Top 5 Reasons I Chose Not to Retire at 39

Contract DiagnosticsA year and a half ago, at age 39, I was studying for a bogus exam required to maintain my status as a board-certified anesthesiologist. Most of the study materials were only peripherally related to my actual job, and the practice questions were equally inane. I started wondering if I would have to repeat the process in 10 years.

A google search between study sessions quickly opened my eyes to the concepts of Financial Independence and Retiring Early. The FIRE blogging community provided me with a great education and welcomed me graciously as one of their own.

Living a relatively frugal life compared to most physicians, and having taken an interest in managing my own finances positioned me pretty well after 9 years in practice.

Once I tracked our expenses more closely and sold a house where we once lived, the numbers lined up beautifully. With 25 years of expenses in my portfolio, most of which would be immediately available in early retirement, I could call myself Financially Independent. Fantastic!


vanguard flagship services


So I gave 2 weeks notice. I made note of the accomplishment and showed my wife the numbers, and well… not much has changed since then.

Eventually, I started a blog of my own to share the concept of Financial Independence with physicians and others with similar professions and income, but other than that, life has been status quo. I’m most definitely on board with an early retirement, but for me, it can wait at least a few more years.


Why did I choose not to Retire by 40?


1. It took a lot of time and effort to get here.


I made a large investment of my time and money towards education and training. In college, I studied dutifully to get excellent grades and smoke the MCAT exam. I volunteered and performed research to help my medical school application stand out.

In med school, I was fed information in a fashion frequently described metaphorically as drinking from a firehose. In residency, most workweeks were 60 to 80 hours long. I finished my training at age 30 with a healthy 5-figure debt.

To bust one’s butt for 12 years to only work 9 years on my own terms would not seem to be a good return on investment. If you are young, and want to retire by 40, medicine would not be a good choice. It can be a tough row to hoe, and choosing to become a doctor has been described as a “million dollar mistake“.

On the other hand, if you’re into hard work, love science and people, and want to retire by 50, medicine might be a great choice. Many physicians wouldn’t recommend the career, but it has been good to me, so consider me among the minority who would do it all again.


2. I’d like a bigger cushion that a few more years can provide.


The frequently used goal of 25x expenses to allow for a 4% initial withdrawal rate is proven to be safe based on historical returns for a 30-year retirement. I’ll be more comfortable with 30x to 33x, which I can realistically expect to have within about five years by investing the majority of my take-home pay.

That safety net will insure me better against a poor sequence of returns, a longer than average retirement (I’d better get more than 30 years!), unanticipated lifestyle inflation, etc… I’d rather have too much than too little.

I may not need the excess, but there are plenty of charitable causes that do if I don’t identify a different need. I’m more than willing to work until my mid-to-late forties to help myself sleep better and perhaps help others down the road.


3. I still enjoy my job.


I enjoy my days off more than my workdays, but I went into anesthesia for a reason, and I still enjoy the job. It’s fast-paced, active work (I usually supervise multiple rooms) and I make people happy. I perform hands-on procedures with cool technology. I generally feel respected. There are certainly aspects of this job that I will miss.

There are downsides, of course. It can be stressful and the days can be really long. I get called in from a deep sleep on a routine basis. I could live without certain aspects of my career, but there seems to be enough good to offset the bad. I feel strongly that I’ll like having no job even better, but I’m comfortable continuing on with this one for awhile longer.



4. Money doesn’t come from trees, and I want my boys to know that.


I have 2 young boys. I don’t want to retire when they’re too young to remember that I worked hard to provide for our family. I think it’s best for them to see firsthand that I make sacrifices to provide a good life for us.


gotta be some money up there somewhere

gotta be some money up there somewhere


If I retire when they are closer to middle school, they will know that I wasn’t always home for dinner, and that I sometimes worked all night. I’m not saying I want them to go off to college thinking I was never around. I’m actually home quite a bit with a flexible schedule, and I don’t expect to be working full time when they’re in high school, either.

I also want them to be able to comprehend how I am able to retire when their friends’ parents will still be working. A pre-schooler isn’t going to grasp the concept of frugal living, paying yourself first, etc… I hope to make my early retirement a wonderful life lesson for them at a time when they can more fully appreciate it.


5. I care (too much) about what other people think.


My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think” – twenty one pilots


I’d love to say I couldn’t care less about what my colleagues, friends, and family might think about an early exit from the workforce, but that would be a bald-faced lie. Retiring at 39 would have led to so many questions and judgments from just about everyone I know.

I’ll still face those questions if I follow through with my plan and retire later on in my forties, but I will be in a more secure position financially and the extent of the earliness will have lessened.

I will also have time to plant seeds of my plan or outright express it (as I am doing anonymously online) as my early exit draws nearer. For a physician, retiring in the mid-forties seems more easily justifiable, at least when compared to the late thirties. Not that it should matter to me, but it does.



