Silver shackles

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MZMpac
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:36 pm

Silver shackles

Post by MZMpac »

Hi all,

New to this forum. ERE is the 3rd book I’ve read now on early retirement. Not my favorite, but I relate to the underlying philosophy. I came across this forum just from Googling early retirement, like most people.

I’m 34 and have what most would consider an upper-middle-class career as a PA (physician assistant). I’ve been a PA now for 4+ years. I make about $100k a year with guaranteed bi-annual raises, free health coverage (yes free) for me and my wife, retirement plans, all the benefits of a big HMO job. I’m also saddled with student debt, to the tune of $200k+.

I got into this field with the best of intentions---I had a keen interest in applied sciences, wanted a stable and high-yield career where I could work basically anywhere, with built-in economic downturn insulation and a bit of fulfillment to boot. It seemed a natural choice. I had the option of going to med school, but chose not to in the eleventh hour (I applied to both). In retrospect it was a great decision.

The quiet secret of the medical profession is the level of burnout and disillusionment. We have this public perception of very high-paying, fulfilling careers, but for most of us that is a veneer. The business of medicine has killed it---relentless pressure to see more patients in less time and ever-increasing responsibilities; not to mention the absurd level of debt.

It has dawned on me recently how ‘unfree’ I really am. The silver shackles. I have all the ostensible trappings of a successful American life, yet I have never been less free in so many ways. The full weight of my student loan burden has become painfully evident, and roughly 70% of our income goes to bills and debt. 70%!!! And we don’t even have consumer debt besides our vehicles. This precludes the 50%+ savings rate necessary for ERE.

For those of you who dont make much money but have little to no debt, you are in such a great position. I have a very specialized set of skills that dont translate to anything else, and barring an unforeseen financial windfall, my only way out of this is to buy my freedom back, which will take 10 years at the minimum. The definition of indentured servitude.

Anyways, glad to be in a forum where people are actively trying to better themselves.

Dragline
Posts: 4450
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:50 am

Re: Silver shackles

Post by Dragline »

I've been in your shoes. The bad part about it is that you are pretty much "locked in" given how much you paid for the professional education. But the good news is that you are "locked in" to a well-worn pathway to getting out of debt and more without having to think too hard or to be very creative.

The challenge is that you do have to reduce your expenses and not acquire any new ones so that you can accelerate debt paydown. That's where I would focus, starting with the vehicles and making a commitment that all raises go to debt reduction after tax-advantaged savings.

No, you won't have an extremely early retirement. That's actually no big deal. And you knew that when you went to professional school, so nothing has changed.

MZMpac
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:36 pm

Re: Silver shackles

Post by MZMpac »

Thanks for the reply.

Luckily I qualify for the PSLF, which is the saving grace of many professionals. So in 9.5 years, my federal debt (the vast majority of all my debt) will be forgiven.

Agreed on the accelerated paydown. As our vehicles get paid off and other expenses start to drop, my goal is to chip away at frugality items and downsize our home to a state with lower COL in 3-5 years, hopefully putting us above that 50% savings rate.

BRUTE
Posts: 3803
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:20 pm

Re: Silver shackles

Post by BRUTE »

hi there :)

what Dragline said: debt reduction is #1.

there are also a lot of skills that will save tons of money in the long term. cooking, smart shopping, car repairs.. same or better quality of life, paid for with skill instead of money.

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Sclass
Posts: 1934
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Silver shackles

Post by Sclass »

MZMpac wrote:
The quiet secret of the medical profession is the level of burnout and disillusionment. We have this public perception of very high-paying, fulfilling careers, but for most of us that is a veneer. The business of medicine has killed it---relentless pressure to see more patients in less time and ever-increasing responsibilities; not to mention the absurd level of debt.

.
Welcome and thanks for sharing this. This explains a lot of what I've seen in the hospitals and among my friends who took this path.

CECTPA
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:27 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Silver shackles

Post by CECTPA »

I hear you, comrade. I'm an RN with only 2 years of experience and I'm already utterly disappointed with healthcare (SICKcare) in general and probably burnt out.
Will be following your progress with interest should you choose to share it here.

MZMpac
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:36 pm

Re: Silver shackles

Post by MZMpac »

Thanks for the welcomes.

I will most likely start a journal here; this forum seems like it has good post turnover and people actually read stuff.

Like Dragline said, the pathway for us medical folks is pretty well-defined, if not short. ERE is out of the question unless you are lucky enough to have no student debt. I have a goal of partial retirement by 44 (when my loans are paid off) and FI ASAP thereafter.

And for me, it's not really about "retirement" in the traditional sense of the word. I want F-you money. There is so much life out there that cannot be experienced in the confines of a 40 hour workweek and 2-3 weeks vacation. IMO the most powerful thing money can do is facilitate freedom. I wouldn't say I wholly regret my career choice (although some days I envy the guy outside my window mowing lawns), but I do regret the debt burden.

FBeyer
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Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 3:25 am

Re: Silver shackles

Post by FBeyer »

Related:
http://forum.earlyretirementextreme.com ... 01#p122001

FrX, Doctor of Medicine, became FI and decided to do charity work. There is hope for the medical profession it seems!

