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Retired Not Retired

Retired not Retired

Now that my quote-unquote “retirement” has arrived — I left my job as an anesthesiologist in August of 2019 — I’ve been thinking more about what my life will look like after that. I don’t think “retired” will be a great word to describe my existence as a husband, father, blogger, and traveler.

I’ll be retired not retired.

What do I mean by that? It’s kind of like when someone makes a phony public apology, a tactic known as saying “sorry not sorry.” It goes something like this.


“I am sorry that you were offended when I referred to you as a no-talent a**clown. While your music makes me physically ill, I respect the fact that you’ve won Grammys and finally got a tasteful but long-overdue haircut. Please accept my sincere apology.”


You want to say you’re sorry, but you’re not really sorry.

Sorry not sorry.


Retired Not Retired


In 2018 attended FinCon — the conference where media and money meet.  I was part of a panel moderated by (name drop alert) The Today Show’s Jean Chatzky, discussing withdrawal strategies in early retirement. One point she made, that we all agreed upon, was the fact that retirement needs to be redefined.

I love the word “retire” as a verb. I retired from medicine. My Dad retired from his dental career after the markets recovered from the Great Recession.  At some point, most of us will retire and start doing something different with our time.

I’m not a big fan “retired” as an adjective or “retirement” as a noun. People tend to get hung up on what a person can or can’t do in retirement and still say they’re retired after they retire (for perhaps the first of several times).

If you ask me what my Dad does, I would not say “oh, he’s retired.” That doesn’t do his busy life justice. He designs things and builds them. He makes gallons upon gallons of maple syrup every spring. He hunts, fishes, travels to far-flung places with my Mom — they went to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan last year — and sometimes has the distinct pleasure of caring for two rambunctious grandchildren.

Now, I’m not trying to argue that he’s not retired — the dictionary tells us that retired people no longer work for money. For the most part, that’s true of my Dad and many other people who have retired.

Or is it? He does still work. In the last few months, he built a sturdy new deer stand, poured a concrete floor in the sugar shack, helped a neighbor build a shed, and fried fish for a few dozen friends, among other things.

He also still earns income. His 401(k) and taxable account pay dividends. He’s receiving annual income from the sale of his dental practice. He receives checks from Uncle Sam related to his military service in Vietnam and from the Social Security department.

So he did retire, and he now does different work and earns money in a variety of ways. I’m not saying “retired” is an inaccurate description of his status; I just like to think of it as something he did rather than something that he is.



My Next Life


At this recent conference, at which Tanja from Our Next Life won a well-deserved Blog of the Year Plutus Award (and yes, that heading above is a nod to her excellent FIRE blog), I learned many ways  I can grow this site’s readership, influence, and income, furthering my charitable mission. I also learned it’s best not to have run-on sentences in your blog posts. Clearly, I’m a slow learner.

Now, I had all these ideas and I wanted to do all the things, but I realized I wouldn’t have time to implement many of them until after I was retired from medicine. I’m not sure I’ll have time then, either, as I’d like to shift most of my blog work away from the nights and weekends to focus more on family as the wise J. Money has done.

I don’t know exactly what my next life will look like. I’ve uttered “We’ll take it one year at a time” more times than I can possibly count.

I plan to be a more present father. We plan to travel as a family for months at a time. We’d like to be Airbnb hosts. I will continue my attempts to educate, enlighten, and entertain a growing readership. I’ll still be attending, and perhaps even organizing get-togethers with like-minded people. Events like Camp FI and FinCon are just awesome.

Doing this the way I do this looks, and sometimes feels, a lot like work. It’s fun work and I love doing it, but I do have self-imposed deadlines, am active on social media (InstagramTwitter, and Facebook) and I’m constantly communicating with people from all around the nation and world through all these different channels. It’s work I choose, but I’d be lying if I said it never feels like work.


Retired not Retired
climbing fake rock walls feels a lot like work, too



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The Infamous Internet Retirement Police


I was stoked that ( second name drop alert) the blogger, philanthropist, and world saver Mr. Money Mustache agreed to join our FIRE panel (Thank you, Pete!) and it was also great to see him talk on a bigger stage in a Keynote talk. In that discussion, he referred to himself several times as a retired person.

If you ask him what he does, he doesn’t simply say “I’m retired.” He says something like this: I’m a retired person who likes to do physical labor for a few hours in the morning, spend a little time on my computer in the afternoon, get some exercise in, mess around with musical instruments, and spend the evening relaxing with family and friends, and perhaps a beer or two.

One of his more popular blog posts lambastes the infamous “Internet Retirement Police,” a collective of naysayers who are quick to point out that anyone who does something productive with their time, particularly if that something earns them money, absolutely positively cannot be retired or use that word.

I think it’s a great post, and I agree with the sentiment that individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they’ve retired and how they define their status.

The fact that the post had to be written does identify an issue with our messaging, though. While many of us in the financial independence community have retired or will soon retire from our careers to do something different, there will always be people who see a busy blogger, podcaster, author, or influencer as something other than retired.

