Can there really be any downsides?
Spoiler alert- I could only come up with 6, but they are legitimate and worth consideration. Last week I had fun reviewing the “Top 10 Things to Love about Early Retirement from Clinical Practice“. However, I want to be transparent and not promote an insincere world of social media perfection that doesn’t exist. Nothing is without pitfalls, and in the effort of not sugar coating the experience for those who may truly be considering it, there are some very real negative aspects.
1. We are in a growing physician shortage. This impacts everyone. As more and more physicians leave medicine or retire early due to frustration with the current health care environment, we are making the problem worse- myself included. I am concerned for who will be delivering babies in the coming years, or taking care of us when we are older. I don’t proclaim to be an advocate for early retirement for physicians. However, I do advocate for physicians, many of whom are in an inferno of “burnout” and can’t use their voices due to current employment restrictions.
2. Income from previous salary will obviously be gone. However, this can be mitigated significantly with passive income developed during working years. Real estate investments, equities and alternative means of passive inflow should all be a part of early retirement.
3. You might actually be busier in retirement than before. If you are thinking about retiring early, you likely aren’t the lazy type (in contrast to what people think when they hear “early retiree”). New opportunities and interests are developed quickly when you finally have some time to devote to other passions. Although your time will fill up fast, you are now the one in control of your days instead of an employer.
4. The “living large” lifestyle doesn’t really fit with early retirement. Even if a large nest egg is accumulated after all debts are paid off and college savings accounts are funded for the kids, there are many, many years of unknowns. Potential hospital bills and health care expenses are something to consider, especially if you no longer have an employer sponsored health plan and are well below the age for Medicare. If your ideal retirement involves time on yachts and unlimited spending sprees you may be disappointed. However, if you are happy to live a modest life it certainly can work.
5. Ego. If you link your value as a person to the title of your job, you may be in for a hit. Nobody cares what you “used” to do. I’ll be honest, it was a little humbling at first. Being a physician is a huge part of who I am and what I love to do. After spending so much time and effort on becoming this person, it was hard in some ways to give up a clinical career. I imagine anyone who has spent time building their career feels this when they let go of that part of themselves.
6. The need to develop meaningful pursuits. I have yet to meet a physician who went into medicine for the money. The large majority of us went into this field to help people, as cliché as that may sound. The reward of giving and caring for others will need to be replaced in another avenue.
Early retirement may be for you if you value time over money and your current job is no longer fulfilling in ways it may have once been. Many of us come to this conclusion after a life altering event. It may be a cancer scare, a death of someone close to you, or the realization that we only have one shot to live our life the way we desire. I still have passion for medicine and women’s health but don’t regret my decision to retire early from my clinical career. Change had occurred both within the profession and myself. Finally letting myself realize that it was acceptable to leave a situation that I no longer wanted to be in has been liberating. At least in my case, the positives have far outweighed the negatives.