It is essential for all current and future PAs to consider pursuing FI (financial independence).
What is FI?
FI stands for Financial Independence, which is the first half of the FIRE acronym (Financial Independence Retire Early). Once a PA reaches FI, the RE part is optional. In the FI community, FI is considered the point a person or couple has reached when their savings is 25x their annual expenses. For example, if a couple spends $80,000 on their expenses per year, they would need to reach $2 million to have been considered to have reached FI. The two very condensed ways to achieve FI sooner rather than later are (1) to cut your expenses and (2) to increase your savings rate, all while investing as much as possible for the future.
The generally suggested 25x annual expenses in savings is based on the Trinity study. This study showed that if a person or couple were to withdraw 4% of their savings annually to spend in retirement, there is a 95% chance that their money would last for 30 years (this is also called the 4% rule). If you are familiar with this concept, you may be thinking, “But wait, if I do plan on retiring early in my 40s or 50s, then 30 years based on the Trinity Study doesn’t sound as though it would last me until the end of my life?” That is completely true, so if you are looking to truly retire early, you likely should aim for having 30 to 33 times your annual expenses in your invested nest egg combined with your other streams of income that are not your traditional working role. Some will choose to have some type of income once they’ve reached FI to still be able to RE with 25x their annual expenses (think part time work, a side job, entrepreneurship, rental properties that generate income, etc.). Additionally, many will choose to decrease their withdrawal rate if the market is lower for a period of time to conserve their money. Pursuing FI takes patience and persistence, but hey, so did becoming a PA, so you got this!
The Trinity Study also assumes the average for the stock market’s rate of return to continue to be the amount of 7% – 8% since the 1950s. Even though the market has crashed several times since the early 1900s, the market always comes back up, and rises higher to what it had previously been. The standard FI key to investing is to consider investing in low-cost broad-based index funds, and to not panic when the market dips. Rather, continue to invest in the market, and envision it as though it were on sale!
So why do PAs pursue FI? There are so many reasons! To help treat and prevent burnout by empowering you to be able to practice medicine how you want to. To retire early (if this is a desired goal). To work part time. To develop and practice hobbies. To travel the world. To spend more time with family and friends. To start a passion project such as a business or nonprofit organization. To give back to others. To have the time and headspace to truthfully figure out what you would like to do with your “one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver). I hope you can see that ultimately, FI is a choice for freedom and flexibility!
What is your "Why of FI"?
In order to be focused on your journey to financial independence, you and your significant other need to understand what the reasons are for your decision.
Once you are clear on why you want to pursue FI, take the time to deeply consider what things or experiences you truly value in life to continue to spend on those things, while cutting back on the things that don't bring you much joy.
Steps to FI
Here are some initial steps that you can take towards your journey to financial independence:
- Take an overall inventory of your finances
- Track where every dollar is going for 1 - 3 months
- Start budgeting
- Calculate your net worth and track it
- Tackle your high interest debt aggressively
- Make a plan to pay off your student loans
- Get your employer's match for your 401K or other retirement account
- Increase your contributions to your retirement account through your employer
- Consider opening a Roth IRA and investing in it
- Check to see if you qualify for an HSA and if it would be a good fit for you to invest in it as well
- Negotiate your worth
- Consider setting up disability and life insurance
- Continue your education to become financially literate through sites like this, blogs, podcasts, and books
About PA the FI Way
Hello there! I'm Katarina Astrup, MSPAS, PA-C, but feel free to call me “Kat”. I’m a PA-C who has been practicing in medicine since 2014 when I started in family medicine as well as a smattering of urgent care, and most recently have been practicing in outpatient psychiatry.
The Midwest is my home as I have lived in Minnesota my whole life, and my husband and I are fortunate to live close to both of our families. Although I don’t enjoy the almost 6 months of frigid winter that we can experience each year, ice fishing has become one of my favorite hobbies to help pass the time. Traveling internationally and domestically is my other favorite pastime! I am also the Founder of PA the FI Way, where I started teaching current and future PAs about financial independence through my website ( pathefiway.com ) and podcast. I am so incredibly excited to be joining the team at PAs for Financial Growth to help spread financial literacy through the lens of FI.
Life has seemed pretty great, and I feel truly blessed! Now, some of you may be asking, “Well, why are you into FI (financial independence) with the future option of RE (retiring early) if you enjoy your PA job and your life?” That’s an excellent question! I firmly believe that there is more to life than working hard until you are at least 65 years old, and THEN retiring to FINALLY relax, travel, find out what hobbies are enjoyable, spend time with friends and family, and so many more things! The beauty of financial independence is that you do not necessarily have to retire early if you do not want to (although it can certainly be an option for you)! Financial independence is about creating the life you want to live, choosing when to retire if you want to retire early, choosing when to cut back on traditional work, or choosing when to work on another passion in your life.
Although I have enjoyed my career in medicine, I was experiencing burnout while working in family medicine in early 2020, which was only amplified by the COVID pandemic. Becoming financially literate and making the decision to pursue financial independence has helped treat and prevent future burnout for me, which is why I’m excited to help share the concepts that will be discussed here with you through PAs for Financial Growth.