“One of the great realizations of life can come from discovering that the outputs you are being compensated for are not exciting or fulfilling. When that realization comes, it’s time to honor that truth and make a change.” pg. 189. Brendon Burchard’s “High Performance Habits”
Overwhelmed is the main feeling I’ve had since the end of February when we finally got up the gumption to make some difficult decisions we’d been putting off for over half a year. In hindsight, perhaps these weren’t the wisest moves to do all at once—because a massive amount of change all close together can really stress a human out. But hey, you can’t have an adventure without feeling a bit stretched. Read on to find out more about what we’ve been up to lately:
Sometime last year we realized we’d hit what I call lean FIRE—the number that (including the worth of our house) is 25 times our annual spending. So hypothetically we could retire and live on a 4% drawdown rate—but dang, the paperwork involved with accessing our asset protected status assets. #PaperWorkHeadAches
The other issue with reaching FIRE is that it gives you too many options (first world problems, I know). That is if you’re willing to make changes to your life when you hit FIRE. It’s hard to cause massive upheaval—like quitting jobs or moving to a lower cost of living area.
Right now though, neither one of us are ready to walk away from working in American medicine completely. But doing the same thing for the next ten years…well that’s just a money jail. And it’s time to break outta this joint!
So that played into our thinking about “What do we do next?”
Asking this question led us to talk about even more issues.
Physicians ponder Midlife Mortality:
What if we don’t live to see traditional retirement age? We see people our age dying all the time, leaving kids behind. We both have friends from med school or undergrad that have died already.
Since when did we get “old” all of a sudden? We have arrived at the old age of young and are about to be at the young age of old. This is a crossroads, and we want to slow down and choose our next steps wisely.
What do we do with the remainder of this one precious life? Our young boys are still at an age where they want to hang around us—though this won’t last for long according to our friends who have older children. These friends have told us traveling in the summer with older kids will become more problematic as tweens/teens want to go to camps with their own friends—so if we’re going to travel extensively in the summer, we should do it now.
We’re at T minus ten years for our older son leaving the house, so what to do with this last precious decade? Should we take a gap year now? But we aren’t those types of people: you know, the ones with degrees in sainthood who can travel for a year year with their family. We’re a family of (mostly) introverts who like to stay home and venture out periodically. And besides, our oldest isn’t interested in world schooling right now and DH and I aren’t either (though I am open to the idea later on).
What would happen if we tried something different with our lives? What would that look like and what should it be at this stage? How should we approach that?
Our kids don’t run our household, but we wanted to hear their thoughts, so we had open discussions about what their goals and values are so we could take their desires into account while we were figuring out what to do. (I already ask them frequently what they want to do more of—this is a huge reason why we bought a camper.) They have shown an interest in learning Spanish, but they want to be in one place, not traveling around all the time.
So we took all that into account while mulling things over. We took over half a year kicking ideas around until finally, at the end of February, we decided what to do for at least the next year of our lives.
First, we had to do something about my VA job.
I’ve completed my 5 years as a federal government worker. This means I should receive the teeniest of pension, which should allow my children to pay the taxes on my diapers when I’m in a nursing home.
Now I’m ready to move on from outpatient palliative care and try something new. I officially quit my job on May 8th. Goodbye cheap health insurance, hello 18 months of expensive Cobra.
Like Dragon Lady recently said to me: “It’s so hard when everything is so comfortable—comfort kills!”
True that. Staying in our current situation, repeating the same year over and over, would be the easiest, less risky/scary thing for us to do. But we’ve felt like, since last year, all our ties in Tampa Bay were loosening—that it was time to move on and get out of our comfort zone so we could grow.
Staying comfortable is why we kept putting off moving to a place we’ve felt called to since last July. We’re accustomed to the Tampa Bay Area and knew it’d be a lot of work to change things up. Plus it was super hard to leave some seriously awesome friends here.
The whole Tampa Bay Area is booming (so if you’re looking to work hard and make money, come here). As a result, the housing costs in our peninsula have skyrocketed.
Saying we’re not comfortable keeping up with the Joneses in this area is an understatement. The lifestyle here is a bit of a bubble. There’s a lot of wealth in this peninsula and it’s on full display—to the point that if you live here, you become so accustomed to it that most other parts of the US look “poor” in comparison (which is laughable, since we, as a nation, are so wealthy).
