Q&A - Very early retirement
Justin – My job satisfaction has been decreasing for a while now, and it has me thinking a lot more about early retirement. Do many of the physicians you know fully retire in their late 40s?
I am sorry to hear about the downward trend regarding your job satisfaction. I wish this was an uncommon problem, but unfortunately it is not. The answer to your question is no, but maybe not for the reason you might assume.
First, I think it is important for you to try to identify why your job satisfaction has been waning. Too many work hours during the week? Are your daily duties too monotonous? Are administrators or staff negatively contributing? Is your specialty just not appealing to you anymore? Clearly identifying the main source(s) of the problem is the first step to determining how to rectify your current situation.
Second, the reason I do not work with many physicians who fully retire in their late 40s is because I am a big believer in physicians working part time early on in their career. I have repeatedly seen physicians substantially increase their job satisfaction by making no changes to their work life besides decreasing their FTE. I understand there are other reasons for burnout but decreasing the number of hours is often a great first step toward a better work/life balance. Rather than working really hard to save a lot of money in their 30s and 40s so they can retire early, they prefer to work and earn less now to have a better balance, but this means they will continue to need their income into their 50s.
Humans are not very good at predicting what their future self is going to want or how their future self will feel. Good financial plans should always allow for a lot of flexibility. Need to take a four-month unpaid sabbatical in your early 40s? Your financial plan should be able to make that happen. Need to switch to a lower paying job because the pace and expectations of your current job are unrealistic? Not a problem. Need to work .7 FTE instead of 1.0 FTE? Let’s do it.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with fully retiring early, but I think for many physicians I coach a better route is to just work less now or change to a job that is a better fit even if it pays less. I understand it is difficult to willingly choose to decrease your income, but life should not be a contest about maximizing your income potential.