Last March while we were traveling home in our RV from our snow birding trip to Mesa, Arizona, I turned sixty. On our way to Southern California to meet some friends, we stopped at a bakery to pick up a cake. We enjoyed celebrating my birthday that evening with our friends, but it didn’t set in until a few days later that I had entered the decade in which most people think of retiring. It made me think, am I now old? I don’t feel old.
Back when my parents dropped me off at my freshman dorm at Stanford, I remember thinking my dad was old, yet he was not even 40. I am now two decades older than what I used to call old.
There have been so many changes since I started college. Back then my car had an eight-track stereo. My phone was a land line and long distance calls were made after 5pm when it was cheaper. I typed my papers on a typewriter (no spell check) and a mistake meant retyping the whole page. I had to go to the library to dig up information for my research papers, as there was no internet. Computer time had to be scheduled at the library to use the big mainframe to complete my computer programing assignments, as no one had a personal computer.
A lot of things went through my head as I realize I am now in the last third of my life. How is it going? Am I happy where I am? Have I lived a life worth living? I have been retired from my surgery career for five years now, was it the right choice? Will my money last the rest of our lives? Following are my thoughts of what life is like at age 60.
1: Am I glad I retired when I did?
Leaving my general surgery practice at age 51 was a tough decision. I spent the three years after leaving my practice as a locum surgeon helping lone rural surgeons get some much needed time off. I started Financial Success MD and began writing books to help physicians improve their practice and their finances. My first book won an award for non-fiction book of the year which prompted me to retire completely from medicine and help teach other physicians how to have a better life, avoid burnout, and become financially secure. That book later became a best seller.
I have not missed surgery which I believe is because I found a new purpose in life. Since I quit medicine many physicians have grown unhappy with the direction medicine is going as corporations take over. In 2020 along came a medical nightmare that created a very stressful situation for everyone in medicine. I’m glad I missed both of those issues.
2: Will the Nest egg last?
Before I retired, I often found myself worrying about the amount I had accumulated in my nest egg. Is it enough to last the rest of our lives? The numbers looked good, and my wife kept telling me we had enough to take us through the rest of our lives. But I still was uneasy. As it turns out, yes my nest egg will last. It continues to grow even though we are using it. I have finally become at ease spending money. Although transitioning from saving for retirement to spending my retirement funds took time.
I no longer worry about sequence of returns, inflation, recessions, or stock market melt downs. It is only after I have been retired for a few years that I am finally at ease with the strength of my retirement plan. It is no longer a theory. The combination of eliminating personal debt 21 years ago, substantial rental real estate income, many years of maxing out my office retirement plan contributions, and working part time coaching physicians, and writing books and courses have culminated into a comfortable lifestyle in our retirement.
Having lived on both sides of debt, having a lot of it, and having none of it, I can firmly state I am so glad I paid off my debt when I did. It is especially nice not having any debt to service in my retirement years. Do not carry your debt past your working years. Not having a home mortgage weighing me down in retirement is so nice, although it is hard to describe. It also allowed me to retire sooner with a much smaller savings balance because I had no debt payments for my savings to cover.
3: My body is not the same as it was when I was thirty
Don’t mistake this for meaning I am now an invalid. Three years ago I walked 450 miles across Spain and last week I put in 120 miles on my bicycle. But I do not recover from physical stress the same as I did when I was young. As a resident I could work all day, all night, and the next day and after a good night’s sleep I would be back in good stead. Now if I need to pull an all-nighter, it takes a few days to recover.
I can’t keep up with the young cyclists anymore, but having money helps. I purchased a very nice road bicycle with a motor. Now I can hang with the pack again on Tuesday nights. My new bike makes me feel young again.
I saw my physician last week for my 60,000 mile checkup and it looks like I may have to start a prescription medication for the first time in years. Seems my blood pressure is working its way up into bad territory. I’m hoping if I return to my bicycle racing weight, my blood pressure will decline.
4: Travel plans have not gone as we laid out
I had hopes of traveling the world while I was still young and able. The first three years after seeing my last patient we did just that. We were on an adventure somewhere in the world more than half of each year. Since I retired from medicine we have crossed the border of more than two dozen countries, hiked 450 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and our longest cruise has been 31 days. Then the world of travel came to a standstill.
