I retired from medicine at the age of 39 in 2016 and in this post I wanted to share with the reader the best things about being retired. I’ll share the good and the bad though I suspect there will be few bad things.
If you’ve followed my monthly income posts you’ll see that I still earn good money from medicine. So it’s still possible to be retired and earn money from your craft.
In the long-run I hope to be completely out of medicine. For now, it’s a lifeline which I like to keep hanging onto.
Retired from Medicine
I was talking to Dr. R who was 62 and he retired from family medicine at Kaiser Permanente after 25 years of practicing there. A great doctor – kind, patient, and diligent.
I would still see him around because he would pick up 3 per diem shifts s week so as to not get bored at home. He said that even though he was retired, he had no idea how to spend his days. Though, overall, he was quite pleased with the retired life.
I’d be remiss to mention my failure the first time around when I tried to retire. I don’t have anyone close to me who has successfully retired early from medicine so it took some doing.
Here we go, the best things about being retired from medicine.
1. Free Time
This is by far the most important thing to me. No setting the alarm, no job to report to, no bosses to please, no metrics to meet.
I can structure my day any way I like and go to bed whenever I please. Last night I went to bed at 2:00 am. I woke up at 5:00 am and read, went back to sleep, and woke up at 10:00 am.
The free time also means that I can make decisions like moving to Spain for a few months/years. I can live in any location which suits me best as long as it makes sense financially as well.
Free time to write, free time to read, to exercise, to cook, and to learn new things. But also free time to be a better member of society. Free time to help my friends and support those who supported me in my life.
It’s important to structure my free time otherwise the whole day gets away from me. I don’t have any trouble filling my days, rather, I’m always trying to get more things done than I have time for.
2. Better than Expected
Many of my colleagues and friends said I would regret retirement. That I would get bored and that I would lose my sense of purpose. I can totally see why – so many of my older patients felt lost after they retired.
It was a very pleasant surprise for retirement to be far better than I expected. It’s like that time when you discovered cookie dough. And then you ate it and you didn’t get salmonella. And you’re like fuuuuuuuck!
I always worry that I might get bored. What if this doesn’t last long? What if it’s all still a novelty and I’ll get bored with this early retirement thing the way I get bored with relationships?
I feel like I’ve improved as a person. It’s not the right word, improve, it’s more like I’ve grown into my role as a human being on this planet.
I didn’t get more greedy with my money or lazier with my time. Instead, by taking a giant step away from medicine, I’ve been able to grow in other aspects of my life.
I have more confidence and I feel more comfortable the less identify with being a physician. Maybe it’s because that role gave me a false sense of security.
It’s easy to be a little too hard on myself and expect myself to grow faster and achieve more. I have to realize my limitations and progress steadily.
4. My Spending
I was worried that my spending would inflate in retirement. I thought that maybe I would start traveling more or want to get hair implants or date a 21-year-old.
In fact, my spending went down even more. I no longer had to worry about all the work related expenses – many of which I wasn’t aware of.
No more having to eat shitty food on the run. No more work clothes or work shoes. No more commuting to work. No subscriptions to medical journals. And I saved money and time by dropping my ABMS board certification through ABFM and opted for NBPAS, instead.
As I divorce myself more and more from employment, I have to become a better marketer. I’m not ready to spend only from my investments and so there is a little self-imposed pressure to be financially productive.
5. The Income
When I retired I decided to only do a few per diem gigs and slowly dabble in non-medicine stuff.
What I have discovered is that my hourly wage is far higher in retirement than when I was working full-time. I easily earn $200-250/hour doing telemedicine work, medical chart reviews, and consulting.
I earn nearly $400/hour doing my consultation calls with people who reach me through this blog.
And I was able to rent out my Portland studio on AirBnb for $2,000/month while living in Spain.
Eve if the hourly income is higher, the overall income is lower. This gives me a little anxiety at times. I switch back and forth to thinking what all I could do with the extra income and how scary it would be if I one day had no income at all.
You know what I loved about school? The learning. I enjoyed sitting down with my buddy Sohail after a class we had together and discussing the material. Then reading related books and talking about it – it was invigorating.
I loved learning philosophy, arts, math, and physics. I just didn’t like being tested on it in the same brain-numbing manner.
In retirement, you can learn anything you want at your own pace and you never have to test yourself on shit. There is YouTube, Duolingo, Podcasts, Audible, blogs, Overdrive, and Kindle.
I’m learning about personal finance, marketing, cooking, construction, electronic circuit boards, writing, and health.
Some days I’ll spend so many hours reading, watching videos, and listening to audio books that my brain gets fried. I overdo it and so am left with nothing the following day.
Learning is a ton of fun but it’s just as important to have time to process the information and balance it all with a little cranial rest.
You think you’re free until you go to exercise your freedom. Most of the freedom I thought I had was an illusion.
I am not an independent practitioner of medicine – I have a medical license extended to me by my state. They can take it away anytime they wish without an extensive due process. They can tell me how to practice and they set my boundaries.
When it comes to relying on medicine for income, I am someone’s else’s bitch on so many levels.
If I want to become a general contractor, I now have that opportunity. If I want to go live in another country, I can exercise that option. If I want to go live with a friend in another state, I can do that as well.
I can start making music or paint and call myself an artist. I can write books and call myself an author. Not that the titles are important – but it gives meaning to the opportunity.
If I am going to pursue some of these opportunities it means that I will have more failures. And I’ll have spent some money and time diving into these opportunities.
This can feel like a loss at times so it’s important to be realistic about how much you can take on.
8. Extension of Life
This won’t be easy to explain. When you retire at 40 and start living the life you always wanted to live then everything suddenly slows down and it’s as if you are zooming in on the details of a picture.
You get into this state where you can see the beginning and the end of your life simultaneously. Each day that I am alive at age 40 is like being alive 3 months while caught up in the rat race.
In fact, this is the best antidote to the longevity fetish we have as westerners. I could get face cancer tomorrow and die in 2 weeks and I’d have lived the most amazing last 2 years I can imagine.
What I mean by having gained perspective is that you realize what’s really important to you. I know that not every physician suffered at their job – some of you love the shit out of your profession. But for anyone who suffered, there is this ah-ha moment when you no longer have to continue suffering.
You realize what’s important to you or at least what you enjoy. This solidifies the things that absolutely make you miserable. It’s like stepping out of a situation and being able to look back onto it.
This realization also makes me less likely to want to sell my time to anyone again. Taking on another full-time job will be so much harder from now on.
10. Living Anywhere
I feel bad for putting this one so far down the list when I’m having such a blast in Seville. It’s much more than being able to live anywhere but having the time and head space to figure out how to live in another country.
I never thought it would be this easy to get a visa to live in another country. Retirement allowed me to figure out that process.
And I miss the shit out of Portland but being in Spain is wonderful, as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up in Poland – or the Philippines. For now, I love being able to live anywhere.
Sometimes having too many options can be overwhelming. I am living in Spain and then imagine what it would be like to live in Amsterdam.