There is a lot of grousing in the financial independence community. Especially from those of us above the age of thirty. We look at the young people in this community and shake our head knowingly. We grumble some version of the same slogan. If I only knew then what I know now. We repeat this refrain often but put little energy it to consider if it is true. Would I do it again? In the same way? And make all the same mistakes?
I guess the answer is equivocal. Yes and no.
Becoming a doctor
There is no question that becoming a physician has been the greatest boon and the most difficult journey of my life. Exposure to the healing arts has given me purpose and identity over the years. It has provided for my intellectual as well as financial needs. I traversed the most formative years of my life with a distinct plan and goal.
Helping people has been a gift. Having the skills and inclination to insert myself into the most intimate moments of peoples lives and lend a helping hand is indescribable. How could I ever regret such a career?
The good, however, came with a price. Being responsible for other’s well being is a daunting task. Dealing with death and destruction, fear and fatigue, and anger and sadness is no small feet. It is downright exhausting.
I can’t imagine a life where I wasn’t a doctor. I would do it again. But maybe I would have done it in a much less taxing way. Perhaps I would have chosen a less stressful specialty or concentrated on hospice work earlier.
Managing my money
There is no question that I could have been more proficient with money management earlier in life. As my career in medicine took off, I felt overwhelmed with responsibility and purposefully outsourced my financial well being. I just felt like I couldn’t juggle all those balls up in the air by myself.
So I hired a financial advisor. Which generally worked out fine. I chose a person who was trustworthy and always had my best interests at heart. We met regularly, and I had a grasp of what was going on with my finances.
It was not perfect. I certainly should have paid more attention and understood my investments more thoroughly. I probably bought some insurance policies that were less than ideal.
Would I do it again? Probably. I needed someone to take over a part of my life I wasn’t ready to manage. But, I would have spent a few more hours each month familiarizing myself with my advisor’s suggestions. I should have been more engaged.
Looking at my finances now, I could have taken a half retirement much earlier. I could have slowed down years ago, and maybe I wouldn’t feel so burned out at this stage in my career. Maybe I worked too much for too long.
While there are many disadvantages of the one more year syndrome, there are some benefits. The money I saved in those last few years has made my financial plan even more stable. It allows me to live with a non budget, and even spurn travel hacking.
While it is fun to daydream about all that you would improve if you got a do over, I think such thinking is fruitless. I would likely do it again in a very similar manner. Only after walking a path can you understand in which direction the journey leads.
In the process of learning from our mistakes, we course correct.
And it is in those corrections in which a life is made.
“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.
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