Ether to FI: Part-Time Work. Full-Time Life! And a Net Worth Update

How does one reconcile a drop to part-time work with a race to financial independence?

Today, I present the 11th installment in the Ether to FI series. That’s right; this one goes to eleven!

However, I do expect to see numbers 12, 13, and many more as we follow the young anesthesiologist and nurse practitioner on this journey to achieve financial independence in ten years. We’re just now early in year three.

Personally, I dropped to part-time a while after reaching financial independence, and I finished out most of the last two years of my medical career with that great schedule. Doing so gave me the opportunity to practice retired life a few weeks at a time, making for a great transition to the no-time work schedule that I now enjoy.

My wife, on the other hand, was noticeably pregnant by the time she finished her internship to become a registered dietitian. She’s been a full-time mother and wife and all that goes along with it, but has not earned a whole lot of income outside the home.

This arrangement has worked well for my family, but I realize every relationship and family is different. How will part-time work play a role for the Ether to FI family? Read on!

 

Ether to FI: Part-Time Work. Full-Time Life!

 

Let the celebrations begin, we are going part-time!  I am doing my happy dance, but it’s difficult to show you in writing.

A little clarification: Mrs. ETF is going part-time, but this is a family celebration.  I think I am more excited than she is.  It is a reduction in hours that is well deserved.

While I was in medical school, she worked full-time as a nurse, and over three years completed her graduate degree.  She would attend her clinical rotations, go to class in the evening, and then work overnight before coming home to crash 24 hours after her day began.  She was taking “call” long before I knew what sleep deprivation felt like.

Both of our kids were born during my residency, and Mrs. ETF did most of the parenting, while I worked long hours.  She still maintained a full-time schedule.

She has been selfless all the way through this process.  She skipped vacations as we battled through my student loans.  She cut the budget to speed up our financial independence process.  It was, and still is, difficult to get her to buy anything for herself.

She never complained or sulked.  Even now, as we progress in a strong financial position, nothing about her actions or spending habits have changed.  The reason we can make progress so rapidly in our house is that we have two people pushing the financial independence sled up the hill.  There are no passengers in our relationship, adding to the weight.

I could write a whole book on my awesome wife, but I think I have made my point.

Cheers to her and the other spouses who have had to put up with the pain of medical training.  Those have sacrificed for the good of their families.  I extend a big thank you from those of us allowed to achieve our dream of a medical career.  To Mrs. ETF, I salute you; you are an absolute rock.

 

An Interview with Mrs. Ether to FI

 

It would be great to hear from the lady of the hour, so I have created a few questions for her to share her thoughts.

 

Do you have any concerns about going part-time?

 

For as long as I can recall, my parents advised me to never depend on a husband for income. Needless to say, full-time work has symbolized independence from a very young age.

As we contemplated reducing my work hours, I experienced many conflicting thoughts on the financial and emotional implications of this choice. From an economic standpoint, part-time work obviously results in less pay.

When Mr. E.T.F. and I initially discussed my transition to part-time, I was mostly concerned about slowing our progress towards financial independence. However, beneath the surface, I was more concerned about challenging the voice in my mind that wondered, “will I become too dependent on my husband’s income?”

Mr. E.T.F. tells me I sometimes overemphasize equality in relationships, and I now understand why this can be problematic. Even though Mr. E.T.F.’s annual earnings far exceed mine, I have always felt the need to provide my fair share.

I now realize that contributing my share goes beyond the monetary contribution and extends to the daily tasks of childcare and housework. Through multiple conversations and much self-reflection, we have alleviated my most pressing concerns about transitioning to part-time employment.

 

[E.T.F.: It was interesting to read that Mrs. E.T.F. is concerned about being dependent on my income.  I was happily reliant on her income while I had no income and going into debt for medical school.  When I became a resident, she was earning almost twice my salary, and guess who was still smiling that Mrs. E.T.F. had a much larger income. 

I personally don’t see my income as my own.  If she stopped working, she would always make an income, because whatever “I” make is equally hers.]

 

[PoF: I think I’d go with Dr. E.T.F. over Mr. E.T.F., but that sounds like a lot of editing, so I’ll roll with “mister.”]

 

Will you miss full-time work?

 

As Mr. E.T.F. and I continue the path towards financial freedom, I often reflect on what early retirement will mean for us. Mr. E.T.F. has previously stated he plans to continue working long after achieving financial independence.