For two years we have done almost no traveling. We have spent much of that time redecorating our home, which we have lived in for 25 years and needed an update. While in the midst of decorating our first grandchild was born.
Now we enjoy spending time with our grandson two days a week. It is fun to have the time and energy to be an active grandparent. Can’t wait to incorporate grandchildren into our travels.
With childcare in mind, as the world of travel opens up again, we will be modifying how we do it. Since my daughter-in-law works for the school district and has summers off, the summer is the best time for us to leave town. We plan to do more summer traveling and less winter traveling until the grandkids are in school.
5: Our spending pattern changed
It took a few years after I retired to get out of the saving mode and into the spending mode. After so many years of putting money into our retirement plan it became a habit. We needed to break the habit we had acquired as we moved into the spending phase of our life.
We are realizing that we can afford to do even more than we expected when we retired. People label this ability FatFIRE. We can actually increase our lifestyle in retirement over what we did during my working years. But that increase in spending took a while to accept.
I finally bought the grand piano I always wanted, and should have purchased years ago. We are paying to fix things up around the house that have not been done in years. It feels good to pay cash for things and never worry about what the item costs.
I have stood next to people who said, “I don’t know about that. That is a lot of money.” I used to say that too and it stopped me from doing many things over the years that I would have enjoyed immensely. I now don’t look as closely to price tags and if I want it, I just get it. My wife is transforming as well. We are both trying to get our parents to do the same. Now is the time to enjoy the money we worked so hard to save.
6: Coaching has been life changing
Before I retired, I wanted to have something productive to do in retirement, so I started Financial Success MD. The idea was to write a book series to help physicians improve their life and finances. I then created a financial makeover program and started coaching physicians. Then I became a Certified High-Performance Coach.
Walking people one-on-one through financial, life and practice transformations as their coach has been more rewarding than I had ever dreamed. I didn’t see that coming. Now I like coaching more than writing. But I need to continue both writing as well as coaching since I can only help a few people one-on-one, and thousands of people are helped when I publish a book. I have found a happy medium.
Although I really enjoy coaching, I have chosen to only take on a few clients at a time so I can also enjoy my retired life. I never want my coaching or writing to become a full time job. I’m passed working long hours. One doesn’t need to build an empire to have a purpose. This means I can be very selective as to who I accept as a client. I never dreamed that coaching would help the coach as much as it helps the client.
Overall, I have enjoyed turning 60 more than I thought I would. I have total freedom to do what I want when I want to do it, thanks to an early implementation of good investment philosophy. We are happy and healthy and ready to explore the world.
61 thoughts on “Reflections of a Physician Turning 60”
We all get to make personal choices. Financial prudence is always a better choice.
I am troubled by the materialism described.
Additionally, It is unfortunate that we should all revisit the notion of far flung retirement travel (by airplanes & otherwise), as climate change rears its unwelcome realities.
That is objectively disappointing.
It is good that the author is happy with life and his choices.
Good luck going forward to all.
I would rather enjoy life and all it has to offer. I feel no guilt whatsoever traveling and enjoying the world, which by the way is how millions make their living.
Al Gore, for example, frequently flies privately, and lives in and heats and cools a mansion. He is not addressing the problem by personally reducing his carbon footprint, nor should he.
The solution to climate change is to move to renewable energy and hopefully nuclear energy as France has done. We have to see if it moves the needle, understanding that climate might be a more complicated issue than is solvable by only the free world, or mankind in general.
The message is not to live as an ascetic!
Thank you Dr.Bob for not drinking the climate change kool aid
So at age 60 getting divorced I was real depressed. Then online I met a girl about half my age and we dated for 3 years and it was the best I’d ever had in my life. I stopped doing my orthopedic surgery practice in terms of surgeries and immediately saved $50,000 a year in malpractice costs and due to the screwy medicare situation I make more money doing office procedures than I ever did operating. Then covid came along and the government started giving me money first for free and then at 3%. Finally I refinanced three houses at about two and three quarter percent right before this current inflationary crisis came.