So it’s bittersweet to write this: we have to leave so we don’t stagnate and also to make sure our kids can grow up in a less affluent area. I feel like the children living here are under tremendous pressure to excel so they too can have the same—or better—lifestyle they’ve grown up with. I need to give my kids the freedom to choose to do whatever they want with their lives—even if that means choosing lower paying jobs than what their parents had.
But Why move to Gainesville, Florida?
A friend said us moving to Gainesville is our midlife crisis. No, that came earlier—it was deciding what to do after hitting lean FI that was our “crisis.”
I have family in Gainesville, and we’ve kicked the idea of moving up there around over the years. The kids have been asking for a more country-type lifestyle (they also want a farm. We said no to that—but I let them adopt a cactus this last week, so that must count for something).
We knew from research that because Gainesville has so many graduates that want to stay after graduation, it’d be challenging to find a job there. Everyone here in St. Pete who’s ever lived in Gainesville lights up when they hear we’re moving there and say with longing they wished they still lived there.
When we first decided to move, we didn’t have job offers there. This is where you have faith that life will work out. DH is now in the process of credentialing for a part-time job up there. I’m going to focus on the family and getting us settled in, so I’m on Sabbatical and will send my CV out for part-time work after the first of the year. Probably.
We’ll rent for the next school year and go from there. I’m asking DH about possibly doing some outside the box thinking on housing, but who knows what we’ll do.
All I know is Gainesville has a vibrant FI community with some seriously cool people I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting. The city is big on solar power and is one of the most bike-friendly cities we’ve ever biked through (yes, we’re biker nerds who bike through areas we’re considering moving to). I find the traffic much less stressful than the jammed streets I deal with in St. Pete. And I’m sorta okay with possibly going back down to one car (as long as DH is lit up like a Christmas tree) as there’s less traffic and more bike commuters in Gainesville.
And despite what people in St. Pete have said to me, there’s racial diversity in Gainesville. Actually, if you compare the charts in Wikipedia, there’s more diversity up there than in St. Pete. And DH and I loved the fact that while touring the kids’ new school last November, we heard people speaking Spanish.
Struggle is part of anything in life that is truly worthwhile.
Now we’ve said goodbye to the house that was our home for the past 5 and a half years. Our belongings are stored inside 5 Uhaul pods for the summer. And we asked ourselves, why not go somewhere before we move for the kids’ start of school in August?
Plan A for the summer was me attending a writing program, but alas, I wasn’t one of the 15 students they accepted. Instead, we had five weeks to pack up our house and put together a Plan B. We opted for slow travel, focusing on one city with a side trip to another country. Last year we’d researched the possibility of moving to Medellín, Colombia for two months. Well, now we’ve done it—except for 2 and a half months!
People have had plenty of reactions to this news. Some say we’re naive. Others say we’re brave—but they don’t realize Medellín has reinvented itself, so it’s no longer Pablo Escobar’s playground.
At first, I thought we were perhaps a little foolhardy to move here as I found the whole idea a bit nerve-wracking beforehand. But I refuse to have my life’s actions (or inactions) dictated by other’s fears! 💪🙌 And as a good friend recently said to me: Fear is systemic, and it’s time we reject it! What we’re doing is indeed scary and difficult, but aren’t all fantastic things in life something you have to work hard for?
All I know is, we could not have done any of this if we had never joined the FI community. The inspiration, guidance, and courage they have given us have made this jump easier.
And now, here in Medellín, my heart is content—but I’ll write more about this in future blogs over this summer.
Tune in next time where I’ll answer all the questions people have peppered us with since they’ve found out our plans. Until then, take a look at your finances and learn more about how to handle them better: You got this!
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25 thoughts on “FIRE: Our Midlife Crisis”
I hardly think of you as mid-life, but that’s more a comment on me than on you. Always enjoy what you have to say.
Thanks for stopping by, I always enjoy reading your comments.
Thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Can’t wait for more. Wishing you the strength to continue make changes in your life when and if you hit the point of need. We did huge change once, but then were afraid to do another. And we regret it. You have my endless admiration.
Thanks for everything—we couldn’t have done this move without amazing friends like you!
Change is hard. You get in a comfort zone and it is scary to leave it for the great unknown.
