I’m going to keep things broad here: no discussions of index funds, real estate, Roth IRAs or taxable accounts. This is more of a general discussion on what I feel is important to me, what I invest my money and maybe more important, time into. There are a few financial topics, but there are many more “time” topics. On the surface these my seem like individual items, but I assure you they are all interrelated and all important. So here we go, in no particular order:
I am one of the lucky ones who is able to say that I love my job. It’s exciting, rewarding, challenging, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately the job I was meant to do. But I do plan on retiring someday, or at least having the option to retire in the not so distant future, so that is why I invest in my retirement today.
Distinct from my retirement is my future, pre-retirement and beyond. Heck, tomorrow and beyond. Financial independence is a hot topic these days, not only to be able to retire early, but to dictate how your life is managed, free from the “hamster wheel” that so many others find themselves in. I set up an emergency fund, tackled student loan debt, diversified my portfolio and constantly evaluate our spending.
I spent over 30 years obtaining the skills to do what I do today. And yes, I am considering learning to walk and talk part of this; I use these walking and talking skills daily, they are essential to my practice, let’s not split hairs with this one. The field of medicine changes awfully fast, if I fail to keep up I would be causing a great disservice to any future patient that comes my way. That is why I read journals, web articles, attend conferences, and attempt to constantly learn from my colleagues, both young and old.
One of our greatest assets. Without it, there is no purpose in life. It wants to be challenged; it needs to be fed. One example is upon finishing my training I transitioned the time I spent reading medical textbooks to learning a new skill, personal finance.
My knowledge until that point was the compound interest equation and easy money hacks (finding promo codes, optimizing rewards cash back, etc.). Now I can tell you about different types of investment accounts, index funds, insurance options, tax savings vehicles, and even more easy money hacks.
I could have easily kept up with the Kardashians, passed the time surfing YouTube, dominated young trash talkers on Call of Duty, but frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that! At least I don’t have time for that, well I do, but I choose to use it differently.
My mental health
Yes, this is separate, though related to the previous heading (pun not intended). Life is tough; there are constant stressors: work, money, kids, distractions, temptations, failures. It is extremely important to take breaks, to laugh, to enjoy, to try new things, to ultimately be happy. This is where my hobbies (running, cooking, guitar, reading), friendships, and family come in.
When I first started working out of residency, I would pick up any shift that was offered. It didn’t take long to realize that more time at work left far less time for other important things. I don’t regret doing it, it allowed me to get a good jump start on my path to financial independence, but now money is just a slice of the entire pie, and I’d rather focus on the time.
My physical health
Working in this field, I encounter many sick and unfortunate people when it comes to physical health that it really puts things into perspective. The sad reality is you only get one body, so it needs to be taken care of.
I’m not the athlete I once was (or thought I was), but I probably run more now than I ever did. I’ve discovered some pretty interesting podcasts, so I just turn those on and hit the trails. I also try to eat healthily, it doesn’t always happen (breakfast burritos are my weakness), but I make a conscious effort to do so and hopefully it shows. I schedule annual appointments with my primary care physician just to make sure if there is a problem, I can catch it early.
What if in 10 years I could no longer run because I’m carrying an extra 200lbs? What if I could no longer cook because I can no longer use my left side of my body? What if I could no longer ski or surf or play soccer because I was on a blood thinner to a stent from clotting off?
These are extreme examples, but I assure you there are people out there that are faced with these exact problems. Since this is a finance site, I’ll also mention that poor physical health is financially costly, to you and the entire healthcare system. But that’s another topic, and it gets political, and I don’t like talking about politics.
My children’s future
Bringing it back to investing (the more important topic of quality time with the kids is coming), I want to ensure my children are provided for when it’s time for college or when it’s time to maneuver this world without their mother and me. At the beginning of each month, my bank account grows significantly when my salary is deposited. Not coincidently, three 529 plans receive a contribution on the same day.
Looking down the road, I plan on leaving them more than my old ties and watches. I could probably retire in 10 years and have enough invested to last my lifetime, but I do want to pass on an inheritance, for my children, and my children’s children. I hope this will give them more opportunities to take more chances, take more time off and hopefully spend more time together.
Reminiscing about the past, enjoying the present and exploring the future are all benefits of strong friendships. Do I want to go watch the 8th-grade flag football game 30 miles away? Well, kind of (I love sports), but more importantly because my best friend coached the team and asked me to go. The same best friend who flew across the county when I moved coasts to be my companion on that long road trip. The same guy who introduced me to my wife. Friendships go far beyond grabbing a burger and a beer on occasion; they’re about investing the time and energy so you can reap the benefits. The occasional burger and beer is just a nice touch.
This is a huge topic, so I’m going to keep it simple and define “my family” as my wife and the three little people we created. As difficult as it is to travel with three young kids (or go to a restaurant or a birthday party or church or the beach or the movies or the grocery store or to school) my wife and I make it a point to have this family time. I’ll make every effort to be the soccer coach, attend the recital, show up for “donuts with dad,” and walk them to school. As trivial as some of these things sound this is one way I express my love for them, by giving them as much time as I can.
I think this is huge reason why I have chosen to pursue financial independence because it offers me more time to be at home and less at work. As much as I love seeing pictures and videos of them, it’s much more rewarding to see them in person. Except for the crying, that’s much better in picture form.
A separate entity from my family is my relationship with my wife. We have a great relationship, a great marriage, but that does not mean we shouldn’t constantly invest in it. Every month we make it a point to pick a date, line up a babysitter and go out, just the two of us.
Before we started having children, it was just us- things we simpler, we could do whatever we wanted pretty much whenever we wanted. Now it takes much more planning, more strategizing, more compromising. But that just makes it more special when we do get time together. It’s extremely important to budget this time together.
It strengthens our relationship, our family, our friendship, our mind, our mental/physical health. We constantly discuss our careers, our future, our children’s future, and plans for retirement.
“Another Second Opinion, MD” is an anesthesiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, Another $econd Opinion.
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