Yes. Turning 60 was a real b****
I just turned 60 and your story couldn’t be more relevant. Congratulation on finding your life fulfillment. I feel blessed to be given an opportunity to work as a physician in this life. The beneficial impact we make on the lives of others is in my opinion our lasting rewards. I often reminded our 2 young adult daughters that they should try to find fulfillment in the 29,200 days that God granted them at birth (hopefully more). Thank so much for sharing.
Nice writing and advice. Good message. I am turning 60 next month. I agree that it a good feeling that you’d house is paid off. Your cars are paid off and Chilren are done with educational goals of getting whatever, masters or MD. I feel good supporting my children for their educational goals. I am enjoying working as diversified psychiatrist, child psychiatrist and sleep medicine doctor. I still enjoy my Racquett ball and probably retire in few years. I am hoping 4% rule of retirement plan can so for me . I believe some doctors go part time and retire late around 65 or 70. Thanks for sharing your stories every one. Thanks
Physicians are programmed, even before they enter medical school, that they are the best amongst their peers and have to dedicate their lives, knowledge and skills to practicing a ‘noble’ profession while others handle the business of medicine.
The paradigm has to shift. The practice of medicine continues to be a noble profession but it also is the backbone of a thriving healthcare industry. It is a business.
Doctors have to be educated and trained in the business of medicine so they can understand the immense power they have in determining the future of their medical careers as well as the future of the systems within which they practice.
My wife and I are both internists and we sold our Medicare Advantage primary care Internal Medicine practice a couple of weeks before my 50th birthday last month. We do not have to work again but plan to continue as employees for the next couple of years because we still enjoy helping our mostly geriatric patients.
Understanding the business of medicine made all the difference. It is not as hard as we are made to believe.
For every dollar you are paid in salary, how much did you actually generate for your employer?
TS, this is why I predict the business of medicine will swing back towards private practice in the future. Employed physicians will wake up and realize how much money they leave on the table by working for someone else. If that were not true, private equity would never buy medical practices and hospitals would not want physicians as employees. We shouldn’t let others have the fruits of our labor, we work too hard for that.
Dr. Fawcett – I truly appreciate your opening up about your retirement. From the comments – quick question – how many of those that have commented, responded have you known personally, interacted with professionally, that are in your existing Doximitry contacts etc. “prior to this posting?” There is nothing like a full disclosure. As a published author, you know the value of this. Did you personally write all of this post content? Did others provide editing efforts of the content that was posted?
Regarding your posting, what was good “then” for you may not be good advice now in terms of a retirement nest egg and planning expenses. We are living in a volatile environment not seen for at least 30 years. You were not expecting nor prepared for what is happening now.
Better yet, if you could forecast such potential environmental and fiscal impact on a doctor’s retirement plan based on World and political impact, then applying this knowledge would have been best applied in betting environment.
On a funny note well before you made your decision to retire, your post made me think of the movie… “Lost in America.” The movie released in 1985 that stared Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty. They liquidated their nest egg and planned travel across America as you are doing. It did not go well for them. Traveling in a mobile home, nest egg planing and unexpected consequences is a reflection that no one, even well prepared can forecast the future. Full disclosure – I have no financial interest in this movie. This is the link to the trailer that you would copy and past into you browser – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3VdFriAvrs
Back to your post. A lot retirement planning is predicated on the financial environment. We rely upon our financial advisors and our vision. Even the anticipated impact of politics, including World political impact has not been anticipated. The current crisis in Ukraine / Russia concerns those of the likes of Bezos, Musk, Walton and even the oligarchs in Russia that are not preparing to retire. They have more resources that all of us physicians combined. I’m sure you did not prepare for your retirement with the price of gasoline being $7.85/gallon. This is what I paid today.
My recommendation is that if you are a surgeon, still have the skill set and are clincally competent, providing great health care AND love doing this, then keep on working until you lose your clinical skill set, have health, family issues or do not want to practice medicine. As you have personally chosen, there are parallel medical fields. However, not all clinicians have your ability nor skill set to make this a part of their professional matriculation and ego satisfaction.
Upwards and onwards to you! Thank you for bringing this to the forefront.
