Make Medicine a Hobby & Enjoy a Long, Happy Career

Our Saturday Selection today comes courtesy of Passive Income MD who argues we can have more sustainable careers if we can reach financial independence and treat medicine more like a hobby than a job.

Given the stressors and time pressures that come with my job, I’m not sure I could ever make it a hobby, but if there’s a way, I will try.

In the meantime, I’ve got a fun hobby than also provides some income (the website in front of you), so I’ll continue to develop this hobby.

This post originally appeared on Passive Income MD.


 

Make Medicine a Hobby & Enjoy a Long, Happy Career

 

A hobby is an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one’s own time. – Wikipedia

A job is often defined as a regular activity performed in exchange for payment. – Wikipedia

If you search “hobby” on Wikipedia, you’ll be presented with a lengthy list of the most common ones – everything from magic to beekeeping to vehicle restoration. But if you look at these “hobbies” closely, you may notice that any of those could be a vocation as well.

So at what point do we begin to differentiate between something we do in our free time, something we enjoy, and our day job? Where do we draw the line?

Difference Between a Job and a Hobby

 

It appears, then, that what separates a job from a hobby isn’t necessarily how regularly it’s performed, but rather it’s the notion of doing it for pleasure, on your own time. As for payment, certain hobbies do produce an income.

 

 

anesthesia machine

looks more like a job tool than a hobby item

The Plight of Physicians

 

The finances behind being a doctor are quickly reaching an unsustainable position. Rising student loan debts can put new graduates behind by more than 200k right off the bat (to some that might seem like a small number), and it’s a fact that reimbursements are decreasing.

Couple that with limited autonomy in medicine and micromanagement from administrators and it seems that, in some ways, doctors have become a slave to the system. Put simply, it’s become a job, and any pleasure one used to derive from the notion of helping people is quickly moved to the back burner.

Because of this and other reasons, more and more physicians’ careers are being cut short. There are physicians burning out and pursuing non-clinical careers both inside and outside of medicine. Physicians are searching for happiness in the field, and at this point we have to ask: is that even possible?

Well, at the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I believe that without significant change, this situation won’t be improving anytime soon. No matter how much you enjoy something, if you’re forced to do it, it’ll become a chore. I love golfing, for example, but if I needed to do it every day to put food on the table, it wouldn’t be the same. In fact, it might feel more like a grind.

Medicine as a Hobby

 

One day it occurred to me that one of the solutions to this burnout epidemic may be to simply turn medicine into a hobby rather than a job; something we enjoy rather than something that virtually enslaves us. But how?

The way to achieve this is by not having to rely on it financiallyFinancial independence from medicine is possible for doctors – just look at doctors like the White Coat Investor or Physician on Fire. Each says they practice medicine because they enjoy it and they’re not ready to give it up fully yet. Based on my own income reports, I’m happy to say I’m there as well.

The Path to This Freedom

 

But how does that happen? Well, it all begins with smart financial decisions made early in your career, like saving aggressively and investing wisely. I’ve seen doctors make clever investments in the stock market or real estate (or both) and achieve this “medicine as hobby” status.

This means you have to educate yourselves to make those wise financial decisions and that needs to start early – as early as residency or even medical school. It means having the dedication and commitment to making it happen when so many of your colleagues decide to buy that fancy car right out of training. It means taking some calculated risks and being willing to devote some time and energy to seeking out the right ventures. It means seeking out the wisdom of other physicians who have already achieved the goals you’re working toward.

As unlikely as it may seem, medicine as a hobby is an achievable goal. I enjoy practicing medicine and that’s why I never want it to be just a job. My goal with all these passive income ventures is not so I can quit my day job completely, it’s so I can enjoy it fully, and on my own terms, by making it a hobby.

 


You're still not using Personal Capital? That's how I track the PoF portfolio.

 

How about you? How different would you feel about your career if it was a hobby instead?

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12 comments

  • I will say my own experience has shown that after you reach a certain level of wealth that allows you to walk away from something that thing you walk away from no longer has a hold on you and becomes more tolerable if not enjoyable.

    I used to have the mentality of pushing myself by extending hours and thus getting more studies in with the thought that it will improve my bottom line (it did but at the highest tax rate this was the least valuable hours I worked as brought in dollars at the highest marginal rate

    Now that money is not the central feature in my life I make my work more enjoyable (and thus extending my career) by doing things that reduce fatigue and possibility of burnout.

    The biggest thing I did and the one that gave the greatest impact to my life was to have someone cover me 1 day a week. Just that act allows me to recharge my batteries more and feel better to attack the remaining 4 days I have.

    And even though I decreased my work week by 20%, it turns out that the financial impact was far less than that (again those dollars I would have made would be taxed the highest, plus I pay the coverage a flat rate and typically still have a positive cash flow after that expense that adds to my bottom line)

    • I hear you, XRV. I did something similar, although I dropped 40% of my job and it’s been a great move for us.

