Do I work part time until I am 60 or get my butt on Fire and retire at 48?
The question I have been playing out recently in my mind is whether to work to achieve FIRE. Should I bust my butt for 10 years and then peace out in a flame of glory? Or do I go part time now (between 60 to 80%) and lay low working into the sweet sunset of retirement at 60?
My current employer offers a pension at 60 (likely 65 when I actually retire) that includes health care. If I could last the next 20 + years for that, is it worth it? I wrote about the differences it would make to my drawdown strategy here and here. There are definite financial benefits to staying until 60, but what about emotional and life ones?
So what are some of the arguments for working part time until I am 60 and can draw my pension versus blazing a flame of glory to retire somewhere in the 46 to 48 age group?
So here are the arguments for and against working part time until I am 60:
Spend more time with my son now, when he is young and wants to hang out with me. I was discussing with a friend how life is set up backwards. When are kids are young and the time is precious with them we are often building our careers and working long hours. Then as they graduate from high school or college we are at the time where we can dial back work and spend more time with them. Would it not be better to spend the time now?
Decreased work burn out. This is a very real issue and faces many physicians today. By working at 60 or 80% part time I likely would enjoy my job more and be able to work easily until I am 60. The Happy MD discusses why this is not a fair fight.
More time to stay healthy. I am in my late 30s now. Do I want to wait until my late 40s to really get into shape? Not that this is a all or none proposition. I find time to work out now and am relatively healthy, but suspect I could be even healthier if I had the time.
Ride a bike to work more regularly. Currently I use my time away from home as an excuse to need a car (10 minute drive instead of a 40 minute bike ride). This would go away if I was working part time.
Free health insurance for life. I am not sure what will happen to health insurance in the next 4, 10 or 20 years, but a little guarantee is nice.
Not worrying about a drawdown strategy or income as discussed here. The toughest part of early retirement planning is knowing when you have enough and that your life will not inflate leading to the need for more cash. Working prevents this problem.
I would be working for 20+ more years instead of 10+. Retiring at 60 years old versus 46-50 years old sounds tough. I have a lot of things I want to do and the sooner I can get to doing them the happier I will be. Plus, who knows how medicines will change in the next 10 to 20 years. When I was in medical school in the early 2000s, electronic medical records and patient message in baskets did not exist. These things have radically changed what are job is and have led to physician burnout.
I would still be stuck going to work most days a week. This gets rid of my mobility (though our child’s schooling will do that also). I have a dream of a nomadic life. Let me roam and be free. A job does not allow for this mobility at all.
Continue liability with practicing medicine. Lawsuits are real and even if they end up being dismissed cause stress and take time away from you. Practicing medicine increases liability whereas being an early retiree does not.
What about the pros and cons to working hard for 10 years, saving a fat nest egg and then retiring?
FIRE Pros with a target date of 46- 48 years old
I would be done working. I am 5 years into attendinghood now. That is a short time, but if I add 10 more years, then I could likely retire somewhere between 45 to 50 years old. I have always imagined that if I was immortal, I would learn a trade/profession and do it for 10 years. Then I would move onto something new. So why not do that as a mere mortal? Often we find ourselves in a rut in life because the path has been laid before us even without us knowing it. Why not break that mold? Plus, it is okay to say no to doctoring to all you naysayers out there.
I could write about it…just kidding. I can still write about it even if I am not on FIRE. That is why you are reading this site and I really appreciate your readership….Thank you!
Mobility. Ah freedom and mobility. I already discussed this up top. I would love to spend a year traveling the US in a RV. If I was retired we could do it when my son is in middle school. Who needs those pesky 6th-8th grade years anyway getting bullied, growing awkwardly, and trying really hard to fit in by not fitting in.
My drawdown plan is harder. It is not impossible but harder as described here. My family would have a more comfortable (actually way more then we need) financial situation if I did not aim for FIRE and just worked 60% until age 50.
Paying for health insurance. Yes the pro of work is the con of FIRE. Health insurance? I hope our politicians figure this out in the next 10 years.
Becoming obsolete in my trade. Medicine is not like coding (I actually don’t know much about coding so if my analogy is wrong then sorry!). You can not leave it for 5 years and decide to come back. There are certificates to be maintained, hours of practice that need to be fulfilled, etc. Still if I did retire early I could probably do 1 month of locums work to stay relevant in case I ever missed the gig and earn a nice paycheck.
We would have to be more disciplined in our discretionary spending. While we are conscientious about our spending now, we really would have to pay closer attention if we retired early. I have planned for a $5,000 budget with no debt. Not bad, but not as relaxed as now.
So what to do?
So there you go. Does it make sense to work part time to 60 and retire with a pension or do I work hard to reach FIRE? Honestly I am not sure. I suspect in 2021 I will go to 90 or 80% which will give me 2 to 4 additional days off a month. Then I can see how that is until I am 48 years old (my earliest FIRE date) and reassess. Along the way I am sure I will be tracking networth and expenses to determine what we really need. Plus it is good to revisit goals every 5 years or so. For me these marks come at 2017, 2021, 2028 and who knows from there.
What do you guys think is the right plan?