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Top 5 Reasons NOT to Retire Early

In a previous post, I shared with you the Top 5 Reasons to Retire Early. Let’s briefly review those. Retire early:

  • Because You Can
  • For Your Health
  • For Free Time
  • For Your Family
  • To Reduce Your Liability


Next up in the Top 5 series, we have five reasons not to consider it. For every solid reason to retire early, there’s a counterpoint and a good reason not to retire as soon as you can.


The Top 5 Reasons NOT to Retire Early


1. You love your job.


You had a life-altering experience as a teenager. You made up your mind that you were going to help people. You studied your butt off for the next seven years and got into medical school. After three to six years of residency and perhaps another year or three in fellowship, you’re finally doing it! You’re a real doctor and you’re making a difference one day, one patient at a time.

This is what it’s all about. Truthfully, there are moments nearly every workday that remind me that I made the right choice and make me feel good about being a physician. When I do decide to move on, there are aspects of the career I will miss dearly.

A big part of my job as an anesthesiologist is to ease the fears and anxieties of my patient’s and their loved ones. We sometimes employ feel-good drugs to accelerate the process, but it’s often nothing more than a confident smile and a handshake, or connecting with a child at her level.

If you love what you do, and don’t mind the nonsense and ever-shrinking hoops you’re asked to jump through, that’s a great reason to keep working. If you don’t love it, but mostly like it and enjoy the steady paycheck, that’s a good enough reason to keep working. I’d put myself in the latter category for the time being.

Once you’ve reached all of your financial goals, ask yourself a simple question: If your job transitioned to being a volunteer position (no compensation whatsoever), would you keep working?  Would you scale back? The answers will help you decide if you truly love your job. If the answer is yes, you can keep right on working, because you love your job!


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2. You Can’t Retire Early!


That private college was expensive. So was medical school. Sure, you lived like a resident… in medical school.

In residency, you leased a luxury SUV. You bought your dream house when you got your first dream job, and put it on the market two years later when it was time to look for your next dream job.

I’m not blaming you, I’ve made some unwise choices too. We make many financial decisions that will have consequences, good or bad. Some we will never regret. Other choices will have our older self wondering what on earth the younger self was thinking.

It’s tough to save money. Two car payments, mortgage and property taxes on a million dollar home in a high cost of living area, private school. These things cost serious $$$!

Nevermind what the studies say about spending and happiness (they say having more than $50,000 to $75,000 per year doesn’t significantly increase happiness)? They didn’t study you, did they? You’re not keeping up the the Dr. Joneses, you are Dr. Jones. They all wish they could keep up with you.

You worked hard for this. And you will continue to work hard for a very, very long time, because once you and your family become accustomed to living a certain high-cost way, it’s really hard to scale back.

And what about college? 529s??? You can barely afford to max out your 401(k). You’re going to want to work until the kids have finished college. Then work some more to pay for a lavish wedding or two. And have you seen the price of arugula at Whole Foods?  You don’t want to follow me down that rabbit hole! Don’t retire early; you can’t!


3. You’re walking away from Millions!


Let’s keep the math simple. If you can expect to make an average of $250,000 a year and retire at 45 instead of 65, you’re walking away from $5 MILLION in gross earnings. That’s a huge pile of cash. Of course, in the real world where we pay taxes and such, it’s not so simple, but an early retirement can be costly.

The only way I could justify walking away from millions is by having millions when I walk away. Sure, I could have more millions, but at what cost? I don’t need them, won’t spend them, and at some point, I will no longer be interested in trading time for money in the prime of my life.

Those additional millions will lock me into a higher tax bracket in retirement. It’s a good problem to have, but if I can save up 30x to 40x expenses, another 30x is simply unnecessary. I do feel a tinge of guilt when I think about the good I could do with additional money by donating it to causes better than my retirement living. I plan to eliminate that guilt by building up my Donor Advised Funds to about 10% of my nest egg before I leave clinical medicine for good.

“The only way I could justify walking away from millions is by having millions when I walk away.”

Gordon Gekko wouldn’t walk away from millions, and neither should you, so keep on working, for more millions!



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4. You don’t know what else you would do.


After 20 years of 60-hour workweeks, you haven’t really had time for hobbies. The last time you had a week off and didn’t go anywhere, you felt lost and couldn’t decide what to do with yourself.

I hear this affliction is actually rather common. I’ve heard of plenty of physicians failing retirement. They stop working but not working simply doesn’t work for them. I think this is especially true if a spouse is still working.

It is said that it’s best to retire to something, not just from something. Part time work or a sabbatical can help people find out what that thing or things might be.

