The business model for most physicians can charitably be described as “eat what you kill.” If you want to make more money, you have to work harder, either seeing more patients or performing more procedures. Once on this treadmill, it can be difficult to jump off.
As physicians age, typically their work and family responsibilities become greater, as does their collection of stuff. All of these can exact a financial toll that in the end, creates a time deficit at the worst possible time – when you are looking to slow down!
In our experience, many physicians who are in their 60’s continue to work as hard as they did in their 40’s – they are acutely aware that they are burning the candle at both ends, but feel they must soldier on to either get a kid through college debt free, add to their retirement fund or maintain a lifestyle that is increasingly becoming an expensive burden.
These physicians know they may be neglecting their health and not enjoying life to the fullest, but are hell bent on pushing through to an artificial retirement date or a fictional number that they believe will allow them to retire without a financial care in the world. The only problem with this approach is that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.
If this sounds like you, here are some steps you can take to achieve a healthier work/life balance.
- Total what you are spending on eating out or other variable expenses. Most people don’t realize how much they spend on “non-essentials” over the course of a year. Are these conscious expenditures, or just a habit?
- If you have not salted away enough to cover college expenses, discuss a sharing arrangement with your children. For example, you can ask them to contribute a fixed amount say $10,000 per year, or a percentage of college costs. You may not have had to pay for college, but look at what tuition costs were 40 years ago.
- Be realistic about the lifestyle you aspire to in retirement. The lower you breakeven, the sooner you can cut back on your hours.
- Your retirement goals will impact how soon you can retire. For example, if you plan to still earn an income during retirement, you will not need as large a nest egg.
- The specter of cutting back a day or two a week can provide a real incentive to “right size” your lifestyle.