I Love Being a Doctor, I Just Want To Do It Less

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Recently, I made the announcement that I am financially independent from medicine. As a quick recap, I’ll just say that I no longer have to rely on my physician’s salary as my primary source of income thanks to my other ventures, and yes, passive sources of income. Since then, the number one question I’ve received is this: “So, when are you going to retire?”

Retirement as a Way of Life

Well, the fact is that my answer hasn’t changed from the original post. I may never fully retire. Rather, I’m retiring gradually. But what does it mean to “gradually” retire?

Well, it simply means that as my income from other sources has increased, I’ve been able to reduce time spent in “doctor mode.” For example, if I’m able to make an extra $3,000 cash flow from my real estate investments, that’s about $3,000 worth of time I can spend away from the hospital pursuing other ventures or more importantly, spending time with my family. Ideally, I also want that to mean less nights and weekends in the hospitals.

I understand that I’m fortunate that my particular specialty (anesthesiology) allows for that kind of flexibility. Other fields, such as emergency medicine, also allow a certain level of interchangeability–as long as someone is willing to work that shift or case, then you’re free to go.

Those in other specialties, like surgeons, don’t necessarily enjoy that degree of flexibility (it’s not like you can simply give up your cases). If your profession falls into this latter category, for you, gradual retirement may mean being able to take fewer patients and fewer cases. For example, if you’re an OB/GYN, instead of taking twenty delivering patients a month, you may decide to only take ten or fifteen. See where I’m going with this? Gradual retirement looks different for everyone.

But even though I’m retiring gradually, I still want to keep my day job.

Love the Job, But Strive for Balance

At this point, I have a few choices ahead of me. Now that I could technically quit medicine altogether and still pay the bills, I can choose how much time I want to spend actually working as a physician. I think my ideal balance is somewhere around 60% of full-time.

I feel that’s enough time to keep my skills sharp, while also giving me variation in my week. The simple fact is that I enjoy my work, and I don’t want to leave it entirely. There’s a lot to like about it–I get to use my hands, challenge my mind, and I enjoy an immense satisfaction when I do the job well. Helping people is something I take pride in, and it’s very fulfilling.

Of course, if I’m being honest, I also don’t want to feel like I wasted all those years of studying and training. Med school and residency wasn’t easy. This part of my life is the payoff for that, and I want to continue to use my degree and add to my experience.

So no, I don’t plan on fully retiring. I’m slowly titrating my hours down, particularly night and weekend hours, until I find the right balance. For me, that balance means feeling that sense of fulfillment, mission, and helping people, while still having time to pursue some other ventures and–most importantly–not having to miss important moments in my family life.

What’s your ideal balance in terms of hours, time spent in your current profession? If you’ve achieved it, I would love to hear about it.

36 COMMENTS

  1. I recently resigned from my full-time job as an IT Director. Now I consult 20 hours per week. It is a rather fantastic work/life balance. Congrats on reaching FI. We were struggling with two working parents and raising two kids. Something had to give. If it takes us five more years to reach FI instead of four, so be it. Need to enjoy the ride.

  2. Timely. I’m currently 0.7 FTE clinical and 0.3 Admin/Teaching. Today I have a meeting to discuss dropping the 0.3 Admin and maybe reducing the clinical to 0.6
    That is 60% or 3/5 time. So two 12-hours shifts or three 8-hour shifts per week. I want to be just like PoF when I grow up!

  3. I have been “gradually” retiring for about 10 years (21 years in practice). I like the concept of adjusting the workload to accommodate lifestyle. I quite agree that giving up medicine completely is unnecessary and counterproductive. I would like to continue practicing as long as able and healthy.
    My goal is to continue working on passive sources of income and having enough in my pension, 401k and investments to carry my family into the future in the “life they have become accustomed to”.
    Thanks for your posts and good luck with your “retirement”.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are also tax benefits when that income coming in is from a “passive” source (as opposed to coming from your anesthesia “job”).

