years.*

A google search opened my eyes to a brave new world of early retirement blogs, forums, and a community of good people who are in various stages of contemplating, planning, or living the life of an early retiree.


great lakes fishing black and white
sadly, no fish were harmed for this photo


I want to show you and others that it can be done, and show you how I plan to do it. The truth is, mathematically, I could have retired by now, but I’m not ready to leave my career behind just yet. I still like many aspects of my job, but as I’m explaining here, there are other things I do enjoy more.

I know many physicians who feel differently about their jobs than I do mine. Burnout, long days, endless paperwork and computer work are taking their toll on this generation of physicians. Trying to spend your way out of a frustrating situation only prolongs your misery. I want to help those doctors that need it find their escape hatch.

Sir Edmund Hilary climbed Mount Everest because it was there. I’m retiring early because it’s there for the taking for those who want it and take steps to achieve it.



3. Turn the Happiness knob to Eleven

Ask me most days how happy I am on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d usually give you an 8 or a 9. I have many reasons to be happy and thankful.

If a professional athlete can routinely give 110%, I’d like to be able to give an answer of 11.

I recently wrote about 10 ways to be happier backed by science, and nearly all of them would be easier to do more effectively without the timesuck that is a full-time job.

Not long ago, my lovely wife asked me to name the three things that caused me the most stress in life. The answers came quick and they were all work-related. I believe I handle stress reasonably well, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deal with it on a daily basis.

A substantial reduction in stress, combined with ample free time, is a recipe for Eleven when I’m early retired.


4. I’m a sleep enthusiast.


One of the 10 happiness boosting ideas was to get better sleep. I have very little control over my sleep cycle these days, taking overnight call about 73 times every 52 weeks, but who’s counting? I live close to the hospital to minimize my commute, and I usually bike in the warmer months, but even with a 4-minute commute, I am up by 0515 to be to working at 0600.

Post-call days, I’m frequently sleeping in. Alternating between 0515 and 0815 wakeups is not the healthiest sleep pattern, and being up at all hours several times a month makes it even more difficult to establish a healthy sleep schedule.

I signed up for the job, and I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m compensated quite well for the sacrifices I make for my patients and my family. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I’m looking forward to sleeping like a baby in early retirement.


sleeping baby black and white
my sleeping baby

5. To pursue other interests


I can give you a list of 50 other things I can think to do with my time. There are things that I do now, but nearly as much as I’d like. Photography is one. I’ve taken just about every photo published on this site, including the one above of my second boy nearly six years ago.

You may have noticed that I like to write, and I spend a fair amount of my free time writing. I’d like to learn to write mo’ better, but it’s all I can do to keep up with the blog. I’d love to read more, too. Reading takes time. I need time. Can I buy some time?

There are other things I’d like to do that I don’t do at all right now. I’d love to play piano half as well as my boys have learned to do. I’d like to learn to speak Spanish. My two years in high school taught me enough to ask where the bathroom is, but not enough to understand the response. We may try to learn as a family, and in early retirement, we could do that in a Spanish speaking country. How cool would that be?


Honorable Mention


Now that I can talk freely about it, there was an ugly lawsuit that came about as a result of my brief volunteer stint as a non-voting member of the Board of Trustees at a hospital that eventually went belly up. Having lived for three and a half years under the threat of potentially losing a substantial portion of my net worth, and forking over thousands upon thousands in legal fees, I may have become a bit jaded.


Job dissatisfaction is nowhere on this list.


I think it’s important to understand that I don’t hate my job. Among jobs I’ve had, it’s easily the best one. I will admit that I like my days off more than my workdays, and the best workday is a short workday, but I’m not desperate to leave, and I don’t believe I’m burned out.

If I absolutely loved my job, I doubt I’d be planning on an early retirement. Of course, you don’t have to retire early just because you can. Financial Independence comes with a host of other benefits.