[Note: This is an edited version of a guest post I wrote five months ago, published by Joe Udo @ titled Can Doctors Retire Early.]


What are your thoughts? Do you continue to work beyond FI? Are you looking for the earliest out? I’d love to hear your comments below.



  • Since you care what others think 😉 I agree with 2, 3, and 4. 1 to me is a sunk cost and shouldn’t be used to evaluate your future decisions. And number 5, well we’ll leave that one alone. Personally I don’t really have number 3. There is about 20% of my job that I actually enjoy. I don’t HATE it, but I’d rather be doing other things. It can be very challenging and time demanding at times. The challenges are the fun part but usually the time demanding part is the prevalent part.

    I’m still years away from FI, but I’m probably looking for the quickest out and then will build a cushion doing things that I believe I’ll enjoy which will also earn me some cash.

    • I see what you did there. Thanks for telling me what you think!

      I’ve read about the sunk cost fallacy, and I think it applies more to a situation where you’re unhappy doing what you’re doing. i.e. even though this Pauly Shore movie is really terrible, we’ve already spent the $2 on the blu ray @ the Redbox, so we might as well finish it.

      #5 was a point of considerable discussion when I guest posted an earlier version of this article @ Retireby40.


      • I had the same reaction as Fervent Finance.
        “To bust one’s butt for 12 years to only work 9 years on my own terms would not seem to be a good return on investment” is ascribing to the sunk cost fallicy. Those 12 years are done, so any decisions should be made looking at the future. It would be different if you were using this argument to decide whether to start you medical training.

        It’s wonderful that you love your job, and your other reasons have made quite a good case for you to stick with it for a while longer.

        • Yes, Julie, I agree that any decisions should be made looking forward, not backwards.

          But, I mostly like my job, and I’ve got enough good reasons to continue for awhile.

          If I didn’t, the sunk cost fallacy would apply. You’re the third person to indirectly call me irrational by applying the sunk cost fallacy, but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

          Make sense?


    • Agree with all 5 points, 100%. Re point 1, sunk cost: It’s not so much the sunk cost, it’s more the fact that your entire earnings history is pushed back by so many years. I got my PhD at age 26, first well-paying job at that age, first really-well-paying salary at 34. Probably a lot of MDs have similar earnings history and it will be hard to retire in your early 30s.
      So, there’s a temptation to milk that high salary for a little longer to make all that effort worthwhile.

      • True, ERN. It’s closer to the golden handcuffs, or as I wrote somewhere, golden trail of breadcrumbs. Every 2 weeks, there’s another nugget along the path. I’m content following the road with the gold a bit longer before veering off onto the road less traveled.


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  • “My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think“ – so true for so many people LOL.

    I agree with everything you listed as reasons not to retire early. However, “retire” has such an air of finality about it. I like to think that I would rather “restructure” my work life once I hit FI in order to still take advantage of my training and expertise. Maybe that involves finding a part time position, maybe it involves becoming volunteer faculty at a medical school. Whatever it is, I believe I will continue to work in medicine in some capacity after “restructuring”.

    • Indeed. Financial Independence gives you the power to work in any capacity you want, including volunteering.

      Your specialty and particular job will also dictate what options you have to work a more unconventional schedule. While I like the idea of doing less or maybe doing some teaching, either one would most likely require a move, which is not something I’m interested in.


  • Congrats to you for being in the position to actually retire if you want to. Your reasons are sound and make sense for your situation. I’m in the opposite camp – I still have a handful of years left before I reach FI, but once I do… I’m out the door! 🙂 The key though is that you still enjoy your job for the most part.

    I do like your reasoning for your boys and it will apply it my situation as well since my daughter sees the work I’m putting in currently. The funny thing is that part of the reason I’m ready to leave is so I can help guide her to get on the right track financially when she hits her mid to late teenagers years. I want her to understand hard work, but I also want her to understand the importance of passive income in investments such as real estate.

    Good luck to you!!

    — Jim

    • Thank you Jim, and I hope the markets are kind to us so you can realize your goals sooner and be Done!

      Part of my timing of RE is the age of my boys. Middle school / junior high seems like the perfect age for some family adventures that may involve time away from traditional schooling. For us, that’s 3 to 4 years from now.


  • That’s why we went with that we’re making Lifestyle Change versus “retiring”. Sure when we mentioned it to family it’s “retiring” or at least it was when they were introduced to the concept, but as it’s changed and they see what we mean by it, they’re more on board than ever.
    As far as me leaving my career, I love it, I get a lot out of it and my ideal situation would be to relocate to some small’ish town out West or Appalachians, and fall into a geologist position with a tiny O&G company. Even ebtter a consulting type of gig, but I think trying to get that going and maintain it would be more work than my current job. Regardless, I’m fine if I only work 10 years in this field even though I put in an extra 2.5 years after undergrad. 🙂 It’s no medical degree timeframe, haha!

