Special guest post by Physical Therapist Jared Casazza, who is sharing his travel physical therapy journey to his goal of financial independence through travel therapy:
Over the past two years as a traveling physical therapist, I have learned from my experiences and talking to others that there are many different reasons for why therapists choose to travel. The main motivations usually include: exploring new parts of the country, higher pay, meeting new people, experience in different settings, and the flexibility to be able to work when you want and take time off when you want. For me, my primary motive with travel has always been higher pay, with all the other perks being secondary. When I first learned that I could take a travel assignment as a new grad and make twice as much as some of my classmates who were taking permanent jobs, I was sold.
Setting a Goal
I have had a love for personal finance and investing from a very early age. Sometime in my readings prior to graduating from physical therapy school, I stumbled upon the concept of financial independence and early retirement. Prior to this, I had always assumed that working until a certain age was a given since that’s what everyone else did. Far too often, I’ve heard other adults in my life speak about retirement as if it’s some abstract concept that will one day “arrive” instead of having a realistic actionable plan to get there. I would imagine that the vast majority of people have no idea how much they actually need to save to retire, which is frightening. Learning that there was a whole community of people retiring in their 30’s and 40’s was an eye opening discovery for me. Since then, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with charting my own path towards financial independence and early retirement.
I usually choose to refer to this concept strictly as financial independence, as I feel that early retirement has some negative connotations. But, a combination of the two terms is probably the best descriptor of what I plan to do. To me, it means the ability to choose whether or not you want to work, exactly what your work will consist of, more time with family and friends, the ability to travel domestically and internationally, and more time to explore other hobbies and interests. A worthwhile thought experiment to engage in to determine what this would look like to you would be to ask yourself: how would I spend my days if all my current living expenses were covered and I didn’t have to work for a living? Everyone’s answer to this question will be different, but it should get you excited for the possibilities.
I came up with my plan for financial independence prior to graduating, and it has been adjusted many times as my income and expenses have changed. Currently, I’m on track to achieve financial independence a little over two years from now at my current level of expenses (with a margin for future increases built in) and my current savings rate. This means that with a career of less than five years, I will reach a point of financial independence where I can choose whether I want to work full time, part time, or not at all. To this point, I have achieved this by keeping my expenses as low as possible (traveling in a fifth wheel camper instead of finding expensive short term housing), working as many days as possible including overtime when given the opportunity, finding PRN jobs while on assignment when feasible, making smart investments, and making extra money on the side with credit card and bank account bonuses. While some travelers choose to take weeks or months off between assignments, I would rather work straight through, while still taking one week off per year for vacation and taking advantage of weekend trips without taking time off and then have unlimited time off once I reach my goal.
The method I used to determine my target net worth to declare myself financially independent is actually pretty simple. I added up all of my current yearly expenses and then multiplied that number by 25. There is research to support this calculation, or you can do your own research by looking up information on “the 4% rule.” Basically, in a well-diversified portfolio, you should be able to withdraw 4% of your net worth each year and have only an extremely small risk of running out of money based on research performed with regard to historical stock market performance. It is essential to determine this target number in order to formulate a savings plan that will allow achievement of the goal.
What Will You Do?
The greatest things about travel therapy are the countless options and the flexibility. Those of us who choose to travel will undoubtedly have a leg up, financially, on others who choose permanent jobs in the same profession. There is no right or wrong decision as long as you are aware of all the possibilities and make an informed choice for your future. I believe that reaching financial independence as quickly as plausible while enjoying your lifestyle is ideal and that we should all take steps, by either reducing expenses or increasing income, to reach that milestone. But the first step is always devising a goal and a plan to achieve it. What is your plan and steps are you taking to achieve it?
Jared Casazza, DPT: Jared graduated from Radford University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program in May 2015. He has been working as a travel PT alongside his girlfriend, Whitney, who is also a PT, and together they travel in their fifth wheel travel trailer. He is a personal finance and investing nerd and is aggressively seeking financial independence, which he is on pace to achieve by age 30. Jared writes about travel PT and finance on his blog: www.fifthwheelpt.wordpress.com