Michael, here are the answers to your questions. Of the people who have responded and made comments on this article, I don’t recognize any of their names. I don’t know what you mean by full disclosure as anyone can comment on my site. Yes I personally write all of the posts I publish, and my wife proof reads them before they go out. It has been so every week for the last six years unless they were labeled as guest posts. I also wrote all five books myself, as well as the one coming out this fall. The current environment is not any more volatile than in the past. The dot com bubble in 2000 and the housing crisis in 2008 aren’t any different than this one. But everyone thinks the current crisis is always different. I don’t have any plans to change my course of investing. No one has ever been able to forecast the future. I made my decision on my retirement about the same time the movie you listed was released, back when I was in medical school. Although I did keep practicing an extra 4 years because I liked it and wasn’t ready to quit yet. The price of gasoline does not concern me in the least. If I drive 15,000 miles a year, and get 30 miles per gallon, then I would need to buy 500 gallons of gas per year. At $7.85 a gallon that comes to $3,925 a year for gas. If a $4,000 swing one way or the other would effect my retirement, then I would be in trouble. I can’t imagine gas getting to a price that would change my financial life. I don’t even pay attention to the price of gas, I just fill my tank when it is empty. I’m not too concerned about the war in Ukraine. There seems to always be a war going on somewhere in the world, and this is not the first country Russia has attacked in my lifetime. I saw my last patient more than 5 years ago and cannot go back into practicing surgery anymore and no longer have any desire to do so. I am enjoying helping physicians get their financial house in order and enjoy a better life with better balance so they can practice longer and enjoy it more. It was never my desire to work until I drop, as you suggest, and I don’t think anyone should do that. Everyone should retire when they feel they are ready, even if others think they should keep on working. I very much enjoyed the life I lived as a surgeon and I also enjoy the life I live now as an author/speaker/coach and grandfather. I think I addressed all your points. I hope you are not losing too much sleep worrying about the volatility of the world. I wish you the best and thanks for the comment.
I just turned 80 in May but still feel youthful despite having undergone CABG twice; once in 1991 and again in 2006 when I decided to retire at age 62, from a thriving Cardiothoracic surgery practice. This was a strategic move on my part as I started Medical School training @ age 27 and married late when I was over 50 years old.I retired to spend time with my 2 daughters, both of who. Are now graduated; the older one from Law School and the younger one now working at a major accounting firm.
We travelled extensively during medical conferences & and the family always joined us, which is very important for us as a cohesive unit.Early retirement was possible as I had been investing in the stock market since I was a general surgical resident. Furthermore, I had invested in real estate and other businesses.Some of which were really ill advised, but it was a journey.Investing in properties is very reasonable since it provides a stream of income which one can access without guilt.
Retirement for me was not entirely the same as what most people think of. After my second heart surgery I was asked whether I would like to be part of managed care organization.This was a full time occupation but virtually no stress unlike surgery.So I have been in managed care for now about 15 years.Enjoying every moment of it as I am now a generalist using my clinical acumen to full use for the benefit of the patient.
During these latter years I was able to publish my memoir: A Boy Named Courage A Surgeons Memoir Of Apartheid, with Patrice Apodaca a close associate of ours.For me retirement is a challenge to explore and learn about the vast untapped information that I missed out during medical school training.To keep my sanity music is my savior. I am ever so grateful to have been given the privilege to be a physician,a noble profession.I am still learning about new technologies in medicine that is unfathomable.If only I could live long enough to see surgery considered obsolete especially after the news of immunotherapy curing certain colon cancers.
Himmet, congratulations on writing the book. so many people have a book in them but never put it on paper. Best of luck.
Congrats on all that you have done! We are a bit parallel as I just turned 60 and graduated in1984 from Cal! I am a Radiation Oncologist who pivoted at 40 and started my own practice. I’ve resisted selling out and still love what I do. Plan is for 5 more years unless my health goes. I’ve had enough for 5 years but not ready to stop helping patients. I have owned 6 E bikes over 15 years and am amazed of the changes in technology! My advice to docs is enjoy it as you go and secretly enjoy life continually. That way you enjoy it while you are young and when you are old you will have no regrets!