    I have similar misgivings about the kids and work ethic, but I think there will be plenty of other opportunities to build good work ethic in them that might not be derived from seeing me or not seeing me because I’m at my current job. Theya lready get upset if I can’t make their swim lessons at 4:30 and tell Mrs. SSC to tell me, “Don’t get stuck in traffic so you can get home to play with us.” If only it was that easy. They’re only 3 and 5 and already see how work affects our relationship with them. They love my new schedule because I get to see them more, although the 3 yr old gets upset I’m not there in the mornings when she wakes up now.

    Once I hit the point that we can be FI comfortable, as tempting as it would be to pad the account, I am still in the handshakes alla round, and “keep in touch” camp to my colleagues and I will be heading home.

    • I agree that for most of us aspiring early retirees, the word “retirement” doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for a 66-year old planning on collecting SS and playing lots and lots of dominoes.

      I still like the word, but to me “retire” is short for “retire from clinical medicine.” It will likely be a transition to additional endeavors, which will hopefully include this blog, perhaps additional writing, maybe a part-time or short-term non-clinical job, etc…

      Or maybe my selfish self will just spend my days doing whatever I darn well please.


  • Not as young as you are, but when I got to a point that I could “restructure” my work, it became a lot more fun. I limit how much I work (anesthesia lends itself to that); and do “non-medical” things. I love leaving for fire season, but love to get home and go back to the OR part time. (I didn’t start the path to FI as early as I should have….)

    • Well, we don’t all fight fires from the air in our spare time. It’s great that you’re able to find and fuel your passions on the side, while still generating income from a job you enjoy.

      I’ll be writing a post next week about a man working an unconventional schedule while devoting a great deal of time, effort, and money towards his passion project.


  • I can totally relate to all of the reasons you described here. I earned my doctorate in 2011 after teaching and being an administrator for 23 years and then moved to teach at the college level. I am still working part-time in the field of education because I know the work I put in, and I feel I have a lot to offer future teachers and administrators. And for the most part, I do enjoy the work still – it is less fun teaching online – but it still keeps me connected. And padding the “stash” with two college age kids makes me sleep better too. I do want them to see me “working” as well, otherwise they may always wonder why more wasn’t just handed to them. Your last point is the most interesting and I am definitely hung up on that too. Luckily I am closer to a more “typical” retiree age in my field – so 5 years doesn’t seem that “early”. I shouldn’t care – but don’t want to be judged either.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Vicki. In my field, there is no good way to do my job online or remotely. Not hands-on anesthesia care, anyway. I’m jealous of those that have that option.

      Since writing this back in February, I’ve relaxed a bit on #5. I’ve planted seeds of my plan with colleagues and family, or at least made remarks indicating a desire / ability to make some changes. Having some concrete ideas of what we can do with our lives those first few years helps as well.


      • atty

        I have recently turned 51. I’m also on the path for FIRE (one might argue I’m already there, but we’d have to restructure assets to make it happen). I feel much more empowered to get off of the treadmill of always having to be “moving up” in my career or the fear of not maximizing my investment into my career now than I did even 3-4 years ago. I think 50 is a really magical number for that. Some of it is because I care so much less about what “other people” i.e., people I started this career with) think anymore.

  • Anonymous

    Waiting until you have 50x expenses, not only gives you the peace of mind that your portfolio will be bulletproof to sequence of returns risk, the doomsayers predictions that stocks will not break 2% real for the next few decades, or a catastrophic long-term care situation, but more importantly for me it gives one an outstanding chance that your portfolio will continue to grow and provide a wonderful legacy to your children. Is there not joy in knowing you’re giving your kids a leg up in the world which may give them the financial freedom to take more risk and be the next Bill Gates or at least have the capacity to build a side business and increase their chances of early financial freedom of their own?

    • There is certainly comfort in all of that.

      Although, by the time my boys might inherit any leftover riches, I expect them to have realized their successes (or not). We’re only separated by about 33 to 35 years, so unless I die prematurely, I fully expect them to have riches of their own, or at least be living a rich life, whatever it may mean for them.


  • Eric Lancaster

    As another commenter noted, reason 1 is pure sunk cost fallacy. The rest of the reasons seem completely valid and thoughtful. I will retire from EMS after 25 years of service when my youngest children are in middle school. I have wondered how I will be able to teach them about the hard work it took to get there. The older children will remember the night shifts, the 24s, and the on call, but perhaps not the younger two.

    • It sounds like we have a lot in common, Eric, right down to placing endotracheal tubes. I usually have more controlled conditions and NPO status on my side.

      While my education and training are indeed a sunk cost, the sunk cost fallacy applies to irrationally continuing on a path despite negative consequences, and using the sunk cost to rationalize doing something you’d rather not do.

      Since I’ve got a number of good reasons to continue working, I don’t believe the Fallacy applies to the sunk costs of my education and training. If I were miserable and only working for the money despite many adverse consequences, it would be different.


