Wanna work part time starting now or bust your butt for FIRE?

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:

Pros

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?  Working part time or going for FIRE? Which is better.

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.

 

Cons

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.

These 2 aren’t sure either!


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.

 

FIRE Cons

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?  

 

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DadsDollarsDebts

I am a Dad and Doctor trying to find financial freedom by owning my dollars and debts. Helping dads with their finances so they can focus on the family.

23 thoughts on “Wanna work part time starting now or bust your butt for FIRE?

  • September 24, 2017 at 7:06 am
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    In a similar dilemma here doc. I’m a police officer and could retire now at 48. However, I wouldn’t collect my pension until I turn 50. And, if I worked till 50, I’d get healthcare for my family and I for half the cost, plus my monthly pension and if I work till 55, I’d get it for free.

    But that’s such a tough decision, 8 more years of my life!

    Tough decisions but were fortunate we have these options.

    We have no debt at all, low seven figures in Vanguard index funds and my spouse works as well.

    After having accomplished all this I try to convince myself that this is the reason we invested to have options for an early retirement. But I can’t get myself to pay for medical premiums out of pocket and start drawing down on some of my portfolio. And, I beat myself up over it.

    I’ll probably stay until 50 so at least I’d start collecting my monthly pension and then I’ll re-evaluate. There are so many pros to retiring early, being able to become healthier and more stress free can’t be overstated enough.

    But it’s a tough call. I also think of the additional catch up contributions I could make to my 457. Between all three of our plans we sock away 54k a year, but when is enough enough?

    I had a medical leave for seven months and I was in the best shape of my life. My recovery allowed me to eat healthy and workout a lot. I looked like a cross fit competitor and that’s what not having to punch in allowed me to do.

    Best of luck to you, as I too continue the internal struggle of deciding when to pull the plug!

    Reply
  • September 24, 2017 at 6:28 am
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    You are very young. You have lots of options. Maybe you should think about how to improve your work situation so you could stick it out for the pension. I would try to avoid being on committees that suck your time away.

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  • September 24, 2017 at 5:55 am
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    I love posts like this – because decision-making is my thing 🙂 (I have a doctorate where a lot of coursework was focused on decision-making.) You have a lot of great information here. I see the “pros and cons” lists as helpful but when you try to compare two of them, that’s what causes some (first-world) problems. If you ever want to do a little case study, let me know! You could guest post on my site too! The first thing I’d suggest is revisiting your decision question. Often we spend a lot of time working on details when we don’t really have clarity on what we are trying to answer.

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  • September 24, 2017 at 5:53 am
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    What a wonderful dilemma to contemplate. I worked full time until I became FI and then I cut back.
    I’m 70% clinical now. I could stay at this level or maybe cut back more. I have always enjoyed my work though so working full time was not a big sacrifice. I do enjoy it more now that I’m FI though.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2017 at 8:15 am
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    I don’t think there is a wrong answer here! Either way you choose a path that you want, and I think having a choice is a huge. You also are not stuck in shooting for retirement early and then deciding that you want to back off the gas and cut your hours a bit to take advantage of both situations.

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    • September 13, 2017 at 7:20 pm
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      True dat…and I suppose it is fine for the plan to change over time..as you mention. I guess for now it is debt pay down and asset accumulation. Then when the numbers make sense I can decide what to do.

      Reply
  • September 12, 2017 at 8:24 am
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    Such a tough decision! My husband and I had a long conversation about this last weekend trying to make the decision for ourselves. It is amazing to have options though!

    I could leave my current employment in 2 years, but I would have to work on the side in some venture of my own. Or, if I can stick it out ~7 years until I turn 34, we could achieve full FIRE. I am currently leaning towards just sticking it out for the 7 – since I’ll still be young, my kids will be 8/6, and it will mean any side ventures don’t have the stress of real self employment. Choices, choices!

    Love the idea about a year RVing though! We have talked about road schooling for a year at some point as well. I think it would be such an awesome family experience.

    Reply
    • September 12, 2017 at 9:38 pm
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      Sounds like you have it way together. I am already 37 and still not near FIRE, but then again I got a late start. Keep up the good work. I would aim for 7 years in your case…as you said you will still be young.

      Thanks for the message earlier too. I hope my https issues have been resolved.

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 8:27 am
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    Tough call my friend. Like many have said, I do not really have an answer for you. I think there are good and bad for both. But what I can say is that I am sure that you will figure it out and pick which ever is the best plan for you and your family. Sometimes just throwing it out in to the universe and then sitting on it for a minute will provide you with the clarity that you need. Good luck!

    Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 9:18 pm
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      Sage advice. The wise person waits…I do believe there is karmic energy between thought, speech, and action. With thought creating the least karma and action the most. So currently with speech (this post) I solidify a desire and discuss a strategy. At minimum that makes me more likely to act on it.

