Seven Years Retired from Surgery 

This month marks seven years since I left the hospital as a working physician for the last time. That wonderful walk took place in Lebanon, Oregon, my final locum assignment, to the song 18 wheels and a dozen roses, by Kathy Mattea. At age 54, I wondered if we had enough passive income and retirement savings to meet our needs for the rest of our lives. 

Today, I know the answer to the money question, and it’s better than I imagined. Here is a look into what transpired during my seventh year of retirement.

My Psyche

One of my biggest concerns about retiring was missing the operating room. I loved surgery. I did not leave medicine because I didn’t like it, I left because I wanted new adventures while I was still young and healthy enough to enjoy them. The worry that I might miss surgery was heavy on my mind. Surprisingly, this never became an issue. 

The wise council I got before I retired was to create a new purpose to occupy my time. I spoke in depth about this in my book, The Doctors Guide to Smart Career Alternatives and Retirement. I believe having a purpose was a life saver for me. 

Even though I stay busy, I especially enjoy the flexibility of dropping everything when an interesting opportunity arises. When our kids need us to watch the grandchildren at the last minute, or I decide to pop over to my parent’s house for a visit, or someone asks if we want to go on a trip with them, I’m glad I can say yes. 

Being in good health to enjoy retirement is a motivator for early retirement. This year marked a change in my health. My blood pressure has been trending up as I age and crossed over the line this year. I worked on lifestyle changes to lower my blood pressure, but they were not enough. I started my first prescription medication at age 61. 

I am also noticing the exercise routines I did in my forties have become difficult in my sixties. My aging body is speaking to me and telling me I can’t do the things I once could.

One of the moves that helped my diminished exercise capacity was converting to electric bicycles. I now have an electric high performance road bike, the Specialized Creo, and a high performance mountain bike, the Specialized Levo. These new bicycles have worked wonders and allow me to keep up with the younger riders.

My mission

I have been teaching personal finance for decades, and I have turned my passion for personal finance into a part-time business. I began by publishing The Doctors Guide series. These books have become bestsellers and have won several awards, one of which was non-fiction book of the year

During the end of 2023 two more of my books won medals at the North American Book Awards. The Doctors Guide to Real Estate Investing for Busy Professionals took a gold medal. A Guide to Loving Your Timeshare took a silver medal. It’s nice to be recognized for my effort.

Publishing a blog article each Thursday, and Fawcett’s Favorites on Mondays, has kept me busy. Last summer during my traveling, I decided to stop publishing Fawcett’s Favorites for a season. I just recently took up that task again, but it may not return every week.

My online courses, The Doctors Course to Automating Your Real Estate Investments, and The Doctors Course to Thriving in Locum Tenens, continue to change lives.  

My favorite activity is one-on-one coaching. It is so rewarding when the person on the other end of the phone has major breakthroughs as we work together each week. 

One thing I did not anticipate was how effective my High Performance Coaching program is in stopping burnout and improving careers. Clarity, courage, and influence are key factors to fighting burnout and finding direction.

During my High Performance Coaching recertification last spring, I made an interesting discovery. When recertifying, I both coach and am coached through the program, including making my purpose statement. For the first time since I had been a High Performance coach, my purpose had changed. 

The birth of my two grandsons created the difference. My wife and I are now caring for them every Thursday and Friday during the school year. Helping raise my grandchildren worked its way into my new purpose. My retired life was evolving!

My Finances

Even though my wife, an accountant, kept reassuring me I could afford to quit medicine, I still had reservations. It turned out she was right. 

During retirement, we started taking a fixed 3.9% distribution from my retirement plans, using the substantially equal periodic payments method, also known as rule 72(t). Today, I enjoy the things that happen when you turn 59 ½  and can now use my retirement savings however I want. If I find something expensive I want to buy, I can now withdraw retirement funds without penalty and buy it. 

I have continued to use my traditional IRA to make my annual income tax payments to both the state and federal government so I don’t have to make any quarterly tax payments. Avoiding the quarterly payment requirement is quite freeing. I just pick a day during the year and pay my estimated taxes with an IRA distribution.

We also have real estate investment cash flow from our four apartment buildings totaling 55 rental units. You can read all about creating passive income from rentals in my book, The Doctors Guide to Real Estate Investing for Busy Professionals. It turns out the steadily increasing cash flow from our real estate has been enough to fund our retired lifestyle. 

Now that I fully grasp that we have plenty of money for the rest of our lives, I am comfortable increasing our charitable giving as well. I recently wrote about the difference between what I projected my retirement income would be by 2023 vs actual. It was crazy to learn that we make more money from our investments than what I projected ten years ago.


Since I retired, we traveled a lot each year and have visited more than two dozen countries. Lately though, my travel desires have changed with the introduction of two grandsons. 

We decided to provide daycare for our grandkids.  I wrote of the incredible economic benefit derived by having free grandparent childcare in How a Father Can Make His Kids Millionaires. Since our daughter-in-law works for the school district, childcare is only needed during the school year. Thus, we will no longer be snow birding in the winter until the kids are in school. The bulk of our travel has moved to the summer.

With the coming of our second grandchild, our daughter-in-law took maternity leave last winter and didn’t need childcare, so we took a trip to Texas where we used three back-to-back timeshare weeks in San Antonio, Austin, and Galveston. We used one other timeshare week in South Florida before taking a cruise out of Miami. If you are interested in learning how we get multiple timeshare vacation weeks out of the single week we own, check out my latest award winning/bestselling book, A Guide to Loving Your Timeshare.

Cruises accounted for three weeks of travel last year; one each in the Caribbean, the Great Lakes, and Alaska. 

Our motorhome was used for a long weekend at a nearby campground to test everything out before we journeyed through California from Napa Valley to Santa Margarita where we watched our son race in a 51-mile Spartan race. 

A large Airbnb house in Sunriver, Oregon, was our destination for a week-long mini family reunion.

We also stayed in a beachfront hotel in La Jolla, California, for several days before attending a conference with Wycliffe Associates in Carlsbad, California, to learn about Bible translation.

I now prefer experiences that are adventures, like when we hiked 450 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, or vacations that involve family. I’ve seen enough castles and cathedrals now to last my lifetime. 

Our traveling has evolved as I have come to enjoy my own bed, playing my Grand Piano, dining with friends, and taking the grandchildren to the park.

The best things about my seventh year of retirement

The best part of my seventh year of retirement was being a grandfather and discovering how that transformed my mission. Our grandchildren are now one and three years old. They are both walking and such a joy to play with and help raise. Having young children in the house again is so refreshing. I look forward to the two days a week we unplug from the world and spend the days playing with the grandkids. These days are both exhausting, and fun filled.

Five years ago, I gave up playing music on the worship team at church. We were just traveling too much, and something had to give. This year, since we are staying home to watch the grandkids during the school year, I decided to play in church again. It has been fulfilling to get back up on stage and lead worship.

The Future

I will continue to use my time writing/teaching/coaching/speaking about personal finance. Helping doctors achieve financial success and avoid burnout brings joy and purpose to my life. But I will also take time to enjoy my grandkids.

We will modify how we travel in the future and incorporate more people and adventure into the plans. The bulk of the next few years of travel will be in the summer, as it was when our kids were little.

If your retirement goes anything like mine, it will be better than you anticipate. Your plans will evolve, so just go with it. When you believe you have enough money to retire, trust that you do. Travel does not cost nearly as much as you think it will, and the freedom to come and go as you please is wonderful. 

Before you pull the trigger, please read The Doctors Guide to Smart Career Alternatives and Retirement. It will help smooth the journey.

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