Agree100% with all! The key for me is to enjoy life as I go because there is no evidence or guarantee that tomorrow will come. This philosophy is in me from a young age as I revered life as a gift. I never worried about money and money came as a result of me loving what I do. I’m wishing all to be enjoying life. My residency department chair told us the same on graduation day. He said that when he went to see the pyramids only 1% of people were able to actually walk on the steps. The rest stayed down. My professor passed away 3 years later from pancreatic cancer. I guess he knew what to say more so than he thought he knew. No wonder present means gift . It is. Another thing I do is learning what I love. I still learn. It keeps the brain happy, and when the brain is happy, all is happy! Helping others is a big joy to me too. Who knew that retirement is just a word and a state of mind? Life, on the other hand is real. Love ❤️ and Life!
Rayna, you are so right. Never wait until you retire to do the things on your bucket list. I like to tell people to move one item from their bucket list to their calendar every year. That is why I took 8-12 weeks of vacation every year during my practice. It dropped my income substantially to take that much time off, but it was worth it. I had fun all along the journey.
Thank you for your story.
It is a different journey for myself, and I believe so many others.
I had no parental, or other financial support, as a first generation professional; surviving to get through high school, junior colleges, and finally a University Degree. Fortunate to attend Medical School – almost a decade later than most.
Yet, Wonderful education/training, with Superior Medical Institutions – an expensive, hard earned gift; with student loans to last a lifetime.
Privileged to have a wonderful husband and beautiful children.
Years of working diligently in clinical care, adjusting with career moves – for both of us, balancing excellent patient care with family needs.
Then, as happens to so many; a very hard life event.
In my case, our youngest child diagnosed as extremely ill.
A 5 year break from medicine: to care for my baby, fight for her survival, spend every cent we had, and by some miracle, she is given the gift to live, challenged, yet alive and able to function reasonably well. Now with lifelong tremendous financial needs.
So, I begin my return to medicine, I realize another incredible challenge: after a 5 year break, a path to return to my profession- as a physician, was nearly impossible.
Starting again, I realized most of our professional organizations, the medical community, and training institutions, offer poor, – if any, support for anyone with a break in service – which disproportionately affect women physicians.
I did made it back to clinical service, but not without years of significant obstacles, bias, limited options, alternate paths, and ultimately lost opportunities to serve.
And now, I think so often, about retirement, but realize it is an impossible reach.
At age 60, a wonderful husband, (who is non-medical and is nearing Company forced retirement), we have wonderful, well educated children, yet one child who will need life long care, and with my limited work options, as I age…. I don’t know how to care for us all.
My husband and I will continue to work long and hard, and still have little to count on.
We came from poor beginnings, support only through working in school, scholarships & student loans, we continue to work diligently and hard, yet now with our lovely child who will have long term needs, our savings well spent, but gone – we grow older every year…
We have worked hard to save, invest, and are focused on working to our last possible day.
My future, as a first generation physician, supportive wife, mother, with a significant long term family need, and aging- overall is quite common – and rarely discussed.
We are not alone in our life situation. We have been part of the backbone of our respective careers. We will never travel the world, or live financially comfortable into old age. We will fight to the end: to work, provide the very best care for our patients, support our loved ones, and live gracefully to the end.
I’m happy for you. You are the fortunate, yet, I think, even at my age, I am part of a growing population of health care providers who started with little, work hard, and will still struggle in our later years.
Please expand your commentary to include the many physicians and professionals who are from various backgrounds, with limited or no early financial support, yet do have lifelong commitment to care for our patients, our family, and won’t be able to work or live long enough to support our professional or personal responsibilities adequately.
Our joy in these retirement years will be simple rewards; a beautiful sunrise, a lovely smile, kindness and care given and received with my patients, comfort we have done our best to promote the next generation – our children, and others – a good night’s rest, and thankfulness for a life well lived.
This profile, I believe, represents a large proportion of the current working force of health care providers.
Please recognize this growing majority.
Offer acknowledgment, wisdom, and valid advice for all of us.
Working Class Physician, Spouse, Parent, and Provider – for those beyond my own lifespan.
Dead on! You are correct. Dr. Fawcett has made that life with rental income and books he states. Reimbursement for the last 20 years has basically been 1/3 what it was in the 80’s when inflation and cost of living adjustments are added in.