Is an early retirement on your horizon? What’s your motivation? Look for the comment box below to say hello.

*The answer is no, I wouldn’t have to take the exam even if I worked another 30 years. In fact, I didn’t need to take the test I took but the ABA waited until after I had taken it to announce changes that were obviously in the works before I even registered for the exam.



Do you have any inclination towards retiring early? Why or why not? 

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43 thoughts on “The Top 5 Reasons I Want to Retire Early”

  1. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  2. Well state, PoF! Thanks for sharing. Been following you since your beginning, but too busy with young babies to comment.

    This is right on the money! I’m sorry to hear about the lawsuit. That is a very ugly part of being in America. I have been wanting to write a post for you as I often hear you speak of New Zealand. I worked there as an anesthesiologist for a year and I loved it. People do not really sue each other. They have the ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation). You can read a bit here: It’s a no fault system. So when your patient has a complication, you as the doctor remain the advocate for the patient. you fill out their ACC paperwork and help them get paid. It was incredible. Do they have a perfect system? Of course not. But it’s worth learning about and trying to borrow the good aspects.

    One of the best reasons to become FI is so you can live life according to your deepest values and spend time doing the things that matter most and WITH the people that matter most to you. Yes, we all have our list of 50 things we want to do and it is important to try to do them.
    American medicine has a funny way of making doctors forget their purpose. If you wake up each day because you HAVE to pay the mortgage, pay the bills, and fulfill obligations rather than because you love to impact people’s lives, then of course we will burnout.

  3. I’m Jealous. By age 39 this is where I will be:
    income – $220k
    deductions: taxes+410k+medical insurance = $90k
    alimony: $45k
    medical school loan payment $20k/year
    child support: $25k/yr
    rent+utilities – $35k/yr
    left over = $5k/yr

    • At least you’re maxing out a 401(k). That’s something. And I believe alimony is tax-deductible, too, isn’t it? But obviously divorce is killer. Student loans can be, too.

      Best of luck in turning things around. You’ve got plenty of time. In twenty years, you could be in shape to retire in your 50’s.


  4. You have hit most of the reasons why I want to retire early. Main reason is #1. I have missed many of my babies’ milestones, award assemblies, preschool/kindergarten graduation, etc. On my days off my favorite thing is picking up my kids from school and seeing their smiles when they see me. I can’t wait to get to do that everyday (although they may not get as excited if it becomes a daily thing). I can’t wait to be the one to stay home and take care of them when they are sick instead of leaving them so I can go take care of other sick kids. I can’t wait to be the one to take them to activities on the weekends instead of meeting up with them when all activities are over.

    #4 and #5 are good reasons, too. Gosh, I do love me some sleep as well. I also have a list of things I’d love to do when I have free time… gardening, reading, learning to cook new types of food. I’d also love to have time to be more healthy and exercise more. Lastly, I’d like to have some time to organize other areas of my life (specifically my house) so that I don’t feel like I would soon be nominated to appear on “Hoarders”. A lot of people say that they would be bored when they retire. Not me, I already have lists of things I’d like to accomplish.

  5. Wow – that is a lot of overnight calls during the year. Reminds me of my public accounting days!

    Similar to you, I do enjoy my job, but I might go so far as to say I love it. I’m a CPA working with taxes all day which appeals to some innate sense of mine to optimize the bottom line…but, I would still love to enjoy the same things you mentioned above (especially pursue other interests). If I miss my job enough, I’m confident it would not be too difficult to go back to work.

    • The call does take its toll. Fortunately, the more frequent the call, the less busy it tends to be. I would guess I get uninterrupted sleep from 11 pm to 6 am at least half the time, if not 60% of my call shifts. In a larger facility, I might only take call twice a month, but would be up all night putting out fires.

      Having a blog you truly love is the holy grail. Congrats!

  6. Number six for me: Doing whatever I want when I want.

    I don’t know if I’m close to fire. I guess it depends on how much I want to spend a month after taxes.

