In 2004, Susan Emmerson bid adieu to her career as a nose, ear and throat surgeon and exited through the hospital doors in hopes of fulfilling her life-long wish of becoming a painter. But as a sole breadwinner of the family and mother of two, how did she manage to retire early and live off of selling two paintings a year?

We all could learn a thing or two from her skillful retirement planning which is making her thousands of dollars in income every month while she pursues her own passion and lives a life free of any financial worries.

Susan Emmerson, working as a full-time surgeon in the late 90′

Planning an Early Exit

Susan loved art and she wanted to be a painter ever since she was a little girl. However, her own parents didn’t support her passion, believing that she would not be able to make a decent career as an artist; hence, she turned to medicine as her second option.

Ever since she first started her medical residency, Susan knew that she wasn’t going to continue on the career path that she had chosen for herself and she started planning her exit before she even picked up the scalpel for the first time. She worked as a surgeon for almost 2 decades – which was enough time for her to plan an early retirement – and when she was 47-years-old, she had already saved enough money to be able to turn in her beeper and quit her career. How did she manage to do it?

Susan at her art studio after saying goodbye to her medical career

Smart Investment Planning

By the time Susan started her medical practice, she was the sole earner in her family which consisted of her two children and husband. With the responsibility of feeding the family and looking after the children on her shoulders, Susan knew that she had to make smart financial decisions for the sake of her family’s future.

Every month, she would set aside $4000 from her paycheck and invest the money in a number of different low-cost mutual funds. At the time of her children’s birth, she also socked away $9,000 each for school and college tuition fees in a separate savings account. As her children grew up, their funds also grew exponentially – and by the time they went to college the $9,000 investment had turned into a 6-digit number.

Susan knew that if she were to retire early from her job, she needed her investment portfolio to produce the same income as her monthly expenditure. Upon calculations, she found out that her family needed $5,000 every month for household expenses, and when her portfolio had grown enough to return that amount in income, she knew that she was closing in on the finish line.

She had also made property investment on the side which is generating additional rental income to this day. Now, Susan is 60-years-old and never had to take a loan because she is able to live within her means.

Not Giving Up on Her Dream

While she was practicing medicine, the mother of two was also taking evening art classes at a local community college to pursue her passion on the side. In 2002, she decided to enroll as a full-time student in a private college to get a bachelor degree in fine arts.

As a result, her primary job took a back seat and she scheduled all her surgeries on days she didn’t have any classes. Because she had to juggle work, school and family at the same time, Susan spread out her courses over the span of seven years, graduating in 2009.

Life took a sudden turn when Susan’s husband passed away due to a heart attack while her two young boys were only 10 and 13 years of age. Even as the widowed mother and breadwinner of the family, she was able to realize her dream of retiring early and become a painter just like she had always wanted.

Today, she is only able to sell a few pieces of artwork a year which earn her a few hundred dollars – not nearly enough to pay for her expenses – but she says that her work is finally bringing her fulfillment, which is all that matters to her. Susan says that her fellow residents at the hospital she worked in were jealous that she was able to make her dreams work and save enough money to retire early. But with planning and hard work, anything is possible.

Do you think early retirement is a wise decision?

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