Dragline
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Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:50 am

Re: Silver shackles

Post by Dragline »

MZMpac wrote: Like Dragline said, the pathway for us medical folks is pretty well-defined, if not short. ERE is out of the question unless you are lucky enough to have no student debt. I have a goal of partial retirement by 44 (when my loans are paid off) and FI ASAP thereafter.
If you can keep a lid on lifestyle inflation and really attack the debt, you'll find there's a huge snowball effect when it gets paid off. But most professionals succumb to buying the stuff they see their peers buying and never get there.

Our rule of thumb was to try to spend less than half than our peers on all the majors (house, transportation, travel, hobbies, etc.) -- it helps put things in more concrete terms. And -- very important -- don't ever buy a new big ticket item if the old one still works or if some family member will give you their old one.

MZMpac
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:36 pm

Re: Silver shackles

Post by MZMpac »

For sure, good rule of thumb. My biggest non-bill money sink has been hobbies. I just started capping myself an allowance for that sort of thing.

I noticed there is a spectrum here and on similar forums regarding frugality. I'm working my way through the very academic ERE book right now...honestly I think some of things he alludes to are absurd. But I guess that's why he calls it 'extreme'!

FBeyer
Posts: 1075
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 3:25 am

Re: Silver shackles

Post by FBeyer »

Yeah. A lot of things seem absurd when you encounter them for the first time. Hang around the forums long enough and a lot of things won't seem as strange as they used to, as much as something to strive for. Or at least admire a bit from a distance :)

The book might not make sense the first time around. Try to read through it and hang on to as much as seems meaningful to you. Then interact with the forum and try to hang on to as much as makes sense here. After 6 months I'll wager than you can re-read the book and it'll make perfect sense to you.

All of it :)

oldbeyond
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Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:43 pm

Re: Silver shackles

Post by oldbeyond »

MZMpac wrote:For sure, good rule of thumb. My biggest non-bill money sink has been hobbies. I just started capping myself an allowance for that sort of thing.

I noticed there is a spectrum here and on similar forums regarding frugality. I'm working my way through the very academic ERE book right now...honestly I think some of things he alludes to are absurd. But I guess that's why he calls it 'extreme'!
Ah, the non-existant Wheaton levels pop up again ;)

The book is very "dry", as it presents more abstract concepts. But therein lies the power.

IlliniDave
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Re: Silver shackles

Post by IlliniDave »

You might consider checking out The White Coat Investor if you haven't already. It's a personal finance site geared to medical professionals and you might be able to find some useful insight from others in the same boat as you. The guy who runs it has more of a Boglehead philosophy than an ERE philosophy.

In general, many of us have been there in one way or another. I managed to get through school without significant debt (by picking the state school and a tuition waver scholarship over more valuable "partial scholarship" offers from out-of-state places like MIT and Stanford). There was a time in my prior life when debt and consumption ran about 105-110% of my take home. So 70% isn't too bad. My only advice is to be deliberate about what you do with your money. You may find that "strict" ERE only partially resonates with you, but the general ideas can be applied to varying degrees. The important thing IMO is finding the balance that best supports both your present and future goals.

MZMpac
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:36 pm

Re: Silver shackles

Post by MZMpac »

Thanks Dave, big fan of the White Coat Investor, but like you said more of an investment-heavy slant on things.

Yes I'm familiar with this Wheaton hierarchy which is really just veiled elitism. You see it in any sort of lifestyle philosophy or movement that is scalable. Fitness cults, permaculture, personal finance, ultralight backpacking, etc. I think it's human nature.

I've noticed the early retirement stuff is a spectrum; I dont think one approach is inherently superior to any other. Certainly one cant just jump from one end to the other, a bit of a process has to take place. Seems to me stuff like Dave Ramsey is more on the accessible end, and ERE can be more on the extreme side of things, as in not accessible or immediately appealing for the majority of folks.

Thanks again everyone for the advice!

Dragline
Posts: 4450
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:50 am

Re: Silver shackles

Post by Dragline »

MZMpac wrote: I noticed there is a spectrum here and on similar forums regarding frugality. I'm working my way through the very academic ERE book right now...honestly I think some of things he alludes to are absurd. But I guess that's why he calls it 'extreme'!
There is much power, though, in simply knowing what is possible -- and not in theory, but because someone has actually done it.

The reason this is the case is that so much of our decision-making is based on framing. This creates a different frame, whereby you are forced to change the "I can't do that" answer to many things to a "I prefer not to do that" answer or a "what if I did that?", which can then lead to a broader reassessment of our preferences, the reasons we hold them and the other possibles that we may not have previously considered.

bryan
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Location: mostly Bay Area

Re: Silver shackles

Post by bryan »

welcome!

Just wanted to suggest to explore the (old) popular blog posts if you haven't yet. I found the blog posts more digestible, poignant than the book. Really I think it's the best blog I've ever read in the PF/FI space. For a list of other recommended books there is an ERE wiki page. It's a decent start, though I wouldn't recommend a few of those personally. One I recommend for beginners in the philosophy quadrant is Stumbling on Happiness.

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