While they don’t have to be rude about it, as they often are, I do see the point they’re making. I am a fan of transparency and I don’t want people who discover the FIRE movement to get the wrong impression that early retirement only works if you have a monetized life after retiring.

The fact is that those of us that are making some money after reaching financial independence are earning dollars we don’t actually need to live our lives the way we want.

Unfortunately, that fact is often lost on those who are first exposed to the FIRE movement by a feature article in the mainstream media. It’s easier to dismiss the idea of a very early retirement as implausible than it is to take a deep dive into a blog or podcast to discover just how it can be done, with or without future work or active income.



On a related note, the Academy recently graduated a fresh new batch of recruits for the IRP. Beware!


If the naysayers were to dive into the deep end, they’d find out that Mr. Money Mustache donates lots of money, I’ve given away half of my blog profits (and greedily keep the other half, but that drives me to work harder #human_nature), and this community is full of people who have moved beyond a scarcity mindset to one of abundance. If we’re making money somehow, it’s by choice and not out of necessity.


The Verdict: Retired Not Retired


It doesn’t actually make any difference to me whether or not people use the word retired as a noun, verb, or adjective, or not at all. If you’re working 60 to 80 hours a week, earning six-figures, and telling everyone you’re simply retired without qualifying that statement, I would take issue. Honestly, I don’t know people doing that, but I think that’s the impression some people get. Hence, the backlash and rude comments.

The issue isn’t really with the word itself, but with how it’s used and understood differently by different people. As Jean Chatzky said, we, as a society, should be thinking about retirement in a new way that embraces all sorts of different activities, even some paid work. In spite of what the tee shirt says, retirement isn’t just a beach.

Mr. 1500 is on record saying he hates the word “retirement.” Yet, he’ll say he retired because it’s the best word we’ve got. I like it more as an action than a state of being. Retire may be something you have done, but it does not define what you do now.

Each of us is free to decide which words to use to describe who we are, what we do, and what stage of life we’re in. To be told you”re wrong when there are so many shades of gray — more than fifty, I’ll bet — is just silly.

Personally, I haven’t yet figured out how to best answer the “so, what do you do?” question, but I don’t think “retired” will find any place in my one-line response. It’s become too loaded a word.

I’ll start with something like “I’m a personal finance blogger.” If that leads to further questioning, which I suspect it usually will, I may mention that I retired from an anesthesia career and now do this other thing, but I won’t lead with “I’m retired.”

I’m retired not retired.



To those of you who have retired from your career job, how do you respond to “what do you do”? Bloggers and podcasters who have plans to FIRE, how will you approach that question? Will you use the word “retired”?

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69 thoughts on “Retired Not Retired”

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  5. Actually I’ll give 4 examples of people that I know personally. Just to illustrate. I know dozens. I’ll just go “financial” as to avoid medical disasters that are always sad (but I know 2 bad ones).
    1) 1998 : private practice rad. Early 50s . Income 400k. Michigan. Portfolio 3-4M. Market euphoria. Builds a retirement home in Florida. Big bear. Now relatively poor (1-2M), divorce (wife not happy in poverty) , goes back to work. Retires in 2018: 74y/o.
    2) 1999: Anesthesia. 58-60. Income 350. Portfolio 18M. Has been “buying the dips” in Nasdaq for years. “when it goes down you buy more, when it goes way down you buy way more” . Big bear. Down to 1-2 M (he buys the dips). Depressed. Back to work in mid 60s
    3) vascular surgeon. Bull market. Rides the “darlings of the market”. Gets devastated in early 2000s, has an extramarital affair with hot student, wife sues, early dementia,…destitute.
    4) rad: mid 2000s, 40s , buys commercial real estate, goes all in with leverage and personal guarantees, Market turns, negative cash, averts bankruptcy, back to work.

    I’ll keep the medical “negative outcome” in retirement for another day.

