Should doctors quit or retire?

There seems to be one question that drives the financial independence community. Not for everybody, but a large percentage of the group are chomping at the bit. The question is simple yet infinitely complex. It drives at the heart of what it means to be financially independent and evokes our greatest hopes and fears. It is often the reason we stumbled across the idea of financial freedom in the first place. Can I quit yet? It is often asked but seldom answered to any real satisfaction.

When is the best time to take the leap? Early, before the crush of sacrifice? Later, once one has reached fatFIRE?

Never at all because it is bad for your health?

Financial independence

Of course. The answer is simple. You can quit when you are financially independent. Simple. Right? But not so fast. So what does financial independence mean? You could use the 4% rule I suppose. Or there is also the point in which “passive” income streams fund your day to day existence. There is the passive income eclipse.

Yet, we all realize that these definitions are artificial at best. We don’t really know what risk will befall us. There is the infamous sequence of returns risk, and the luck of an ill-fated market. One must not, on the other hand, forget that it is not just the market, but white swan events that may get in the way. Divorce. Unexpected children. A personal health care crisis.

What if the government starts taxing based on wealth and no longer income?

The savvy person would tell you that they will do their best to risk mitigate. But isn’t the W2 or business asset class one of the most lucrative? Isn’t the best risk mitigation not quitting at all?

Can I quit yet? Maybe you shouldn’t.

Enough

You can quit when you have enough. A great term enough. But what does it mean? There are several who have retired in their twenties because they have decided that a few hundred thousand is enough and they can live on $20,000 a year.

Sounds good. Except that in your twenties, you have no idea what you will want in the future. A spouse? Kids? An advanced degree?

These things can be planned into an extremely low cost of living lifestyle, but it is not ideal. Geo-arbitrage sounds great until you need to be close to your parents who live in a large, expensive city.

Sometimes life doesn’t comply with our early retirement plans. Can I quit yet can be a complicated question.

Quit or retire?

You can always quit. There are always other jobs. But if we are talking about exiting the workplace in general, is it really retirement? Is it retirement if you are not even close to financial independence?

Presumably, there are other ways out there to make money. Passion projects, budding businesses, freelancing. It’s hard. No question about it. The majority fail at supporting themselves this way.

But it is possible. There are those that exit the workplace with smaller nest eggs and still manage to make a go of it. They manage to chase an interest or passion, and it works out.

Quitting doesn’t necessarily mean retiring. It doesn’t mean letting go of all meaningful work.

Final thoughts

Can I quit yet?

No one can answer that question for you. There will always be naysayers. They will look at your numbers and say you are too aggressive. They will sneer and describe how they expect you to fail. And they may be right.

Yet, there is also risk in staying in a situation in which you hate.

Life is about risks and rewards. Be as careful as you can. Fall on your face. Get up. Start again.

Quit or not. Try to find what makes you happy. Maybe the job is a symptom and not the cause.

“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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