Reader Case: ER nurse Wants To Escape

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What’s this? Time for another reader case? Yes please!

Hello! I first wanted to say I’ve both read and listened to your book Quit like a Millionaire a few years apart while in different parts of my journey and it’s one of my favorite books. 

About me: Married with 1 kid. I’m 31 and my wife is 39. My son is 2

We are both ER nurses in california and make about $200,000 a year depending on how much overtime we’re working from year to year.

Family spending is about 5000-6000 depending on miscellaneous expenses for the month. (2400 being mortgage/taxes/insurance  in HCOL area) and 700 coming from utilities and phone bills. My wife is most definitely not AT ALL financially minded. She actually can’t stand finances it’s like watching paint dry to her and doesn’t even know her hourly rate if you were to ask her. She likes to spend on food and on things for my son but isn’t too crazy with spending.

We “own” our house with a mortgage of $464,000 and it’s worth $580,000 after it was just appraised. We own 2 cars out right worth about $33,000 combined and no other consumer debt or student loans.

We have about $20,000 in cash, $82,000 in a taxable brokerage account, $24,000 in Roth IRA accounts, $144,000 in 401k accounts.

It’s always been a dream of mine to travel the world and aside from a 2 week trip to Thailand I have not done any other types of international travel. The subject always comes up and my wife is not necessarily opposed to my big ideas but also not 100% on board as I would be. My wife’s parents retired and have been back in the Philippines in Cebu and are going to be getting a home there. I’d love to be able to go there and have it as a home base and fill our free time with travel. Mostly in south east Asia due to low cost. If I sold my house and one car and belongings I believe we could net another 110k ish.

Option 1: sell our house and 1 car as well as most of our belonging. Work hard and lots of overtime until January and pull the trigger. I think I could save an extra 50-70 grand by then plus the sale of our things I could have an extra 180k on top of what we already have. On the income side I can take a per diem job at work where I can basically due 2 weeks in california and 6 weeks in the Philippines with LCOL considering we will be staying with my wife’s parents and traveling. I would keep my car in the states to commute to work and stay with a friend or get a cheap room in an Airbnb for about $500 when I come home plus have to pay a round trip ticket about  $600-700. Between a night shift differential and per diem rate my hourly would be around $118 and i would basically just work as much as I could for 2 weeks while in the states. I’m that time period with overtime and double time pay I could net between 6000-20,000 in a 2 week period. 20,000 being it I worked non stop and the OT was there. 6000 if overtime “drys up” but is unlikely since we are a large ER and always short. This scenario allows me but chunks of travel, while still having an income and actually still being able to contribute and add to my net worth. The cons being I lose my health benefits and I have to fly back to california about 6 times a year and be away from my family a bit to do a stressful job I don’t love.

Option 2: just sell everything and quit. Planning for a January departure. Work hard up until then to add some extra money and take a real semi- retirement for a year or 2. Hopefully not spending more than 80,000 dollars. I could potentially come back to the states, maybe somewhere cool like Alaska in the summer and work a 3 month travel nurse contract with my wife and the 2 of us could maybe save about 30000 on a 3 month contract. Travel the world. Worst case scenario I end up somewhere as a nurse in the states in the same situation I’m in now.

Option 3: play it safe and stick to my job. It’s actually not that bad. It’s a fully benefited job with free health insurance and I only have to work 24 hours a week. I get 4 weeks, soon to be 5 weeks of vacation a year and make $82 an hour. Overtime is endless and I get 1.5x pay and double time pay occasional with overtime. My wife works per diem. Between the 2 of us we only “have” to work 36 hour a week and max out both our 401ks. I usually work extra to add to my taxable account. If I go this route I could have a pretty safe happy life and hit FI in 10-15 years or so when I’m 42-45. I can work extra when I want to to take regular vacations and travel for 2week blocks. I keep working my high stress job.

My problem with option 3 is I tend to obsess about FI and I feel like I often won’t do my minimum hours. I actually often pick up. I can’t help myself because I want to get a point where I don’t need this job. I feel like I have the best income I’ll ever have as a nurse and know it’s a pretty awesome situation to be in with there spouse. So I feel bad for questioning it and taking it for advantage.

Anyways you guys are definitely the right people to ask for there opinion because I feel like this is right up your alley. I just don’t know what happens if I put off my dreams of travel until my son is older and other life happens. I guess I just want to hit the easy button and life a fi life now but if I were to do that the way I’m going it’s going to take a long time.

Thanks for reading! Keep up the awesome content.


Ok so before we start a few things. First of all, thank you for your service as an ER nurse. We all owe you a massive debt of gratitude for the selfless and critical work that you do.

And secondly, please don’t quit.

I know, I know. We literally wrote a book about quitting your job, so this is very much against my instincts when I say this, but there’s already been a spike in health care staff quitting due to burnout or exhaustion, and I can’t in good conscience advocate for something that would make the staffing shortages worse right now, especially with a new COVID variant having just been discovered. Not to be dramatic, but your country needs you.

That being said, we’re still going to MATH SHIT UP.

I mean, he sent us all these numbers. What are we going to do, NOT math shit up? That would be insane!

Retiring in California

First of all, let’s figure out how long it would take for CaliNurse to hit full FI at his current trajectory. Here are his input numbers. In calculating his net pay, I plugged in his earnings into a tax calculator for California taking into considerations he’s maxing both 401(k)’s (nice work, by the way!)