  6. Hi .
    I was reading the comments and because was thinking as well about the “dangers” of retirement (or whatever you call it) .
    I hope you will do a post on this where some readers could bring “negative outcome” stories. I can bring some.
    First: congratulations on your achievement . I’m very happy for you.
    Two: I’m not coming as a naysayer. Just to play a bit of the devil’s advocate that 2 other comments touched on, and which I think are critical for those embarking on the early retirement train.
    We communicated before. I’m a rad. I have more than 250k of passive income/year from real estate and can easily “retire” completely without even touching at my very large capital (ever hopefully).
    I have an expensive lifestyle.
    However, having worked only part time for the last 15 years, I have discovered that being retired does not do it for me. So I continue to work about 700 hrs/year. On my CV I keep this activity as “full time” .
    My message is simple enough and should not be taken negatively.
    1) Unless you have experienced retirement long enough ( many, many, many weeks) you DO NOT know if you will like it. Sports, arts, travel, hobbies ,etc…. is fun a while , then extremely boring. Boring to death for me. And I travel A LOT.
    2) Not practicing medicine will lead to a serious cognitive decline. The older, the worst. Unless you have another high cognitive hobby. It’s not a problem in the 40s, it’s a problem in the 50s ,a big problem in the 60s.
    3) Nobody is immune to financial catastrophe.
    A devastating bear, hyperinflation, divorce, lawsuit,…..And for the vast majority of docs the only way to generate substantial income is thru medicine.
    BUT, as mentioned by others, if you stayed away too long, you are dead meat. Legally , administratively, cognitively skillwise, age discrimination or whatever.
    Again, I’m not here to break the dream. I live the dream.
    Just wanted to caution the younger ones (40s and early 50s) that having 3 -5 mil in the bank is great but not panacea.
    Think it thru , and if not 1000% sure, test it extensively by keeping a foot in the medical door for a long time .
    I’m in my early 50s, I intend to do it until my late 50s.
    As an aside: when you completely retire, you should secure health insurance no matter what and specifically an insurance that will cover AMERICAN care. I see posts of living on the cheap in Mexico and all, which is great as long as you’re healthy. But should disaster strike (and remember that the growth of medical issues is exponential with age) you won’t be able to pay out of pocket for 1st class medical care without destroying your nest egg. For example long term medicines are outrageously expensive, sometimes more than 100-150k per year (there are ways around that thru self medicating copycat molecules from India but without guarantees).
    Live the dream, but have a back up plan should you change your mind, or should circumstances dictate retreat. Be careful leaving completely what is , for 90% of docs, the only serious income generating skill they have.
    Medicine was our goal not so long ago. Those reading here achieved it. Achieve the true/false retirement goal as well but , as a doc who’s been wealthy for a long time, I have not yet decided to completely throw away the first one.
    Life is full of surprises. Some very good, some very bad.

  7. I wouldn’t have any guilt at all about retiring (do I detect a little?). You’ve done amazingly well so you enjoy your retirement however you like without any guilt! If you want to work flexibly whenever you want then do so. If you don’t then don’t. You’re free…or FIRE!

  8. Great perspective on your father, “I just like to think of it as something he did rather than something that he is.“

    Instead of saying “I’m retired” how about “I’m financially independent and do what I want to do!” Lol

    I think Chris Hogan said it best, that you don’t retire from something…you retire to something.

  9. Wow! Congratulations- are you planning on leaving medicine completely, or will you keep your toe in the water with locums or per diem positions?

    Good for you, and enjoy your new adventures.

  10. When I “retired” the first time, I was actually independently wealthy but not working. I had planned correctly and acquired “enough”. Within a couple months, I had a chance to become involved in starting a surgery center and rose to the challenge. Did that for the better part of a decade, and had a blast. One day I looked at my situation and decided my risk of working had become greater than my remuneration so I “actually retired”. Every day I went to work all I was buying was risk, since any money I earned made no difference to my future security or my families security. By the time I “retired” the second time, I was in the proper age range (like PoF’s Dad) so I just accepted the moniker. If you don’t like “retired” call yourself independently wealthy (if that’s the case) or call yourself an entrepreneur if you’re running a gig, or a part timer or 1099 employee or whatever. Just be who you is. Only one comparison matters: is the “you” you are today( better, more at peace, fill-in-the-blank) than the “you” you were yesterday. Comparing yourself to someone else’s notion of who you oughtta be is a total waste of time.

    I’m still having a blast

  11. Well, I earn six figures but I still have generally about six days a week off so am I retired? Since I used to work more like 50 hours a week at a real job and now I just do a little consulting for a few hours it feels like I’m not really working. But calling it a hobby job doesn’t really mesh with something that is so profitable. I usually say I’m retired but consult a little for fun, but the looks I get tell me most people can’t imagine doing any kind of work for fun. I actually do many more hours of volunteer work and recreation than the stuff I get paid to do. Many of my friends don’t understand why I volunteer so much either, and I have a hard time explaining that as well since a lot of the volunteer work is hard and not particularly pleasant. Fortunately I don’t have to explain myself to others, but sometimes I wish I could.

  12. I go with “self-employed” or “changed career” even though “retired” sounds like a bigger accomplishment. Internet Retirement Police is an invented straw man. We should avoid such name-calling for the sake of transparency, especially in the era of clickbaits. Nobody is saying if you earn $100 in a year you are all of sudden “not retired.” The degree to which the new activities cover your expenses matters a lot to the risk profile. There’s a big difference between having everything covered by new ventures and living on $40k withdrawn from $1 million saved at age 30.

    • You must spend much time on Reddit. 🙂

      I like your word choices, and I think a lot of the disagreements online stem from people making assumptions, often false ones. Suze Orman’s “hatred” of the FIRE movement on Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast is a great example.


      • Actually I don’t go to Reddit at all even though I registered a user account there some years ago. It doesn’t help when the headlines (sometimes our own) want people to make false assumptions for the shock value. No wonder people push back when they feel cheated. It’s great for business but terrible for the audience. I didn’t listen to Suze Orman on that podcast. I’m afraid she would say anything to get into the headlines. Saying she hated it works better for Suze Orman than saying she loved it.

        • Very true. She said a bunch of stuff for the shock value. You millennials are all doomed and you haven’t even considered the possibility of something bad or unexpected happening in the next 50 years, bla bla bla, buy my new book!

