Top 5 Reasons to Work After Financial Independence

I was browsing the Bogleheads forum last night, and my eyes naturally gravitated to the thread titled “What is FI if you love your job?

The short answer is that FI is financial independence. Nothing more, nothing less, and it doesn’t look any different if you love, hate, or feel indifferent towards your job.

The long answer, after learning that the man asking the question is about 10 years away from FI, includes the fact that the person or the job is quite likely to look and feel quite a bit different in 10 years, and Fi is a smart play for anyone. Quite a few nuggets of wisdom were dropped in the replies, and I added my two cents, as well. I think everyone should try to work towards financial independence, regardless of their current contentedness.

The flip side of that question is what do you do when you reach FI and still love your job? The good news is there are no rules that dictate you ought to retire once you have reached or surpassed FI. Vagabond MD has questioned the ethics of working past FI, but the notion that it is somehow unethical was soundly rejected.

Why might someone continue working beyond FI (as I have done for about three years now)?

 

The Top 5 Reasons to Work After Financial Independence

 

1. You Love Your Job

 

If you truly love your job, and the knowledge that work has become optional hasn’t changed your mind, than by all means, don’t change a thing.

If you love your job, but can think of ways to make it better, take every step to make it so. You’ve never had more leverage than you do now, since you can afford to walk away tomorrow.

If you love what you do for a living, but aren’t in love with the particular job you’ve got, you can explore ways to do that work in a different manner. That might be doing it for a different patient population or a different employer, or taking your skills overseas on a medical volunteerism trip. Local free clinics often need volunteers to meet the community’s needs.

With FI, money is no longer your primary concern, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep doing a job you love.

 

2. Ease the Transition to Retirement

 

Maybe you don’t love your job, but you’re not ready and willing to go from working a demanding full-time job to having no job at all. Rather than slamming on the brakes to bring your career to a screeching halt, it might make more sense to downshift and continue your work at a more relaxed pace.

You might get lucky like me, and be able to work part time in your current job. Taking a job across town or in a new locale may be another option. If you have a practice that allows you to “sell your call,” you can just offer it all up, and only work the shifts that no colleague snatched up.

Locum tenens can be a great option in this situation, particularly if you can be location independent. That’s how I started my career, and I’ve thought it would be a pretty cool way to wind it down, too.

 

3. Your Patients Need You

 

So you can easily afford to retire, and you have an inkling it would be good for you to step away, but you owe it to your patients to stick around. If you’re not there to care for them, who will step up to take your place? You spent decades building a practice. It’s not like you can turn off the lights and leave your patients and staff in the lurch.

It’s true that in a situation like this, you don’t just give two weeks notice and say “Peace, out.” However, with some preparation, you may be able to coordinate a smooth transition.

Perhaps a young, enterprising physician will be interested in joining and eventually replacing you. A competing practice may be interested in an acquisition. Hospitals and private equity firms are increasingly buying up small practices.

While you may feel you’ve got no easy way out, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any way out. As my radiologist friend The Happy Philosopher says, “You are Replaceable. Congratulations!

 

4. Your Life Needs Purpose

 

If you’ve reached FI at a relatively young age, you’ve probably done so by serving a worthy purpose of some kind. At a minimum, your job was worthy of a high income relative to your salary. And many of you have held a job in which you served the public and saved some lives.

If much of your life has been devoted to serving a singular purpose, letting that go may leave you as lost as the cast of Lost.

You may experience an initial euphoria and satisfaction from the initial combination of leisure, catching up on reading, cleaning out the garage and storage room, and actually watching Lost (which I have yet to do), but eventually you may find your life lacks meaning if you’re not serving a bigger purpose.

The easiest way to fight that feeling is to keep working until you’ve identified another purpose you would rather serve that might give you more freedom and possibly an even greater sense of accomplishment than the purpose to which you’re currently devoted.

Until you figure out What’s Next, keep working beyond FI. Early retirement can be bad for you and your health if you do it wrong.

 

 Holmsvollur Golf Course

no, golf is not a purpose.

 

5. Fear

 

You understand the 4% rule, have dialed in your asset allocation, oversaved, planned for contingencies and redundancies, and still you can’t stop asking “What if?

It’s completely understandable. I say “you,” but I’m really talking about me. I don’t want to walk away from this lucrative position and regret it.

Ideally, you I choose to leave when the likelihood of regret is in perfect balance between working too long and walking too soon. But if I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of caution and one more year. Leaving a little too late would leave me with a little too much money, which is a “problem” I can learn to live with.

After all, you never know when that extra money might come in handy. There are many ways FI can be derailed, and I don’t expect to fall prey to any of them, but… what if?

