The Money Meets Medicine Podcast

Coast FIRE: Save Less to Live More

Picture this: you’re a physician who put the work in to save money early. With savings piled up, without you lifting a finger you now have the ability to save less and live more, including the ability to go part-time in medicine. That’s the magic of Coast FIRE—a strategy where early financial hustle pays off big time down the road.

You might know it as front-loading your retirement savings to then coast into later years without stressing over every penny. It’s about making smart moves in your prime earning years and letting compound interest do the heavy lifting afterrwards.

This is more than just stashing cash; it’s reshaping how physicians think about work, life, and money. By embracing Coast FIRE principles now, you could find yourself picking up hobbies or part-time gigs you let fall by the wayside simply because they bring joy—not because you need the extra cash.

Ready for that kind of freedom? Let’s dive into how Coast FIRE works.

Table Of Contents:

Embracing Coast FIRE: A Strategic Approach for Physicians

Imagine being able to press the slow-down button on your hectic career as a physician, giving you more time to enjoy life while still keeping your financial goals on track. That’s what Coast FIRE is all about. It’s not just about saving up; it’s a smart game plan where early and aggressive savings can let you ease off the gas later.

This is exactly what my family and I did.  I saved over 30% of my gross income per year the first few years out of training. This allowed our savings to compound through investing in low-cost index funds the first 5 years of my career.

Then, with a sizable nest egg growing in our investment accounts, we were able to save less (15-20% of our income) and know that we will still be able to reach financial independence by the age want in our mid-40s.

Understanding the Basics of Coast FIRE

The core idea behind Coast FIRE is pretty straightforward. Save a lot early, then slow down (or eliminate) your savings later so that you can cut back on the amount of income you need to live your life.

This approach gives doctors some breathing room when they need it most. Let’s say mid-career burnout hits or family needs pop up; with a solid nest egg already in place thanks to earlier efforts, physicians can choose part-time work or even take an extended sabbatical without jeopardizing their long-term financial health.

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For me, this became important when my three kids were old enough to have tee-ball games, concerts, and competitions. I wanted to miss as few of these opportunities to support my kids, which led me to cut back to two days per week in academic anesthesia.  Yet, this also meant I’d need to save less money in order to maintain our lifestyle while earning a lower income.

The Role of Compounding Interest in Coast FIRE

By front-loading your retirement accounts and investments early on in your career as a physician, each dollar saved begins its own journey of exponential growth over time.

Let’s look at an example of Coast FIRE: If at age 32 you start stacking cash aggressively until 42 instead of spreading that effort out until traditional retirement ages, by letting those dollars compound untouched afterwards—you’re setting yourself up with a bigger pot at the end than if you’d dribbled contributions throughout decades.

This magic works only if these funds remain invested wisely though—growth must consistently outpace inflation so that when D-day arrives (aka retirement), purchasing power stands strong.

Key Takeaway: 

Coast FIRE lets doctors hit ‘pause’ on the grind, by saving big early for a chill mid-career. Save now, relax later.

With Coast FIRE, save aggressively when you earn most so that money trees grow while you take it easy or pivot in life.

Front-load your savings and let compounding interest be the hero of your financial story—save early, then coast to victory.

Maximizing Earning Potential in Prime Years

What are some things you might use Coast FIRE to accomplish at a later point in your career?  I gave the example of being able to cut back to part-time so that I could attend my kid’s activities above, but there are other reasons you might want this ability to cut back.

Concentrating Earnings and Savings Before a Sabbatical

What if you are among the number of physicians who are burning out?  Or considering a career change? This may sound like a great idea, but I can tell you from experience that your job in medicine provides a lot of purpose.

Before you take that leap into full-time retirement, you might consider taking a break from medicine.  Feel it out. See what the “good life” is all about and if it is really good at all. If you are retiring “from” medicine and not “to” something else, the odds are that you may find the sabbatical is a challenge.

Either way, this ability to cut back and to explore what life away from medicine might provide is only afforded to you if you have diligently saved early so that you had the cushion you need to perform this experiment.

Planning for Shorter Time Windows

We’re talking about trading in those traditional retirement plans for something more akin to interval training. Focus on short bursts—like three-to-five-year windows—and plan aggressively within them. That way when things come up, you have the ability to be flexible. For example, let’s say that a family member suddenly takes ill.

If you have saved diligently early, you may be able to take the time you need to support your family without the concern of being able to someday be able to retire.

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With a focus both on the long-term financial independence goal you may have and also the shorter-term needs that may arise, Coast FIRE provides the flexibility for both. It’s like prepping for marathons but running sprints instead; they get you further faster because they demand focus and discipline.

This method flips the script on saving by intensifying efforts over shorter periods rather than stretching thin over decades—which sometimes feels longer than waiting for water to boil when you’re already late.