  13. When I went to a pool party at a friend’s in summer 2016 and was asked about my plans to RE in the following month, that friend’s husband handed me a book about finding my next career (in an actual job). Some folks cannot comprehend that someone could retire early and not be seeking a new full time job.

    Funny thing is, I also run a 20 acre horse farm that needs regular maintenance and has a backlog of needed repairs, so it’s not like I’d planned on becoming a couch potato.

    • It could be fun to see what people say if I were to go with the two-word “I’m retired.” The looks on the bewildered people’s faces. I can just see ’em.


  14. “I don’t know exactly what my next life will look like. I’ve uttered “We’ll take it one year at a time” more times than I can possibly count.”

    I love that. I’ve had so much time to reflect over these past 15 months. Often when people ask me what I do, I reply that I’m young and still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Sometimes I add that I retired from my position as a dermatologist and now fill my life with family, travel, hiking, etc.

    I suppose when I use the word retired I’m trying to convey that I had a significant career that I have resigned from because I no longer need the money, and I am now free to pursue various interests with my ample free time. The internet retirement police don’t have any say in what I choose to do with that time.

    • Exactly, Eliza. I may end up in a different career completely unrelated to medicine or blogging. There’s a decent chance I’ll have 50 years left to make an impact in some new way if an opportunity presents itself. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in 5 years, let alone 25 years from now.

      I’ll be taking it one year at a time.


  15. The concept of retirement has always bugged me. I feel some people think you have to be over 60 to be able to use that term freely and without judgement. If all goes as planned, I will be able to retire from “W2” work at the young age of 42, with a pension, a healthy 457, 401K, Roth IRA, and several income producing rental properties.

    Now, I am not planning on sitting on my butt and do nothing (although I definitely intend to take as much time off with my wife to travel). No, I am planning on using my FIRE status to help others get there and achieve their full potential (whatever that may be). I am a firm believer in giving back and we currently donate and volunteer to organizations that align with our beliefs and principles. I hope to be able to do more of that. If I can monetize my time while doing something I enjoy “post-retirement”, then that would be icing on the cake. Either way we all have to have a vision and take control of our destiny with the things we can control. Those things that we can’t control (sickness, accidents, unforeseen economic downturns) we just have to insure ourselves and prepare for them while enjoying the present time. As I’ve read before, FIRE is about buying back your time and that to me is the reason why I do what I do, and work as hard as I am working now.

    Thanks again PoF for another great post. It was great to meet you in person at FinCon.

    • I was happy to meet you as well, Ed! I wish you and your wife success in your vision of FIRE. Thank you for taking advantage of your enviable position to continue doing some good in this world.


  16. Great post Pof!

    I’ve learned a lot from these posts and also looking forward to becoming “financially independent of work,” which doesn’t mean I’ll retire. I have too many hobbies (scuba diving, underwater photography, travel) that I’m passionate about, and might need a physician’s income to support! So far my blogging/writing earns just enough to pay the mortgage, but not eat, too.

    I’ve just finished writing my latest book, “The Locum Life: A Physician’s Guide to Locum Tenens,” which should be in print by January. PoF was kind enough to share some of his experiences, which are in Chapter 20.

    But I would like to remind PoF that one unfortunate reality of the medical world, as mentioned above, is a huge “barrier to re-entry.” I experienced this myself when working full-time as a medical journalist for 10 years, and it was almost impossible to overcome. (It’s an fascinating story-please contact me if anyone’s interested.) I’m happy now as Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN.

    The current Joint Commission rule for hospital work is that you must not be out of clinical practice for more than 2 years, or you CANNOT GET BACK IN. You can’t get hospital privileges, because the Joint Commission requires hospitals to get peer recommendations of your “clinical competence” in the last 2 years, which you can’t get, because you haven’t worked in the last 2 years! It’s an unbelievable Catch-22. Volunteer medical work doesn’t count. You won’t be able to get malpractice insurance either. It doesn’t matter that your license and CME are up to date. You are still stuck.

    My recommendation: Do one locum tenens shift a year to preserve your ability to go back to anesthesia. You might find you like it (kind of like an old hobby) and don’t want to give it up completely once you’ve retired for a while. Passing gas has its own kind of charm, I’m sure. I would also venture that the practice of medicine does allow you to help your fellow man in a way that cannot be equalled by any other pastime. It would be a shame to lose you and your talents. Retire but don’t retire!

    • I appreciate the recommendations and the explanation of the 2-year gap being the longest. I figured it would be difficult after even a year. In procedural specialties, keeping skills fresh is also a consideration. I’m glad you were eventually able to land a position after an extended absence.

      For me, medicine is a tough door to close, though, and it wouldn’t take a whole lot to keep that door open slightly. The occasional week or few days of locums work isn’t out of the question by any means.

      When your book is ready, I’ll be happy to give it a read.


      • I’m a little over a year out from anesthesia and I would not go back to anesthesia practice. You could certainly pick it up soon enough, but if anything went wrong you’d be sunk. If you’re independently wealthy why take that risk? I get locum solicitation, a dozen a day, but homey don’t play that.