  5. Congrats again on FI. Glad to hear that you still enjoy your job and intend to keep at it. Having the choice of working less is awesome. It shifts your entire frame of mind from ‘have to’ to ‘want to’. Plus it frees up your time to work on your passion projects. Just getting rid of nights and weekends is huge. I’m currently full time rads. My ideal schedule would be 60% time which is sustainable until old age. Best of luck.
    BTW, this is formerly Radcrowd. New identity and blog now.

  6. Congrats again! I’m also basically FI. I want to work full time for the foreseeable future but think my ideal is 3 days per week instead of 5. Only time will tell if that is the right amount or when indeed to pull the trigger away from full time. I look forward to continued posts about your feelings on cutting back.

  7. I need to calculate my net-worth and time to FI. I love my day job and with 3 young kids, it is likely still necessary to work almost FT now (we have no debt, everything is paid off), and we live on 10-15% of my gross income every year. I would love to work an average of 3 shifts/week and no night shifts!

    • Having no debt is an amazing feat! I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t reach FI or a happy place of part-time soon. The only way you’ll get a better idea is to put it all on paper – expenses, net worth, projections, etc.

  8. Congrats!!!!

    I’d love to work maybe 3 days a week or 9 months out of the year doing my job! To do so would probably require going freelance/self employed and I’m not currently interested in that though.

  9. Completely understandable and very happy to see that your hardwork and smart bets have paid off to put you in this amazing position. Hats off! I told my husband I’ve decided to sell our rental soon (next few years) because we are looking to lighten our load and I wanted to free up my time with other projects *like a baby* or blogging (such a baby too!!)

    • Thanks! Is there another way to lighten your load without selling it? Maybe have someone else manage it so you don’t lose all the income? I hate the idea of giving up sources of income unless it’s being replaced by another.

  10. Congrats on being independent of medical income. I am 60 now and only do GYN 3 days per week. I decided to quit OB when I realized at 56 that my passive income (dividends and muni bond interest) was twice my spending. I consider my work now to be a social outlet and a source of health insurance.

    • Hatton1: You made it 6 years longer than I did working full time. It is a grind after decades of dedication, work, and stress. It is so important young doctors save and invest so they can have choices in their 50’s.

  11. I have an awesome job as a non-academic anesthesiologist in an academic hospital. 2 days/week (was 3 but had a baby and went to 2), no call, no weekends. It’s almost too good to be true. The only negative is that vacation is a bit constrained due to lots of meetings that others need to attend, cumbersome lottery system, restricted weeks, etc. Sometimes I wish for even more freedom to travel long periods (and so does my self-employed husband), but the day to day schedule is really perfect for me.

    • Sounds awesome and that you’re overall pretty happy with your current setup. If that freedom is something you want though, I’m sure you can figure out how to get there. Doesn’t seem like you’re too far from it.

  12. I felt the same way. I’m a surgeon and I was able to cut back to part time. Every specialty can do it. I first cut out some conditions I didn’t like to treat. Then went to half rime for 3 years then finally quit practicing all together last February. I think slowing down helped me let go. But I did it after becoming financially independent.

  13. I’m working on my glide path as well, I’m a specialty surgeon and don’t want to stop yet, but slow down a bit. I have dropped to 4 full days, and have stopped taking cases I deem “uncomfortable”. At 53 , I still feel good, but the grind of call and nonstop typing into an EHR is fatiguing. Now I begin my search for what to do outside of medicine as I’m not sure i want to deal with an EHR past age 60.

    • EHR seems to have put a good number of physicians into early retirement. I imagine you’ll continue to drop calls over the next 3-5 years, figure out some other sources of income and who knows, maybe you’ll find a sustainable pace to continue working until you’re 70.

  14. Great post. I work 4 days and plan on cutting back to 3 in the future. My question is, how many weeks off do most people take once they cut back? Or maybe a better way to ask it is how many hours a year do you plan on working?

    • I think that number is extremely personal and dependent on how demanding the job is as well. My wife has cut back to 12 hours a week and that’s her happy place. Mine is probably somewhere around 24-30 hours a week, totally avoiding nights and weekends. Also depends on what else you have going on. You have to figure out how to fill your days and from what I hear, you’ll probably get bored sitting and watching Netflix all day, every day. That’s why I enjoy having other pursuits to fill up the rest of that time.

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