OT on FIRE

Wandering the Path to Financial Independence as an Occupational Therapist

 

The longer I wander down the path to financial independence, the more I find people from various different professions.  Many of which are in tech or software development, accounting or finance, or are lawyers, doctors, or physicians. I’ve even found a bunch of physical therapists who are pursuing FI.

But to be honest, I do not come across many people who share the same profession as me.  Let’s just say that this journey has been a little lonely on the OT front.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love learning from people who have different jobs and I get a lot of value hearing their different viewpoints, but there is something to be said about sharing in this journey with people who understand what I do for a living.

Being that I’ve never worked in corporate America or even seen the inside of a cubicle, honestly a lot of the negative aspects of jobs that FIRE people talk about I’ve never had to deal with.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things about my job that I don’t like, but it does make this whole “retire early” thing a little more complicated.

 

Inspiration for This Post

 

If you’ve been reading my posts recently, you’ll realize that I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration from my readers. This post is no different.

Over the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to meet up with a few occupational therapists who are also pursuing financial independence.  It’s still not many, I mean I think I can count them all on one hand, but our conversations have been awesome and its been extremely refreshing to chat with them in real life.  Needless to say, it was these conversations that inspired me to write this post.

 

3 of these feet are OT feet :o)

 

The Definition of Occupational Therapy

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with occupational therapy, I’m going to take a step back for a second and explain a little bit about our profession.

In today’s society, most often “occupation” is defined by a full-time job.  It’s even the first definition in the dictionary.

 

 

But really, the second definition is a more accurate definition of occupation.

 

 

 

Basically, an occupation is defined as anything that a person does with their time.

Sure, this could mean a job since many people spend the bulk of their time at work, but it could also be a hobby like running, brewing beer, scuba diving, blogging or raising butterflies.

 

We’ve got about 10-12 of these hanging around our yard right now.

 

Additionally, it includes our activities of daily living (ADLs) like brushing our teeth, bathing, getting dressed, preparing and eating food, and sleeping.

 

Take a Minute to Think About All You’ve Done Today

 

If you are reading this first thing in the morning, you may have had only a few occupations so far.  However, if you are reading this at the end of your day, you’ve probably completed quite a few.

 

Feel free to take as much time as you need. I’ll wait….

 

I, for example, woke up to my alarm (at 5:30am thanks to my friend 5am Joel who inspired me to start waking up earlier), turned off my alarm, got out of bed, got dressed, walked to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, then walked into my office, sat down at my desk, and began writing this post.  Its barely 6am and I have already done many things with my time.  I’ve also utilized many skills in order to accomplish those tasks.

Now, I want you to picture yourself (or maybe some of you have already experienced something like this) following an injury.  Let’s say you fell, broke your hip, and just had hip replacement surgery.  The simple act of getting out of bed or putting on clothes might be rather complicated now with all the hip precautions, let alone any pain, swelling, and discomfort that you might be experiencing.

Or what if you were in a car accident and experienced a traumatic brain injury.  Just remembering what you need to do in order to function during the day might be tough.

Remember Mr. Wow’s accident?  That night, he couldn’t remember anything within seconds of having the thought.  He would think of something that he wanted to do, walk over to what it was, but by the time he got there, he would have completely forgotten what he was attempting to do in the first place.  He’d pause, try to remember, and then move on to another thought, but would forget that one before accomplishing it either.  It was hard to watch.

Now consider having a degenerative disorder like Parkinsons, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, dementia, or Huntintons.  Or maybe you experienced a hand injury or some sort of repetitive action injury like carpal tunnel.  Imagine completing those same tasks that you’ve done today now with incessant pain, range of motion limitations, numbness, or complete inability to move your arm or leg or body the way that you want to.  Even doing little things becomes a big deal.

But Mrs. Wow I thought you worked with children. Children don’t have jobs, so what do you do with them?

I’m glad you asked.  Again, it goes back to what do children do to occupy their time.  They play, eat, sleep, and learn how to grow and be a part of their family.  As a pediatric occupational therapist, I help them get stronger and more coordinated to meet their developmental milestones, learn to eat and develop a positive relationship with food, help them begin to engage within their world, and educate the parents to promote learning throughout the child’s day.

And the best part is that I do all of this through the avenue of play so most of the time the children do not even know they are working. Hell, sometimes it looks so fun that the parents don’t even realize that their kids are working too.