For those of us accustomed to a life of saving and inhibitions regarding post-retirement spending, I offer the sage advice my elderly neighbor provided at the time of my retirement when I was struggling with the transition from filling my ‘nest egg’ to spending it: “try to remember”, he said, “as difficult as it may be to accept, it is very likely you have substantially more money than time.”
Good Stuff ! I don’t feel like my work as a family doc is a “job.” I have had the good fortune to develop fun relationships with most of my patients over the years and I can put up with some of the headaches of modern medicine as long as the interactions remain life-giving (on both sides of the equation !)
We have been blessed to be in a practice that supports sabbaticals and so we have lived in Africa for a year on 4 occasions helping with the medical work in a variety of mission hospitals in central Africa. This has helped to keep me aware of how fortunate I have been to live most of my life in America. It has also helped me to avoid the burnout issues many of us face. So, I plan to keep on truckin’ for now and will retire when I stop having fun. We are set financially so I am not really working for the money anyway.
I would like to add that retirement decisions do not always have to be black and white. For my first 30 years I was a hospital oriented consultant in ID working the usual long hours. Now at 67 I have turned into a half time mostly office oriented internist. I work for the pleasure and intellectual stimulation of doctoring, rather than the money. I finish at lunch and have the afternoon to myself. I can take off as much as I want to travel. I learned decades ago that you cannot predict the future, so while I have no plans to fully retire, maybe I will some day. The point is that the great aspect of a MD degree is the options available as you age.
I retired from a very busy breast cancer surgery practice at age 68. But i frequently throughout my career spent time in medical missions to Africa, Central asia , Dominican Republic, Haiti , Cuba and Argentina. For 6 years after retirement I worked in rural hospitals in North and South Carolina and even Wyoming. I loved my retirement years helping surgeons in rural areas have a break but still having plenty of time to relax with my family and grandchildren. I would love to continue practicing but a bad back did me in. Still playing golf and enjoying my 9 grandchildren. My recommendation is do not retire too early. Medicine is the most rewarding career anyone could have, So many opportunities to work part-time and make a difference here and abroad. ” learn to serve others”
I saw one of your young pts last week. She is still raving about you. Glad retirement is going well. Good advice…
Miss all you guys.
I think Dr Fawcett missed my point. If you love your work keep doing it! I always took plenty of time off to vacate with my family.
I would still be working part-time today if my back surgery had not occurred. BTW that was caused by a canoeing accident on the French Broad River!!. If Dr Fawcett retired at age 51 he only worked half a career!! Should have given his spot in Med School to someone who wanted it deeply. So happy that some of my patients remember me!! Keep up the good work. Sure miss the Friday Breast conference!
Hi Dr. Fawcett,
I had a somewhat (!) different journey. The #1 rule in medicine is to never complain, even if one has been lead to suicidal thoughts and depression. And as one of your correspondents affirmed, your trip from Stanford was predictable and he (your correspondent) was happy to report that similar things were going on in his life. Given the givens, life has been good for both of you.
My journey was difficult, in part due to a lack of parental support (emotional and physical). I certainly agree with you that one should pay off loans while one is still working. Depending on your point of view, the huge loans that some med students/residents now carry were not available at the time I or you went through. My parents’ income was sufficient, but they chose to stop supporting me in the 2nd year. That and sexual harassment made med school difficult indeed.
A friend of mine entered the Navy, which I could have done, and possibly I would have had a better time of it, but it was too close to Vietnam. So I fogged on through with the loans I could get and also by selling body parts (bone marrow, blood) and working when I could. I met my wonderful husband a year after finishing my residency and we set up our retirement plan then. There were those unforeseen expenses–like two special needs children–whose private, specialized schooling set us back some. But the kids are ok and so are we! One is about to be married and other is married and just had our first grandson (Nolan Lee Baker–June 6th, 2022). Both are “gainfully employed” and happy. And so are we. My husband was in business and due to his frequent flyer miles, we and the kids were able to go pretty much around the world (we have missed S. America and Africa). We seem to have had a good retirement plan as I approach 70, and he 80. And we’re not done yet! A few more trips, visits to the grandbaby and whatnot are in the plans. So we have nothing to complain about.
As the Australians say, “Good on you!” And good on us, too!
