The GTH Fund
I would like to introduce you to the Go To Hell Fund.
The Go To Hell Fund (GTH, may also be named more colorfully) is the financial cushion you have so that you can walk away from a job. This may be for benign reasons, such as a better opportunity that pays less. It may also be because the job you have is crushing you with meaningless busy work, relentless stress or a toxic work environment. I hope you never encounter any of those, but in today’s medical system you have to be prepared for this kind of situation arising, even in a job where you had previously been happy.
Ideally, someday, this will be in the form of pure savings. I would not advocate using any kind of loan (although I have heard this suggested) such as credit card, home equity line of credit etc. Don’t make your situation worse while you are trying to make it better. But don’t stress about adding yet another savings goal, because GTH funds come in many forms.
Paying off your student loans and high-interest consumer debt definitely counts as contributing to a GTH fund. Keeping your skills up to date, or even expanding them with some CME so you stay marketable, counts too. So does staying mobile by renting, or buying a house with a smaller mortgage than you can afford. Negotiating a contract without a non-compete clause counts. The GTH fund is anything that moves you away from depending on a high salary and a specific job. You may find that just knowing you can walk away makes a job more tolerable. It will certainly give you more leverage in asking for what will make the job work for you.
I put this right up there in importance with retirement savings – seriously. Physician burnout is real, physician suicide rates are 1.5-2.5 times the general population, and I truly believe this is at least in part because people can’t afford to leave jobs that are making them miserable.
Once you have a GTH fund, your standard of living won’t have to change dramatically if you or your spouse leaves a job that has become unbearable. You won’t have to trade in an expensive car or cancel your vacation. You will just pull money out of savings instead of putting it into savings for a few months. Do NOT feel guilty. You are using this money exactly as you planned. You were smart enough to have a GTH fund, and smart enough to use it.