      • Eric Lancaster

        Indeed we do have much in common. I was an avid homebrewer for several years also. Perhaps this is why I have read your blog front to back and look forward to every post.

        • Excellent!

          This afternoon, I shared a bomber of my Sour Patch Kid — a rhubarb wheat ale fermented on Sour Patch kids — with the crew at one of the breweries I’m invested in. It went over very well, and I don’t think they were humoring me. I could be wrong, but it is one of my most popular beers among friends and family.

  • Arkad

    Good post. I think it would be interesting to find out in some of these surveys that indicate a significant majority of physicians would retire now just why that is the case. I would imagine that many are not tired of being physicians but are frustrated with the way they are being “forced” to practice now. In that case, as many have stated, the answer may not be to quit but to become FI and be able to walk away from the overhead, the corporate mentality and all the other issues they do not like and practice medicine the way they want. Will they make as much money, maybe not but they might be a lot happier, still be productive and still able to practice something that took a very long time to get good at doing.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Arkad!

      That is pretty much my message; save as much as you spend. Become FI in short order, and start living life the way you want. If that means changing your work situation (which it will for most physicians), you’ve got the power to do so.


      • Anonymous

        Interesting you post this. I re-certified in April. I fought it all the way until the hospital politics forced me to do it or else.

        I’m at FI or very close depending on how I want to spend. I too have chosen to stick it out a little longer but I’m making changes so I don’t ever have to put up with the politics and the BS.

        Being a Physician I understand number one. It’s an attachment to the years of really hard work and sacrifice that we don’t want to let go off. In many ways it defines us because it was you youth that was spent studying or on call etc. No other profession does this.

        • What sort of changes have you made?

          That’s the beauty of financial independence. The ability to make those changes without too much concern over the financial implications.

          Another reader who identifies with my #1. Thank you.


        • Anonymous

          I started a cash based practice that is slowly building. I will be working towards it making enough to pay for part time work and after some time full time pay in a relaxed setting. Then I can work as long as I want.

          I do many procedures in there.

  • Arrgo

    For all the reasons you mention above, I do think it makes sense to keep working for a while. All jobs have some BS, but overall it sounds like you have a good thing going. With world and economy they way it is, its a real plus that you can still make that kind of money. I would build up a lot more than enough also just to be safe. Anything can happen and after a few years it can be hard to get back the job you had at the same level. I wouldnt obsess over it too much and just reasses where things are when you about 45.

    • We think alike, Arrgo. I reassess on a more or less continual basis. Having a blog where you think and write about the topic constantly kind of forces the issue.

      I’m now 2.5 years from being fully vested in my 401(k). I’ll be more seriously contemplating my future plans as that date approaches, and I’m highly unlikely to retire abruptly in the middle of winter, so I’m looking at a minimum of about 3 years. Time will tell.


  • #1 would be the biggest one for me. I’m not going to college and then to medical school and then residency until I’m 30, and then retiring at 39! I don’t think you’d feel good about yourself if you did that.

    Great job showing your son the importance of hard work and financial responsibility.

    Retire at age 60 or bust! 🙂


    • At last, someone agrees with #1. Thank you, Sam!

      When I first wrote this, my wife said I’ll be writing a followup post in five years titled Why I Didn’t Retire at 44. And then another similar post 5 years later. As I’ve continued to explore the idea and read so many other excellent sites and posts, it’s looking more and more like I may actually be Retired from clinical medicine by 45.

      And most definitely by 60.


      • Anonymous

        I recently saw a doctor who was selling his practice and retiring at 68. It was his baby. I thought to myself do I want to be this guy. Do I see myself or do I want to see myself get to this point where most of my life is over and after I sell my baby I am out for good but my time is over? There was a feeling I didn’t like about the whole thing. A sense of loss of time, freedom and loss. Maybe it’s just me and maybe he was really happy working all those years. I hope he was but I don’t know if I would be.

  • You remind me of my dentist. The guy is about 65 years old, and recently had a kidney transplant. Despite having a successful dental practice (which he recently sold to his son) and a successful real estate business, he still works at the dental practice several days a week.

    I don’t think he’s still working because he needs the money. It’s probably a habit at this point, and he just can’t quit,

    I wonder where it crossed the line from “work” to just “life” for him.

    Is your job just “life” for you PoF?

    • Turning 40 made me feel kinda old. Almost literally falling apart at the Tough Mudder made me feel even older.

      Being compared to your 65 year old dentist takes the cake!

      Working to achieve a goal has always been a part of Life for me. Only recently I’ve come to realize that I’ve met most that I’ve set up until this point. Having achieved FI, I moved the bar higher, but when I hit the next financial goal, I think I’ll be ready to move on to doing something different.

      My Dad and his Dad were both dentists. Both retired around age 65.


  • #1 and #4 would be the biggest factors for me. There is no point in going to school longer than you worked! It sounds like you have a great job going and it would leave you quite bored based on your current lifestyle.

