How did I become the Physician on FIRE?
Good question. It wasn’t until I was nearly 10 years removed from residency that the idea for this blog occurred to me. When I was a truly young doc, I figured once I settled into a permanent position, I’d work there for about 30 years, then perhaps break in a youngster not unlike myself to take over the reins.
That did not happen.
I spent my first couple years out of residency doing locum tenens work. That was part of the plan. Any of those assignments could have transitioned into a permanent position, and one of them did. My wife and I returned to a hospital close to her childhood home and I became the medical director and only full-time anesthesiologist there.
We built our dream home on the water, and settled in for a nice, long, prosperous career. But… the hospital wasn’t so prosperous. About 4 years after I started, the place went bankrupt and shut its doors.
I was let go with little notice about 6 months before the bitter end. For a few months, I went back to full time locums work while I started the process of looking for a new “permanent” position. I found that locum tenens work was much more difficult with 2 very young children and 1 overwhelmed wife at home.
We figured we could find happiness anywhere as long as we were together again, and I took a great full-time job in a small town that was kinda, sorta close to some friends and family, but not really. That lasted two years.
The job was stellar and we liked the town alright, but we missed being close to family. A job opened up in a place close to my family, where I happened to have worked as a locum some seven years earlier. I jumped at the opportunity, and we have been living happily here in the Northland ever since. It’s a desirable job with a decent work / life balance and I sincerely hope this will be my final doctor job. So that’s how I got here, career-wise.
Why Consider FIRE?
I’ve had at least a casual interest in personal finance for a long time. I credit my father for teaching me the Rule of 72 in high school, and for helping me start an IRA when I had my first job at a grocery store in high school. I didn’t have a whole lot of money to invest, but I understood the importance of saving and investing early.
Fast-forward to my first big paycheck. While the other 20-some new residency grads in my class spent the first week of July studying for the written board exam, I took a one-week locums position, taking call on the 4th of July. I used that check to pay off a loan I had taken during residency.
Time was money, and I turned my time into money every chance I got. I had a 3-week job lined up right after the Saturday exam, then drove over a long weekend to a 25-weeker up north. I don’t think I took a full week off until late spring. I had an S-Corp, a maxed out SEP-IRA, and I was saving to build that dream house some day.
About eight years later, I was comfortable in my 3rd “permanent” position, but I had seen enough to be a little bit jaded about the current state of affairs in medicine. I had spent far too much of my time serving on thankless committees, particularly in my first job.
I had been certified and recertified in NRP, ATLS, ACLS, ACLS, and of course BLS. And the latest BS was a Maintenance of Certification exam I was studying for that had very little to do with my actual job. I started agonizing over repeating the process over the next ten years, and I started to wonder if that might not be necessary.
I had been maxing out retirement accounts from day one and had been funneling money into a taxable account for about five years. With the exception of our home and some exotic travel, we had not been big spenders.
I had been putting money in as the markets tanked in 2007 and 2008, and continued to invest throughout the long bull market that followed. I knew we were in decent shape, but didn’t have a firm grasp on where we stood financially.
Over the course of a few months, I discovered some really insightful blogs and sites, notably Mr. Money Mustache, The White Coat Investor, and the bogleheads.org website. I devoured the information and started to apply my new-found knowledge and perspective. I took stock of my stocks, so to speak.
I set an asset allocation and applied it across my various accounts, using Personal Capital to track everything. I started paying more attention to spending, using Mint.com to categorize my family’s spending. I finally sold the dream house on the water from 2 jobs ago. Some simple number crunching showed me that I could now be considered financially independent. Hooray!