how I picked my retirement date

How I Picked My Retirement Date

Do You Know Your Retirement Date?

Well, it is done. I emailed my boss this week telling him I am retiring on 4/1/2022. April fool’s day next year, and thirteen and a half months from now.

How did I pick my retirement date? Well, I had to get approval from my better half, and she will learn about this decision from this blog. She doesn’t often read my blogs, so it will be interesting to see if she notices. And no, it is not an April Fool’s joke either… I can’t hardly plan for next week let alone a joke carefully planned out a year in advance.

So, what process goes into picking your retirement date? Which date will it be for you?

Early Retirement and the “One-More-Year” Syndrome

I am retiring early. I will be 48 when I retire from medicine. I wanted to “FIRE” a year ago, but I got one-more-year syndrome.

Reading FIRE blogs, it seems the one-more-year syndrome is common. After all, if you are retiring early, by definition it is a choice to do so. You are not being forced out of the job; you are leaving for the greener pastures on the other side of the fence. It is a decision.

I don’t think many of us take out a blank sheet of paper, put a line down the middle and write on each side the reasons for and against retiring on a certain date. But it is more than just a gut feeling. There is some reason or logic applied to the decision-making process.

Sometimes, the one-more-year might indicate that you are not sure you have enough money. If I work for one more year, then I have a year’s more resources (and a year’s less expenses) at my disposal. This is a math problem: 25x your yearly expenses and you have hit your FI number.

But what if you are not the only source of income for your family? Truth be told, I am not retiring, I am going to be a stay-at-home dad and my wife will continue to work. She makes more than enough to support our young family.

So, the retirement police can call me a stay-at-home dad instead of an early retiree. Fine with me!

I waited one more year for non-financial reasons. I am worried: what will I do with my time?

What Does it Mean to Retire?

What do retirees do with their time? Asked another way: what is retirement?

There is controversy aplenty about the definition of retirement. In fact, most people who “retire” early go on to do other things. Perhaps the emphasis is on no longer getting a paycheck doing what you’ve been doing before.

You can still do work, and you can still get a paycheck if that brings you value. But early retirement means that you can live on your accumulated assets if that is what brings you value.

More importantly, then, what do you do with your time when you retire? This worry is what kept me working one more year. [Well, there is this global pandemic too… is it poor optics for an ID doc to retire during one of those?]

I will, in fact, keep working when I retire. It is my hope to take my kids to school and pick them up at the end of the day. Between then, I’ve got this blog. I made $250 off it in the last two years, so that will go a long way. Aside from the massive paycheck this blog brings in, it also is a lot of fun. “Flow State” for me is at 2AM writing a blog. Sick, but true.

But the purpose of the blog is to promote my job: Advice-Only retirement planning for physicians. That is what interests me. That is a passion of mine. Helping well-to-do physician who are DIY investors retire. That’s a nice niche to be in! It has taken all of my interest but 10% of my time over the last few years. What would happen if I gave it more time? Some Passion, even…

Passion Drives the Decision to Retire

It is hard to let go of what you know and try something new. That is perhaps what is the most difficult part of this decision, to stop working. “Better the devil you know” and all…

There is great camaraderie in the hospital. I do enjoy talking to colleagues, though the covid conversations become challenging in the last year. Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve had one foot in the grave and one out ever since I knew I wanted to FIRE. There is much to miss but staying here means staying stuck.

It took many years to get my job just how I like it. Once you have “F-You” money, you can start working on improving your job. For instance, list the top 5 things you like about your job and the 5 things you like least about your job. Stop doing the 5 things you like least about it, and do more of the top 5 things if you want to. And if your boss won’t work with you, find one that will. FI means you can work because it brings you pleasure to do so.

Many doctors will never quit, either because they are “old school” where being a doctor is your identity, or because it is all they know. That is fine. Most of them would probably die a few years after quitting anyway.

For me, one foot in the grave keeps me from exploring my future passions.

Retirement is the Wrong Word

Early Retirement is the wrong word. It is a transition from being a doctor to being a stay-at-home dad with some other interests.

As I mentioned, I feel like I cannot move on and allow myself to explore the next step while I’m still at my current job. There are the hours in the day, after all, you can do anything you want to do with you time. But until you have those empty hours stretch into weeks and weeks into months as a retiree, it just feels different.

So retirement is the wrong word. What should we call it? Finding a new passion?

What about finding Ikigai in the next phase of your life?

Ikigai, or “a reason for being.”

How I picked my retirement date

On the top, do what you love. Right: do what the world needs. Bottom: do what you can be paid for. And finally, on the left: do what you are good at.

