Humans are meant to be productive.  Whether you keep your job after FI or not, you certainly will need to “retire to” something as opposed to “retiring from” something you loathe.  Yet, once you reach financial independence, work does become an option.  Will you choose to keep working?  Or will you choose to exercise your freedom?  This post, which was originally written on Physician on FIRE, discusses 5 reasons to keep working after financial independence.  

Leave some comments at the end on whether you agree, disagree, or have an idea that is completely different from what is included in this post.  It’s certainly a topic worth discussing.  

Take it away, POF!

The Top 5 Reasons to Work After Financial Independence

The short answer is that FI is financial independence. Nothing more, nothing less, and it doesn’t look any different if you love, hate, or feel indifferent towards your job.

The long answer, after learning that the man asking the question is about 10 years away from FI, includes the fact that the person or the job is quite likely to look and feel quite a bit different in 10 years, and FI is a smart play for anyone. Quite a few nuggets of wisdom were dropped in the replies, and I added my two cents, as well. I think everyone should try to work towards financial independence, regardless of their current contentedness.

The flip side of that question is what do you do when you reach FI and still love your job? The good news is there are no rules that dictate you ought to retire once you have reached or surpassed FI. Vagabond MD has questioned the ethics of working past FI, but the notion that it is somehow unethical was soundly rejected.

Why might someone continue working beyond FI (as I have done for a number of years now)?

1. You Love Your Job

If you truly love your job, and the knowledge that work has become optional hasn’t changed your mind, than by all means, don’t change a thing.

If you love your job, but can think of ways to make it better, take every step to make it so. You’ve never had more leverage than you do now, since you can afford to walk away tomorrow.

If you love what you do for a living, but aren’t in love with the particular job you’ve got, you can explore ways to do that work in a different manner. That might be doing it for a different patient population or a different employer, or taking your skills overseas on a medical volunteerism trip. Local free clinics often need volunteers to meet the community’s needs.

With FI, money is no longer your primary concern, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep doing a job you love.

2. Ease the Transition to Retirement

Maybe you don’t love your job, but you’re not ready and willing to go from working a demanding full-time job to having no job at all. Rather than slamming on the brakes to bring your career to a screeching halt, it might make more sense to downshift and continue your work at a more relaxed pace.

You might get lucky like me, and be able to work part time in your current job. Taking a job across town or in a new locale may be another option. If you have a practice that allows you to “sell your call,” you can just offer it all up, and only work the shifts that no colleague snatched up.

Locum tenens can be a great option in this situation, particularly if you can be location independent. That’s how I started my career, and I’ve thought it would be a pretty cool way to wind it down, too.

3. Your Patients Need You

So you can easily afford to retire, and you have an inkling it would be good for you to step away, but you owe it to your patients to stick around. If you’re not there to care for them, who will step up to take your place? You spent decades building a practice. It’s not like you can turn off the lights and leave your patients and staff in the lurch.

It’s true that in a situation like this, you don’t just give two weeks notice and say “Peace, out.” However, with some preparation, you may be able to coordinate a smooth transition.

Perhaps a young, enterprising physician will be interested in joining and eventually replacing you. A competing practice may be interested in an acquisition. Hospitals and private equity firms are increasingly buying up small practices.

While you may feel you’ve got no easy way out, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any way out. As my radiologist friend The Happy Philosopher says, “You are Replaceable. Congratulations!

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4. Your Life Needs Purpose

If you’ve reached FI at a relatively young age, you’ve probably done so by serving a worthy purpose of some kind. At a minimum, your job was worthy of a high-income relative to your salary. And many of you have held a job in which you served the public and saved some lives.

If much of your life has been devoted to serving a singular purpose, letting that go may leave you as lost as the cast of Lost.

You may experience an initial euphoria and satisfaction from the initial combination of leisure, catching up on reading, cleaning out the garage and storage room, and actually watching Lost (which I have yet to do), but eventually, you may find your life lacks meaning if you’re not serving a bigger purpose.

The easiest way to fight that feeling is to keep working until you’ve identified another purpose you would rather serve that might give you more freedom and possibly an even greater sense of accomplishment than the purpose to which you’re currently devoted.

Until you figure out What’s Next, keep working beyond FI. Early retirement can be bad for youand your health if you do it wrong.

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5. Fear

You understand the 4% rule, have dialed in your asset allocation, oversaved, planned for contingencies and redundancies, and still you can’t stop asking “What if?

It’s completely understandable. I say “you,” but I’m really talking about me. I don’t want to walk away from this lucrative position and regret it.

Ideally, you I choose to leave when the likelihood of regret is in perfect balance between working too long and walking too soon. But if I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of caution and one more year. Leaving a little too late would leave me with a little too much money, which is a “problem” I can learn to live with.

After all, you never know when that extra money might come in handy. There are many ways FI can be derailed, and I don’t expect to fall prey to any of them, but… what if?

Health care costs keep rising. Did you know a fingertip injury could set you back over $1,500? It happened to me 12 days ago! Somehow, my boys have managed to avoid the emergency department and have utterly failed to break a single bone, but knowing their father, I guarantee their good fortune can’t last.

Hopefully, I can make our monetary fortune last no how many bones we break or surgeries we require (the boys have each had a couple of those). I’m quite confident we’ve got enough now, but I can’t pretend a modicum of fear and insecurity haven’t played a role in my decision to continue working.

Honorable Mention:

7 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Keep Working After Financial Independence”

  1. I loved certain aspects of my career. There just wasn’t a way to shed legacy applied BS job duties that nobody else would line up to do. It seemed that my life revolved around supporting all of that crap while others were getting all the new and better projects. There were also new things I wanted to learn and do. FI allowed me to retire early from that long career and pursue opportunities more aligned with what I loved doing and new things I wanted to learn and move into to. I will admit that although not my motivation, my retirement gigs did act as a nice way to transition away from a career mindset toward early retirement and a passion driven mindset. Breaking decades of work based mental conditioning can mess with our brain. All of my post retirement work in FI were far better experiences than my long career. Working on your own terms and knowing you can walk away whenever you want definitely plays into that.

  2. I’ve long been far more attracted to the “FI” part of the equation than the “RE”. Financial independence makes sense for all people to work toward. You’re only really free when you can call your own shots. Deciding thereafter how to spend your time and energy is a separate question altogether. If someone were to like the job they have, they could either scale back or simply continue on, always with the knowledge that they could walk away when they decide they’ve had enough.

    Thanks for the post and take care.

    Ryan

  3. #4 is so important. The feeling of uselessness can invite depression very quickly. I’ve hit early retirement at 41, but still trying to be productive and help others. The human body is amazing and surely cannot go from hero to zero overnight. A purpose must exist. Ease into it!

    • 100%. Humans are meant to be productive. We must “retire to” something. Otherwise, we risk boredom and will have to fight our human nature in order to find happiness. A hobby likely isn’t enough, but there are plenty of things to do after reaching financial independence. And working should be one of the things we consider, if we find meaning in our work.

  4. Jimmy-
    The FIRE movement has been great for a lot of people. For me, the primary value of the FIRE concept is the reality that financial independence gives you choices. Personally, I can’t imagine stopping my clinical practice for a few decades because I love what I do. I do love the idea that we get choices once financial independence is ours.

    It’s similar to the freedom that we have when we become debt-free. When we stop sending payments to loan companies, we have choices. We can choose to go to a different job if our current one doesn’t suit us anymore.

    Thanks for the great perspective, as always!
    -Brent
    http://www.TheScopeofPractice.com

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