By Dr. Margaret Curtis, WCI Columnist

It’s just a few days past the winter solstice as I write this, the new year is right around the corner and there’s no snow on the ground here in New England. So, there's no better time to revisit my 2023 New Year's resolutions and to venture a few for 2024.

2023 was the year my family changed just about everything. After 13 years in Maine, we moved back home to Vermont (if you are looking for motivation to accumulate less stuff, try moving. This is the cure for acquisitiveness). My husband and I each left our former jobs in the spring, and we now have new ones: he is part-time at a hospital where he started as a locums, and I’m back in the academic world for the first time since residency. I fulfilled a long-time dream and spent three weeks in Alaska before starting my new job.

Our oldest kid is still in college and the younger two went off to boarding school—yes, I wrote an entire column about the cost of private school, but here we are. I’m still struggling with this whole kids-leaving-home thing, which really seems like a dirty trick. But overall I look back on this year as one of incredible growth for all of us. Here’s where we stand with the goals I put in this space a year ago:

 

#1 Start a New Venture

Stay tuned for an update on the opening of Independent Urology, my husband Mike’s new practice. When we last lived in Vermont, he had a solo practice affiliated with a local hospital. He is starting up a pared-down version focusing on outpatient care and procedures—cash-only with a sliding scale that goes all the way to zero, or a few venison steaks if that’s what you have. Mike gets a higher reimbursement than he would through insurance, and patients with $1,000+ deductibles save money.

Mike has always been a begrudging employee at best. I invited him to comment for this column, but his thoughts about the US healthcare system verge on Unabomber Manifesto so I think it’s best we keep those to ourselves. Let’s just say he’s looking forward to practicing medicine without insurance companies and accountants looking over his shoulder.

I will be COO, and I have already decided what will go on the T-shirt that we will give out with every vasectomy:

No Worries. Mate.

I haven’t written my book. Haven’t even started. But I had 10 articles published in WCI. I was on the podcast. And I have prepped the two talks I’ll be giving at WCICON24 which you should definitely attend.

More information here:

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#2 Buy an Investment Property

In an incredible stroke of serendipity, the office building that housed Mike’s practice is for sale again—for not much more than we sold it for 13 years ago. As of this writing, we have put in an offer. The mortgage payments are low enough that Mike can carry them with part-time urology work, or we can use part of the office space and rent out the rest. It’s located in an up-and-coming town where rental space is in demand.

I’m still on the lookout for an investment property that meets my criteria: a long-term rental with 2-4 units (don’t need a commercial mortgage) that's in reasonably good shape (no gut rehabs) and that's local (so I can learn the ropes as landlord). We are pre-approved for a mortgage, and I have a team: a real estate agent and a terrific handyman. I don’t know if either my husband or I will spend enough time landlording in 2024 to qualify for Real Estate Professional Status.

 

#3 Rest More

I took this assignment seriously. I did more yoga than I have ever done before (good)—sometimes instead of packing moving boxes (bad). I spent some long glorious days with the kids. I didn’t take any of those days for granted.

More information here:

How Can I Make My Terrible Doctor Job Less Terrible?: Auntie Marge Explains It All

 

And now for my 2024 resolutions:

 

#1 Financial

I will involve my husband more in financial management. Since I took over our finances six or seven years ago, we have made the big decisions together, but I have done the legwork: opening and following accounts, re-balancing, researching investments. He wants to take a more active role, and I’m glad he does.

We will update our estate plan. Our will was written when our youngest was born. Now, our kids are young adults, and we have significantly more assets—including an office building soon, we hope. Our estate will still be below the estate tax, but we want to make sure everything transfers smoothly.

 

new years resolutions

#2 Professional

I’m going to carve out a niche for myself in academic medicine. Starting a new job was harder than I anticipated. The doctoring is the same and the kids are just as cute, but I had to learn a new EMR, a new clinic layout, and lots of new names. For an introvert like me, that was the hardest part. Now that I finally feel like I’m on my feet, I can look outside being a general pediatrician and figure out what the second half of my career will look like. Maybe I’ll teach at the med school; maybe I’ll get back into inpatient pediatrics. This will be in addition to being a COO and T-shirt designer.

I will go back to Alaska. I will write that book.

 

#3 Personal

I’ll ski at least some of the Catamount Trail as soon as we get some snow. I will beat my consecutive pull-up record which currently stands at one. I’ll finish unpacking the moving boxes in our house. I won’t take any of it for granted. That seems like plenty. Best wishes for health and happiness to all of you in 2024.

If you had New Year's resolutions, how did they turn out? Do you have any resolutions for 2024? Do you have any other good T-shirt ideas for Mike's new urology practice (keep 'em clean!)? Comment below!