Personally, I can think of at least 50 things I’d like to do with more free time. But you’ve got to do what works for you, so keep working, what else could you possibly do?


5. You need the health insurance.


This is a big one for the early retiree. Unless you have a working spouse with health benefits, have retiree benefits from a previous employer, or expect to have Tricare after serving in the military, you’ll need to figure out how to bridge the gap from your early retirement age to the magical Medicare age of 65.

The Affordable Care Act (if it survives) can come into play here. If your MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) is reasonably low, which it should be in an early retirement, you can qualify for a subsidy. For a family of 4 in 2019, MAGI needs to be below $100,400 to qualify for the lowest subsidy in the lower 48 states. For a couple, it’s $65,840, and $48,560 for an individual.

Lacking a good crystal ball, I’m not going to pretend to know what the health insurance landscape might look like in five or ten years. What I can do in the meantime is max out my HSA and plan on carrying a high deductible health plan. After all, if you are concerned about a $5,000 or $10,000 deductible making retirement difficult, you don’t really have enough to retire.

You need to be protected from the $500,000 bill that can come from having a medical catastrophe with no health insurance. As long as you’ve got that full time doctor job, you don’t need to worry about any of this, so keep working, for the health insurance!



What’s your #6? Why would you choose not to retire early?


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10 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons NOT to Retire Early”

  1. 50% of all doctors are divorced. Talk about a bad business decision. Try marriage as one.
    Some doctors are divorced more than once.
    Some doctors open businesses with their significant other before marriage, or buy a home before marriage with a significant other or worse the family members of a significant other.
    Under insure a property or business……..fires, storms, earthquakes, or worse (buying property in
    another country that experiences fires, storms or earthquakes). Trusting your business manager, your cpa or your investment advisor (“buy stocks in foreign exchanges”). Ah the list is ever expanding.

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  3. Good thoughts, but I think maybe you meant to write “$43,00 per SEMESTER”, not “$43,000 per year.” If so, then the inflation-adjusted coster of a future 4 years at Hahvid would compute to $552,000, not $276,000. Better think not just about not retiring, but rather about taking on a moonlighting gig!

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  5. Very good points, some serious and some flippant. We all probably have some past decisions we regret (http://www.budgetepicurean.com/finances/that-which-doesnt-kill-you/) but as long as you learn from the past and put yourself on a better path then it will all turn out ok. And anyone reading your blog hopefully has at least a higher than average understanding of and desire for saving & investing!

    As to the cost of kids, kids aren’t expensive, parents are! If you choose the frugality, saving, and early retirement lifestyle, it is pretty safe to assume you will apply these beliefs to childrearing as well. You will teach them the value of saving and investing and compound interest, and they will have jobs and income. They will not get every new fancy thing just because it’s popular or they want it. They will get scholarships, go to public school, or pay for it themselves. Kids are as expensive (or not) as you’re willing to let them be, like most things in life. It’s all about mindset.

  6. The #6 reason why you should not retire is that you have not incurred your largest expense. One of the largest expenses is raising your children. The average cost to raise a child in the USA in 2016 is $245,000. Your child however is not average. You are a wealthy retired doctor. Consider activities and extras such as music lessons, summer camp, dance lessons and cars. You will probably send the child to private school for grammar and high school. If you have a 6 year old in 12 years that child will be attending college. Harvard tuition, room and board now is approximately $43,000 a year. With an inflation rate of 3% in 12 years it will be $69,000 a year. Four years of college the amount will be $276,000. If the child aspires to become a doctor like you there will be addition costs. If the child attends a private medical school the tuition now is approximately $53,500. In 16 years with 3% inflation, tuition would be approximately $85,000 a year and $340,000. For one child to attend college and medical school it would cost $616,000. I really think my estimate is low.
    Now consider that you have more than one child. The cost is multiplied. If you have a child with special medical needs the cost is thousands more.

  7. I just found your blog; I know this comment is months late, but I’ll add it anyway.

    My number #6: Elderly parents. If assisted living or a memory-care unit should be necessary down the road, my physician’s salary will make paying for a good one a lot easier.

    • That’s a great #6, and these posts have no expiration date.

      Building up a cushion prior to retiring is a form of self-insurance against all kinds of expected or unanticipated expenses.


  8. Honestly, I have a lot of self-destructive habits. If I didn’t work (28 hours/week seeing patients, 12 hours a week in administration, and 4 hours a week volunteering at the medical school), it would give me more time for drinking too much, daytrading stocks, and womanizing. I put in these hours in my mid-60’s to stay out of trouble.

    • Well, that’s a #6 I wasn’t expecting! You sound like a lot of fun. Maybe too much fun. Hang on to that day job.



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