Initially, I thought, “why work if you don’t have to?”. Over time, my attitude has shifted, and I have come to realize the joy of working. We often take work for granted, yet there are invaluable aspects.

I have the privilege of working with a phenomenal group of people who are passionate about our patients. Without a doubt, my colleagues are the aspect of work I will miss the most.

I anticipate I will also miss the sense of accomplishment that comes at the end of a long clinic day. My current practice specialty focuses on health and wellness, which provides a unique opportunity to help patients reach their health goals.

I will miss the sense of fulfillment that comes with knowing I had a role in helping someone progress in an essential aspect of their life.

 

 

[E.T.F.: On her first day “off,” she did a happy dance and went to brunch with a friend.  I think she is adjusting just fine.]

 

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What are you most looking forward to when you cut back your hours?

 

Mr. E.T.F. has shared above than I often do not do much for myself. I hope that reducing my work hours will change this. I am most looking forward to having more time for self-care activities. These include building relationships/friendships, spending more time outdoors, meditating, and exploring interests that have fallen to the bottom of my to-do list.

Each time we travel, I try to find at least one aspect of our vacation that I enjoyed and want to incorporate into my daily routine. We have traveled more in the past year than we did before having children, and I appreciate the life balance that seems so natural in other parts of the world.

I look forward to having slow mornings with my children instead of the frantic rush on work mornings. Hopefully, I can volunteer at their schools on a more consistent basis.

I am excited to have lunch dates and uninterrupted conversations with Mr. E.T.F. while our children are at school. I am grateful for the time I will have to see friends who work non-traditional schedules and the flexibility to have friends over for dinner during the week.

The thought of going to the grocery store, and having time to stroll the aisles without my children bickering with one another brings a smile to my face.

We live near parks and walking trails, and I hope to take leisurely walks to enjoy the beauty of nature. Mr. E.T.F. and I recently visited friends who have a lovely backyard garden, and I hope to figure out how to create a garden of our own.

The possibilities seem endless, but ultimately, I look forward to creating invaluable memories and experiences with those I love.

 

[E.T.F.: I love to travel, but having time to do the simple things is what I am looking forward to the most when I eventually cut back. 

I remind myself every day that my children will not always want to make me their jungle gym.  They won’t always want me to spend hours pushing them on swings.  This phase will eventually end, and these little kids will become sulking teenagers.  I have been trying to slow down and enjoy this current moment on our journey.]

 

How do you think this will affect our family?

 

I have pondered this question from the moment my transition to part-time employment was agreed with my employer.

At the end of a long day, I often feel as though my family gets the “leftovers” of my patience, kindness, empathy, and joy. The day to day grind can deplete you of all of your energy and leave you feeling resentful of the “second shift” that starts when you arrive home.

Above all else, I think the most significant change will be my ability to give more of myself without being exhausted. This may mean more patience while helping with homework, quality time talking about the day’s events, walks after dinner, and an overall calmer approach to the evening routine.

While I recognize other daily tasks will likely fill my time, the time away from work will grant me more freedom to direct my focus towards the people and experiences I value most.

 

[E.T.F.: I second Mrs. ETF’s thoughts.  The idea of 30+ years of giving your family your leftovers as patients and colleagues get the best parts of you is a frightening proposition.  You almost have to retire early, because you can wake up in 30 or 40 years and have no one at home to retire to.]

 

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What do you want our kids to learn from this change in our family?

 

Over the past year, I have started to think more about what I want for my children’s futures. There is a conflict between being successful in the traditional sense and building a life of meaningful relationships and experiences.

I hope my transition to part-time employment highlights the importance of identifying and prioritizing your values, even if society does not seem to agree. I realize our children will each take their own paths in life. However, I hope to demonstrate that a life of traditional success can coincide with self-care and quality time with loved ones.

 

[E.T.F.: We made sure to celebrate this transition with our children and explain why Mrs. ETF was cutting back her work schedule.  I hope they learn from our actions even if they cannot fully internalize our words.]

 

How awesome is Mr. ETF?

 

When I first read this question, I asked Mr. E.T.F. if he seriously wanted me to answer this. Thankfully, he said it is a joke. As you can probably tell, he has a much better sense of humor than I do and often tells me I am too serious.

I have to agree that Mr. E.T.F. is indeed awesome. He is, and always has been, a wonderful husband and father. Mr. E.T.F. introduced me to the FIRE community, and I have come to understand his motivation.