Health care costs keep rising. Did you know a fingertip injury could set you back over $1,500? It happened to me 12 days ago! Somehow, my boys have managed to avoid the emergency department and have utterly failed to break a single bone, but knowing their father, I guarantee their good fortune can’t last.

Hopefully, I can make our monetary fortune last no how many bones we break or surgeries we require (the boys have each had a couple of those). I’m quite confident we’ve got enough now, but I can’t pretend a modicum of fear and insecurity haven’t played a role in my decision to continue working.

 


You’re still not using Personal Capital? Track all your accounts in one place like I do.


 

Honorable Mention:

  • For the Health Insurance: that stuff ain’t cheap!
  • Because Everyone Expect You to Work: life has a script. Follow it!
  • Charitable Aspirations: you don’t need the money, but someone else does!

 

I may have to publish 5 More Reasons to Work after Financial Independence. Do you continue to work despite having reached FI? Care to share a #6?

36 comments

  • A wise person (Oprah?) once said, “Everything in life is done for either love or fear.” Fear will always be there: no one runs from a lion for love. But I hope to base my decisions around FIRE primarily on love. I want to wake up every day loving the life that my wife and I have created for ourselves. I suspect this will probably involve part-time work of some kind, and perhaps even a second career. Only time will tell.

    Thanks, PoF!

  • If I am honest, I think all of these apply to me.
    Thanks for contributing to this much-needed body of literature. As a working FI, I sometimes feel isolated. My “average” friends are mortgaged to the hilt and working themselves to the bone. A lot of my online friends are shooting for FIRE and can’t wait to check out. I think there are a lot of us doing a “Victory Lap.” Work is certainly more enjoyable when you don’t have to do it just for financial reasons. Reason #1 is still true for me, but if that changes I will have options. That is the power of FI and why I think everyone should aim for that even if you don’t plan to “retire.”

    • Hatton1

      You may feel isolated because you are FI and do not have to work as hard but your mortgaged-up associates are envious. I have found that several 40+ docs asking me detailed questions about how to quit OB.

    • I know there are plenty of docs still working by choice and not necessity, but we are definitely in the minority. I’m glad I was able to break the more money = more toys / better car / bigger house connection early on.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Hatton1

    Great Post once again. I think I am a poster child for this. For those of you who don’t know. I am an OB/GYN at age 60. I have been FI since mid forties like POF. I have slowing my practice down for years. I started taking Thursday off but since I was solo I still made rounds and did deliveries. I worked every other weekend for years. My call partner and I added up to 6 folks for the weekend rotation to free up weekends. I got married and started taking Friday afternoon off and then Monday after call. At 56 a secondary hospital increased unattached call and this prompted me to do some soul searching and I retired from OB completely. I am currently working 3 days per week. I guess I am wealthy by some definitions so why am I still working? I eliminated the night work so I feel like a human now. I sometimes miss the excitement of OB but not the drama of birth plans and unrealistic expectations. I do fell like some of my patients need me. Perhaps this is folly but I have seen some of them 20+ years. One of them just gave me a puppy! I think patient contact gives me a purpose. I also feel some obligation to long time employees who are not financially secure. I worry about health insurance as does anyone contemplating retirement prior to 65 unless they are like Vagabond MD and the wife’s employer has it covered. This is a long post for me!

    • I could have had you write the post! You check just about all the boxes.

      Having health insurance, a decent income, and a three day workweek with no call does sound like a great way to keep living the dream.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

      • I could get 2 of these (free health insurance and a 3 day work week), but unfortunately with my job the call is shared equally until you leave. So for now that is 9 weeks of call, but I suspect if I do go part time in the future (along with at least 1 or 2 colleagues) then we could come up with the funds of another cardiologist which would bring call down to 7.5 weeks. Still not ideal, but better than 9…..

        Who knows, when I hit FI I could also see myself moving to a FQHC and working part time, taking care of patient sand still having health insurance.

        • Hatton1

          The call issues are thorny as you slow down. I would probably still be doing some OB if there was a better way to do it. Also malpractice carriers put up an impediment to part time work. I was able to negotiate with my carrier for a part time Gyn only rate which means I can’t work more than 20 hours per week. I still am technically on call for my Gyn patients but I do not even get one after hours call per month. I don’t know if office only cardiology is possible. I suspect some are doing it.

  • I’m 9 months from “RE”, which will be one year after achieving “FI”. The “One More Year” was primarily driven by fear (reducing our withdrawal rate to 3.25%), but I won’t let the other reasons stop me now.

    I’m sure there will be an adjustment (e.g. New Purpose), but life’s too short to sacrifice my remaining “quality years” doing anything short of everything I want to do. To me, it’s kind of sad if we really can’t find something more valuable to do with our time than work. I hope I’m successful, I’ll let you know in a year or so!