    I also think showing your kids by example is the best way to teach them as children emulate those they want to be. If you retired they may think life isn’t that hard and it wasn’t much work to get where you are, and that would be a wrong assumption. Maybe when they get old enough to appreciate it may be a good time.

    Since you know you can retire now, based on history, do you feel like you have to work or want to work?

    • It’s funny to figure out how much my kids pick up, even though it doesn’t seem we talk about this stuff too often. Today, my 5 year old tod me wanted to retire soon… from our family. At least he laughed as he said it.

      My 7-year old seems to be mindlessly playing Kindle in the backseat when we listen to a podcast, as we’ve recently taken to doing. But he’s soaking up and sometimes repeating every word.

      Someday, I’ll introduce them to this blog.


  • For us ( and there is a lot going on at Mrs. PIE’s workplace today to possibly change things) we are all about #2 and #5, despite being FI.

    #2 we are conservative, we want to sleep well, nap well, and the extra cushion may well become essentials as things change over the years. Lifestyle, healthcare, who knows what else? Extra will allow us to make choices and that is a great thing.

    #5 we care what our kids think!! Who knew!? The little monsters!! And an extra two years to our FIRE date in 2018 coincides with an easier transition for them to a new school after we up and move ’em.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are many days, including today, when we would want to have an easy out. But we try to do what is right, not what is easy. I strongly suspect you are of the same mindset.

    • I hope things work out in your favor for Mrs. PIE at work today. I’ll be looking for that update.

      It is safe to say that we are of the same mindset. We may have different accents, but think alike.


  • I think having #3 is so important and its great that you enjoy your job more than you don’t. Personally for myself, I want to reach financial independence just because it would take a lot of stress out of everyday life. Money is intertwined with almost everything and removing that worry from the equation would be awesome.
    In terms of work, I love what I do since I graduated college and so I can’t see myself not working, but of course FI will allow me to do it on my own terms and maybe even start a business.

  • I will have to join the chorus of commenters questioning number 1. (beating dead horse now…)

    I do think it is a sunk cost. It is in fact. There is nothing that can be done to get the time back. It doesn’t matter if you love your job or hate your job, the work you did to get there should have no bearing on whether you continue (even though for most of us it does, thus the fallacy). We should only use past events to help us predict what will happen and how we will feel in the future. Maybe quitting medicine ‘early’ whatever that means, will cause us to feel guilty or like we have wasted our life somehow, but again that is a future event. The past event may affect how we feel about the future, but it is still a ‘sunk cost’.

    That decision should only be made based on how you will feel about it going forward. By continuing to work, you are in essence saying that working is the best use of time because it is worth trading for money/gratification/etc. Lets take money out of the equation. Lets say you inherit 50 billion dollars. Would you continue working and why? For me I would only work if it brought me more joy and fulfillment than not working. The time energy and money I put into becoming a physician would not have any impact on my decision.

    I think too many docs continue working longer than they want to because of number 1.

    (poor horse)

    Also I think number 4 is tricky. I struggle with this and see both sides. On one hand I see your point, but on the other hand I think there is a lesson in showing our kids that frugality and a high-income can be used as a powerful weapon to achieve freedom.

    Number 5 is a fascinating topic, several blog posts in the works on this one 😉

    Good thought provoking post PoF.

    • I wholeheartedly agree that the time, energy and money invested in my education is a sunk cost. I like to think that since I have other reasons to continue working, I haven’t fallen victim to the fallacy, but I suppose it’s fair to say that the fact I even consider it as a factor makes me a typical irrational human.

      If I inherit $50 billion, I will have a frank discussion with my mother about her relationship with Mr. Buffett. Then, I will most certainly start enacting an exit strategy from my job, while giving my employer time to recruit and find my replacement. Easy enough to say I would, anyway.

      Another 3 to 5 years could easily add 30% to 50% to my nest egg. I am nowhere near the point of diminishing returns in terms of working for money. In terms of how my lifestyle will be affected by more money, I’m probably much closer to the point of diminising returns. $50 billion would make adding up to a million dollars with more work seem pointless.

      As far as the kids, they are just starting to learn about money and soak up some of what we are doing and preaching. Retiring last year at 39 when they were 4 & 6, they would not have seen me work for that income, or not really remembered it. It would just be one of Daddy’s stories. A great story, no doubt, but I want them to live it with me for a little while, and understand what it means when I do retire early in a few years or so.


  • VagabondMD

    Excellent blog.

    Re #1, perhaps it is because I am older (50), paid less (in money) for my medical education, and have had a longer career (in my 20th year of private practice), this has not given me any hesitation to leave my practice. I have seen more than sufficient return on my investment–heck, at this point, I am playing with house money. Perhaps you will hit a tipping point where you no longer consider this “sunk cost” to be a factor, and then you will know that it is a good time to hit the road.