      I wonder how much you enjoy the job that still takes up the majority of your week, though. The fact that you use terms like recharging your (presumably drained) batteries and attacking the 4-day workweek says something.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

      • billy

        I went from a full time partnership seeking job to just a daytime no call no weekends/holidays job this year and its made life so much more enjoyable. I was on the road to burnout (fellow anesthesiologist here) and despite probably losing out on 100,000-150k extra gross salary per year, I probably gained an extra few working years of my career without being disgruntled or unhappy. Plus I gained not worrying about working any holidays or getting angry at the very elective cases being booked on saturdays for patient or surgeon convenience or getting woken up for the 3 am urgent/emergent cases after getting home at 2 am…. Now all the call taking people at my new place are jealous of my deal even though i make less money than they do, but taking taxes into account I probably make more proportionally to the time worked

      • My goal is to get to the point where you are POF and drop another day (40% drop total).

        I think we are very fortunate to be in specialties that allow this (i.e. the shift work ones such as ER, anesthesiology, and radiology (I’m sure there are others I am not aware of).

        I’m like Billy above where I took a job for lifestyle over money (although I have to admit I have been making far more money than I thought possible where I’m at). I have the best of the radiology worlds in that I only do outpatient imaging for the multispecialty clinic I work for. As close to 8:30-5pm hours as possible (no call, no weekend).

        Despite this I do feel some times worn down due to the volume increasing (decreasing reimbursements have made it a zero sum game). We are at the level that adding a 3rd full time partner would be a bit premature so it keeps the 2 of us quite busy some weeks, but others very manageable.

        It is hard to go back once you adapt (the days when I can’t get coverage and have to work a full 5 days in a row (I know, it’s absolutely horrifying, lol), really can shock your system. Doubt I would do well in a situation requiring nights/call anymore which is saying something b/c that was my typical environment before as an interventional radiologist (current practice is solely general stuff).

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  • For me blogging is a hobby and medicine is my career. I enjoy both more now that I work only 3 days a week.

  • Being financially independent gives you negotiating power. I had a contract problem at one site. They kept delaying. I finally told them they had a week to fix it or I was leaving. They knew I could quit at any time. The contract was fixed. FI gives you the power to make your practice the way you want it and that will make it much more enjoyable.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

  • Nicely stated, PassiveIncomeMD and I agree with the other thoughts above. I didn’t do anything my first year as an attending except save money, study for boards, and live like a student. I had already burned out in fellowship and that first attending year was about setting myself up for chasing down my dream of working internationally. I quit private practice after 1 year and joined Doctors without borders (MSF) and moved all my stuff into a cheap storage locker. I got my expenses down to basically just student loan payments. MSF paid me 1500$/month and covered my meals and travel. This took care of ALL my yearly expenses. I lived with purpose and I felt so free. I really didn’t need any extra money. Now wouldn’t you know it , life got harder by spending more and making more money. The mortgage and a steady job with a rigid schedule is not easy and the expenses add up. But the lesson wasn’t lost on me. As Dr. Fawcett said, FI gives you the power and flexibility. It’s not about money, it’s about flexibility and your ability to be free.

  • GasFIRE

    Medicine as a hobby? I think I’m there. FI has made a world of difference for me. Previously, I was in a typical anesthesia group practice based at a large community hospital. It really wasn’t bad and there was actually a fractional FTE based system to adjust workload up or down which I took full advantage of on the down side. But once I reached FI even that wasn’t enough as I no longer felt the desire to tolerate the distasteful items. For me specifically that was anything that adjusted the workload up, like staying late, taking call, etc. Eventually I left, I burnout FIRED.

    Several months later I was approached about a part-time 1099 gig at a same day surgery center. I wasn’t sure if I was ready or even wanted to return to medicine, but I decided to give it a try. Shockingly, I couldn’t be happier. Removing the call obligation and working in a streamlined surgical process that tries to make it easier for everyone including the patients, the staff and the doctors has done wonders for my psyche. An ER physician friend who was considering cutting back once asked me about my situation so I summed it up for him: “half the money, twice as happy”. I don’t need to do it but now I like to do it.

  • Gasem

    Medicine gives you a lot opportunity. I ran a hospital anesthesiology practice for about 18 years, till they replaced us with Team Health. I didn’t want to be an employee and I was FI, but a group of surgeons were building a SDSC 2 miles down the road so I joined them, I also did pain on the side. The SDSC worked about 3.5 days per week generally not full days. After a while it was 4 days then 4.5 days then 5 full days. We sold the practice to one of the large national anesthesia providers as succession planning for the center as my partner was getting ready to pull the plug. I didn’t care much for being an employee. My partner quit and 6 months later I quit, and he came back as 1099. I quit because I realized I’d already made all the money and every day I went to work I was only courting risk. I also wanted to take some time to Roth convert. I stayed quit. I opened up the paper and the local college was looking for a director of their Respiratory Therapy program. I decided to stay retired, but just to point out how flexible a medical career is. My partner looked at his calendar realized he wasn’t booked, so he sold his house and moved to the Shenandoah.

    I was glad to do it all, and now I’m glad to be moving on

  • Do you feel there’s limit where if you cut back too much you can lose your skills, especially if do a lot of procedures?

  • Dr P

    Great article. I look forward to getting to the point where I could practice as a hobby, rather than as a means for primary income. We’ve still got a ways to go before we’re there, and have taken a big hit, this last year due to negotiating difficulties with local hospital systems. I fully/mostly enjoy my stressful medical practice, but with what’s happening to reimbursements, I sometimes wonder if I can work until FI…..

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