    • I expect you will be successful, Fritz. You have no doubt put plenty of thought into your decision, and between your blog, volunteer work with animals, and open water swimming, I think you’ll find plenty of purpose.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • This a nice list of reasons that people keep working after FI. However, I believe only the first two reasons are “good” reasons. The rest are questionable…

    Your Patients Need You – As you mention, nobody is irreplaceable, so how much do they really need you? What about your family and friends? Don’t they need you too?

    Your Life Needs Purpose – Sure, if you love your job AND it gives you purpose, then by all means keep working. However, if you don’t like your job and can’t find something better that gives your life purpose, it’s time to start experimenting with hobbies, other jobs, volunteering, etc.

    Fear – I suspect a lot of people that give the above two reasons are really masking their fear of the unknown. I think fear is the worst reason to keep working if you’ve definitely hit FI. Fear means its time to experiment. Try longer vacations, part-time work, a leave of absence, or even a trial retirement. See if your fears are validated by giving yourself the time and space to explore new things.

    Anyway I’m FIREd already, but I was never a physician. Maybe it’s different for physicians.

    I’m climbing down from my soapbox now. 🙂

    • I didn’t say they were good reasons, necessarily. Just ones that I’ve experienced or seen and heard from colleagues.

      I agree that there’s a counterpoint to every point here, even #1. I used to think I loved my job until I realized I didn’t need it anymore. I have come to understand that I truly enjoyed earning money, which is closely related, but is not the same as loving the job.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • I don’t have much experience with a physician’s job security, but in the corporate world I’ve seen really good people come and go. Sometimes from their own fault, sometimes a victim of shuffling the deck chairs. So I think FI is an imperative for anyone securing their family’s future. You have to build your own safety net.

    • I’ve seen good people come and go, too. Entire groups get bought out or replaced, lesser skilled, lower cost providers take a physician’s place, mergers force people out.

      I was once the only anesthesiologist in the county and thought that meant good job security. When the only hospital in the county went bankrupt, I found out how wrong I was!

      Best,
      -PoF

  • All of these thoughts have crossed my mind regarding RE after I reach FI. I think it’s important that people don’t make rash decisions once they reach FI. You don’t want to burn any bridges and you don’t want to end up making yourself less happy than before.

    Regarding number 5, I have been thinking that people who start off on ER could begin on a low early withdrawal rate and then gradually increase it. I think I will write a post on this. If you can survive off of say 1% a year at first there might be tremendous benefits.

    • If you made FI a goal early in your career, and worked for years to achieve it, I think you’d be much more likely to retire early once you hit FI. If, like me, you discovered the concept at about the same time you reached it, it’s best to take some time and evaluate what you want the rest of your life to look like.

      If you can survive off 1% of your nest egg, you really oversaved. That’s not necessarily a problem, but a 3% withdrawal rate is exceptionally low.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • I think #4 is the biggest reason for most people – you probably didn’t get into your field strictly for the money. It’s too hard. There are easier ways to make money when you have the skills to be a physician!

    So to go from fulfilling work, both financially and emotionally, to nothing in a single day can be very jarring.

    When I sold my first business, it was jarring for a similar reason. To go from thinking about something 24/7 to NADA — that was a huge shock that took months to overcome.

  • VagabondMD

    2,4, and 5 apply to me. Fear (5) is the biggest factor for me, and it plays into the others.

    A possible #6 is that I think my colleagues and or partners still need me (perhaps a radiologists’ version of “my patients still need me). I know that we are all replaceable, and in theory that is true, but there is usually not someone to immediately step in when someone leaves a practice.

    Looking forward to part time work starting 1/1/18!

  • EnjoyIt

    The fear of lost opportunity while still finding value to yourself in your job is likely my biggest reason.

    Also the fear of high valuations is currently playing a role. I want to be working at least part time during the next recession and see where our financial situation lands.

  • Some great points, especially if you’re working a fulfilling career – like you good doctors. I’m happy free-styling my life without a job, and like to think I’m making some contributions helping friends and sharing what I know on the blog. Mrs CK on the other hand, has a retirement gig and loves it. She is on a mission to improve on the low cost Engineering education programs in one of our poorest cities. She loves teaching, and it’s something we both can get behind.

    Her having a retirement gig also helped take out some of the fear of retiring, and is greatly reducing our sequence of return risk. With all of our expenses covered, it made giving up a cushy salary much easier for me 🙂

  • Great post! I think Mr. FAF and I will work on our passion projects or do the jobs that we like since I can’t picture myself staying at home all day doing nothing. @[email protected]

    It might sound a bit sad, but working does give me a purpose in life although sometimes I wish I were retired instead. 😀

  • May I add 5b: Spousal Fear

    Spousal fear can equal or exceed personal fear. My wife alternates between sympathy and guilt (It’s not right that you keep working nights and weekends, this will cost you your health if you continue) and a sense of financial anxiety or high-earner insecurity (It will all be riding on my shoulders if I’m the sole working spouse while the money spigot slows to a trickle, and the responsibility might be more than I can bear). As you might guess, she’s the compulsive workaholic, while I’m the senior V.P. of leisure. Yes, we mutually benefit from one another’s pathologies.