At first, it seemed about saving and not having to work. But I now realize, his goal all along has been to build a more fulfilling life for his family.

I am incredibly grateful for the sacrifices Mr. E.T.F. makes for our family and all the ways he strives to make us better. We are an ordinary couple whose life has challenges, I feel blessed to have Mr. ETF at my side as we travel on this journey together.

 

[E.T.F.: Awesome Wife= Awesome Life]

 

Interested in reading more about part-time work as a physician? I”ve got you covered.

 

Net Worth Update:

 

There are a lot of moving parts currently occurring behind the scenes.  Our cash position has shifted drastically.

We have refinanced to a 15-year mortgage to take advantage of these low mortgage rates.  Our car has been replaced, dying twice on the highway was two times too many.

We have created a concrete plan to pay off our mortgage 6 years from now.  Our regular contributions to retirement plans have remained on autopilot.  The next frontiers for our finance are to begin to invest in non-retirement accounts.

We are also trying to get educated on real estate because we are interested in owning rental properties.  There are a lot of new things on the horizon, so expect some fresh updates as we begin to move forward.

Our net worth is currently $583,565.51.  I am happy it has not grown massively since our last update.  It can only mean we have been buying into a market dip.

Could a bear market soon be upon us? I hope so.  I need mutual funds on sale if we are going to achieve our FI goal in the 8 years that are left from our initial 10-year goal.

 

ETF_part-time

 

Follow Ether to FI’s progress to FI in his previous posts:

 

 

 

 

Do you or a spouse work part-time? How has such a schedule impacted your life or your family?

13 comments

  • Congrats Ms ETF on the transition to part time. It certainly seems you deserve it and as Dr ETF pointed out, you carried the family during his training so it is his turn to pick up the slack.

    I like how you termed dealing with family life as a “second shift” that sometimes gets the leftover energy from working. I have felt that in the past where work can be so draining that there is a lot of carryover into home life. It definitely improves when you reduce your clinical hours like I did (cut down to 4 days a wk for me).

    Quite impressive you have built a 11 post series on POF. Keep up the good work and thanks for the updates.

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  • Lordosis

    I enjoy following your story. There are a lot of similarities with our life. My wife was the high earner in residency. We had one child in residency and so far three more after. I thought the first one was easy but that was because I was always working and my awesome wife did the majority of the work.
    She has cut back to part time as well. She can get some of the routine junk out of the way during the week so we have more family time on the weekend.
    Your comment about the kids growing up could not hit closer to home. I remind myself of that every day.
    Thanks for the post!

    PoF- I am not sure how much control over the ads you have but in case you don’t know it is for vape products. Probably not something you want associated with the blog. Having never run a website I am not sure if you have a way to limit this.
    Thanks for the continued posts and I hope you are enjoying your retirement!

    • Ether to FI

      You are ahead of us in the kid department. They are fun but exhausting. Cheers to your awesome wife, another one of the many unsung heroes in the FI journey.

    • Regarding the served ads, I have been trying to eliminate any and all for the last two weeks. It’s been a slow process, but I hope to never see another ad here that I haven’t approved.

      Thanks for the heads up!
      -PoF

  • “I hope to demonstrate that a life of traditional success can coincide with self-care and quality time with loved ones.”

    True that! It’s good you’ve had that realization now while you still have time to make changes and positively impact yourself and the people around you. Congrats on the transition and hope you enjoy your well-earned extra time.

  • I love the shift! I may be following in Mrs. ETF’s footsteps at some point in the not too distant future. Finding the balance that allows you to focus on both your goals as a family and your aspirations for your career can prove challenging. But it’s so worth it! Money is a tool to buy the time and life you want… Why not live it now, if you can afford it?

    P.s. your net worth growth is astonishingly good. What is your overall savings rate from your gross income?

    TPP

    • Ether to FI

      Thanks for reading as usual TPP. If you make the shift, it will spur me to try to find more passive income so I can also make the shift. Our savings rate is 45-60% of gross depending on the year.

  • Bradley Rice

    Great article! I love you guys are making the part-time choice. Spending time with family is certainly one of my hobbies/loves in life. I can’t wait to hear more!

  • I have been working part-time for almost 2 years now. It isn’t as easy as I thought. My workdays seem longer and harder than they used to. But the days off are priceless. No regrets here. It is certainly great to reach FI and have options like that.

    • Ether to FI

      I am looking forward to the days off, the work days are getting longer for me already. Full-time work and all. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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