This physician loves being a doctor. He just wants to do it less.

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 fewer 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.

“Passive Income, MD” is a physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Passive Income M.D.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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