    Re #5, this is a real concern for me as I am in the process of exiting my position. I am getting a lot of questions (and strange looks) from friends, colleagues, and staff. In my medical community, and likely most, it is not typical for a mid-career doc to shut it down, and it requires me to do a lot of explaining, some of it uncomfortable and in places and contexts that I would rather not go into it (Doctor’s Lounge, walking down the hall in the hospital, etc.). For example, explaining over lunch to the cardiothoracic surgeon who has ALWAYS driven a Porsche that by doing things like driving a Prius, I now have the freedom to retire (and the money to buy a Porsche, too, if I really want one–I don’t).

    More important, my wife is getting peppered with questions about my plans from her friends and some of our common friends, and this is not something she wants to have to explain. Speaking of my wife, her willingness and ability to continue to earn a significant income and her emotional support has helped me to retire from my practice, so I do not want to crow about it, nor do I want her to be constantly pestered about it.

    • Thank you, Vagabond. Your reservations echo the reason why I choose to be publicly anonymous. I don’t want to talk about retiring from work with people at work. Not now, anyway, and probably not when it becomes a reality, either. But I’d rather do it for 9-12 months than 3 to 5 years.

      On the other hand, there may be some sense of relief if and when that cat is let out of the bag. I’m happy to keep my alter ego under wraps for the time being though, for all of the reasons you mention above.


  • Great post! I totally get all of your points, including number 1. While I understand the critical points of view that have been aired here, and the “sunk cost” mindset, I disagree with them. You’re not doing a job you hate for very little pay just to make it last the same amount as your schooling did. You’re doing a job that you actually kinda like, for very good pay, which you had to work/study very hard to be able to do. I get wanting to ride that train a little farther.

    I think of it like traveling. Normally when you’re traveling, you want to spend more days actually AT the destination than just driving/flying there and back, right? So if it was a really remote place, and it took four days of travel time, you’d want to spend at least four days there. Unless the place sucked and you were getting eaten alive by mosquitoes or crocodiles. Then you might want to leave early. But if the place was even halfway decent, and you were having a pretty good time, I’d want to stay at least the full four days, and maybe a little longer. Because you spent so much time getting there, and it was such an ordeal, that you want to get the most out of the actual destination.

    I also get it from a community responsibility standpoint. Maybe that’s a weird way to describe it, but I think of it this way: if the world churns out only a certain percentage of the population who are mentally and physically capable of doing the tough and important jobs like you do, don’t you feel some sense of obligation, if you’re one of the lucky ones, to use it in a way that benefits both you and the others around you for a little bit? Not forever, of course, but for more than a couple of years?

    Maybe most people don’t think this way, I don’t know. But I feel like I won the lottery in a lot of respects. I was lucky enough to be born with high intelligence, into a family that fostered my academic and working pursuits, with enough financial resources to help me get all the way through law school (I was working, too, but still). Moreover, I was born in a time and place where I was allowed to go to school (As a female, there were some times and there still are some places in the world where females aren’t allowed to go to school). The fact that all of those things went in my favor makes me feel a little like I owe somebody something. Karma, the universe, God, whatever. I don’t feel like I need to be an indentured servant or to work for free, because it took my own hard work to get here, too, but I do feel like I should give it a decent run as a way of kind of “paying back” the gifts I was given.

    Anyway, I totally back everything that you said, and I’d make the same choice if I were in your shoes.

    • Excellent metaphors, Yetisaurus. Great name, BTW.

      With travel, I’m an optimizer to a fault. I try to squeeze in as much as I can, and take advantage of the unique opportunities to do and see things there that are unavailable close to home. And it makes more sense to take one two-week trip than two one-week trips. More bang for your buck and more efficient.

      That sense of obligation, I feel it to some extent, but I don’t put too much weight on that aspect. There are silly statistics that say how much was spent on me during residency, but it’s completely laughable, since it would cost at least triple to have a “physician extender” do the work I did.

      I don’t feel I owe our government or society any certain number of years of labor, but perhaps I owe it to my college professors and mentors in my education and training to use some of what they taught me to do some good for awhile.

      Thank you for your full-fledged support!

  • Great reasons. #1 and 3 would be for me right now. Having went through one of the hardest engineering programs at UBC, it makes sense to work a few more years. Plus I’m having a lot of fun at work still. I have long leaned to not care what others people think about me so #5 wouldn’t really matter to me I think.


      I kid. I kid. As long as you’re having fun at work, carry on my Canadian friend. If you exceed FI by a wide margin, that’s OK. There’s no penalty for running up the score.


  • Hey POF, I like all of your points and I can see why it makes a lot of sense for you. I’d want the extra security of a few more year’s earnings seen as you can easily do it and it works for you. I bet you feel much lighter knowing you’re FI!

    I’m at the start of my career, so there I don’t have to wrestle with these questions. I think 3. is the most important for you, if you still enjoy your job – then why not keep doing it? It’s up to you, not any expectations about what you do.