    I’m at about 3.5 mi. now. Plus some property. I’m hoping that’s enough.

    • For sure! Personal freedom is much easier to pursue when you have financial freedom.

      Your numbers would be Enough for my family. If your family’s annual spending in retirement would be less than or equal to about $110,000, I would say you’re in good shape. If the property brings in some income, add the after-tax income to you annual allotment.

      Nice work!

      • That’s 110000 pre tax. Most of my funds are in taxable accounts. So at least capital gains. Property would help.

        So after taxes that would be around 7500 + income from property.
        Not bad at all. And at that level your principal never goes away. You can pull more out over time if principle reduction is not as big of an issue. Also working part time and social security will kick in at some point.

        I m still shooting for a little more. I don’t have to quit yet.

        • You can definitely have $110,000 to spend and not pay federal income tax or capital gains. Depending on where you live, you may be on the hook for a small amount of income tax. Having a majority in taxable makes it quite simple. See The Taxman Leaveth for details.

          Like you, I’m shooting for “a little more” as well. I could quit, but in general, I’m pretty happy with the status quo and the level of safety and comfort a few more years of work will bring to me and my family.



  7. Since my girls are of school age, I wouldn’t mind continuing to work at my real job, but with reduced hours and on the same schedule as them. For example, if I could work 24 hours per week and have most of summer, winter and spring breaks off, I’d probably stay on. Good luck ever getting that deal with a conventional job.

    “Neither can live while the other survives.” – Harry Potter

    The conclusion that I’ve come to recently is that the life I want to live cannot exist with my current job. Older daughter is 9 already. Yikes. Half of my time with her is over. We’ve hardly cracked open the science experiment book I bought her and the one on Scratch programming is gathering dust. It kills me a little every time I think about it.

    On the flipside, I also need a job. I need to have a feeling of accomplishment through some core activity. I love to build things, whether virtual (coding, shout out to 1s and 0s) or new kitchens.

    So, I need to work, but just not under the rules of a conventional job. It took me a while to figure that out.

    “In the summertime, my wife and boys spend a good deal of time at our modest second home a couple states away. They’re there right now having a grand time with friends and family, and I’m missing out because I have a job.”

    Having that second home, is there any way you can work it so you have a couple months off in the summer? That’s a big bummer that you can’t be with them. On the plus side, you get to spend lots of time sitting around drinking beer, eating Cheetos and watching Dumb and Dumber.

    • Like Mr. 1500, I like to build things too. It’s one of the ways I derive happiness from life. Unfortunately there isn’t a conventional 20 hour a week job that lets me do that….especially a job that lets me build the things I want!

      The longer I’m “early retired” though, the more I realize I don’t want to go back to work. I realize now how unfulfilling it is.

      Sometimes when you’re trapped inside the machine, you don’t know what outside is really like. Reminds me of the Wool book series.

    • I’ve been thinking more and more about a part-time option. I usually talk myself out of it, thinking I’d like to continue making hay while the sun is shining. If I could craft the right part-time schedule though with big chunks of time off, I might get the best of both worlds. Lots of time off to pursue hobbies and enjoy family time, and enough work to keep my skills current, get intellectual fulfillment, and a six-figure income.

      The easiest way to have a super flexible schedule is to work locum tenens jobs, but those often take you away from family. I may be able to work out a part-time option with my current job at some point, which would be much more desirable to me.

      Dumb and Dumber and Cheetos, indeed. I’ve had all the “me” time I need. I’m ready to see my family again! Is the long weekend over yet?

      • I have thought about PT options as well. I can possibly do a few shifts a month with UC or ED. Won’t give me a ton of money, but some spending/vacation money. Then I start thinking about if that small amount money worth the risk. I am not sure. What are your thoughts?

        • There’s a great running discussion on the idea in this post about a half time option.

