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A failed Early Retirment
Old 05-11-2017, 03:23 PM   #1
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A failed Early Retirment

Confessions From a Physician Who Failed Early Retirement - Physician on FIRE

This is a post by an ER doc who tried to "E"R at age 59 and failed at it. The reasons given are not necessarily specific to medical careerists.

Frankly I find the first two "reasons" to not retire early:

1)that there is an ethical requirement to continue to work

And

2)the notion of irreplaceability

To be preposterous and egotistical, respectively.
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Old 05-11-2017, 03:43 PM   #2
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With all respect for dedicated and hard-working professionals, for some reason all I could hear in my head was the Alec Baldwin courtroom speech from the film Malice:

"The question is, 'Do I have a God complex?' Which makes me wonder if this … lawyer, has any idea as to the kind of grades one has to receive in college, to be accepted to a top medical school? Or if you have the vaguest clue about how talented someone must be to lead a surgical team? I have an M.D. from Harvard. I am board certified in cardiothoracic medicine and trauma surgery. I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trauma from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to? Now you go ahead and read your Bible, Dennis. And you go to your church and with any luck you might even win the annual raffle. But if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two, on November 17th, and he doesn’t like being second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something: I am God."
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Old 05-11-2017, 03:49 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightcap View Post
With all respect for dedicated and hard-working professionals, for some reason all I could hear in my head was the Alec Baldwin courtroom speech from the film Malice:

"The question is, 'Do I have a God complex?' Which makes me wonder if this … lawyer, has any idea as to the kind of grades one has to receive in college, to be accepted to a top medical school? Or if you have the vaguest clue about how talented someone must be to lead a surgical team? I have an M.D. from Harvard. I am board certified in cardiothoracic medicine and trauma surgery. I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trauma from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to? Now you go ahead and read your Bible, Dennis. And you go to your church and with any luck you might even win the annual raffle. But if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two, on November 17th, and he doesn’t like being second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something: I am God."
He seems to have a point.

Ha
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Old 05-11-2017, 03:57 PM   #4
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"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

The empty calendar reminded me of the above quote. The guy needs to look inward to find why he can't enjoy retirement rather than blaming the external factors.
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:03 PM   #5
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Maybe he is an extrovert?
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:04 PM   #6
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OMG; I feel sorry for that guy.

DW explains it this way: from high school to age 56, she put getting into medical school, being a doctor, and the needs of her patients and their babies/pregnancies first before her own family. Now it is time to devote some serious attention to herself, her spouse, and to sleeping through the night and weekends without phone calls and trips to the hospitals.
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:05 PM   #7
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This guy has both an MD and a JD...so when you are surprised that he comes across as self-important...I am surprised that you are surprised...
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:06 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by bmcgonig View Post
"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
What a fabulous quote! Now going out on the "interwebs" to find out more.....(and maybe do some thinking)

Thanks!
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcgonig View Post
"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

The empty calendar reminded me of the above quote. The guy needs to look inward to find why he can't enjoy retirement rather than blaming the external factors.
Sounds to me his entire self worth is his job and how people perceive him (positively) as a doctor/lawyer.
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:14 PM   #10
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OMG; I feel sorry for that guy.

DW explains it this way: from high school to age 56, she put getting into medical school, being a doctor, and the needs of her patients and their babies/pregnancies first before her own family. Now it is time to devote some serious attention to herself, her spouse, and to sleeping through the night and weekends without phone calls and trips to the hospitals.
He is teaching part time. Not full time doctor. I think that can be stressful.
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:45 PM   #11
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He is teaching part time. Not full time doctor. I think that can be stressful.
I believe he started teach after he couldn't stand being retired any longer. I read the post at the blog, I didn't feel like commenting there, but I don't believe it is unethical to want to retire early regardless of your career. Whether lawyer, doctor, or janitor people have invested in our life as you have invested in theirs. While you are working, they deserve your best, but I don't think you owe them a certain number of years of our life.

His entire identity stemmed from his careers. That was the problem. If you make your work, your identity, you probably will have to do it until you die. Now, if you love your job, why the heck not! But if you don't, it is your life.

cd :O)
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Old 05-11-2017, 05:19 PM   #12
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Perhaps I'm missing something, but what ethical body or group requires you to work until you die or some predetermined age? That he feels it was assumed that you'd work your entire life doesn't mean it's some requirement at all. Society in general assumes people are going to work until they can't, that doesn't mean there's any obligation or requirement to do so. I'm guessing what he meant was he feels it is immoral to quit working early.

That said, I'd counter-argue that continuing to occupy space in the working world, thus preventing others from taking that space, even though you no longer need it is immoral in my opinion. No on is irreplaceable in the workforce. No one.
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Old 05-11-2017, 05:43 PM   #13
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The obsessive need to be part of a team and derive self-worth from his work are both a bit mystifying to me. Then again, someone with his background is likely to be driven to the point of obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I can imagine why suddenly being unmoored from all of that is difficult.