  • Damn, PoF, I love your honesty in this post. You pretty much laid it all out there for us, and I can absolutely respect that. I can only imagine the work that you’ve put into getting where you are now, and I do think that it’s probably strange to think about giving all that up, even if it means early retirement. And the lesson that you’re teaching your boys is a very, very good one. Good on you, PoF.

    It definitely sounds like you’re making the right decision, both as a physician, but more importantly, as a father.

    • Thanks Steve! I think in the next five years, the tide will have turned in favor of an early retirement, but I wasn’t ready the moment I hit FI. Thanks for following along on my journey.


  • I have always been very conscious of your fourth point – the example you are setting for your kids. This was a BIG reason I waited until the spring my son graduated from high school. I still worry what message I am sending him, but I think it is a positive example.

    • There is another practical reason for waiting until your son was nearly graduated. The school schedule is pretty limiting. We have plans to travel the world; but doing so with kids in tow isn’t exactly what we have in mind, although we do have some ideas for worldly experiences with them.


  • Mostly valid reasons. I’d say saving only 25x expenses and quitting work around 40 would be silly if you have the capacity to earn a significant amount of money and at least somewhat enjoy your job. My wife worked a little longer than necessary (when we were well past 25x expenses) because it was a decent job that she enjoyed sometimes with a very flexible schedule, good pay, and much less than 40 hrs/wk especially toward the end.

    As for the kids – I’ll have to disagree. I don’t think kids really know what we are up to during the day (or night) when we’re at work. I’m sure in your situation they understand “daddy’s a doctor” and they know doctors help people, but they don’t really see us at work (unless someone takes your kids to observe you at work).

    Now that I’ve been around my kids for 3 years of early retirement, they actually see me much of the day, see how I’m productive, what kinds of tasks I complete, and how I spend my time since I don’t have to work (ie – the parts of life that are most important).

    The 9 and 11 year olds completely understand how this whole FIRE thing works. We saved a lot of money, lived responsibly, and now our investments are adequate to fund our lifestyle for the indefinite future. I also spend a few hours per week working on consulting or the occasional blog post, and they understand how that translates into supplemental income (though I don’t think they understand that we don’t really need the income 🙂 ).

    At the end of the day, I’d love for my kids to at least get on the right financial track to hit FI in their 30’s or 40’s whether they retire at that age or not. They certainly live the reality of early retirement in one’s 30’s every day with their parents.

  • Thank you, Justin. I appreciate your thoughts regarding the kiddos. I think you’re right in that it’s better to be around for them than to be away and always working.

    Fortunately, I have a pretty good schedule, so it’s not like they’re growing up without me being around. I have read thousands of bedtime / naptime stories, and sang Tom Petty’s Alright For Now a couple thousand times as well.

    My boys will definitely be aware of the concept of FI, the option of early retirement, and hopefully appreciate how we are able to do this because we were smart with money all along.


  • POF, I am reading this late, but I agree with all your points as they largely resonate with mine. There is no right or wrong answer here but having the discipline to get this far allows us to decide where we draw an end to our own career race. This is something a 1%er is unable to, as I describe in my latest post. Best wishes in your 10! Journey.

    • It’s never too late to read a post of mine, TFR! I used to think more like the 1%er (or 0.1%er I would say) that you profiled. Then I started to wonder how I would live differently if I had $10 million or $3 million when I retired.

      I realized I had no use for the extra money, but many uses for the extra time I could gain with an early retirement.


  • snowcanyon

    I haven’t FIRed myself for similar reasons, but I think the biggest is the headache of MOC. Even if one stops practicing, it’s hard not to keep up certification, and you end up in a world where you are still a physician but are unlicensed and uncertified. I guess I’ll always work a few shifts here and there to keep up my license and certification.

    Curious as to hear your thoughts on the certification and licensing issues.

    • Good point, snowcanyon. My plan is to keep up with all of it for at least a year, probably two. If that time passes, and I have no desire or interest in returning to clinical medicine, I will be ready to let it go.

      The fact is, if you go more than 90 days without working in the profession, you will be asked to explain the gap in a credentialing application. At 91 days, you apparently turn into a pumpkin.

      With MOC, CME, licensure, and for me, ACLS, ACLS, and BLS, it’s a lot to keep up with. I won’t maintain it all indefinitely.


  • CalgaryMD

    Great website PoF. First time I’ve come across it.

    It’s nice to be on this forum. I find it very lonely in my medical community where I’ve not come across a physician my age who thinks in similar terms like on this forum.

    I seem to be in a similar situation as you. I’ve turned 40, have reached financial independence, and have 3 young kids (ages 3-7). Your reason #4 has been secretly gnawing at me for my reticence to consider retirement! My work ethic stems in no small part from my parents, who didn’t retire until 65. I can’t help but wonder what my kids would think as I am in my pajamas when they go to school.

    Good luck- not that you need any- with your quest for retirement! It sure is a life goal that will be very satisfying, not the least which is because of all the sacrifice, planning , and execution of that target over many years.

