I recently had someone comment on my blog post about working only half the year as a travel therapist while earning a full time salary. He asked how it could be possible that I could have paid off all my student loans (which is actually not the case..) and be close to only having to work only PRN after less than 3 years since graduation (this part is accurate). He inquired if I worked crazy amounts of hours to achieve this or just had no fun at my assignments in order to save as much as possible. This made me really think about the past 3 years and the decisions I’ve made.
Here is my response to those inquiries.
I’ve traveled for a little over 2 years and 9 months so far, which is 143 weeks total (just added that up and was surprised it’s been that many weeks already). I’ve worked all but 4* of those weeks, so 139 weeks total of work. During that time, I’ve worked 404 hours of overtime, but also I’ve been paid for 114 hours that I didn’t even work due to guaranteed 40 hour weeks. I’ve also worked 85 hours PRN during that time. Adding all that up means that I’ve worked an extra 375 hours over my normal 40 hour weeks. Dividing that out means I’ve averaged 42.7 hours per week with 4 weeks off mixed in there. I’ve also put quite a bit of time into “side hustles” (credit card and bank account bonuses, and this blog) to earn extra money though, but I can’t really quantify the number of hours per week. I wouldn’t consider that to be “crazy hours,” but others may depending on perspective.
(*Note that a good portion of that time I was living close enough to my permanent home to be able to go home often on weekends to satisfy my tax home requirements, without taking time off of work).
Paying Off Loans vs. Investing
Also I’ve written a few different posts (here, here, and here) on my decision to not pay off my loans and instead invest heavily in equities, mostly in retirement accounts. This has served me very well, as I’ve averaged an 11% return on my investments (not including tax savings from tax advantaged accounts which would make this number closer to 30%) while my loans have accumulated an average of 3% per year (this is due to monthly subsidized interest while on REPAYE and due to a low AGI while traveling). This may not be a decision appropriate for everyone, but it has led to a much higher current net worth than I would have had otherwise, and I plan to continue this into the future. But, to address his point, I could have paid off my loans after only 1.5 years or less of work instead of investing the money, if I wanted to. If I had done so, I would probably still be planning to retire/semi-retire early, but I would have had to work full time a little longer if this was the case, due to lower returns from paying off debt vs. investing.
Do I have ANY Fun?
I’ve kept my expenses very low by most standards while traveling, but I have also had what I would consider to be a lot of fun while traveling. During that time, I spent a week in Jamaica with Whitney (completely free with credit card rewards), and a week in Aruba as a graduation present to my brother (almost completely free as well). Both of these trips were amazing and would be dream vacations for many. In fact, the majority of the other travelers at the resort where we stayed in Jamaica were there for their honeymoons. In addition to these tropical vacations, Whitney and I have taken weekend trips to: Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg TN, Boston MA, Providence RI, Newport RI, NYC, Bar Harbor ME, Portland ME, Burlington VT, Quebec City (Canada), Montreal (Canada), Baltimore MD, Philadelphia PA, Atlantic City NJ, Washington DC, Atlanta GA, Birmingham AL, Asheboro NC, Asheville NC, Charleston SC, Savannah GA, Nashville TN, and seen many other places in between. During our less than 3 year career, we’ve been to every state on the East Coast. In addition to many adventures and sightseeing along the way, I’ve hiked hundreds of miles in many different states since beginning my career, which I really enjoy as well.
What The Future Holds
Also, as far as working just PRN in the future, I’ll actually be at a point where I won’t even have to work at all if I don’t want to within the next year, as I’ll be able to cover all of my expenses with investment returns based on the 4% rule. I’ll probably still take 1-2 contracts per year or work PRN because I enjoy practicing physical therapy but don’t have the desire to work full time 52 weeks per year. I’d much rather travel internationally, explore national parks, and do some major hikes (AT and PCT) instead. Those are just a few of my many reasons for reaching financial independence at age 30 and semi-retiring this year, and maybe even fully retiring depending on how this year goes!
Based on that info, you can decide for yourself, but I’d answer: No, I haven’t had to work crazy hours, and yes, I have had a lot of fun while traveling. It’s definitely possible to save a lot while still having a great experience traveling!