Priorities make choices – How the road to financial independence is changing my priorities.

A few years ago, I would never have conceived a time when I had the time or desire to blog about my life.   My family and I were changing too much and we were far less certain about what we wanted from life.  Times have changed!

We are now in the midst of an identity crisis of epic proportions, and that’s not a bad thing.   Financial independence is within our reach, and only a major event could derail that in the next few years.  I thought this would be a good time to reflect of how the journey to financial independence has change the vision my family and I have for life.

Back in the day….

I was a fresh graduate from residency with about $220,000 in debt between my wife and I.   We were moving back to my hometown to work and were contemplating starting a family.   I really had no solid picture of where I wanted to be in 3-5 years.  The picture, when it did have clarity, would change suddenly based on what I read, heard, felt, etc.  In short, I had no direction.

This lack of direction had a lot on consequences that I am just starting to fully realize.   My priorities were simple: treat lots of patients, earn money, start a family and spend money.  These are the choices resulting from those priorities.

  1. We bought a huge house with a doctor loan.  Yes, that’s 100% financing.
  2. We furnished that house with expensive things, think $15,000 in window treatments… for only 6 of the windows.
  3. We had a new baby on the way so we delayed payment of our massive student loan debt.
  4. I was shopping for a new BMW 3 series, a $35,000 car, because I could afford the monthly payment and because….well…… I deserved one.
  5. I took a job in my hometown that was not a good fit but offered a paycheck and failed to recognize the warning signs even at the first interview.
  6. I had no retirement plan with my job – that was supposed to come years later with partnership.

Times have certainly changed.   The shocking reality of the discrepancy between monthly pay and after-tax pay combined with an issue of selling our house shocked me into educating myself about personal finance, starting with admitting that I, and most new docs, are terrible at it.  Physician heal thyself!

Now, years later we have a fairly clear picture of where we want to be in 3-5 years and even 10-20 years, although not too clear because I still desire some possibility of adventure.  Our priorities these days?  Spend time with our 2 children, save 70% of what we make, spend as little as possible on possessions and as much as affordable on experiences, treat less patients but spend more time with each and give back using our time, money and knowledge (partially where this blog comes in).

So why go through this exercise? It’s like The Faces say “I wish that I knew what I know now….”  I may want to gently steer the life of my 5 year younger self from time to time, a’ la Marty McFly.

Ooh la la

What would we have done differently?

  1. Rented for a year to see if the job worked out and also get the lay of the town, traffic, restaurants, schools, etc.   There is no perfect job, but there are certainly bad jobs (my first job wasn’t bad in retrospect).  Physicians in my field change the first job within 3 years 50% of the time.
  2. Pay off student loan debt using what we would save from not having a huge house, fancy cars and having a good savings plan.
  3. Drive my old F-150 into the ground (which I ended up doing because we changed jobs before I could buy the BMW 3 series).
  4. Much of my unhappiness with my first job was financial uncertainty with questionable partnership opportunity in a rapidly changing medical world.   With clear debt payment and retirement savings plans, I would have been less anxious and probably stayed with the job, made partner and would be able to raise my family in my hometown.
  5. Negotiate for a retirement plan prior  to partnership.
  6. Open a Roth IRA during residency, although admittedly, being DINK (Dual Income No Kids) was awesome and would have been hampered by the Roth.

We still make mistakes and will continue to do so.  Having a picture of the future helps though.  When I am faced with a choice, I ask, will this action make this picture a reality?   (Welcome back Game of Thrones, your lawless world was missed!)Littlefinger Game of Thrones




4 Replies to “Priorities make choices – How the road to financial independence is changing my priorities.”

  1. I think all of us, in our personal, professional, and financial lives, wish we could have done things a little bit differently. While it seems like you didn’t optimize your finances from day 1, you eventually got yourself to a pretty good place. Being in radonc certainly doesn’t hurt!

    1. Yeah we eventually caught on, and it’s amazing that the internet, mainly blogs, were the reason. I was always distrustful of the internet, but with a little care there is good stuff out there. Who knows what books I would have picked up if not for some guidance from guys like you. Probably would have been Mad Money by Jim Cramer or something like that.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I made a few mistakes myself. I left my first job after 4 years and gave up some of my 401k match…but my current job matches almost 3x as much annually, has a pension, and free health insurance…so it was a financially intelligent thing to do.

    It is funny how homes can screw us. I was never much into cars, but my home experience has been sad. If I had kept my home in fellowship it would be worth a 150% more now in just 5 years. Makes me quite sad to think about it and it is quite crazy.

    1. Homes can screw you! My still is 4 years later from a foundation issue. I’ll post on home horrors soon, but you are so right about that. I’ve never missed out on a big home sale profit, sounds like loss aversion. Recognize the cognitive bias and move on!

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