    • This is why I’ve continued to do locums “part time”. I got close to being out too long…realized that I wouldn’t be able to “get back in”. I average a week a month now, and it’s about right. The very best part of that is…I simply let them know when I’m available, if they want me….great. If not…that’s fine, too…

      Putting aside the IRP for a minute…I think a lot of times “what do you do for a living” is just a conversational starter…you meet someone, they are looking for a benign question to ask to “open the conversation”.

      The FIRE group is perhaps a bit sensitive to the question. I’ve wandered through life enough I’ve just gotten to where I don’t care…hence my smart-aleck responses. To become FI, possibly RE, at an “earlier than typical” age is enough of an effort …and requires “being out of the norm”…such that it’s easy to be reactive to the inquiry.

      (and maybe it’s that the group I hang out with….no one cares….)

  17. You are so dead on. As I sit in my cube at work, i have a multitude of ideas rattling around in my head that would rather be working on.

    Yes, working. It’s passion. Working is great. Jobs suck.

    Great seeing you guys again! A year is most definitely too long.

    • Working for yourself might be the ultimate job. Of course, if that goes well, you’ll soon be managing employees and the fun work can start to feel more like a job. Oh, well… FI gives you the option to do any kind of work or none at all. That’s powerful.

      I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with you and Mrs. Wow, sharing Mojitos on Monday with Waffles on Wednesday, and learning so much about the CIA from the perspective of a communist regime.

      Cuba Libre!

  18. Similar, but not the same, I bristle when someone refers to me as “semi-retired”. I correct this to “part time”, a huge difference, if only in my own mind.

    • I worked part time for years. Our clinic manager once meant to introduce me to a visiting recruit as “semi-retired”, but accidentally said “semi-retarded”. Never let her forget that one!

      I recall one of the pediatricians would remind administrators, “Part time hours, full time effort”.

      Now I really am “mostly retired”, working 4 hours/week. Tempted to pull the plug when my DEA expires next year, but am surprised by how hard the finality of that is!

    • For some reason, I thought that was going to take me to a Harry Potter site. Can you tell I’ve been spending time in Orlando?

      The Finance Buff (not to be confused with the Finance Hufflepuff) writes some great stuff.


  19. I’ve stopped saying I’m retired from being a physician when people ask what I do. You are right- totally loaded. My answer differs from day to day, and person to person. If they want to know more, I am happy to share but otherwise I will just continue to write about it! Hope you do the same.

  20. I prefer to think of it as RE-focusing rather than retiring and agree it is better as a verb than a noun. I also don’t think it should be thought of as a single event. For most people, we should RE-focus multiple times as our circumstances and interests change. If we don’t pay attention and do this, we are missing out and floating down the river until we take a trip over Burn-Out Falls. A big problem for physicians and others sloggin’ away at a job with infinite demand.

  21. I always struggle when people ask what I do for a living.

    I feel like I’ve “retired” in the sense that I don’t have a 9-to-5 job in a corporate office, but I haven’t stopped working. I also don’t consider what I do on a daily basis to be “work” – I surf the internet, write some things, and interact with friends on social media.

    It’s not a salt mine but it’s not like sitting on the beach doing nothing (which is good for a stretch when you need to decompress but not something I’d want as a daily lifestyle).

    I just tell people I’m a blogger, they smirk like I just said I was a “life coach,” and then we move on. 🙂

    Great seeing you again buddy and thanks for the new co/dual-branded beer coozie!

  22. It was terrific meeting you at FinCon and chatting about our mutual travels.

    I’m going to respond to your blogger/podcaster call-out even though I’m neither. Our lives are too busy to sit still post-FI so I vlog with my husband, Tim. Video can be done on the go!

    In 2015, I left my sales career behind. Along the way, Tim and I picked up lots (and lots) of volunteer gigs and 2 part-time minimum-wage jobs we thought we’d enjoy.

    3 1/2 years later, the lessons are plentiful. In my career days, I didn’t take a sick day in 2 years. Not because I wasn’t sick….because I had a demanding job. A terrific side effect of FIRE is the “permission” to stay in bed when I need to, whether it’s because I’m sick or exhausted.

    Working for minimum wage is rough. Needing a doctor’s note for your employer when you’re in bed with a bad cold is the opposite of freedom. Also, I’ve learned the hard way that many in the general public can be pretty condescending to those who work for very little. Give the checkout clerk a hug next time you’re at the grocery store.

    After our 2 attempts, my husband and I have ditched the idea of working for money.

    Our volunteer work keeps us plenty busy and allows for frequent travel.

    I love using the word retired (in any form) to describe what we’re doing. Our life is clearly filled with fun, service, adventure, learning and freedom. When we say we’re retired, we’re often met with shock and disbelief but end up at curiosity.

    I’ve lost count how often we share our “how-we-retired” story with one person only to meet their spouse later and learn they can’t stop talking about it and have made changes to their lives. Maybe it’s through decluttering or taking the subway on travels, maybe a bigger shift.

    It’s a FIRE conversation starter. A podcasting friend said “I’m taking the word retirement and punching it in the face.”

    I like that.