          Between the continuing medical eduation, maintenance of Board certification, licensure, mandatory and expected meetings, other certifications (CPR, advanced life support, pediatric life support), etc… you have a lot of time and money invested just to be a doctor for a year. When you consider all the requirements, a year or two full time begins to make a lot more sense than two to four years half-time, even if the tax treatment is better in the latter scenario.

          I still think about it, though.


  8. work / retire – its just living life and choosing where to spend your time no? Do you feel that working that 1 more year could help so many people in this world? I feel so guilty at the thought of just calling it quits and living a life of leisure…. the photos of you fishing do look tempting.

    • I do feel that way about one more year, but let’s keep that Confidential. You wouldn’t feel nearly as tempted by the fishing if you saw the picture of the one little lake trout we pulled out of that great lake in four hours. Of course, there are many other good ways to spend your time.


  9. I've got my 2 acres of non-leveraged, crop-producing, cashflowing farmland via AcreTrader. Get yours.
  10. Actually it was George Mallory who, when presenting a slide show about climbing Everest to a group in New York and asked why he wanted to do it, said “because it’s there”.

    • Indeed, it was! The wise Dr. Google confirms it. There seems to be some controversy as to whether or not he made it to the top, but he clearly did not make it back down. I was working from my faulty memory when I wrote this, and a wise blogger would edit the story as if the gaffe never occurred, but I’m opting for full transparency here. I stand corrected. Technically, what I said wasn’t really untrue, but it implies that the quote should be attributed to Hillary, when it was actually Mallory. Good catch, Doug.

      • Whether he made it to the top or not, he clearly did not make it back down to the bottom and violated another wise mountaineering quote by Ed Viesturs…”getting to the top is optional, getting to the bottom is not”. The same sanity is also helpful for financial planning. Thanks for the great site.

  11. I agree with everything on this list. Even though I’m not sure if I should be thinking about early retirement if I’m barely starting to enter the work force. But hey, start early to end early right? I want to get to a point where working becomes an option not a need and I might actually start to work even more once I reach independent status but I will cross that bridge what I get to it.

    Like you, I love sleeping and can’t do anything without sleep. It’s a way to recharge my batteries to get ready for the next day! Hoping my retirement days bring me lots of sleep.

    • Best of luck on your journey, Finance Solver. I like presenting FI from a glass-half-full perspective. I can’t imagine slogging along in an undesirable job year after year with nothing but Escape on the mind.


  12. It’s great that you like your job. You can think more clearly about early retirement. I hated my job and it was a huge incentive to get out of there. We would have been better off financially if I stayed just one more year. Might have killed me, though…
    Family time and happiness are my big 2. More sleep is good too, but I’m still not getting enough sleep these days. At least I can take a nap in the middle of the afternoon.

    • I’m glad you got out when you did! Your untimely death would have meant no more site, among other consequences, like your boy being fatherless for example. Good choice.

      One more year can be really advantageous, but once you hit FI, you can do the cost / benefit analysis and decide if it’s right for you. I often talk about a five-year plan, but the more I write, the more I wonder. We might be down to a 4-year plan soon. Next year, maybe a 2-year plan. Or part-time.


  13. I imagine my thoughts would be different if we had kids, but I love teaching so much that I don’t really ever want to not teach. Still, with the shift to blended learning, the idea of being able to teach remotely is intriguing. I really relate to a lot of the points you raise. It’s refreshing to read about someone who really is satisfied with work who still actively pursues FIRE. Thanks!

  14. It’s really great to have a fulfilling career leading up to FI. It’s even better when you reach FI and get to decide how you spend your days. I have been busier than ever and sleeping like a baby since I left my job.

  15. Nice post! Agree with all. I don’t need that much sleep at night, but the greatest luxury for me is a short afternoon nap.
    Not many people in the FIRE community hate their job. I’m very passionate about finance, both in my job and in the personal finance field. But I admit that I hate the haters that hate my job/industry. Finance has become the punching bag of society. Occupy Wall Street. Presidential candidates trying to outdo each other in who will beat up Wall Street more. We are one notch below used car dealers. That’s one thing I will gladly leave behind in 2018.