  • Gasem

    Skipping through this blog is very interesting. I see stages in your maturation, kind of like watching a resident going from 1st year through Fellowship. It’s very enjoyable.

    I was talking to Phil DeMuth my financial advisor tonight about the validity of various predictive financial tool. I use FIREcalc, and the Crowdsourced calculator and various brokerage calculators like Fido and Vanguard. These are all historic calculators which look at what your portfolio would have done if placed in different historical situations. Interesting enough my portfolio could not have existed in 1876 or 1926. So I’m not sure how much confidence to place in their predictions. I place some confidence in them. The rules of thumb 25x, 4.5% SWR are similar. Guestimates based on history.

    I also used a calculator called QPP which is based on Monte Carlo analysis. I don’t use it anymore since Yahoo stopped allowing access to the stock database. QPP uses engineering failure analysis, which lines up a bunch of statistical scenarios and predicts when the system will break based on its robustness. So if you build a bridge you can vary thing like wind speed and vector and oscillation, ice loading, # of cars/trucks on the structure etc and get some understanding of statistically when it will fail. QPP is adapted to stocks, and varies correlation and volatility and growth over a wide set of market conditions to understand how the portfolio will behave into the future so it’s a future looking device, based on present day stock behavior, and can be used to tune a portfolio for return and volatility, very useful.

    Phil (a PhD psychologist with very good statistical skills) thinks QPP is good for maybe 25 years of forward thinking. By then who knows what financial products and tax laws will exist that are not anticipated in the analysis. He feels 50 years of forward prediction is silly.

    I’m a big proponent of Markowitcz’s modern portfolio theory, or at least I have been. An essential prediction of MPT is the combination of various assets is more efficient and therefore more profitable due to diversity, and you can choose your asset mix in a way that gives you best return for lowest volatility. This is called the efficient frontier. AKA best bang for your buck. There is a statistical financial engine called R (free download) where you can vary asset mix and arrive at the efficient frontier. I read another paper tonight which says that modern portfolio theory has become distorted because of instant knowledge (like from the internet). MPT relies on choosing an asset mix of relatively uncorrelated assets, so if things crap all the arrows don’t point into the ground, but since everything is known all the time it’s become hard to find assets which are uncorrelated to any great degree.

    So the upshot is even though I’ve FIREd, and I use all manner of high horsepower predictors, I’m wary of the house of cards. The bet is you won’t run across a situation where a point economic distortion (1973 stagflation for example) will overwhelm your chosen average rate of disbursement. I was in college in 1973 living on Raman noodles and day old French toast, and I remember the experience.

    If you have 25 years left to live, a bad choice will likely not kill your money before you run out of time. If you have 50 years to live you better NOT make a bad choice. It’s like trying to hit the bullseye with a rifle at 300 yards vs 1000 yards. 300 yards is do-able, 1000 yards probably requires some time in sniper school. The closer you get to dead the easier it is to not fail. Since my wife is younger than me I’m looking at 40+ years of disbursement to cover her.

    Regarding kids and work, I set my kids up to explore what they like. One is 18 and one is 21. Both have a photography businesses, but they are into very different aspects of photography. They both got professional grade cameras for HS graduation. Both of their little businesses make money and have web presence. One daughter was bound and determined to get a job by 16 so she works at Winn Dixie as a checker, and made 5 grand on her own last year, based on her own drive to experience what making money and getting “rich” was like. The other is a pianist and organist and plays weddings etc. Let them grow their interests and support that with wide boundaries, and have a nice day. They will do fine.


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  • I think #5 is the biggest reason not to retire early. A lot of people think that the need to work is a bad thing, but really you are providing goods and services to other people in need. A cook at Denny’s isn’t slaving away in a kitchen, he’s feeding hungry people. A seamstress isn’t working for the man in a sweatshop, she’s clothing the naked. Having the ability to save people’s lives should be far more rewarding than fishing or travelling the country in a RV. We all (ok, most of us) need a purpose in life to feel truly content. Work provides that for most people.

    I’ve been financially independent for about six years (I’m 46). I raised my first million around then, and then my second million last spring, all on a salary of less than $100k the whole time. I pulled in more than a quarter million from investments during each of the last two years. I’ve had a paid-for house for ten years and paid-for cars for fifteen. I don’t work for money, I work because I’m able to serve others by doing so, in my case helping to protect our freedom through engineering. I plan to keep working , doing something, until I’m about seventy, even if it is as a college professor or high school teacher as a second career.

    Now there is nothing to say you should continue to do the same thing if you don’t feel rewarded doing it. You could travel to other countries with doctors without borders and help around the world, or even set up a clinic in India or South America and provide treatment to those who cannot pay. You could even just take a job as a short-order cook if you’re tired of being under stress in your job or dealing with insurance companies and hospital administrators. But we only have about 90 years (fifty years if many of your colleagues also drop out after ten years of practice and there are no doctors) to do something. It doesn’t make sense to only spend ten of those years doing something useful.

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