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 7:29 am
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    I have a long way to go before even considering FIRE, but this is certainly something I think about. On one hand I think of reaching FIRE asap and being free to do whatever I please and not be beholden to work, medicine and unforeseeable changes that may be coming. On the other hand I don’t know what I’d do with my free time as I feel that part-time would still allow more than enough time to pursue my interests. I’m not sure whether I want to sacrifice time now to get there asap as opposed to going part-time now and spending more time with family. I also wonder what the whole point of my life/career is after putting in so much effort to get there, I could have taken a much easier path within medicine or done a less desirable but more lucrative specialty. These days, I’m starting to think of doing something in between, working hard for a while to build my nest egg a bit then going part-time, or at least re-evaluating every year as to whether I should continue on full-time, part-time, quit, or just restructure my work life to something desirable, enjoyable and sustainable with less worry about income. I’m thinking the nest egg size at which I would start making these decisions could be something like 25x bare essential expenses, or something along those lines.

    Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 9:13 pm
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      JSA,
      25 x bare essentials is a hefty nest egg. Some use 25 x of annual spending as being financially independent. While you would be missing the “finer” items in life, you would still qualify as financially independent.

      I am in the same boat as you. To work hard for FIRE or take it easy finding a nice balance. Right now, I suspect I will try to go part time in the next 4-5 years and see what it feels like. I am pretty sure I would be able to ratchet it up if needed and I would start at 9/10 (2 days off a month).

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 10:05 pm
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    I don’t have the answer for you, but the thought of a pension and health insurance for life is awfully appealing. On the other hand, freedom…

    This is why I’m so grateful I didn’t know about FI until I was nearly ten years into my career and could claim FI once I ran the numbers.

    The good news is I don’t think you can make a wrong choice here.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 3:56 pm
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      That is sure a glass is full perspective.

      It is hard to yearn for something, and it not be the financially smart choice (i.e. retiring early despite pension and health care).

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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    This is a real tough one. I wish I were in a position to retire at 48 🙂 But I am looking at early retirement. Unfortunately for me, as well, is I’m a 45-year old dad to a 5-year old — a bit late to the game.

    I can’t give you any real advice about which way to go, but I can say “at least you have options”.

    Good luck.

    -tssg

    Reply
    • September 9, 2017 at 5:13 pm
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      Thanks TSGG. Good to have options I suppose. Congrats on the kid! It is quite the ride.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 8:22 am
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    I vote go part time and retire at 60! Kids are so much fun at this age. Not to be a Debbie downer but whose to say you(or I for that matter) will even be here in 10 years? You bust your butt for the next 10 years, miss out on life bc you’re taking extra call so you can finally start living at 48 and some jackass on their phone clips your bike at 47 and you’re done. Plus I think healthcare for those in the FIRE community is going to be a real issue. I see folks saying that there target FIRE number will give them 60 or 80k a year based on the 4% rule but heck I pay almost 30k a year between premiums and deductibles for my family are we healthy!

    Reply
    • September 9, 2017 at 10:51 am
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      Health care and property taxes. If I paid off my current house and lived in it, I would still have $17k in property taxes to pay a year. Nuts.

      You are correct that life is unpredictable. I am seeing this all too often both professionally and personally. That is another reason it does not make sense to work work work.

      Healthcare is another aspect of the equation. We get pretty amazing health care right now and I would like to continue having it if possible.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
    • September 24, 2017 at 10:40 am
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      This is wise advice.

      Go part-time now. Have more time and energy and enjoy your work more. Don’t wait.

      Maintain your human capital. Life may be long and you might experience setbacks that can’t be predicted now.

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 4:18 am
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    I agree with you that in some ways life seems to be set up backwards. I am older than you (in my mid-40s) and probably can reach FIRE in the next four years. But by the time I do that, we will have one teenager and one very close to being a teenager.

    I am seriously considering trying to cut back now to spend more time with them while they are younger, even though it would likely extend my time to FIRE by several more years, and I could end up less gainfully employed in the future than I am today. I just worry that I’ll regret missing out on these years if/when they want less to do with me when they are in high school and I finally have more time.

    And I also agree with Dr. Curious that these are definitely first world problems that we are fortunate to have!

    Reply
    • September 9, 2017 at 6:59 am
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      Two wise comments today. It seems like you are in the same predicament as me. I do think spending time with the kids when they are young, and particularly the awkward middle age years, is important. Once they hit high school I suppose they will be too cool for dad!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2017 at 3:03 am
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    I struggle with these same exact thoughts on a daily basis. Of course there are multiple factors in play as you described, but I think the decision ultimately comes down to this questions: How much do I like my job?

    I don’t like mine enough to do it for free, but I’ll happily do it full-time for 5-8 years (our current plan) before an early retirement around 45. My wife, on the other hand, strongly dislikes hers and will be working part-time going forward.

    My wife and I always make sure to remind ourselves that these are first-world problems at the least, but in truth closer to 1 percenter problems. We feel quite lucky.

    Good luck with your decision!

    Reply
    • September 9, 2017 at 6:58 am
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      Very very true. These are definitely first world problems and in actuality not really problems at all, just decisions. I like the idea of retiring at age 45. For me, I could be vested in my pension at 46 (if I stay full time). So maybe you and I should celebrate retirements together!

      As for the actual “job” there are many days that I enjoy it, but my concern is missing out on time with my son. Is it worth working hard and then spending time with him when he is age 12 when I retire or do I slow down a bit now and extend early retirement by a year or two?

      Reply

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