Congratulations on already hitting lean Fire. That is an achievement at your age for sure.
I hope the move goes smoothly and you enjoy Gainsville. My girlfriend just moved there this month and looks like a great community.
DH and I were just saying you’ll have to move down and join her—it’s a neat FI community they have going on there! We can start an FI-Doc tribe (just need to get POF to move back to town, lol). 😉
Sounds absolutely fabulous 🙂 hope you have a wonderful summer!!
I know you know this but 4 x 25 is good for a 30 year retirement and dangerous as the period extends. My kids are adopted orphans from China so we’ve traveled twice to different parts of China to acquire our new family member total about 7 weeks gone. My oldest has been around the world twice. I got some bamboo at the zoo and made my kid a flute with a pocket knife, what a hoot.
Gasem, thanks for stopping by—I was just reading your excellent post on Crispy Doc’s site yesterday. Yes, great point—it is concerning we’re in the midst of a 12 year bull with low interest rates, however DH is still working and not only are we not withdrawing any of our savings, we’re still managing to put money into savings. And moving to a lower cost of living area does wonders for your FIRE number…more on that later though. 😉
Wow. You are off the treadmill starting last month?
I guess I missed that news.
Good for you.
It does take courage to step off the beaten path. But it is the right thing to do.
I took two huge voluntary pay cuts in my career. And I went to part-time at age 50. No regrets here.
Glad you stopped by. I agree-cutting back gives zero regrets!
This is my first visit to your site, and much of what you’ve written in this post has really resonated, particularly the part about repeating the same year over and over again. Like you pulled the thought right out of my brain! I’ve felt this way for far too many of the twelve years since residency. We too have reached Lean FI and are finally making some changes including recently selling our house and starting a 10 month lease, using this time to figure out the next steps. Job plans are unclear, but funny enough we’re focusing on the Tampa Bay area- from our west coast point of view the cost of living there looks soooo reasonable! Anyway, I look forward to following your story as your plans and adventures unfold. It’s always lovely to read great thought and ideas from like-minded people!
Thanks for stopping by Elisa and super excited for you as you make your changes! Join the Tampa Bay PMG group (if you haven’t already)-they are full of great advice!
PMG= Physician Mom’s Group maybe? I’m not a mom! Do you know of any similar nonMom groups in that area? I’d love to start getting connected with people there.
Yes, Actually everyone calls it PMG but really it’s just Women physicians these days. Search FB and you’ll find loads of these groups under the name of “Women Physicians…” And even if it says Female Mom physicians, they let in nonmom peeps (Pets count as children too!).
As someone who is enjoying the “young age of old” stage, I appreciate seeing your thought process spelled out in a manner that allows the rest of us to identify ourselves having the same internal dialogue (albeit less articulately). It’s generous to let us piggyback on your understanding of the issues that define the midlife crisis.
We have recently arrived at a new appreciation for routine, which was not something I felt at the “old age of young” stage where it represented only stasis. Work, however, is not the part of the routine we cherish.
I’m excited to hear more about your adventures in Medellin; your relocation to Gainesville; and the wins and losses as you go along.
You are completely right that there’s a certain understanding of fragility when you realize you may have more years behind you than ahead of you. That realization, fortunately, comes with a tremendous sense of freedom from caring what others think. You have less time so you don’t want to waste it.
Younger me believed frontal disinhibition resulted from cortical atrophy, framing it as a form of deterioration; older me is suspecting a combined sense of time urgency and intolerance for BS makes it the logical choice in relating to others.
Excited for your next stage,
CD, thanks for stopping by and leaving such eloquent comments yourself! Yes, I agree: intolerance for BS rises as one ages…I actually write something along these lines towards the end of a blog scheduled for release next month. Excited for your trip this summer! Find me an Aunt 😉
We just went to Colombia, unfortunately we skipped Medellín, although it came very highly recommended to us. This midlife crisis sounds healthy– an introspection of your priorities and what you really want in life. I’m very curious to see how it works out!
There’s a reason it’s so highly recommended by people in the know: it’s an amazing place! We are thoroughly enjoying our time here and are so grateful we made the huge, difficult moves to make this summer possible. What a blessing! Glad you were able to experience a part of Colombia (as one of my friends said to me right before we left: “I just came back from Colombia and would return there in a heart beat!”)