Are you working a mission, vocation, profession, or passion? If all of them, then it is Ikigai.

Is Ikigai just for work, or does it work in retirement, too?

Ikigai During Retirement

Ikigai during retirement is a little different. No longer do you need to worry about the bottom half circle: do what you can be paid for. After all, you don’t need the money.

But interestingly, that doesn’t mean that vocation is gone: you still must do what the world needs. Similarly, profession is still there too: it is what you are good at.

So Ikigai during retirement means finding your mission and passion, with less emphasis on vocation and profession. What you love, what you are good at, and what the world needs.

It is time to take one foot out of the grave and find Ikigai in retirement.

I have the sense that it is time to move on. April 1st, it is.

You: maybe you will know when your retirement date is as well by pondering Ikigai in retirement. Remember meanwhile, though, FIRE is JOY!

For me, I have an idea of what comes next. More time with the kids, my consummate wife, and more time to discover Ikigai during retirement.

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34 Comments

  1. I am excited for you. I want to put in a word in support of your passion to give advice- only retirement planning for physicians. I have spent my whole adult life saving and planning for retirement, managing my own portfolio. I hired you last year to confirm for me that I could retire if I choose to. You had terrific ideas that went far beyond just knowing I had “hit my number” and I am so glad I sought your advice. I will not be FIRE’ing since I am normal retirement age, but if this type of information had been available earlier in my career, I think it would have been really helpful. I highly recommend that do-it-yourselfers hire you for periodic financial checkups. I will be contacting you again for another check-up soon. Thank you David!

  2. This is an interesting post. I believe it is fairly common that physicians keep working past FI out of fear of boredom. Loss of identity and control weigh in also. Some keep working because they do not understand how to calculate what they need to retire.
    I have been retired for 1.5 years. I realized I could stop mid forties but kept working. I wanted to be double, triple sure. Instead of retiring I kept working and started reducing my hours. As an OB/GYN most of the income came from OB. I quit this at 56 and said I would do 3 day/week gyn until it actually started to cost me money. I retired my practice at 61. I worked for my local hospital 3 days /week until 62.
    I spent a fair amount of time when I first retired trying to think of my new purpose. I decided to focus on trying to be social. Learn new things that I never had time to do. Exercise. Draw and paint. You will fill it up. I think I delivered 4000 babies a purposeful life but on to the non-medicine chapter.

  3. Congrats on a hard date Doc! I’m glad you’ve figured out your passion. You will love it. I have been early retired for four years and still love pursuing my passions every day. I’m still working at it and probably will forever. Similarly, I’m trying to help other “Corporate Types” find FIRE and have the option to escape the grind. I spent my entire career in the lower two-thirds of the graphic (above), and rarely felt a passion or mission in my corporate career. Now that money is no longer the objective, it’s become a mission and passion to simply help others. Best of luck in your future endeavors! You’re going to be great!

  4. Congratulations on the set retirement date. I know how difficult just that process could be as I always have the one more year syndrome issues to deal with.

    I had planned on retiring at 53 when my daughter leaves for college (I am a little over 2 months away from 50). I am confident I could retire today and do fine but still have this twinge of guilt preventing me from pulling the trigger even though I just experienced a very bad burnout stage end of last year and beginning of this year.

    I do have some light at the end of the tunnel that just presented itself that may make it much better (will actually be discussed on my post this Tuesday)

  5. My wife was a stay at home mom and then a stay at home wife after the kids were grown and gone. Its a strange existence, one I could not manage well since I’m not really a self starter. But after the kids left I did retire slightly early and just kept a foot in the door by consulting some, but only about one day a week. I’d advise that for you to consider, too. Rather than leave medicine entirely find a hospice or low income medical clinic, I help run both of those operations as a non paid volunteer now. Its part time work, easy but still keeps you active and credentialed. We’ve got docs doing that for us as a part time gig. I’ve been doing my part time work since the day I retired for five years now. And next month I’m finally really going to pull the plug I think. But now I’m ready, I wasn’t five years ago. And you might not be ready in a year either.

  6. Congratulations on finalizing your final date! Your post couldn’t have come at a better time for my husband and I. We have been talking about FIRE for few years and I can confirm “One more year” syndrome is real 😊
    He is in early 50s I’m mid 40s , neither in medical field . He literally discussed his final chapter at work with his COO on Friday.

    I am excited but at the same time would feel more at ease/comfortable by running our numbers with an advisor like you before taking the leap

      • I would say combination of both. But more on what’s next after RE. Also not certain about health insurance situation. We want to travel the world while we are still healthy and capable. Also spend some considerable time in the country we were born.

