My husband and I met as college sweethearts in 2006. After graduation, we became engineers. Soon, we were both laid off due to the recession. He was driving a lemon car, I was no longer contributing to my IRA. Things weren’t looking great and we were pretty demoralized, especially my husband.
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I won’t forget those words when he said: “I think I’m going to go to medical school.” That was how we started on the medical journey.
After we got married, we combined finances and had no idea what I was going. But we did have “money dates” to talk about our goals, which we learned to do from Elle of Couple Money.
The extent of our retirement planning was to retire whenever people usually did — age 65 was good…we guess??
Then we came across the idea of FIRE
If you have been around the personal finance blogosphere, you know that:
FIRE stands for financial independence / retire early.
We started to discuss whether FIRE was our goal. My husband‘s gut reaction was he’d never stop being a doctor.
“I’m sure I will work until I’m 80,”
he told me.
After all, he had a prior career and finally found his true career calling in medicine. How could he walk away from that?
That’s a very normal reaction for somebody new to FIRE. Like many people who hear about FIRE for the first time, they think it’s a cult where people are miserable and hate what they do.
“Walk away from your job like Hollywood walks away from an explosion, go on permanent vacation in paradise, blah blah.”
But they are missing a very important concept of FIRE, which is this:
FIRE has two components!
There is FI, which is financial independence. And then RE, which is retire early.
You can be financially independent and make retirement completely optional.
This is especially important to differentiate and understand, especially for medical families.
Because the medical profession has a common occurrence called burnout.
Burnout happens when doctors feel out of control: Employers change rules. Medicare and Medicaid affect their decisions. Their schedule is out of hand. They feel they must do procedures they don’t like.
Being FI is a remedy to burnout. The tables turn and doctors become more in control. They work not because they have to, but because they want to. A doctor who is on FIRE is not actually “on fire,” as they are not burnt to a crisp.
This is what your DrSpouse’s work can look like when FI
If your DrSpouse has freedom to work the way he wanted to and not because it’s good for his paycheck, this is how work could look like:
- He doesn’t have to take call or work many nights or weekend shifts.
- He doesn’t have the mental burden of student loan debt looming on his mind that’s pressing him to take on more shifts.
- He can take a vacation with the rest of the family without being stressed about not making a profit (especially true if private practice).
- He can eliminate doing procedures he doesn’t like.
- He can take a job in a high cost of living to be exactly where you guys want to be.
- He makes decisions that are good for patients, not just good for the bank account.
- He works a job he likes, so patients get to experience a good side of him.
Knowing all of this, my husband and I continued our “money dates” to discuss if FIRE was what he wanted. Now instead of being skeptical of FIRE, he STILL said “maybe.” (He isn’t thinking about an exit plan when he just started working!) 😂
But for sure we don’t want the pressures of debt to affect our family or his mindset at work.
FIRE? Not sure. But FI? Yes!
Being FI will make him a better doctor, so it’s not only good for our family but also the community. And that’s why it’s our goal.
Back to the original question. #scrolltotheheadline
“Could your DrSpouse quit working as a doctor?”
If your DrSpouse is early in his career, like mine is, he’s probably not thinking about an exit plan yet, either.
Regardless, what you guys should do is remove money from the equation as much as possible. As your DrSpouse continues to work, it’ll be because he loves medicine, not because you guys have huge bills.
Know the difference between FIRE and FI.
Whether he wants to retire early or not, make it your guys’ goal to reach FI. A doctor who is FI is better and happier at home and at work. Your community deserves that, and so do you.