Stuff versus Time and physician FIRE comments #illumedati 1

Hey everyone, it’s Finance Fridays again. Today I’m going to try to simplify some things… we’re going to discuss “Stuff versus Time”.

Stuff versus Time

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Stuff versus Time?


So, to step back a bit, this blog is mostly about taking responsibility for your finances and being in charge of your retirement. However, I do also talk about Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE), and things like that as well. In general, I talk a lot about mindset. Like buy experiences, not things and using your own Value Cost Ratio.

So now I want to zoom out and simplify things. In general, the majority of medical students/residents will have some sort of student loan debt to carry. As I’ve said before, the majority will start their retirement planning much later than their college peers because of the extended training and residency. Of course, this can be somewhat offset by utilizing a Roth 401k/403b in Residency.

Then it happens, you’re finally an attending, and you are now making a decent salary. However, you the monkey on your back and the elephant in the room are your student loans calling for repayment and your retirement funds which are way behind. So you know it is a priority to get those on track. You continue to “live like a resident” and you’ve looked at the Checklist and you’re doing what you can.

However, the years pass even if you don’t want them to. I’m 37 and I wonder where the years went. Looking back on medical school, residency, fellowship, and my time as an attending, I think the one thing that has really guided my financial decisions can be summed up by answering one question:

What do I want?

Yes, of course I want to take of my family, pay off the student loans, and plan for retirement. Those are all a given. In terms of “survival”, once you’ve taken care of the basic survival needs of “food/water, shelter, and clothing” for you and your loved ones — you ask yourself “What do I want?” What are you going to spend this “extra money” on?

So I think the answer really boils down to: Stuff versus Time

Do you want stuff? or do you want time?

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know that between those two, I’ll opt for time over stuff almost always. There are a few caveats to this. For example, let’s say you really enjoy surfing and want to do pretty much all the time.. However, you need to buy and maintain a surfboard, so it’s a “stuff” you need to enjoy your “time”.

I want to explain that when I say “Time”, I don’t mean only retiring early.

I mean, having the time I want off. For example, not needing to take excessive call or need to work extra hours (unless I want to). This is a choice I can make because I don’t spend a ton of money on “stuff”. It also includes the option to drop down to part-time if I choose to do so.

So Time is more than just Time, it’s Freedom and Flexibility.

That said, there are those who would disagree with me and want “stuff”. That is fine. Perhaps you really get a lot of enjoyment out of owning yacht or a Ferrari or something. Just remember that just because you can buy it, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Also, remember that you are trading “time” for “stuff” when you do something like that. For example, I could go to the Ferrari dealer right now and buy or lease a Ferrari without too much problem — if I really wanted to. However, for me, and for most doctors, that doesn’t make sense.

However, it doesn’t have to be a Ferrari — it can be anything, any kind of “stuff” you buy. Little things add up over time, and the money you spend compounds over time as well — because it could have been used somewhere else to buy you time.

Negative comments about Physicians gaining FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early)

Apparently there has been a lot of negative commentary against doctors who want Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE). In particular, I was told Physician on Fire received a lot of negative comments about a doximty post he had. To be honest, I haven’t read the article(s) nor the commentary yet, but I can guess what they say.

However, I do understand the mindset of “You became a doctor to only practice for 10 years and retire? We should have given your spot to someone else!”

I think this is a very unfair assessment. I did 4 years of medical school and 6 years of postgraduate training. If I was to practice for “only 10 years”, that is still 20 years of my life that I devoted to medicine. That’s a significant amount. If I was to work 15 years, that’s 25 years of my live that I have devoted.

Perhaps instead of attacking doctors for wanting to retire early, we should consider:

  • Why do doctors want to retire early?
  • Is it really all that early?
  • Maybe something should/will change?

Perhaps the idea that a doctor should do 10 years of post-graduate training and then practice for 30 years is out-dated and needs to be replaced.

For example, maybe the new paradigm should be that doctors practice for 15 years — maybe that’s what should be expected. Maybe after 15 years, the expectation is that most doctors will drop down to part-time. Like I said, 15 years of practice is still ~25 years devoted to medicine for many subspecialized doctors. Isn’t 25 years a pretty decent career?


It all boils down to Stuff versus Time.

Then you exercise your Value Cost Ratio.

Why are people so angry about doctors wanting to retire early?

Maybe expectations should change.

Finance Fridays Sensei


Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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