Oh, BTW, had you not heard of “Wite-Out” for those typewriter errors–so you wouldn’t have to re-type the page? Or the IBM Selectric typewriter feature of whiting out errors as one backspaced? Of little matter. I do also remember waiting for computer time with those mainframes and thinking that the first personal computers were a “fad.” Oh, well.
I have never met a person who attended Stanford who did not fit into the conversation within the first few sentences. My record continues!
I did my residency at Stanford. First sentence.
Thank you for the interesting article. I would like to offer a different perspective. I am a primary care Internal Medicine physician. I am 67 years old and thoroughly enjoy what I am doing. I have paid off everything and have enough to retire but I would die of boredom. Isn’t this part of what makes us members of the human community that we do something useful that makes sense and helps other people as long as we can do it, as opposed to playing golf all day?
I feel I really make a difference in people’s lives every day. I also feel that I am getting better as a physician over time as I am gaining more experience and thus am able to provide more empathy.
Several things may make the difference:
Prior to entering Medical School at 28, I did all the adventure travels I would ever need, including almost a year backpacking through South- and Southeast Asia, hitchhiking through the US for 6 months (later to Alaska), extensive travels through Latin America including a 4-month internship in Ecuador, etc. Also, I have seen practically all Western European countries, while growing up there. So I don’t have a bucket list regarding travel, the closest National Park is all I need.
I am very fit, Martial Arts 3x/week and running a 13K weekly, coronary calcium score of 0.
Until 5 years ago I was in private practice and admitting my own patients to the hospital (at 3 am….). “Meaningful Usage” and other Medicare stupidities convinced me to join a group practice where I have undisturbed sleep every night and someone else does all the stupid paperwork and I am just a doctor with (almost) banker’s hours. I also enjoy the community of providers and the ability to talk to colleagues up and down the hallway.
The desire to retire may also depend on the specialty. Internal Medicine primary care is an endless field with the continuous potential to improve and learn, even after 30 years. This is what kept me from going into surgery as I thought I would get bored after the 15,000th gallbladder surgery, no offense.
As (functional) life expectancy is increasing, I think as a society we need to work longer. Society needs us and we are healthy enough to provide that service.
Just my 2 cents worth.
Enjoyed this commentary and the many replies….I just turned 61, plan on ”retiring” (from full time practice) at 62, have spent most of my career working for the feds trading pay for pension…..and just bought volume 3 of your Doctor’s Guide series!
I still very much enjoy what I do as a Family Doc, but I just don’t want to spend so much of my time doing it! By the way, I love reading about everyone’s travel adventures. Working for the feds has allowed my to spend 4 glorious years in Hawaii and now in my 4th year here in southern Germany—great experiences!
Mark, hope you find what you are looking for in my book.
Thanks for sharing your post, Dr. Fawcett. Very inspiring. At 55 I am hoping to retire in the next 5-7 years.
Wishing you good health & happiness for the next 30+ years.
Tristan, thank you. I hope your retirement is everything you dream it will be. Best of luck.
Thank you for this post. I would like to follow this path but am a bit behind thanks to some life challenges. I am curious, for those who retire before age 65, what do you suggest for health insurance coverage?
We used a medishare program. But whatever you pick as an option, it goes into the budget like every other expense.
It was nice to hear your story. I especially liked the part about the e-bike, I am 68 and just bought one myself for the same reason. This is really not a story about retirement though it is more about a career transition. Sounds like you went from a surgical practice to a writing/coaching career and good for you! While reading it I was thinking ‘well, no wonder he is spending and not worried about the nest egg, he is till working’. Congratulations about making that career change and best of luck to you.
Tom, you are partly right. I have repurposed, not retired. But I also retired before having any income from my new purpose. I had a real estate investment income to take care of all my expenses. I also had my retirement plans if needed. Money from Financial Success MD is bonus.
Good Day Dr. Fawcett,
I was simply overwhelmed by your post. To a large degree I felt like I could have written it. I stepped away from Neonatology at 58. I recently turned 69. Though I was both proud and pleased to have practiced medicine for so many wonderful years, the last eleven have been the absolute best. My wife and I have been blessed with continued good health and keen minds. I still “work” every day, a morning run, then either a trip to the gym or a round on the golf course, then the best gift of all… I/we get to decide what we want to do with each and every day. Your comments 1 through 5 are simply spot on. Congratulations and Thank You.