Diving into Coast FIRE doesn’t mean turning your back on medicine—it’s quite the opposite. This approach gives doctors permission slips to pursue passions outside of white coats and stethoscopes without worrying about their bank accounts flatlining.

And, if you are like me, you may find that part-time medicine is not only a salve for the burnout you may be experiencing, but it may also lead to much greater enjoyment when you are at the hospital or clinic. I truly enjoy working in medicine in a way that I never could have imagined when I was at peak burnout.

You see, working part-time after reaching this milestone doesn’t just add variety—it fortifies your financial fortress against unexpected sieges down the line. Compounding interest works its magic while you explore other ventures or simply enjoy more family time, letting every dollar stretch.

Key Takeaway: Hit your financial stride during prime years by saving aggressively, so you can coast into early retirement with ease and keep your options open.

Embrace short savings sprints over long marathons to build wealth quickly, making the path to Coast FIRE a focused dash rather than a prolonged crawl.

Coast FIRE means more than money—it’s freedom for doctors to explore beyond the clinic without monetary worries, as savings continue growing back home.

Coast FIRE is not just about having enough cash; it’s the freedom it grants—freedom that lets you write that novel, volunteer abroad on a mission trip, or even launch a startup. Think of it as stashing away enough acorns today so tomorrow you can roam freely through the forest of opportunity.

What are some dreams or hobbies that you left behind when medicine began consuming your life?  Maybe you were able to find the time you needed to avoid this, but for many doctors – like me – keeping up with some hobbies, like exercise or writing were hard to pursue with 60-80 work weeks.

Coast FIRE provides you the one resource that is always finite – time.  And, ultimately, that’s the purpose of money, right?  To be able to do what you want, when you want, with the people you want. It is about time freedom. Money simply serves as the means to that end.

Impact of Working Part-Time on Retirement Assets

Maintaining even a reduced patient load after hitting your Coast FIRE number can do wonders for your retirement stash. It may teach you how to take the glidepath that many find helpful in their retirement years. Instead of viewing retirement like a cliff where you go from working 60 hours per week to 0 overnight, what if you had a glidepath where you gradually worked less and less?

This provides you the time to perform that aforementioned experiment to find your purpose after retirement. To find the ever elusive purpose you are retiring “to” instead of retiring from medicine.

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It’s like adding an extra layer of varnish to make sure it lasts longer. A few hours here and there aren’t just good for keeping skills sharp; they’re also bolstering retirement assets against unforeseen down turns in the market.

For example, if you need $100,000 per year in retirement, The 25X Rule would suggest that you need $2.5 million to be financially independent. Yet if you work part-time in medicine and make $20,000 doing so, you now only need $2 million. By working some, you actually allow yourself to reach your number sooner.

This strategic padding does more than provide peace-of-mind; working part-time means continued income which translates directly into less drawdown from investments, letting compound interest continue its magic dance well into your golden years. And because these additional earnings come post-Coast FIRE threshold, they often enjoy greater flexibility regarding how much and when—a stark contrast from earlier career constraints dictated by hefty student loans or practice overheads.

Key Takeaway: Coast FIRE lets doctors front-load savings to enjoy a future where part-time work or new ventures are possible without financial stress. It’s about saving up now for the freedom to chase dreams later.

Working part-time after reaching Coast FIRE can extend your retirement funds, keep skills sharp, and provide extra income for peace of mind during your golden years.

Accounting for Inflation in Investment Growth

Inflation—the silent fun sponge—is always looking to crash our party. On average, annual inflation has hovered around 2-3% on average. But fear not. By growing your investments at rates that defeat inflation ensures that when prices go up (and they will), so does the value of your portfolio.

This isn’t guesswork; use tools like compound interest calculators (here is my favorite), which let you peek into future scenarios where each dollar works overtime so future-you can kick back sooner rather than later. Subtract 2% from whatever you expect to earn in the market, and that will adjust future dollars to today’s dollars to give you an idea of how much you need to save in order to, say, hit that $2.5 million example above.

The trick lies in choosing investment vehicles designed specifically to trump inflation—a mix of stocks and bonds often does this dance beautifully—and rebalancing them regularly keeps things smooth sailing towards Coast FIRE island.

​Take Home

Coast FIRE is all about saving aggressively early on to reap the benefits later. Remember, it’s not just about amassing wealth; it’s finding that sweet spot where your savings work for you.

Compounding interest is your best friend here. Let those early investments grow and take the pressure off down the line. Think in shorter bursts of high-efficiency saving rather than a lifelong grind to traditional retirement age.

Coast FIRE means options—part-time work or pursuing passions without money worries holding you back.

The path to financial ease is clear: front-load your efforts, keep an eye on compound gains, and tailor your career moves around flexibility and joy. Coast FIRE isn’t just smart finance—it’s smart living.

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