  7. Great post. I retired from medical practice last month at age 55, but I accepted a job working for a large health insurance company. We do not need the money (NW recently over $10M, wife still works as attorney, kids are in college, etc.), but I needed something useful to do. So far, this is Ikigai to me. The work is interesting, I am learning a lot, and meeting (virtually) interesting people. I am earning about half as much as a full time radiologist with about 10% of the stress and aggravation.

    • VagabondMD, thanks for writing. I guess if you take salary over stress and aggravation that would be .5/.1 = 5. This means you are “earning” 5 times as much as you did before you retired! Congratulations!

  8. Wow, that is some big news. Congratulations on choosing a date and you have motivated me to do the same. My hours have been declining over the past few years after selling the practice but I wasn’t really able to stop “doing what I do” until about now. I am down to about 8 hours a week and have mentally transitioned to the point that I can completely step away. The is the year to take that last step.

    Glad to hear that you are moving into more emphasis on the FA side of things as I know that is a true passion of yours. I selfishly want you to stick around in that role for a couple of decades as I used your services last year and plan to again for reviews each year. Nice to have a knowledgeable, ethical and reasonable FA available to DIY docs. Your service is appreciated.

    PS: Nice to see Hatton and VagabondMD posting here in acknowledgement of your decision. They are two names I see on WCI Forum that always make a lot of sense. From reading their postings here we all seem to be of similar age and NW and that might be why I like their thoughts. 🙂

  9. That’s pretty strong when somoone actually “walks the talk.”

    Yes, many docs say they’re going to retire early, but NONE that I know of ever announce a specific date.

    I wish you the BEST of luck and you’re going to be amazed once you spend the majority of your working time towards growing your financial advising biz, how quickly it will grow.

  10. David,
    Congratulations on your future plans. Being a stay home dad is a full time job as well with serious investments in your kids that have no monetary value. As you and and talked before , I appreciate your expertise in the services you provide to our colleagues. This plan might open up more time for you to help even more people. The concern I hear from many of our colleagues what to do with our time is real, however making the necessary plans a year or so in advance in order to retire WITH something and not necessarily TO something is helpful. My date is 9/1/2023 and looking forward to that. We plan to continue to use your services as needed as well as recommending our colleagues and friends. Wishing you the best for you and your family as you plan on this new chapter in your life. Best, Charles

  11. David,
    I love the retirement date! How appropriate!
    As a financial fool your financial advice is invaluable to me. I only wish I had discovered you a year ago so I would not have cost myself about $500,000 with my limited knowledge.
    I love your diagram explaining the sweet spot for contentment in life. Thank goodness I have that in my current professional life.
    Cheers,
    John

  12. Wonderful article David and a hearty congratulations to you! You’ve put in words a lot of what I have been struggling with the past year or so as I approach my exit. You’ve been a phenomenal coach for me and I’m sure many others.

  13. That’s fantastic, David!

    I will be interested to hear how this last year goes for you. I started feeling more detached from my identity as a physician once I had committed to moving on.

    I’m now 18 months removed, and now anesthesia is just one of those things I used to do. It will remain a part of who I am, but just one part.

    Here’s hoping you retire into a world that’s open and free, and not into the uncertainty we all started facing a year ago!

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • Detached… yes a good word to describe what the covid has done last year as well! I used to play trumpet but I doubt you want to listen to that now!

      Thanks for stopping by! On to FIRE!

  14. Great for you! I am a physician turned stay at home parent while my physician husband is working. I am very interested in the FI movement, and am reading a lot about it, but need some concrete examples and plans to go by. Our kids are 13, 9, and 7, but we are older parents, so the FI idea is to help us enjoy them before they go (and before we get too old…).
    By the way, there IS a lot to do in between dropping the kids off at school and picking them up. It is never ending.

  15. I enjoyed this very much. I am a pediatrician and retired at 70 because I wanted to get my max social security. I have never worked a full schedule, indulging in creative things : gardening, old house Reno’s, sewing, cooking, other fiber arts, tile design, other art . My husband has early heart disease, an angioplasty at 37 , the year I met him. I love pediatrics. He’s in good shape at 73 and I have no regrets. I had to do art to support my spirit: not all my eggs in one basket

  16. When I am asked about my “retirement” I reply with a word that you used early in this blog post: It is my “transition”.

  17. I just retired at 62, primarily due to fears of contracting covid at the workplace and bringing it home. Unfortunately, the transition has been MUCH harder than I’d anticipated, perhaps because I wasn’t quite prepared to go “cold turkey”. I feel lost!
    Thanks to all of you for your encouraging comments. I think phasing out gradually, especially for engaged younger physicians, is a better option than cutting out completely and suddenly.

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