For a Long Happy Career, Make Medicine a Hobby

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A hobby is an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one’s own time. – Wikipedia

A job is often defined as a regular activity pastime performed in exchange for payment. – Wikipedia

If you search “hobby” on Wikipedia, you’ll be presented with a lengthy list of the most common ones – everything from magic to beekeeping to vehicle restoration. But if you look at these “hobbies” closely, you may notice that any of those could be a vocation as well.

So at what point do we begin to differentiate between something we do in our free time, something we enjoy, and our day job? Where do we draw the line?

It appears, then, that what separates a job from a hobby isn’t necessarily how regularly it’s performed, but rather it’s the notion of doing it for pleasure, on your own time. As for payment, certain hobbies do produce an income.

The finances behind being a doctor are quickly reaching an unsustainable position. Rising student loan debts can put new graduates behind by more than 200k right off the bat, and it’s a fact that reimbursements are decreasing. Couple that with limited autonomy in medicine and micromanagement from administrators and it seems that, in some ways, doctors have become a slave to the system. Put simply, it’s become a job, and any pleasure one used to derive from the notion of helping people is quickly moved to the back burner.

Because of this and other reasons, more and more physicians’ careers are being cut short. There are physicians burning out and pursuing non-clinical careers both in and outside of medicine. Physicians are searching for happiness in the field, and at this point we have to ask: is that even possible?

Well, at the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I believe that without significant change, this situation won’t be improving anytime soon. No matter how much you enjoy something, if you’re forced to do it, it’ll become a chore. I love golfing, for example, but if I needed to do it to put food on the table, it wouldn’t be the same.

One day it occurred to me that the solution to this burnout epidemic may be to simply turn medicine into a hobby rather than a job; something we enjoy rather than something that virtually enslaves us. But how?

The way to achieve this is by not having to rely on it financially. Financial independence from medicine is possible for doctors – just look at doctors like the White Coat Investor or Physician on Fire. Each says they practice medicine because they enjoy it and they’re not ready to give it up yet. Based on my own income report, I’m getting close to that point as well.

But how does that happen? Well, it all begins with smart financial decisions made early in your career, like saving aggressively and investing wisely. I’ve seen doctors make clever investments in the stock market or real estate (or both) and achieve this “medicine as hobby” status.

This means you have to educate yourselves to make those wise financial decisions and that needs to start early – as early as residency or even medical school. It means having the dedication and commitment to making it happen when so many of your colleagues decide to buy that fancy car right out of training. It means taking some calculated risks and being willing to devote some time and energy to seeking out the right ventures. It means seeking out the wisdom of other physicians who have already achieved the goals you’re working toward.

As unlikely as it may seem, medicine as a hobby is an achievable goal. I enjoy practicing medicine and that’s why I never want it to be just a job. My goal with all these passive income ventures is not so I can quit my day job completely, it’s so I can enjoy it fully, and on my own terms, by making it a hobby.

How about you? How different would you feel about your career if it was a hobby instead?

6 COMMENTS

  1. Great article–I view medicine as my hobby. I would see the patients that I am skilled at helping for free, I enjoy it so much. When frustrations arise (which are of 2 varieties–administrative or patients asking/demanding things that aren’t appropriate) I tell myself that *that* is why I am getting paid. That perspective has helped me, at least. I am close to FI via a combo of real estate and mutual fund investing + relatively frugal living, but I’m not sure if I’ll change anything about my daily job. I don’t think it’s feasible to completely eliminate the hassles from the practice of medicine–but having a financially independent mindset helps me change the way I view those hassles–I could walk away if I wanted to, but I choose to stay and deal with them, so that I can be there for the patients that need me–and that in itself helps.

  2. I agree with the concept of looking at different ways to reach FI. I am bothered by the word hobby being used. Semantics I guess. I am a bit old school in that way.
    I am a happy 66 yo. I reached FI a few yrs ago. I retired in June after 37 yrs OBGYN in a small town. I was allowed by my partners to cut back to day call with no night call for the past 2 yrs. I think I had another 5 yrs in me that way. Unfortunately the new nonprofit organization that my old organization sold out to was of a philosophy that support people are not needed. The system was gutted. Work sucked and I hated it. (I loved who I worked with and my patients). I had had enough of that organization, so I called it retirement. The job also carried with it an 18 mo, 22.5 mile restrictive covenant. Choices are limited in small towns.
    I am thankful that I had a good career. I am also thankful that I started reading about investing and finances way early in my career. I wish I had had blogs like this one available to me when I was younger.
    I still see most of my former partners and even my own (ER doc) son having no interest in anything to do with investing and retirement planning. I recommend these blogs to them on a regular basis.

    • Thanks for stopping by. By using the word hobby, I don’t mean to diminish the importance the profession or the work itself. I’m trying to focus on the enjoyment and passion aspect. Isn’t that the reason most of us went down this path? Unfortunately, it’s become simply a means to an end, and a frustrating one for so many of my colleagues. Many people to blame. But let’s get back to the love, and if the financial burden was somewhat relieved, maybe it would help us get there.

  3. “Hobby” stirs up some strange feelings for a profession most of us at some point felt called to. Like a priest as a hobby, just doesn’t sound right but I get that you’re making a point.

    I like the concept and have been trying to make it a possibility for me in the next 5 years. I think it’ll happen and on the way there I’ve always made changes that have increased my job satisfaction and are only possibly because I have near financial independence.

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