Summary Amount
Income $200k gross, $160k net
Spending $6k per month, $72 per year
Assets $20k (cash) + $82k (brokerage) + $24k (Roth) + $144k (401k) = $270k

Note that in this scenario, we’re assuming he stays right where he is and doesn’t sell the house, so his home value and mortgage aren’t factored into the analysis. Don’t worry, those line items show up in the next section.

Our reader’s annual spending of $72k makes his FI target $72,000 x 25 = $1.8 M. That’s a pretty high bar to hit, so we can expect this will likely take a while.

His annual savings is $160k – $72k = $88k. Ooh! That’s a lucky number for Asian people!

Ahem. ANYHOO, put it all together and we can project that our reader will hit full F.I. in…

Year Balance Savings ROI Total
1 $270,000.00 $88,000.00 $16,200.00 $374,200.00
2 $374,200.00 $88,000.00 $22,452.00 $484,652.00
3 $484,652.00 $88,000.00 $29,079.12 $601,731.12
4 $601,731.12 $88,000.00 $36,103.87 $725,834.99
5 $725,834.99 $88,000.00 $43,550.10 $857,385.09
6 $857,385.09 $88,000.00 $51,443.11 $996,828.19
7 $996,828.19 $88,000.00 $59,809.69 $1,144,637.88
8 $1,144,637.88 $88,000.00 $68,678.27 $1,301,316.16
9 $1,301,316.16 $88,000.00 $78,078.97 $1,467,395.13
10 $1,467,395.13 $88,000.00 $88,043.71 $1,643,438.83
11 $1,643,438.83 $88,000.00 $98,606.33 $1,830,045.16

12 years.

So actually, his estimate of 10-15 years in his “Option 3” description is pretty bang on. Good job! Someone knows his way around an aortic valve and Excel!

Retiring in the Philippines

But we also know that CaliNurse doesn’t want to just retire in California. He wants to travel in SE Asia.

First of all, great choice. I love SE Asia. I miss SE Asia. The food, the beaches. And above all else, the value!

We haven’t been to the Philippines yet (though it’s definitely on our list), but the cost of living there is similar to Thailand, and you can easily live a life of sand, sun, and smoky chicken on $30k a year.

That dramatically changes his timelines. He’s indicated that if he were to retire, he’d still take a per diem job and work at least enough shifts to maintain his license, so if we take his worst case number, that would be $6000. That means his portfolio only needs to support annual spending of $30k – $6k = $24k a year, and that would mean an FI target of $24,000 x 25 = $600k. That’s a game changer right there.

AND it means we can sell the house, freeing up even more money. At current market values, he would net $580k x 95% (agent commission) – $464k (mortgage) = $87k.

Now, normally we’d throw this number into the starting balance and rerun our calculations, but remember if CaliNurse sells his house, it would be on the last year, not the first. That $87k can contribute to post-retirement portfolio, but it can’t compound on the way there.

So we’re going to add a column to the above table that tracks his portfolio balance if he were to sell his house that year. Once this combined amount hits his FI target, he’s done, but in the years leading up to his retirement, his house equity won’t grow with the rest of the portfolio.

Year Balance Savings ROI Total Total After Selling House
1 $270,000.00 $88,000.00 $16,200.00 $374,200.00 $461,200.00
2 $374,200.00 $88,000.00 $22,452.00 $484,652.00 $571,652.00
3 $484,652.00 $88,000.00 $29,079.12 $601,731.12 $688,731.12

Yowza. We’re talking 2, 3 years tops.

God, I love what nomadic travel does to people’s retirement plans…

It Ain’t All About the Numbers

So while his retirement is really not that far away, our reader seems very eager to jump the gun, given that 2 out 3 of his “options” involve selling everything and quitting in, like, a month.

I don’t think that’s a great idea, and not just because of that whole “ER nurse shortage” thing.

These are the lines that gave me pause.

My wife is most definitely not AT ALL financially minded.

She actually can’t stand finances it’s like watching paint dry to her.

…my wife is not necessarily opposed to my big ideas but also not 100% on board as I would be.

Whoa whoa whoa. Pump the brakes there, buck-o. Now, I’m not a relationship expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been married for 11 years, and from one married guy to another, if you were to tell your wife who, again, hates talking about finances, that you plan to quit your job, sell your house, and move overseas because your spreadsheets and some blogger told you to, that’s a recipe for divorce and/or murder.

You have to get your wife on board with the idea of quitting your job and moving overseas. And you can’t do it based on a 2 week vacation to Thailand.

Setting up a home base in a new country is very different from taking a vacation there. The weather’s different. The food is different. The language is different. You have no idea whether your family will even like living there.

Fortunately, the solution to this problem is a fun one: You need to travel there more.

And not as a tourist where you’re staying at a hotel by the airport. Actually spend time there living as a local. Use a service like AirBnb or a home swapping one like Home Exchange to live in an actual apartment or house that you’d be comfortable living in long term. Buy groceries and learn to cook local food. Check out the neighbourhoods and schools for your kid.

If you make this move, it will be a pretty big change for everyone involved, and you are going to need your wife’s full support if it’s going to work, and that means spending increasing amounts of time there until she either falls in love with it, or decides she hates it. Either way, you have to respect her answer because again, you need both partners to turn their keys if you want to launch this particular missile.


That one went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. It started off with spreadsheets, and then became a relationship advice column, but you know what? Half the fun of each reader case comes from the fact that you don’t know where the article will go until you’re done writing it.

What do you think CaliNurse should do? Let’s hear it in the comments below!

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