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3 Year Lookback – Career, Finances, Lifestyle

I enjoy looking through my journal and personal financial spreadsheets to see where I was, what plans I had and see which plans worked out and which didn’t.

My Career July 2014

I was working too many 70-hour-weeks and it looks like I was earning an insane amount of money. My net worth was increasing by about $22,000-24,000 every month.

I didn’t enjoy the San Diego scene anymore and Kaiser Permanente had a position in Urgent Care available in Portland, Oregon – so that’s where I interviewed and they offered me a job later that month.


My Fears July 2014

I was about to make the move to Portland but wasn’t sure it was the right move. I had already spoken to the HR department at Kaiser Permanente in Portland and they gave me completely incorrect salary numbers. They said I would be making $200,000/year, when in fact it was closer to $260,000 once I got there.

I was worried about my pension. Should I continue working with Kaiser another 5 years in order to vest in the pension or just leave once I had enough saved up to pull the plug on my job? I would be walking away from a pension worth $60,000/year starting at age 65.

My spending was low for someone living in San Diego in a 200 sqft studio apartment. I still had a car and was spending a lot dining out. At that time I was planning to have around $2.5 million saved by age 65 – far more than what I think I need now.

My Investments July 2014

At the pace I was working I was able to save and invest around $11,000/month. This included a 401k, a Keogh, and a private brokerage.

My net worth was around $167,000. I had about $270,000 invested and I had debt which was offsetting my net worth.

The investments at the time broke down as follows:

  • $60,000 emergency funds (wtf? Too much!)
  • $5,000 invested in a ROTH IRA
  • $4,000 in a traditional IRA
  • $110,000 in a 401k
  • $90,000 in my Keogh

These investments should have been earning me around $700/month passively based on historical investment performances. Of course, the cash which was held on the sidelines wasn’t earning me anything.

My Debt

I had $102,000 left on my student loans. I had paid off all the credit cards and just gotten out of a divorce. I didn’t own a home any longer so I was focusing on paying off my student loans.

However, I hadn’t yet decided whether I wanted to pay off the debt early or just appreciate its low interest rate (2.75%) and drag it out as long as possible. Later in 2015, I decided that I would get rid of the SL’s as fast as I could.

My Retirement Plans

In my journal I wrote that a part of me loved being at work and helping patients but the other part couldn’t wait to not have to work. I was on track to retire by age 41 based on what I was saving every month.

Apparently at that time I was working so much that I couldn’t even think straight about what I would do after retiring. I had recently sold my auto mechanic shop to my partner and sold my race car – I didn’t have much of a sense of purpose.

For reference, I’m 39 years old as of writing of this post and already pulled the plug on work. I could have and probably should have done it sooner, looking back at things.


Looking Back Now @ July 2014

I would give my 35 yo self the advice of slowing down work. The only way I would have advised myself to continue working like a farmer would have been to focus all my money on paying off my student loans.

I was developing signs of burnout, feeling stretched too thin, not enjoying the long shifts and feeling pressured by things that didn’t go well at work.

It was really hard to understand this back in the day, but by moving to a much cheaper State, I was getting the opportunity to drastically cut my expenses. I wasn’t moving for that reason, I was moving to get away from SD.

I didn’t understand this back then, but all I needed to do was to save and invest enough to cover my basic overhead. Instead, I was trying to replace my spending as it was in July of 2014, which I think was around $4,500/month.

Finally, in 2017 I have reached a point in my personal finances where I feel financially secure. With a little under $800,000 saved and invested, I am able to rely on this money to pay for my living expenses.

At the same time, I am able to feel and think freely now that the burden of so much work isn’t on my shoulders. I have developed all sorts of exciting hobbies and passions, and some are even earning me and income.

Medicine is incredibly exciting to practice the first few years out of residency. Few physicians feel the same about it before a decade is up. It’s on us to recognize what’s most important in our lives and pursue that. A sustainable career requires us to live sustainable lives and be honest with ourselves regarding our priorities.

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