    • “I hate the haters that hate.” I can identify. Not quite a 1 percenter here, but probably a 2 percenter. I’ll admit to our profession getting more respect than the banking industry, but respect for physicians has fallen off in recent years. Due to a few bad apples, many people seem to think we all take kickbacks, do useless procedures to get rich, are in bed with “Big Pharma,” etc…

  16. I’ve FIRE’d now but it wasn’t for job dissatisfaction at all. I learned a lot of this later than most of you and it took more time to reach FI. I have enjoyed being home more with my kids, even though they are in high school and college. We spend summer days at home – sometimes doing our own “things” but we are still together and get to connect throughout the day. I love the idea of the” recipe for an 11″ on the happiness scale too! I have so many things on my list of things to learn and do – I find myself sleeping less now (maybe because I have less stress??)

  17. Ha! If ED patients can have 20 out of 10 pain, then most certainly you can have 11 out of 10 happiness!

    The reasons you mentioned are fantastic. I want to see my family more, travel more, garden more, hike more, learn more new things, see more new plays, and generally explore more of everything.

  18. For me, it’s about the option value. I, like you, enjoy my job most days. But, you never know when that may change or when I could be laid off due to a restructuring. Knowing that we are FI, would let me sleep well at night regardless and allow me to pursue less highly-compensated paths, like non-profit work.

  19. In a nutshell, you pretty much nailed my top 5 as well. 🙂 I also am not of the “I hate my job” camp, because I really like what I do and who I work with and how it challenges the ol’ brain everyday. That’s not to say I don’t have other things I’d rather be doing, but God forbid, if I had to do this another 10 years (which would still be early retirement) I could be pretty happy with that. In the meantime, I’m just happy that work isn’t a soulsuck and I have a pretty interesting and chill place to ride out the last few years of my working life.

  20. I have spent nearly 24 years in the pharmaceutical world. Dedicating my efforts to the discovery of new medicines in the field of autoimmune diseases that could get into the hands of physicians to treat patients who need them so badly. I am proud to have worked in such a noble profession, despite the bad press that pharma gets, often with very poor information to back it up. When you see the tremendous effects of a medication that completely clears severe psoriasis from fhe horribly inflamed skin of a young mother, a drug that make grandparents dance again with their grandkids when they were previously bed-stricken with brutally painful arthritis. That is tremendous motivation to continue the work I do as a drug hunter. Generally speaking, I love what I have done in my job over the years. Yes, there have been also painful and difficult periods in my time in the corporate world but nothing knew there to anybody who works. It just comes with the territory in every job. Why am I telling you all all this?

    I know that I have reached my “enough”. Not much different to what you need in a portfolio that will cover your withdrawal rate relative to expenses. Knowing your “enough” is key to many things in life. Maybe my wife and I have saved a bit more than enough but we are conservative and we will sleep fine knowing that our finances are all covered.

    What to be exited about? More time to spend with my wife, our kids who will be 11 and 9 when we hit FIRE in two years. Time to conjure up ideas and projects that we did not even think we would do. I have no doubt we will continue live a life full of travel, taking our hobbies (skiing, hiking, baking, cooking) to another level and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The real excitement is the stuff we will discover that is new and we had not even thought of. We are making plans for managing our portfolio, but we do not need to make grand plans for filling our time. That will come naturally. It will be a heck of a ride uncovering what lies ahead. I will raise a glass or two of yummy beer to that!!

  21. For me it’s all about more time with friends and family that are all spread out across the country. And I’d love to give back by some combination of volunteering, teaching and coaching.

    • I hear that, Green Swan. Those unfamiliar with the concept of a very early retirement assume you must hate your job or can’t handle it. The truth for many of us is that we’d simply rather be doing something else.


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