What If Everyone In The World FIRE’d?
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“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.”– Chris Isaak, Wicked Game
I am sort of glad that I am in the vast minority of the general population in terms of wanting to pursue financial independence in the hopes of one day retiring much earlier than the traditional age.
It got me thinking though.
There is a large group of people who are far wealthier than me, in fact several magnitudes of order more.
There are billionaires who work just as hard, if not harder, than a normal 9-5 wage earner.
What is their driving force?
They have already won the game.
And it’s not just billionaires, there are many ultrahigh net worth individuals that are typically in the 8 figure or more net worth range that continue working full tilt.
These people do not have to earn another cent and still have the means to live a luxurious life without concerns for rising health care costs or even inflation eroding their purchasing power.
They can park all their money in ultraconservative investments and still pull a six figure salary at the minimum.
They, as William Bernstein has put it, “have won the game.”
So why are they still playing?
Are they wired differently from me?
I would say in my childhood and early adulthood I was ultracompetitive.
I had to be.
To qualify for medical school admissions you not only had to be near the top of your class, you had to show that you were involved with extra-curricular activities that set you apart from every other applicant (who likely sported the highest grades from their respective schools as well).
In med school I had to be competitive to get high marks in rotations that allowed me to get into a competitive residency specialty (general surgery at the time and later radiology).
So why, starting in my mid 40’s have I seemingly turned off this competitive switch and start looking for an exit strategy?
I am a Type A personality as are most ultrahigh net worth individuals.
So what’s up with this transformation to a Type B lifestyle that I envision and want so badly?
Even more bewildering is how come those individuals far more successful than me have not already done the same?
I, for one, am glad that these non-transforming Type A individuals exist.
Can you imagine a world where every individual just stops in their tracks when they reach their magic FIRE number?
Elon Musk would have checked out eons ago and never pushed the boundaries of Tesla vehicles or solar energy.
Technology may never have advanced as rapidly as it has if these pioneers just left the game early when they knew they never needed to work again.
There are likely many factors that may divulge why I, and many other physicians, are giving this FIRE trend momentum and flipping that switch.
Physician burnout is probably at the forefront.
Medicine has transformed considerably from what was considered “the golden age of medicine.”
There was a time a physician was a true leader of the medical team, a captain of the ship.
It was not too long ago that when a physician entered a hospital floor doing rounds that nurses and all staff would stand up as a sign of respect.
When a physician ordered a study or lab, he or she did not have to argue with insurance companies to get approval.
Declining reimbursements have forced physicians to cram more patients into their schedules to offset this financial loss.
As the physician is tasked with more and more non-medical duties through government regulations (such as electronic health records/paperwork), there is less time to enjoy the medical ones.
I do admit that although FIRE may be great for the individual, it may not be a great trend to have for society as a whole.
Perhaps a great advancement in medicine will never come to fruition as the individuals capable of making them leave their careers early because of the FIRE moment.
Society can suffer as the most experienced physicians start leaving in droves when they reach FIRE.
After writing this post, do I still feel the desire to FIRE?
Although there is some reward that can be gained with altruistic actions that better society, it pales in comparison to the reward I receive by prioritizing family over work.
For me that is envisioning a life where I can slowly cut down, if not completely eliminate, my clinical hours and spend time cultivating the best family setting possible.
What about you?
Do you feel the transformation from Type A to B going on, and if so are you resisting it or embracing it?
Please comment below.
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