Save every penny you can.
Hustle now, so you can escape the rat race and relax later.
That formula is proven to work for folks looking to retire sooner than the typical 65. It works to the point where FIRE community members find themselves free of the need to work in their 30s and 40s.
But what about working a little less and maybe retiring not at 65, but in your 50s? Would that be worth it? Would that juice be worth the squeeze?
In this Friday Feature, which first appeared on Carpe Diem MD, the answer put forth is a strong yes.
Now I know that might sound crazy – after all, isn’t this one of the hundreds or thousands of physician financial freedom blogs? Shouldn’t I be writing about working as much as possible now, having a savings rate of 80%, and retiring in 3 years? Yes. And no. Let’s break the mold.
Lauren and I believe in our motto, “enjoy your journey to financial freedom,” and that is why we blog as Carpe Diem MD. We do not have a goal of being “retired” before 50; our actual number is 55. Lauren’s number is 58 because she wants to max out her pension. But honestly, we think that age 50-60, is still young and we plan on working past that time.
How Early is Early Retirement?
We are definitely an anomaly in the FI world that considers 55 and 58 ancient and totally geriatric; we are good with that number. If we won the lottery tomorrow, we would still practice medicine, because the sense of purpose we receive from helping others cannot be matched by money or from another occupation. That does not mean we don’t consider other occupations rewarding, but being a physician is the calling we answered.
Why is working less in our calling worth every penny? Because money later in life cannot buy back the time you spend today. If you have been reading this blog, you know I fell off a ladder years ago, resulting in massive trauma and near ruin, both personally and financially. That experience has changed our perspective on investing and our approach to life.
We are not a YOLO family, or a true financial independence now! family. We are somewhere in the middle.
The silver lining during my long recovery was that I spent a great deal of time at home via nine months of extensive rehab and a nearly two-year “complete” recovery period. The time home with my daughters and Lauren was truly a special time, even though it was caused by a tragedy.
As I gradually returned to work, I kept Tuesdays off because Lauren had Tuesdays off. We protected that time off together and spent years going to the gym on Tuesday mornings, followed by lunch dates, Tuesday movies (when those existed Pre-Covid), and Disneyland days with the girls. (Disneyland is way better on the weekdays.)
Although the trauma we experienced as a family was awful, it resulted in this golden period of family time and protected one-on-one time for Lauren and me.
Work Creep and Changing Needs
But as is common in life things gradually changed. Our schedules changed, and as I regained strength, I gradually began to work more.
We protected our Tuesdays off together for years, but one day I made the trade to work Tuesdays to have all weekends off.
But I also went back to my old work ways.
I would work a wound care clinic from 7-10:30, followed by an 11 am-11 pm ER shift, and then a quick turnaround wound care shift the next morning at 7:30. However, that was a pretty good deal, because it allowed us as a family to have weekends off together. I’m not complaining; I’m just highlighting how “work creep” gradually occurred. Does this sound familiar?
I was willing to make this move for increased family time, but I honestly missed the Tuesday lunch dates and “our” time together during the golden years.
This new scheduled worked for a few years until Lauren convinced me to practice full-time wound care and hyperbaric medicine. She knew that I enjoyed my practice but that I was reluctant to leave emergency medicine. Trust me, she listened to me mull this decision for years.
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Lauren knew and patiently guided me to the eventual decision to change my medical practice. She was right, and I have zero regrets.
Lauren has also been suggesting for years that I should take Fridays off so we can share a day off together as we had in the past. She again has patiently addressed my fears and limiting beliefs about finances, especially my concern about giving up a clinic day after it took years to build up.
Wound care is not like emergency medicine. In emergency medicine, you can pick up extra shifts, but wound care is a small field, and building a clinic can take time. But the reality is that we can afford to take this time off and maintain our savings rate.
At our current savings rate, we will be able to easily retire at 55. So the question we needed to ask was whether we wanted to work more now to retire earlier or enjoy our time now and retire at 55, even if once we reached 55, we decided to keep working for non-financial reasons.
We went with Fridays off. Our daughters are 8 and 9, and we would rather spend our time with them now while we can hike, snowboard, swim, bike ride, and play games.
This decision is based on our current income.
We have not increased an additional income stream and we do not plan on retiring from medicine into the full-time financial blogging world. We are making this move based off our current medical income. The decrease in work may reduce the amount that we can invest yearly into real estate, but we will continue to invest.
Our plan is to continue to actively invest in short-term rentals, with some long-term rental properties in the mix, while still fully funding our retirement accounts. Each additional property will decrease our timeframe to financial freedom. It just might take a little longer. We are more than ok with that plan.
This is not our first time implementing the “work less strategy,” and it has been great every time.
The first time was when I took Tuesdays off with Lauren and it was one of the greatest periods of my life.
The second time was taking weekends off and going full-time wound care. It was worth every penny.
The third time is right now. Lauren has Fridays off and I am going to join her.
Looking forward to this next stage of our lives.
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How do you balance your work life and family life? How much money are you willing to part with to work less? Comment below!