A man who retired at 43 to travel says the biggest challenge will be mental, not financial
Courtesy of Leif Dahleen
- Leif Dahleen, the blogger behind the Physician on FIRE, retired from anesthesiology in August 2019 and is spending the next several months traveling with his family.
- For much of his career, he and his wife lived below their means, consistently saving about half of their income.
- Dahleen said his biggest challenge in early retirement will be transitioning from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset.
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Less than five years ago, Leif Dahleen, an anesthesiologist living in Northern Minnesota, realized he could afford to retire early.
After about a decade practicing medicine, he had saved and invested an amount equal to 25 times his family's annual spending - the magic number for financial independence.
"My wife and I have lived a life of relative frugality, at least as compared to most of my physician peers," he wrote in a blog post. "We've settled into a spending pattern where we're both comfortable. We weren't trying to achieve any particular goal - we just spent with intention on the things we value, donated generously, and saved and invested the rest."
But Dahleen wanted to keep working, in part to nail down a plan for what early retirement would actually look like for him, his wife, and their two young sons. He started a blog, Physician on FIRE, to track his progress. While he acknowledges his six-figure salary helped considerably, the family continued to live well below their means, saving about 50% of their income each year.
In August 2019, at age 43, Dahleen finally left work. He calls his current status "retired not retired" as he continues to manage his blog, which generates enough revenue to support his family and donate to charity.
"Honestly, I think giving ourselves permission to spend might be the biggest challenge. We do splurge on occasion, but for most of our lives, we've had a 'save for a rainy day' mentality," he told Business Insider.
For the next several months, Dahleen and his family will be traveling through Ecuador and Spain. Lodging and flights for the four-month trip - bisected by a brief stop back home - cost about $10,000 total, he said. That includes a month living on a four-bedroom yacht in Barcelona. They also have a month-long cruise booked for next year that cost less than $7,000 for the family of four.
"Even if the markets perform much worse than they have at any point in the last 100 years, we should still be OK," Dahleen said. "The challenge is more of a psychological one than a true financial challenge."
He continued: "It's making that transition from a scarcity mindset - which I had early on - to one of abundance. Being generous with our charitable giving and having a charitable mission with my online profits has helped in adopting that abundance mindset."
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