  23. You do you PoF. Damn the man, save the Empire.

    My mom retired this year, at “proper” retirement age, and we immediately put her to work watching Baby Kpeds!

    It seems that when most industrious people find the end of their career they rarely become indolent loutes. At least that seems to be true for our community.

    We all have our own paths to tread. I expect yours will be filled with passion projects, some that pay others that don’t. That’s cool

  24. Bravo! You should live your life how you want to. Ignore gossips and scolds.

    When asked I say I work part-time now.

    You write very well and are funny. You will be successful in whatever you decide to do.

    • And you’re being perfectly honest. Are you enjoying part-time work? Any regrets on not just calling it quits and paying for healthcare out of pocket? I know you can afford it, but work can be rewarding in its own right.


      • I am actually enjoying the job so far. I like working with and mentoring the young nurses in the office. No business hassles. I can formally retire any time I choose. I am not taking call or working weekends. My hospital is going “paperless” next month. Several docs in my age group are retiring because of this. A new challenge. I will see if I can adapt.

  25. I am going to comment on this post from another perspective; that of the “retired” stay at home mom. As someone who only worked outside of the home until I had my children, in the eyes of society and even from my own perspective, I have been irrelevant to some extent. I was financially able to leave the work force when I became a mom, disliked my chosen career, and thus made the choice, with my husband, to stay home with the children. Looking back there is no way I would have been able to raise 3 kids and work full time, or even part-time, without a lot of expensive outside help.

    Stay at home parents (mom or dad), have to deal with this concept of “what do you do” or “what did you do” for most of their adult lives. And usually only other stay at home parents get it. Fast forward a few decades, the kids are hopefully independent, and we are “retired” as well. The difference is we may have a larger social network to begin with from our active parenting days. I think it is just as difficult explaining your life to working people when you don’t work , as it is for those in the FIRE community once they leave the traditional working world. I am still trying to figure it all out.

    • I agree with this share! Only kid left for college four weeks ago. I’m still trying to figure out what I’ve retired to. I’m now essentially a consultant and a travel planner. Very weird.

    • I can see where that’s difficult. I know quite a few stay-at-home Dads who are married to some of the female physicians I work with. I think they have a difficult time answering that question and explaining why they’re not working. Most of them had career-type jobs, too, but it made more sense for them to stay home when their wives are the breadwinners.

      I would never say my wife retired at 24 — she’s very busy but hasn’t had a career after finishing her masters degree and internship.


  26. POF, let me start off by saying you are a wonderful blogger and provide excellent content. However, you are extremely different than other FIRE blogs. The choice to “retire”, especially at a young age, from medicine is more complex than other professions. Very few other professions have such a difficult path to obtain the job. Once you earn it you are relatively well compensated, and once you decide to walk away have such a barrier to re-entry. It is this juxtaposition of difficult entry, difficult exit, and difficult re-entry that makes me struggle with my own aspirations. A 39 year old computer programmer that “retires”, always has the option to fail at retirement and go back to work in computer programming fairly easily. A 39 year old surgeon who retires does not have that same option to fail at retirement without significant hurdles to get back into his previous role. I hope you will touch on this in the future.

    • Your points are well-taken. I don’t think I’ve written a post discussing these facts, but it’s certainly something that I’ve alluded to here and there and often end up discussing on podcast interviews.

      One of the reasons I’ve overshot the number that made us FI in the first place by a wide margin is that difficulty of going back and the big sunk cost I put in to get here. After the rigors of med school and residency, what’s a few years of a much friendlier schedule to build up a more fatFI-friendly net worth?


  27. I’m retired, but not retired.

    I’m a writer.
    I’m a swimmer.
    I’m a member of a Board of Directors.
    I’m a mountain biker.
    I’m a fisherman.
    I’m a hiker.
    I’m a camper.
    I’m a husband.
    I’m a Dad.

    But yeah, I’m retired.

  28. It’s not worth worrying about. Who cares if you’re retired/not retired/part time? The only time it makes any difference is if you’re applying for a loan (bad idea)!

    I think virtually all studies that look at “retired” people have found that “a sense of purpose” is important. If that’s a “job” that’s fine…if it’s a blog, that’s fine too. I *do* think you need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, though….whether that’s kids/work/hobby/church/charitable work…doesn’t matter.

    After I “repurposed” from OBG to anesthesia, then from full-time to locums, to flying…I gave up on trying to identify “what I did”. I tailor the answer to the situation.

    Most utilitarian answer…”I’m a consultant”. It’s true. I’ve also used “I distribute compressed gasses”, when I don’t want to say “I’m a doc”….(useful only for anesthesiologists)…

    Sometimes…”I’m a pilot”. Sometimes (with humor”)….”I’m just a lazy airport bum”.

    • “I distribute compressed gases.” Love it!

      I would say my work up to this point has been purposeful, but I’m feeling ready to move on to serve a different purpose. Without FI, of course, I would not have felt the same.

      Keep up the important work of putting out fires (but not FIREs)!

  29. Well put PoF.

    I just shrug and say I’m unemployed. Defuses the awkward conversation, and often scores me a free drink when the other person feels bad for me!