    We are working through the point of no return (my stopping work) by gently tapering my shifts to see if she’s able gradually acclimate to the new normal. I’m hoping the end point will have more in common with getting used to a milder thermostat setting in winter than the frog in slowly boiling water analogy.

    Enjoyed your take on this topic!

    Fondly,

    CD

  • One of the hard parts of doing #2 and working part time is that if you are a partner, you often have to give up partner status.

    I believe this is the main factor that has kept my dad (pathologist) from working part time. If he worked 50% of the hours he would only get 20% of his current pay by giving up partner status. That really stinks

    • VagabondMD

      In a similar type practice (radiology), we calculate the compensation per physician and take a fraction of that to determine part time partner compensation. There are some high fixed costs (med mal and other insurances, payroll tax, etc.), including retirement plan contributions, that will drop my take home pay to about 40%, in order to work 60%.

      • That’s a bit of a bummer, but it makes good mathematical sense in the setting of a private group. I work for a health system with hundreds of physicians and thousands of other employees. As long as we work at least half-time, we get full benefits, including profit sharing. On an hourly basis, when you account for the benefits package, I’ll be earning more as a part timer.

  • Ann

    My #6, as cheesy as it may sound, may be the opportunity to make the world a better place via philanthropy. Sure I can also donate my time, but sometimes I feel like the best way I can help the world is to donate my money–it can’t solve everyone’s problems but it sure can help. I’ve always thought that being a philanthropist would be an excellent encore career. I should reach FI in a couple years (early 40s) but if I still enjoy my job at that point I could keep on working and build up a sizable DAF and then enjoy my later years giving it away.

  • I am #1 all the way. I absolutely love my job! I have always felt weird saying the RE of FIRE since I suspect that I will it will be a long time until I officially retire. At the current moment, it is hard to fathom walking away from my practice that I have spent the past few years getting set up and off the ground. FI for me will change the capacity in which I work i.e: shorter time/ less days/ volunteering rather than getting paid; however, I will probably always being doing my occupation.

  • Awesome topic PoF – I think there needs to be more discussion in the blogosphere about how FI and RE aren’t necessarily connected. FI’s a great thing to work toward no matter what because of the options it buys but, as you outlined, there are a lot of reasons to keep working.

    I can’t imagine a “sit on the beach” retirement whether that comes when I’m 45 or 65. I feel like I’ve got to be contributing somehow to give me a reason to wake up every morning 🙂

  • Once I get to FRE, I’d like to find a job/position I love and get into cruise control with that 🙂 Traveling or sitting around the house 100% of the time would probably get boring pretty quickly!

  • During a recent podcast on ChooseFI.com, the topic of after FI came up, which you begin to address here. It’s really a very complex state, at least for me. Defining a new purpose seems to be triggered by one’s life stages as they pass through them. Being so driven to achieve a set of goals, we often neglect what happens after those goals are achieved.
    In the FI blogging community we hear the FI’ers, say that they can do anything thing they want. Some rattle off a few great activities at the start of their day. But what do they do the other 20-30 hours per week? Continuing to work builds the bridges of the next series of purpose, it’s finding those materials that becomes an interesting challenge.

  • Pingback: Downsides To Dying With Too Much Money | Passive Income M.D. | Passive Income for Physicians

  • GXA

    Numbers 1 and 4 for me. I still enjoy coming to work and caring for patients. I also have not really figured out what to retire to. As an emergency physician, I get ample time off to travel. While recently discussing RE with my wife, she quickly convinced me that within several weeks I would likely miss going to work.

    I am also building up a significant DAF to be able to continue to give significantly when our income goes way down.

  • My personal experience has been that as I move closer to FI I stress about it all a lot less. At the beginning it was focusing because of necessity, but as the years go by I imagine it will be less and less of a focal point in life.

    Life’s to short to stress about money forever. I think someone is extremely lucky if they reach FI and still love getting up in the morning and going to work. You will have more money then you need and can focus on helping others, while still having your sense of purpose.

  • Great post!
    One thing I would add as well is the health aspects of working. You touch on it a little with the purpose and a lot of us find purpose in work, but keeping our mind fresh by working is important.
    There is the physical aspect of it. My in-laws retired years ago, but they continue to do the manual labor of their home with land and both of them are 87! They both say, having chores and jobs to do every day outside is what keeps them young.
    Thanks again for the content!
    -Cory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *