This weekend I went back country camping with a close friend in Northern California, witnessing the residual smoky haze of the fires firsthand as we snaked along Interstate 80 in poor visibility en route to the Western Sierras.
My thoughts at the time were with EJ at Dads, Dollars and Debts, who lives in the area. A week earlier, I reached out via email after he posted about his mandatory evacuation. On my return to civilization, EJ had written about the devastating loss of his home in the Tubbs Fire.
A weird thing happened next. A group of bloggers in the FI/RE community, led by Liz at ChiefMomOfficer decided to come together after EJ’s experience by posting a chain of emergency preparedness links in light of this year’s disaster-fest. I’m grateful to Liz and the others who’ve posted on this chain in hopes of making us all a little safer.
It’s official: a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that as of 2014, Emergency Medicine (EM) took the top slot for physician burnout (59%). Suck it, critical care (50%). In your face, OB/GYN (56%). We’re #1, we’re # ...huh?
How did my beloved field of EM win the race to nowhere? When I was in medical school, the pioneering faculty insisted that EM’s reputation for early burnout was based on the fact that those docs who’d burnt out had trained in another field, couldn’t hack it in their chosen specialties, and ended up woefully underprepared to spend their careers in EM. As a medical student, I saw EM transform from Rodney Dangerfield disrespected to George Clooney sexy. A full 13% of my class at UCSF matched in EM. We smugly believed we knew what we were getting into, and we took for granted our ability to work as lifers.
So what happened?
In the years following WWII, the U.S. helped Japan rebuild infrastructure and institutions. From that time onward, the relationship has been mostly a bromance. Our nations have arguably become the Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson of the G-8, putting one another in playful headlocks when negotiating Pacific trade agreements or playing wingman when a cute vulnerable bachelorette country finds itself in need of rescue from a douchebag regional bully with nuclear capabilities.
John Maynard Keynes, famed British economist, was a piece of work. He developed and promoted modern macroeconomic theory. Government monetary policy during the Great Recession of 2008 was based directly on his ideas, which many credit with having prevented a full-blown depression. He was openly bisexual in the Victorian era (!), and kept diaries in which he tabulated his conquests numerically (In my best Seinfeld voice: What’s the deal with economists...is there anything they won’t count?).
The FI movement consists of a fringe group of people scattered across the globe who shun conventional consumer culture.
Could the experience of such a tiny group of individuals with deviant financial behavior and limited means someday have an outsize impact on the world?
Stranger things have happened. Read on for a far-fetched tale of improbable impact by a misfit of medicine.
Every now and again I succumb to sappier impulses. It must have been from watching too many reruns of When Harry Met Sally back in the day. Forgive the indulgence!
Makes 1 heaping serving of financial independence.
Cooking time: Approximately a decade and a half after residency, depending on student debt, specialty income, and spending.
1 jar of resident lifestyle preserves
1 strong work ethic
1 aggressive savings rate
2 helpings of delayed gratification
+/- 1 partner on board with financial goals
It’s been four months since I returned my iphone to Sprint and my wife and I switched over to Project Fi, the no-contract cellular service operated by Google. Calls are routed preferentially via wi-fi when available, and on the Sprint or T-mobile networks when you’re away from wi-fi. We put Fi to the test by traveling out of country (Mexico City, then San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico). Our verdict: Victory for the forces of democratic freedom!*
Eventually, the ability to enjoy myself seeped back into my life, one area at a time. My kids sucked me back into their world that didn’t care about my troubles so long as I could splash them in the bath or read them a bedtime story. My wife was simply extraordinary. I didn’t feel deserving of my family’s love, but they shared it all the same, and it rescued me.
I was tired - it had been a busy winter shift and my head was spinning, but I was slowly winding down after a nice family dinner and some reading time with my daughter. My wife and I had put our toddler to bed and were catching up when the doorbell rang. Taking a perverse pleasure in the humiliation he strove to inflict, the stranger who asked for me announced loudly enough for the neighbors to hear that I’d been served papers in my first lawsuit.
I’d heard California called many things before. The Golden State. A nature lover’s paradise. A youth and beauty parade. But the White Coat Investor (WCI) was the first to call it out as a Financial Toxic Wasteland. I describe myself as an unrepentant Californian, owning up to my idiosyncrasies and accepting the faults (and more reluctantly, the fault lines) that come with being a native. I live within a two hour drive of my parents, take surface streets to an international airport, and have largely lucked into a life with a 20 minute non-freeway commute to work.
So why live in a place where state tax rates approach 9% for physician level income brackets? Where housing is expensive, cost of living is high, and physicians are more likely to be regarded as middle class due to their relatively poor purchasing power vis a vis peers in the tech and finance industries?