    For mine, most of the need for a complicated wordy explanation is ego driven. I like to keep things simple.

    • I used that term with another couple when I was between jobs after a hospital bankruptcy. I was actually between locums gigs, traveling in the Galapagos Islands, and talking to a neurosurgical resident, but I thought it would be a good segue to the more complete truth. Technically, it was factual — I was unemployed at the moment.


  30. I think for me the term “W2 free” may be the best compromise to keep the internet retirement police off my back.

    That will allow me to still have some income if I choose to do activities that I enjoy but bring me pleasure (such as blogging) without incurring the IRP wrath.

    To be honest, like choosing the FIRE way of life, it really doesn’t matter what other think as long as it is something that works for you.

    The naysayers are always going to be there (hello Doximity, you hear me?) and you will never be able to please everyone. But in the end does it really matter? Do you really need a 100% approval rating?

    The only approval you need is with yourself and your family.

    A W2-free life for me means that I do not have to punch a clock or conform to whatever my employer’s needs are to earn a dollar.

    Do I want to write a blog post at 3 am? If I’m up and can’t go to sleep, sure. I’m good with that. That’s way different then getting paged in the middle of the night to come in and do an emergency case against my will (which thankfully I haven’t done since my interventional days over 12 years ago).

    • A 5:44 am comment and you’re way down the page today. That’s a rarity and a testament to the fact that this topic of the meaning of retirement is one people are eager to discuss.

      W-2-free is one way to be, although for the first 5 or 6 years of my career, I was W-2 as an independent contractor with wages reported on a 1099, and I worked more then compared to the latter half of my anesthesia career as a W-2 employee.

      But, as I said, you’re free to define your own status in a way that makes the most sense to you.


      • LOL. I’m going to just have to get up at 3am now. 🙂 I think it might be that everyone is still coming down from the FinCon18 high and couldn’t sleep 🙂

        But yeah it definitely is a post that is worthy of early morning comments 🙂

  31. Great thoughts on “retirement”, whatever it is and whatever it morphs into. I get a bit sick of the meme that us FIRE folks are looking to sit on the beach and drink mai-tai’s. I don’t know a single person seeking FIRE to do that. We’re all hustling on the side and hoping to grow those hustles – those passions – into something.

    But sometimes a mai-tai on the beach is fun too 😉

    It was so great meeting you at FINCON, and thanks for the Turnip FIRE shout out in the post!

    • Yeah, I think it’s a little late to abandon the R word entirely; after all, it’s part of the acronym in our site’s names, but I see nothing wrong with the hustle after one has retired from his or her primary career.

      Glad we crossed paths several times last weekend — I’d enjoy having more time to hang out some day.


  32. Thanks for articulating some of these thoughts, PoF.
    I hope you continue to explore these concepts when you are a “retired person.” It seemed funny and odd to hear MMM describe himself as such.

    Language is a funny thing. I have trouble articulating what I do on my days “off” now that I’m part-time. For every seven days, I’m off work on four of them. So I have more “off-work” days than on. People at work seem jealous and picture me reclined on a chaise lounge sipping frozen margaritas. I honestly live according to my values, priorities, and am working on achieving my goals in life. I am busier on my days off sometimes than at work.

    I find it ironic that in a society obsessed with money, spending, and work the language is limited and restricting. Does my wife “work?” What a loaded question, eh? Well she doesn’t currently have a job but her days are busier and harder than mine. Money is a taboo topic (unless you are at FinCon!) especially among physicians so it limits our sharing of ideas.

    I think I might dig into this language and philosophy more when I’m retired. For now, I’m Semi-Retired, Not Semi-Retired.

    • You may want to call it “part-time” as Vagabond MD prefers. That’s a status with fewer connotations.

      Regarding my wife, since finishing her education and internship as a registered dietitian, she’s only done paid work sparingly, and not in her field. She’s run the household and done the bulk of the work in raising our boys. The R word doesn’t play any role in her life’s course, and I don’t expect it ever will.


      • I agree with Vagabond’s advice. It feels to me like I’m “semi-retired” since it is an easy schedule compared to the last 20 years. At work, I don’t mention my FTE status at all. If it comes up I mentioned I am technically “part-time” but I do the same clinical work I always have. I just dropped the administrative work. Most clinicians can relate to that.

  33. I usually say I’m semi or mostly retired. If I’m in a snarky mood I’ll say that I “do” lots of things. Like hiking, biking, traveling, chillaxing, etc.

    I sure as hell don’t give a rat’s ass about nomenclature and semantics; especially from those who aren’t in the FIRE community.

    All I know is that I’m about six months in to working either zero or less than five hours a week, and I’ve loved every minute of it (except billing those few hours, so I don’t yet need to deplete savings). I have no specific plans or goals, no schedule and spend most of my time taking long walks, reading and working in the yard (or traveling in Europe). Haven’t gotten bored for one moment yet, nor do I mind not knowing what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be in XX years.

    For those that think one must have a plan to ward off boredom or the like, I’m living proof that isn’t true. Things might change in six more months, but so far so good.