Michael, thanks for your comment. It is great to retire before getting worn out. I have loved all our adventures and I loved my medical career also. We get to live two lives.
I’m also turning 60 this year and have the finances to retire comfortably. However after 30 years of practice I don’t feel I have enough hobbies and outside interests to keep me busy and engaged. I’ve seen too many people deteriorate physically and mentally at an accelerated pace when losing their purpose for getting out of bed each morning. So despite being burned out, I soldier on.
Ditto… and here I am at 75.
Every observation is spot on, and honestly I feel about the same as then.
Good doctors, less stress, and learning to accept the present have been my key secrets.
Enjoy each day.
H. Thomas Smith, Glad to see you are enjoying life.
You are an inspiration.
Gayle, Thank you very much.
I enjoyed reading your sound advice but had to smile because I am 15 years older than you are [just stopped seeing patients this year] while noticing things had not changed much when you went to college…….. typing term papers, going to the library for information and “refused collect calls” to your parents so they knew were still alive [and studying?]”.
My wife [also a physician and only one of 4 women in a class of 93] and I
have a hard time following advice #5 as I think we sometimes are as thrifty as though we were still in college. We have difficulty spending money for lifestyle things [material], but I think it is more because we are happy and satisfied [and grateful] for what we have. We traveled extensively when we were young and went around the world three times during each trip and travel annually to Europe and Asia each year , but we still find the least expensive plane ticket and use coupons or search for a bargain [like Warren Buffet].
Just as yourself, I have found great pleasure after not seeing patients in working to help with patient access and affordability issues. I am curious as to what your undergraduate major was as mine was Economics [only one of 12 Econ majors long ago….everyone thought it was a dismal science back then], but I was never interested in money. However, we invested in stocks and mutual funds since I was a sophomore so we did save for almost 60 years, which I think young physicians should try to do.
I think the younger generation would do well to follow your advice and think about their financial future as a comfortable pension and government support might be lacking in the future. Physicians like yourself are a valuable asset to our family of physicians, who are now facing uncertain times.
R.H. Thanks for your comments. I majored in Biology at Stanford, but never took any upper division biology classes. When I finished all my prerequisites for medical school, I was only 18 units short of completing a biology major. I found a list of out of department classes that count toward your biology major and pick all the rest of my classes from that list.
Still working at 71. Love surgery and I still combine it with travel,exercise and going out. I think I’ll do it until 76-77. Got my retirement home pais,the girl of my dreams and will have enough money to enjoy it. Her business will pull us through also.
Richard it’s good to see you enjoying your surgery career into your 70s. Two of my partners did the same.
I retired at 60 from ER, 8 yrs ago.
Agree with all you said re no debt, downsized when last kid left at 18, rental income…and and getting used to splurging…
…and time now for all the hobbies I had to short-change. Busy every day…usually 10A to 7P (nice to work the same shift every day!).
CA bladder and Parkinson’s have not slowed me down; others take note that no risk factors does not equal no diseases in retirement!
Paul, sorry to hear those diseases found you. Keep busy and have fun.
I just retired at age 58 and have no regrets. 33 years as a physician was enough. Now it’s about hobbies, family and travel.
Susan, I wish you the best in your retirement.
I enjoyed this read, and attempting to follow a similar path of pivoting into writing/blogging/book writing while in my 5th decade of life, all while leaning into my passive real estate income. Thanks for leading the way and hope your 6th decade is equally meaningful and fulfilling as the others were.
Tod, You are welcome.
Congrats on a life well lived! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks and you are welcome
Great summary post. Keep up the great work.
Thank you Dr Fawcett for sharing your story. Your newsletters and books helped me sell my dental practice at 51 yo as I had musculoskeletal issues similar to the ones surgeons acquire. I’ve never been happier and I enjoy life. I have enough money too! Your knowledge has been a godsend.
You made my day. Glad I could help.
Happy milestone Birthday and thank you for all your priceless contributions to the financial and emotional success of so many physicians!