We revere professional athletes because we know what it takes for them to get to where they are and we vicariously live out our stardom through them.
Not all, but quite a few of professional athletes have very short careers, sometimes only 3-5 years where majority of their income is through their sports contracts and advertising income. Upon completion they happily withdraw from the screen and live their life off of their career-income.
Can We Retire Early?
We don’t look down on athletes, at least not the ones that work hard and try to keep their personal shit out of the limelight. If they retire after their short careers we don’t bat an eye.
Some go on to do great things after ending their sporting career, others may not do a whole lot upon retirement but try to give back during their careers by putting on camps and donating to charities or starting charities.
If a 20-year-old athlete makes $25 million in their 7-year career and then calls it quits because their body is no longer able to take the beating then everyone applauds them and wishes them all the best.
Why is it okay for their bodies to quit but it’s not okay for our minds to quit? It probably has to do with the feeble human mind not being able to measure mental aptitude the same way it can measure physical performance.
5-10 Year Career
Well, for one we would have an even worse shortage of doctors but we would also have to pay physicians more because of the scale of supply-demand would be tipped.
Imagine a General Surgeon who spent 8 years after residency volunteering, working late nights in a hospital, seeing their patients in clinic, teaching residents and medical students and helping their family and friends out financially. This is quite the normal for many specialists and General Practitioners alike.
If this doctor quit after 8 years because they noticed that their body can no longer hack the long hours, maintain the high focus, multitask while still live a quality life then we would think them to be weak… because other doctors are doing the work for 30 years+?
With just 5-10 years most doctors can pay off their debt and save enough to retire early.
Spending Time in Retirement
Some become celebrities, some retreat and retire. Some invest their money in different businesses and become entrepreneurs. Others get jobs as coaches or consult for companies.
If they did nothing at all, stayed at home with their family, helped raise the kids while sitting on several million dollars then all would be gravy. Nobody will give them shit for not joining smaller leagues in other countries, for not becoming coaches, for not entertaining the masses on a voluntary basis.
We think it’s okay for them to retire because they are more fallible than doctors. They also earned a hell of a lot more so they get a pass on working past their prime.
Let’s be honest, if the doctor does anything ‘less’ than medicine then it damn well better make a ton of money. And I don’t even mean $1 million a year, it better be 10’s of millions.
Let’s say a doctor left medicine to sell fancy Persian rugs in their own rug store. They would make a ton of money but how do you think it would be perceived?
Why does it even matter how it would be perceived? Well it does, we need support from our colleagues, from our society, from friends and family in order to successfully transition from one career to another.
Making a Lot of Money
It’s a valid argument, an athlete won’t have quite as much student loan debt and they will make their money early in their career which means they will have a longer time where their money is invested in the market – more time means increased compounding interest gains.
They make a lot more money in their careers, generally millions. So if they retire sitting on $15 million then it’s all good, they will have more than enough to last them a lifetime as long as they are halfway wise about it.
Doctors on average make a couple hundred thousand a year, they need to save aggressively to be able to retire even by age 55-60 because their expenses generally stay high, they rarely spend the money for good financial advisers, investors, or tax attorneys like some of the pro-athletes do.
No Millions Needed
I totally get this statement, unless you got several million saved your retirement isn’t secure. I just don’t believe it’s true.
Your lifestyle, your expenses and your personal situation should be what dictates how much money you need for retirement. An arbitrary blanket statement like “you need several million” is simply misleading.
Could a patient live with a torn ACL or torn meniscus without surgery? Yes, if they aren’t very active they are going to do just fine. It doesn’t depend on what the literature says and what the “internet” says, it depends on the whole big picture.
If you have only $500k saved up and have a paid-off home with a basement you are using for rental income then you might make enough every month to not even need to work. You could be retired. You will invest the $500k and hopefully give it time to grow, you will maintain your home so that it will continue to appreciate in value and you will continue to rent out the basement for income.
A Wasted Talent
We achieved what we achieved for ourselves, not for others. Along the way we got treated like gods, we were told what we achieved is unachievable by many and that we owe it to ourselves and others to continue doing what we’re doing. We were essentially forced into identifying with our careers, tying our identity to being a doctor.
But I’m not a doctor, I’m me! (Yes, this came out a little more melodramatic than I wanted) A person who loves to exercise, who loves his morning coffee in bed, who likes to get up when my last REM sleep decides to wean off, who likes to write and who likes to spend quality time with friends/family without the pressure of needing to be somewhere or do something job-related on someone else’s schedule.
Being a doctor is just a job, I don’t care how holy you think you are or others think you are. True, I drank the Kool-Aid for a while, thinking that being a doctor was truly an impressive accomplishment and that if I stopped being a doctor I would be majorly butt-hurt.
Achieving Your Goals
My lawyer buddy’s dream is to be a 4th grade teacher, she did it before getting into law school. She is saving enough through her legal career so that she doesn’t have to worry about income any longer.
My aspiration is to have more autonomy when it comes to my time. I am a bit of an introvert so being able to work on projects on my own terms, reading and exercising when I want, where I want, happens to be a high priority on my list.
Perhaps this post is a little about me trying to justify to myself that it is okay to retire as I ping-pong back and forth between going back to work or staying retired. I still have a hard time shaking the thought that “I’m not productive if I’m not working”. I thought I had this one licked, guess I got more introspecting to do.