Friday, May 17, 2013

Following the dream, or how to avoid carking it within a year of retiring

I have a dream.

Stop working a regular job and go travelling.

Long term.

Probably with some extended periods back home as well, but not working a regular job.

My job doesn't cater well to working on a casual basis within a limited time span. Sick people like to have a regular doctor, someone they can rely on to be there for many years, that understands their problems, that remembers the highs and lows in their life. And yes, I like that continuity too, of seeing kids grow up and be your patient as an adult, and see them become parents too. Of looking after people in their final years, and sharing their children's grief at their passing.

It is possible to do casual doctoring, called locum work, but it's not professionally rewarding, except financially, and you have to do enough of it to cover your startup costs. Which are considerable.

Most professions, and doctors are no different, have to maintain a professional standard. This means belonging to a continuing education program and completing a prescribed number and type of training activities as set out by the program. All of this costs money. A lot of money.

Then there is membership of the registration board, which in 2011 went National, a good idea, but also tripled in price to belong to. And if you aren't registered, you can't work.

Finally, there is your indemnity insurance, which you must pay in order to work and to get registration. Depending on what procedures you do, and how much you work, this can cost anything from $3000 a year to many hundreds of thousands. If you deliver babies, insurance starts at around 80-100K per year!! Now you wonder why obstetricians charge so much??

Now whether I work for one week in a year or 52 weeks in a year, the minimum amount of money I need to pay annually to work as a non procedural GP is about $6000. Sure if I worked for 2 months per year I would well and truly make that money back, and make enough to travel for the other 10 months, but it's still tying me to a regular timetable of returning to Oz to work, finding the time to attend training seminars to keep my points up, and unrewarding work. Trust me, locum work isn't fun for the doctor either.

Alternatively, that $6000 could last me 5-6 months in SE Asia, or 2 months skiing in NZ, and not needing to also factor in a flight home to Australia to work, plus the costs of attending training conferences and the pressure of keeping up to date with latest medical research.

You see my point?

It makes total sense to give up the doctor job and follow the dream. And not go back again.

Which is why I have been agonising over my budget for the last six months, analysing what happened financially when I took six months off last year (and loved it!!), and crunching numbers to see how much passive income I can squeeze out of my investments.

Which is incredibly stressful!

I suspect retirement, as a lifechanging event, is up there with having your first child, and all the accompanying uncertainties that come with it. I'm incredibly lucky that I'm not impoverished and am trying to find the money to follow a dream, not just to keep a roof over my head. But that doesn't mean that the transition, or rather, the planning for transition, isn't without a lot of sleepless nights, multiple scenario calculations going on in my head, and the occasional panic attack.

And frequent flyer points on my bank's internet page micro-managing my finances!

I suddenly had the insight as to why so many people end up dying soon after reaching retirement. It isn't because they suddenly haven't anything to do. It's because they've spent the final couple of years preceding retirement worrying their little socks off wondering whether they have enough money to give up the day job. My arteries are hardening as I write this!

So as much as I know I've got to chill out, not micro-manage everything into insanity, and restrict my internet visits to my bank account, it's a hard ask. Thank goodness it's only 6 weeks till my ski trip to New Zealand where I can try and live day by day for a while.

And since I've reached my savings goal 2 months ahead of target, I have no excuses but to smile, be happy and rejoice in another drop in the interest rate.

Poor precious me.....

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