    Long walks (while listening to podcasts) has been my favorite activity thus far by a long shot.

    • Thanks for weighing in, FIRE, Esquire!

      I don’t think you have to have a concrete plan when pulling the plug, but you will want to figure that out slowly. From what I’ve heard, the first 6 to 12 months are for decompression. If you haven’t found anything (or a combination of several things) to take up a good portion of your days, you may get restless after a few years.

      I don’t doubt you’ll find that thing or those things, though.


      p.s. If you do go back to law, please don’t go after the doctors!

  34. I struggled with this question when I “retired” from medicine. I didn’t like the term. I fell into two answers to the question. 1: I’m a repurposed general surgeon. 2: I’m an author. Both become an active description of what I am doing today. Neither accurate represents my life. For example, I did not make my living as an author throughout my life, I was a surgeon. Now I’m an author but that is not the complete story. I no longer need to earn money to eat, but I do need a purpose to live and a reason to get up and get going everyday. Otherwise I would just sit around and watch TV.

    My new life is amazing. I’m certainly not retired by the usual use of the word. But I am financially independent now and no longer need to earn a living. I control my day. Maybe instead of retired or repurposed I’m actually independent of salary.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    • Right — if I say “I’m a blogger” or “I’m a writer” or something along those lines, that dismisses my life’s work up until the point I retire from anesthesia. I guess my answer may vary based on the crowd or the person I’m talking to.

      It was great to connect again — both on the cruise and at FinCon — although the latter was quite the whirlwind four days.


  35. The retirement police are gonna come after me too… technically I won’t be a retired physician, I’ll be a stay at home dad.

    Mom works a hard job (which pays for health insurance!) and we don’t need a physician’s income on top of that FIRE but maybe to fat-FIRE.

    So I’ll be a more present father as well, but still looking for that something else as a passion play.

    PoF why not say you are a stay at home dad?

    • A stay-at-home Dad. I’ll be that, too!

      But if they ask what my wife does, and I tell them she’s a stay-at-home Mom, I’ll have some explaining to do. But it’s not a bad answer.

      It does irk me, too, when people get riled up if one spouse considers themselves to be retired from something but has a working spouse. As long as one is transparent about their family’s income sources, I don’t think it’s wrong to use the R word for one spouse and not the other.


  36. Great post!

    I don’t believe in “retirement” as it is seen traditionally. I’m a great believer in work being part of life’s great design.

    The type of work one does matters alot because they either find meaning doing it or they don’t. And then there is the question of whether they get paid doing it or not.

    I’m financially independent and continue to work because i) I love exploring my creativity and solving problems ii) My work continues to offer me an income, which helps us do more things for us and others compared to not working at all, iii) Work is inherently good and part of contributing to society in one way or another.

    So to answer your question directly, I say that I have the ‘option’ of Early Retirement but I love working. That option has been made possible partly by the pursuit of Financial Independence a decade ago, and mostly by other people, through whose hard work we’ve gained by investing through the stock market for example.

    So giving back plays a big role in how we see life now and in the foreseeable future.

    • Very good, Ken. I like your focus on a charitable mission.

      I’ve decided to use my FI to do different work after retiring from medicine. I don’t hate my job, but it’s not a part of my ideal life, either.


  37. [Future me]: What do I do? I utilize passive income streams from blogging, real estate, inventions, and books. I combine that with money saved from other hard work to live the life my family and I have designed to optimize my time doing what I love with who I love.

    P.S. I think there is a funny dichotomy in a lot of the FIRE discussions.

    Most people define financial independence as having enough saved as a “nest egg” to produce income during retirement to provide the lifestyle that they want to live. (i..e. you want $80,000 per year? You need $2 million per the 4% rule. )

    Others take a different approach where you get to use passive income to decrease that number. Say, if you are pulling in $40,000 in passive real estate income each year. Now, you only need $40,000 from your nest egg (or $1 million saved), because you have passive income covering the other half.

    I think that blogging, podcasting, influencing, real estate, and any other form of passive income should be part of that income stream to get you to your number. Transparency is definitely needed (and desired) from the readership, but I think that passive income streams are one way to FIRE. Saving up a large nest egg is the other.

    Personally, I am a proponent of using a hybrid between the two methods. The internet police can come after me, but they’ll have to find me first!


    P.S. Great meeting you at FinCon, POF. Hope your team is rested up from that bye week!

    • Great to meet you, too! Thank you for the most excellent TPP tee shirt, and for sharing a late night beer with me.

      There are quite a few dichotomies and definitions that really ought to be less rigid. fatFIRE is another one, and I’m guilty of giving it my own definition of FIRE with a six-figure budget. But I also recognize that a single person could live pretty “fat” (phat?) on a five-figure budget, and once you start looking at other countries, all bets are off.

      Other people like to define fatFIRE by the multiple of your spending. If you reach 33x or 40x or 50x, that’s fatFIRE. You could also define it by passive income. If it’s more than double your spending, maybe that could be fatFIRE.

      I don’t think it matters much, as long people aren’t being dogmatic and applying their own opinion of what one thing should mean and try to apply it to everyone else.



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