Who are the physicians that retire early?

Who Retires at 30 to 35?

Retiring after a career of zero or a few years may sound ludicrous, but there are a few scenarios that are not so far-fetched.

The stay-at-home spouse. A handful of physicians complete residency, but never pursue employment, often choosing to start a family instead. I know one physician who made this choice at age 29, actually.

The suddenly wealthy. A large windfall at the beginning of one’s career could be all it takes to transition a disenchanted physician out of practice. A startup company could be sold to a tech giant. An app or website that really takes off could be worth millions. Inheritance and lotto winnings could come into play here.

The career transitioner. While it’s not exactly “retirement,” pursuing a non-clinical career is effectively a retirement from clinical medicine. A visit to the Drop Out Club (DOC) may lead them to drop the stethoscope, laryngoscope, otoscope, or ophthalmoscope for good.

Who retires at 35 to 39?

This is the first age bracket where an extremely early retirement might be possible based on a physician’s career earnings.

The planner. To escape so soon on your own merits requires some serious planning. Minimize debts throughout medical school and residency. Moonlight if possible. Choose a high paying specialty. Work and live like a resident after residency. Take advantage of geographic arbitrage. A well-executed plan could lead to a retirement by 40.

The frugal wanderlust. This physician has never been concerned with the usual trappings that are typically associated with a doctor’s lifestyle. A frugal physician with few material needs living a middle-class lifestyle can afford to explore the world in a similarly frugal fashion before his or her fortieth birthday.

Who retires at 40 to 45?

At this age, some prior planning and relative frugality remain paramount to a successful early retirement.

Mid-life crisis. At roughly the half-way point in life, physicians know all too well that life is precious, and sometimes short. We have courtside seats to the unfolding of cruel and unusual tales of disease and injury dramatically altering or ending a life prematurely. Working long hours, fighting burnout, and crossing our fingers that we’re not as unlucky as this patient or that one, we realize a certain need to start living differently. For some, that will mean retiring early.

The family man or woman. After providing for my family for more than a decade, I regret that some days, I’m not more a part of it. Realizing that our time with boys at home will soon be halfway over, I want the next decade to be amazing. While it could be good if I were working, we can give them incredible worldly experiences that are incompatible with a full-time job.

Who retires at 45 to 49?

The accidental retiree. Entrepreneurial physicians at this age may find that a side project started years ago has blossomed into something that is more rewarding and/or time-consuming than their day and night job as a physician. Some doctors will choose to follow their passion or pursue the better income.

The second breadwinner. In their mid-to-late forties, a married couple could have a combined 30 to 50 years of career earnings behind them. If one spouse has a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job they love, and the other has a stressful 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. job they don’t, it might make good sense for the latter to call it a day.

Who retires at 50 to 54?

The prudent. This physician shares some commonalities with the planner, but has had many more years for career earnings and compound interest to pad the retirement accounts.  Retiring at 54 (in the year in which you turn 55) allows full penalty-free access to the 401(k). Compared to the planner, who would likely have a five-figure annual budget, the prudent could be able to spend in the low six-figures.

The passive income master. A physician who has focused on creating passive income streams may eventually witness his passive income match or exceed active income from working. Investments in real estate, for-profit hospitals, surgery centers, or imaging centers come with higher risk, but can pay off handsomely.

Who retires at 55 to 59?

The forced hand. Remember the mid-life crisis who feared life-altering health problems? Those issues arise all too commonly in the mid-to-late fifties. A physical disability or ailment has sidetracked many careers of physicians in what should be prime years of their career. A healthy physician may step aside to spend time with and care for an ailing parent, spouse, or sibling. Sometimes, the physician doesn’t choose an early retirement. Sometimes, fate chooses it for him.

The fed up. Sadly, there are many physicians who love their patients, and love being their doctor, but are fed up with extraneous roadblocks that make it difficult to do the job. A new electronic health record. An uptick in insurance denials. Increasingly onerous board certification maintenance requirements. Fewer support staff. Decreased reimbursements. More metrics measured without any demonstrated benefit. Which will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Who retires at 60 or above?

The unfortunate. Half her net worth disappeared in a divorce settlement, and he used it to take his new bride and her newly augmented bosom on a round-the-world beach tour featured prominently and daily on Facebook. He went to 100 percent cash at the bottom of the market in 2001. And again in 2008. He got back in when stocks had sufficiently rebounded to previous highs. She wanted to be a passive income master, buying all the heavily leveraged real estate she could get her hand on from 2004 to 2007. Like John Malkovich and Kevin Bacon, he trusted Bernie Madoff with his millions.

The truly happy. Most physicians will retire after the age of 60, and most will reflect on their careers with genuine pride and contentment. Not every moment is wonderful, but amidst the occasional drudgery, we do have the privilege of working small miracles every workday. Most patients are respectful and grateful for the sacrifices we make. For the majority, retiring after age 60 is not a reflection of any kind of failure, but a confirmation of resounding career success.

Who am I? I’m a family man with a touch of mid-life crisis. A future accidental retiree and career transitioner. A frugal wanderlust with passive Income. A little bit fed up, but more truly happy. Hoping to be a bit happier when I retire early.

Who are you?

“Physician on FIRE” is an anesthesiologist and can be reached at his self-titled site, Physician On FIRE.  

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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