Perhaps because I am 15 or so years younger than the good doclawyer, but I have found ER to be a little isolating. I am not good at the social stuff and I went from a very collegial atmosphere with lots of people who are still friends to a different set of relationships that are much less regular/steady. My own fault, I guess, but it is what it is. There are also times when there simply isn't a lot for me to do. Many of my hobbies are seasonal and/or outdoors, so crappy weather or the wrong time of year mean I am a bit at a loss for stuff to occupy me. ER certainly isn't limitless ecstasy. Happily we can all chose out path and the doclawyer can go back to work if he likes.
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Old 05-11-2017, 05:50 PM   #14
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This guy has both an MD and a JD...so when you are surprised that he comes across as self-important...I am surprised that you are surprised...
Touché!
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Old 05-11-2017, 08:37 PM   #15
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Like many physicians (I can't speak for lawyers) this guy is caught up in his own self-importance. He clearly cannot differentiate between his self worth as a physician and his self worth as a human being. The ethical argument he puts forward makes no sense to me. People in all sorts of professions change their career tracks, retire early, take sabbaticals, etc, and nobody makes an ethical issue out of it. What about physicians like myself, who migrate? What do we "owe" the country where we went to medical school?

When I retired, I did hear comments from some people who didn't know me well, about the "waste" of all that training, when I could be of service to the community. I had no problem dismissing them, because I never drank the "physician as god" Koolaid.
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Old 05-11-2017, 08:59 PM   #16
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I think the fact that he considers age 59 as "early" retirement is indicative of a disconnect between himself and most of those on this forum.
Yes, 59 could be considered somewhat early, if you work for the Social Security Administration. But how much different would his world be if he worked 3 more years? Or 5? It's not the concept of "early " retirement that is antagonistic to his ethic, it's the concept of retirement, period.
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Old 05-11-2017, 09:18 PM   #17
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The post appeared on my site, although I am not the author. He reached out to me wishing to share his story, and I gladly obliged.

As I often extoll the virtues of early retirement, I thought it would be wise to hear from someone who has attempted FIRE and found discontentment rather than joy. He's not the first physician I know who has "retired" only to go back to work shortly thereafter. So much of a doctor's identity is intertwined with the career that it can be tough for some to separate.

Like many of the commenters (both on the site and within this thread), I can appreciate his perspective, but don't see the ethical considerations in the same way. The most direct and damning rebuttal came from a radiologist known as The Happy Philosopher:

"I will turn my full fury on your assertion that retiring early is ethically questionable.
“Your behavior for about a decade in medical school and residency implied to others that you were in medicine for the long term. While you did not formally sign a contract to practice medicine for 30-40 years your behavior certainly implied that that was your plan. “

This statement uses guilt and shame to make people feel bad about leaving medicine. I strongly believe attitudes like this do great harm to people who want to leave medicine for many reasons that you or I may not fully understand.

No one goes into medicine thinking they will retire early unless they are insane. When people decide to retire early it is because medicine is not for them. They are not happy. No one should feel any guilt or shame for leaving the profession.

As you may have guessed, this attitude is a pet peeve of mine. We do not have an obligation to work a single day as a doctor. We do have an obligation to ourselves to be happy, and to be the best version of ourselves that we can. I pose the following questions:

Is it ethical for someone to go part time or quit because they are burned out or suicidal?
Is it ethical for a woman to quit medicine to be a SAHM?
It is ethical to retire at 50? 55? 60? What age it is “ethically appropriate” to retire?
Is it ethical to change your mind if you don’t like being a doctor and think you can contribute to society in another way?

There are many problems that arise when we start questioning the ethics of people wanting to quit a job."

Best,
-PoF
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Old 05-11-2017, 09:34 PM   #18
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I do what I want to do and could care less what other people think of it.

It's my life and one life is all you get.

Run your own life and don't worry about mine. I have one reply for all who want to run my life "jam on down the road"
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Old 05-11-2017, 10:10 PM   #19
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Like many physicians (I can't speak for lawyers) this guy is caught up in his own self-importance [self image as a practitioner]. He clearly cannot differentiate between his self worth as a physician and his self worth as a human being. ...
Speaking as lawyer married to a doc, I think it is not uncommon in either profession. Indeed, in law at least, among the truly top notch this blind spot is endemic. Our small firm is 7 days a week, 12+ hours a day (less on weekends). The guys within my age bracket truly are unable to understand why I am retiring this year (same is true of DW's peers, although they at least tend to enjoy their vacations). And it is just as bad, if not worse, at the multinational "BigLaw" firm at which I spent the first half of my career. My mentors are still hard at work....
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Old 05-11-2017, 10:31 PM   #20
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I think I may have found part of his problem: "The most disconcerting aspect of retirement for me was looking a few months into the future and seeing a calendar with nothing on it but white empty space." I'm like that, too, but I've solved that problem for me by keeping my calendar filled up with fun stuff.

Another thing that stood out for me was the way he wrote "why physicians should not retire early" instead of "why I decided not to stay retired early". What does he care what other physicians do, especially ones that are enjoying retirement.
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