An Identity Crisis

July 18, 2017, by pathwise

One of the meetings you have surely had with us (or if you’ve joined the firm within the last year or so will have in the future) covers the topic of financial independence. We like to use the term “vocational freedom”…..meaning you reach a point in your financial picture where you can do whatever (or nothing) you’d like. Much of this is based on math and decades of historical research, and when we run our projections and make our conclusions, our level of confidence is pretty high. Especially when we are here to guide you through the ups and downs of the markets and life in general.

Now while we tend to think of “retirement” or “vocational freedom” in terms of a client hitting their 50’s or 60’s, this is simply a convention rather than a rule. In fact, there is no rule around age in the math that we do behind the scenes. Achieving “vocational freedom” in your 40’s or even 30’s is completely achievable and not unheard of. In fact, clients that are introduced to us in their 20’s have the potential to achieve financial freedom earlier in life than the people in some professions even finish college!

The problem with all of this is the psychological issue of identity. Most, if not all, of our clients, have spent considerable time, money, and energy “becoming” who they are. No client group exemplifies this more than the medical professionals we work with. Becoming a doctor or a dentist is daunting from an education and training standpoint. Medical school is followed by residency, which is years of pretty much doing nothing but working. Perhaps due to the nature of the training involved or our approach in today’s society, medical professionals tend to see their personal lives “merged” with their professional lives. That is, even when they go home, they are still “doctors.” This makes their planning and life exceptionally difficult because in addition to all of the other complexities in achieving financial freedom, they have to deal with the identity crisis of “if I’m not working as a doctor, then who am I?” To be clear, this issue affects computer programmers, lawyers, and many others but it’s an especially acute issue for doctors. This becomes a problem when they get burned out early in their careers and want to leave medicine. For one thing, it’s hard to go back to medicine after taking a long time off. Technology, continuing education, and other issues preclude many doctors from taking a “10-year hiatus”. So there is an extra psychological step that is quite significant in planning for “vocational freedom” when you’re in the medical field. Part of the process is not financial at all, rather it’s about rediscovering who you were before medical school and bringing that person back into the picture. We focus a lot of our behind the scenes work on various psychological studies to ensure that your financial life matches up with your wishes and we’re here to help you along a journey that is filled with holes, detours, unknowns, and downright scary moments.