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Scaling Back

This coming September marks my 7th year as a pharmacist. Since getting my full fledged pharmacy license in September 2009, I have pretty much worked non-stop. In fact, I look back in equal parts shock and horror at my Google Calendar from those early work years:


One whole day off in June 2010…what a slacker

I was living in the middle of nowhere and working a fulltime job for one company, while simultaneously working the equivalent of a fulltime job in locum shifts. I essentially spent my mid to late twenties working, sleeping and driving between the aforementioned. I eschewed romantic relationships, maintained only superficial ties with a handful of friends and scheduled time to see my family when I had a rare day off. Working in a small town kept me off the hedonic treadmill. I lived in a $590/month 1-bedroom apartment located catty corner from a strip club and drove a 9 year old Honda CR-V I’d inherited. This was fine though, as ostentatious displays of wealth felt especially gauche given the financial turmoil at that time. And quite frankly, when you live in a town with a population of 22,000 where the Swiss Chalet is considered fine dining, you really have no choice but to save your salary.

Once I’d saved a respectable amount of money, I spoke to one of my former pharmacy school classmates about how to begin investing. My friend Eric was the only person I knew with a brokerage account and I figured I could recruit him to be my money manager. I was intimidated by the world of investing, which up until that point I’d associated with Bay Street guys in expensive suits and BNN shows that went over my head. Eric could have charged me a percent or two and allocated my money for me, but instead he gave me the best piece of financial advice I could have asked for. He said “No one will ever care about your money as much as you do, so learn to manage it yourself.” I knew he was right, and I quickly became a voracious reader of personal finance books and blogs. I watched Peter Schiff’s YouTube videos and read Garth Turner’s blog and idolized guys like Gerald Celente and Max Keiser (I know I’m more than a little weird).

Once I’d been investing for some time, I became accustomed to seeing the balances of my accounts tick higher. The rising stock market tide from 2009 onward was raising all ships, mine included. Fearful of a market pullback, I diversified into real estate, renting out the properties I’d purchased while I continued to live in my strip club adjacent abode. My ridiculous schedule caught up with me at times. At various times, I’d work myself to the brink of emotional and physical exhaustion and be under medical orders to take time off. Being goal oriented and having the material needs of a hobo, I identified with financial independence blogs that discussed earning enough passive income to not have to work for money. Reaching financial independence became the ultimate life goal.

Looking back now, I’m not as filled with regret as one might expect. Sure, I went without drunken nights out, passive aggressive frenemies and random hookups in my 20s. Instead, I met tons of people who’d lived lives dramatically different from mine. I gave flu shots to Mennonites and dispensed methadone to addicts and checked IV bags for NPO patients. I made countless blister packs for nursing homes and mixed thousands of antibiotic suspensions for kids with upper respiratory tract infections and locumed at pharmacies that would not have been able to open without me there. I did well by doing good, which I think is the best any of us can hope for. Somewhere along the line, my investments began producing enough passive income to sustain my lifestyle. So I’d technically reached my goal, but faced with the prospect of leaving the workforce, I wavered.

I like my job now and working isn’t so crummy when you have a normal schedule. These days, I find my focus has shifted from work and money to more leisurely pursuits. So starting this month, I’m working far fewer hours.  I’ve not yet elucidated what my new life goals will be, but I’m hoping my newly lightened work schedule will allow me to uncover them.


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