By Dr. Margaret Curtis, WCI Columnist
My family and I have some big changes ahead of us in the coming year. Our second kid is graduating from high school. (If you are wondering how I am doing with the prospect of an empty nest: not well. Not well at all.) My husband spent three weeks in Ukraine in April 2022, and he is now becoming involved with a humanitarian relief project there; he would love to do nothing but international volunteer work, but he doesn’t want to miss any high school hockey games so it will be a few more years.
I will be leaving my job in April, with a mixture of sadness and relief.
No better time, then, to look behind and ahead and to map out our next steps. In the spirit of the new year—and since my editor has promised to run this article on my birthday—I am going to put my thoughts in the form of resolutions. I will revisit them in a year and let you know how I did.
My New Year's Resolutions for 2023
#1 Start a New Venture
I’ve been a W-2 employee my entire career, and I’m starting to think it’s not such a great deal. I’ve got several next steps in various stages of development:
- Start a practice with a colleague: This is already underway. She will do direct primary care, and I will likely carve out a niche for myself, such as medically complex children or mental health. I love primary care, but as anyone who does it will tell you, being a PCP is exhausting. I need a little respite before I get back in the trenches.
- Write a book: This one is not as far along, but I’ve got ideas. “A Pediatrician’s Guide to Poop” is one. “Surviving a Toxic Workplace” is another. I may need to narrow my focus.
- Buy an Airstream and convert it into a mobile vasectomy clinic: This may never make it off the drawing board, but it’s fun to think about. My husband will staff it, and I will be the operations manager. My job will include driving the truck and designing the T-shirts for our swag bag, with mottos like “Cheaper Than College Tuition.”
More information here:
Living Our Lives in a Dual-Physician Income Household
#2 Buy an Investment Property
This one is a darling among finance-minded physicians. Like everyone else reading this, I want to diversify our investments, create passive (actually semi-passive, more on that below) income, and reduce our tax burden. The tax advantages are what first got me interested in real estate investing (REI). My husband and I max out every tax-advantaged account we have access to, and we still have a sizable taxable income—a good problem to have, indeed. Since we are W-2 employees, we don’t have access to some of the tax benefits of being business owners (another reason to start my own venture, see above). That leaves real estate as the next, hopefully best, tax shelter and investment.
There are “boot camps” and training programs that will teach you how to invest in real estate, but my approach has been: read books, listen to podcasts, lurk on online forums, obsess, double-check, overthink. I’ve looked at just about every niche within real estate (mobile home parks, self-storage, single-family, multifamily, short-term) and at active vs. passive. This is what I’ve landed on:
- Active (being a direct property owner) instead of passive (investing in a syndication or equity fund): There is a lot to be said for passive real estate investing (mostly that the income is truly passive), but most passive funds don’t pass along all the tax breaks that you would get with active real estate. Tax breaks are important to us right now, but as we segue into retirement (or when we decide we don’t want to landlord anymore), we will turn the management over to a property management company and/or invest in equity funds.
- Multifamily: Our single-family rental has worked well for us for many years, but multifamily has advantages: the loss of one tenant doesn’t bring your occupancy to zero, economies of scale, and 2-4 units don’t require a commercial loan.
- Long-term: Short-term rentals can be lucrative and can have tax advantages over long-term, but they require more active management. Which brings me to my last resolution:
More information here:
How We Became Accidental Landlords: Turning a Primary Residence into a Rental Property
#3 Rest More
After I leave my job in April, I plan to take some time off. All physician jobs are demanding, and over the past few months, mine has gone deep into burnout territory.
Thankfully, we can afford to have me work less. I’ve got some locums work lined up, but I’m also going to spend time enjoying my family and the beautiful place we live. I’m going to unlearn years of a go-go-go mindset and spend some time every day doing things that aren’t at all productive. I will read a book in the middle of the day. I will hang out with the dog. I will hopefully navigate all these changes with grace and help my kids do the same.
The usual self-improvement goals are in there too: spend less time on my phone, sit up straighter, care less what Wordlebot thinks. Feel free to add your own resolutions, or comment on mine—but first ask yourself, “Is this a comment I should make to someone on her birthday?”
May we all finish 2023 at least as healthy, wealthy, and wise as we started it.
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What are some of your new year's resolutions, financial or otherwise? Are you more focused on building your wealth, or are you trying to prevent burnout? Comment below!