It is easy to look at someone’s net worth and ooh and ahh. The response from my monthly income reports is fairly telling. People see the numbers and wonder how I accumulated so much. They peruse the Rockstar Finance’s Net Worth Tracker and daydream. To capture these dreams, there are countless blog posts about how to become a millionaire. If you just follow these three simple steps! The headlines are alluring and the answers are often straightforward and simplistic. I have even been guilty of such writing. But the truth is, the cost of financial independence can be steep. I’m not talking dollars and cents here.
Every decision we make is a tradeoff. Every hustle, side hustle, side gig, and entrepreneurial venture requires a certain input of time and life energy. When talking of personal finance, we sometimes are pollyanna about reaching our goal without giving due recognition to what we have given up.
I feel lucky to be financially independent and have the privilege of writing these words for you to read. To achieve this freedom, however, required a metaphorical pound of flesh. Was it worth it?
Let’s see what you think.
Doc around the clock
The fast track to financial independence, for me, started with maximizing my W-2 income. I morphed from an employed physician, to a private practitioner, to a concierge practice business owner. With each step, I was able to multiply my earnings. So much so, that in my most fruitful year, our combined family income was over a million dollars.
This sounds great. And it was. But the cost of financial independence was real. Being the owner of my own concierge practice, and taking care of the sickest of the sick at the nursing home, required constant 24/7 attention. When I tried to have other doctors cover me, I received numerous complaints from patients and nursing homes.
The choice was clear. Either be present and available always, or lose the value of my brand in the community.
I decided to be present. I couldn’t have built the business any other way. As a result, I haven’t had a single day off in the last ten years. Even if out of town or visiting another country. My phone is always on. I take calls every day of the year, and many nights. My mobile is constantly interrupting me.
When we go to the movies as a family, I have to sit by an exit and usually miss a few minutes. Going swimming is difficult too. Any activity that requires quiet, or loss of proximity to a phone, is all but impossible.
Travel also falls to the wayside. Although I schedule seven-day blocks of vacation, taking more than a week at a time is often hard. Over the last few decades my wife has traveled to Moscow, Quebec, Italy, and Spain, all without me.
Weekends are prime side hustle time. And while the rest of the world sleeps, it is not uncommon to find my wife or I speeding down the highway to one of our rental properties. There may be a broken toilet or a faulty dishwasher. Something is always coming up.
Not to mention when one of the units is on the rental market. There often is yet another potential renter to show the property to. Realtors call at inopportune times, and utilities have to be managed and paid for.
The cost of financial independence is working your side hustles when on break from your main hustle. Weekends and nights are a must. When the going gets tough, sleep becomes the sacrificial lamb.
Money vs. experience
I mentioned above the international travel that I have missed because I was otherwise occupied with some money making scheme or another. I can’t even begin to count the number of family obligations I have missed. It seems like every week, my son or daughter has some presentation, game, or recital to attend. While other parents dutifully attend every function, I often have to juggle responsibilities and hope to pull up in time before the event is over.
And even when I’m there, I’m not all there. My phone is always ringing or buzzing. The emergent texts and phone calls pull me out of the auditorium or cause me to avert my eyes just as the winning goal is being scored.
Financial freedom is a boon and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But the cost of financial independence is real. It is patently untruthful to misrepresent the sacrifice, hard work, and suffering often required.
Is it worth it?
It was for me. Especially at the beginning of my career before children.
As I enter my mid-forties, it would be hard to start this journey all over again.
“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.
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