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You Need Detailed Written-Out Goals

Write Down What You Want Out Of Life – Then Plan Backwards Towards That Goal And See If It’s Still What You Want

What is it you want from your life on this earth? We exist for a relatively short time on this earth, compared to the life of the planet, the least we can do is make it an intentional life.

It’s easy to feel a bit aimless from time to time. We follow a frugal lifestyle and develop frugal fatigue. Then we adopt a strict diet and start binging. A workout routine that is 6 days of working out and 1 day of rest is flipped around usually within a month. I think I am going on 3 weeks of not having lifted weights… it’s not the end of the world, just that my plan entails lifting regularly because I’m less of a grump when I do.

The reason for this post is to just practice thinking through a goal and plan out the steps to achieve it. I have found it very useful to work backwards from a goal; it just makes more sense to me. Sometimes this exercise makes us realize that fuck no, we aren’t willing to make the sacrifices to achieve the said goal.

I want $1 million by age xx

There you go! Announce that shit. This isn’t my goal, by the way, it’s just something I come across a lot. In this post I am going to list off a few popular personal goals that people often cite. Reaching $1 million by age 40, for example, means that you will be working more than your full-time schedule, you will make only minimum payments on your debt and you will cut back on your overhead. If you are 35 years old you would put vacationing on hold, not make any major purchases such as cars or housing.

If you’re an orthopedic surgeon or a radiologist the above goal shouldn’t be too hard. Unfortunately, the reality is that we don’t spend and save according to a universal standard, instead we fall victim to perspective bias. Just like the poor, low-wage earners we too will spend 30% on our housing and 50% on living expenses. The difference is that we docs will save somewhere around 10-20% after paying down our student loans bit by bit.

Don’t be the person who always looks at others and wonders why they themselves aren’t there yet. If you have a specific goal in mind spend the time to write it out… write out the various factors that will hinder you or help you achieve your goal. When you do, it will make it clear whether you are willing to make the sacrifices necessary. Working extra, delaying debt payoff, seeing less of your family, less time to exercise, more stress at work.

In order for me to reach my goal of financial dependence by age 41 I had to cut back my expenses drastically. I needed to get of an expensive but passionate hobby of mine, racing cars. Moving away from my expensive state, California, was also important. I remember sitting down with my journal in 2013 and making all these decisions, getting rid of my car, not shopping for expensive clothes, avoiding aimless expensive vacations and going out for drinks/dinner nearly every night.

 I want to be financially independent

This one is easy! You just keep reading my blog. Okay, seriously, you determine what your ongoing expenses are and you work on replacing them with income-producing assets. A rental property that makes you $1,500/mo may replace 50% of your monthly expenses. You then need another $450k invested in a broad index fund to get you the other $1,500. 100% fail-safe? Fuck no, nothing is. But it’s a damn good plan that the majority of financial advisers will nod their head to.

If your goal is financial independence then you need to think of every single expense as a liability and work on either getting rid of the expense or creating something that will generate passive income to replace that outgoing expense. A quick way to calculate this is to multiply whatever monthly expense you have by 300 – that’s how much you would need invested in order for it to make that much for you every month.

This might seem intuitive but there are other ways of getting rid of specific expenses. If you ride a bike mixed in with some public transportation you could get rid of your car and all the expenses associated with it.

If you learn basic property maintenance skills you could cut back a lot on handyman expenses. In return you would learn a very valuable and marketable skill.

Buying a home in cash would get rid of the PI portion of your PITI. Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance. This is an easy way to get rid of an expense you otherwise would have to generate income for.

I don’t want to work any more

First make sure you aren’t just burnt out, this is one of the worst positions to be in when you make major decisions. It wasn’t too long ago when I was burnt out to a crisp. I made a move to Portland… it was good for me, I discharged a lot of negativity from my life.

You may have mastered your field and are just bored of it… if it’s really time for you to get out then you have to develop an exit strategy. You likely have some other passion you want to pursue. If you are completely lost in the wind as to what to do next you could hire a career coach to guide you. Hopefully you have some money to get you through the transition.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe you don’t want to work in medicine anymore, but perhaps there is still some energy or desire left in you to do something else which you might be passionate about, that happens to generate income.

I want to work for free

You could work for a free clinic where you are paid an income and then donate the majority of that income back to that organization – double whammy. You could establish a trust and feed it with your income, you would essentially be working for free. You would need to make sure you have your personal finances in order. Even if you don’t have all the money that you need to retire on saved up, remember that the money you have already saved will likely continue to grow if efficiently invested.

I got somewhere around $300k in my retirement accounts… not a lot but in 30 years it would be worth $1.8 million in today’s dollars as long as I conservatively invested it in an index fund… not a bad sum of money to retire on.

I want to be mega rich

If you can work your ass off, have a passion for what you do and are willing to take calculated risks then I don’t see how this couldn’t be in your future. A colleague of mine started buying urgent cares in Northern California after moving to the US from India… he’s pretty rich now, took him less than 10 years.

A patient of mine who is a veterinarian (coincidentally also Indian) was practicing for 3 years when he realized that he was performing surgeries in a quarter of the time of the other vets in his area. So… he decided to buy their offices, hire his own veterinarians and he was taking home $500k/yr not working.

Another patient I knew owned condos in San Diego. He just kept buying little complexes… built a good reputation and banks lent him money easily and he would tell me that all the deals came to him, he rarely had to look for them. He was passionate about real estate.

My old CPA, a man in his mid 50’s, owned $10 million worth of real estate in San Diego. He built his own quadplexes in various parts of town. He, too, started with 1 little unit and to this day still owns that first home and is renting it.

I want more free time but I need income

How much income do you need? With your skills as a physician you could purchase a cosmetic clinic, an urgent care, a primary care clinic or a boutique medical practice. As the medical director you could hire eager young docs to run the office and with time if you can market your business better than your competition. You may turn a profit without needing to work in your own office.

The downside is that this takes upfront effort. I have contemplated starting an urgent care many times. My skills are that I’m a halfway decent clinician, I have good beside manners and I’m a fucking beast when it comes to speed. However, it’s not really my passion to have my own urgent care… or at least I don’t think so, without having done it who is to say?

I want to retire by age xx

In December of 2012 I was looking at ways to get my finances in order, googling the shit out of the internet I came across YNAB. I did my fair share of posting on the YNAB forums and eventually was directed to websites like and The former really clicked with me and I just ran with it.

I’ve whittled my goal in life down to something simple… I don’t want to depend on a job for income after age 40. I am living a frugal lifestyle, I have paid off all my debt, don’t own a car, trying to live a healthy lifestyle and I am investing my money as best as I can with the help of a financial adviser.

I want to travel

“I can wait to retire so that I can travel”. I get that… but the person saying this usually is aiming for age 55 or 60 as their retirement age. The reason it’s important to write out your goals is that if traveling is what you want then work your ass of for the next 6 months, pick up a ton of shifts and then go live abroad for the next 1-2 years.

Your job will be there for you when you come back. You will have gained more experience, more perspective and probably come back making better choices. If instead you find that “no, I don’t really wanna leave my job right now, I am not in that much of a rush to travel.” then maybe you don’t want to travel.

What is it you want? To continue working while living a balanced life with quality time spent with family/friends? To save a little more in order to retire sooner? To get the fuck out of medicine as soon as you can? — these are the reasons why you and I need to write out what we specifically want.


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