 

 

Sometimes even the client’s pets get in on the OT action

 

It’s A Complex Beast

 

From what I just laid out, it is obvious that occupational therapy is an extremely diverse field.  I attempted to highlight a few snippets of the profession, but there are many other areas that OTs work in like mental health, schools, hippotherapy, driving rehab, ergonomics, hand therapy, Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), home and lifestyle modifications, skilled nursing facilities, and the list goes on and on.

And I might be biased, but I feel that occupational therapy is an awesome field too.

But unfortunately, it is still a profession that often times flies under the radar.  Many people have no idea what we do or have a limited perception of what we are capable of.

Over the past few years, I have come to realize that our field needs more recognition, more awareness of what we do.  We don’t help people find jobs (something that many people assume is our role based on our title), we help people live life.

 

What’s yours? 

 

Living Life to Its Fullest

 

Wait a second.  Living life?

That seems to tie right into the FIRE mindset.

All of us reading this post right now are looking to live a better life, by setting ourselves up with better financial health and reorganizing our time to spend it doing the things we love.

[Unless, of course, you ended up here looking for a good waffle recipe.  Have no fear, we have that too, just click here.]

Many people within the FIRE realm do not like their jobs.  They can’t wait to retire early and get on doing the things that they enjoy.  But for occupational therapists, we actually love what we do.  We might not love the productivity standards, insurance limitations, paperwork demands or other job stipulations, but at the root of what we do, we ultimately love our profession.

And I feel extremely fortunate that I stumbled into a profession that is about helping people become independent and either learn to do or get back to doing what really matters to them.  It is a job that is immensely meaningful and adds purpose to my life, as well as to the lives of my clients.

But I’ve always felt I am a bit of an outsider in the FIRE-sphere being that I love my job.  And now that I am beginning to meet other OTs also on this path, its becoming even more apparent.

We are a rare breed that is pursuing a life of freedom and opportunity, while also contributing to a profession that we love that is all about meaning and purpose.

 

Retiring Early as an Occupational Therapist?

 

Sometimes I wish that I was in a profession that I could just walk away from when the FI numbers lined up.  This would definitely make things a little easier for me, but I know that I will always be an OT and want to continue my work in some capacity or another.

I’m not sure that I will ever retire early, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t change the capacity in which I work.

As many of you know, I am big into medical volunteerism and that is actually a huge “why of FI” for me.  Over the past few years, I have volunteered at a pediatric clinic in Ecuador (twice) and in Peru. And already this year, I have travelled as part of a medical brigade to Cambodia and Honduras.

 

Sign on the door of the OT treatment room in Peru

 

I mean, you know you love your job if you are willing to do it for free, right?

I do not know what my life will look like as the years unfold, but I do know that having financial independence will allow me to continue to live my life to the fullest.  If I want to keep working, I can.  If I want to quit my full-time job and volunteer full-time, I can do that too.  It’s an interesting predicament.

 

Any Other OTs on FIRE Out There?

 

Like I mentioned before, I’m writing this post to bring awareness of our profession to those who are not familiar with it, but also to connect with other occupational therapists who are also on this journey.  Dean, Sarah, Laurena, and Nathan it has been awesome to connect with you guys over the past few months and hear your stories as an occupational therapist on the path to FI.  And I hope to meet more as I continue down this journey.

If you are an OT (or know of one) who is also on the simple path to FI, give a shout out in the comments, I’d love to know you are here.  Let’s continue to grow this community and support each other as we pursue financial independence all while having a profession that we care about.

 

I’d also love to know what your favorite occupations are?

23 Comments

  • Paul June 21, 2018 at 5:34 am

    I am an OT three years from FI.

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 21, 2018 at 7:02 am

      Hi Paul, thanks for stopping by. Seeing your comment made my morning! I knew there were more of us OTs on FIRE out there. Do you have plans to retire early when you hit FI or just use it as leverage for if/when you need to get out of a job?

      Reply
  • freddy smidlap June 21, 2018 at 6:54 am

    i’m happy you found a profession you care about. i’ve been a chemist and don’t especially care about my employer (conglomerate) but in the past i’ve worked for several small businesses where i knew the owners and gave them everything i had in hopes they would succeed.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…Brands Break Bad: It’s a Quality Flim-Flam or Bait and Switch!

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 21, 2018 at 7:03 am

      I agree that your employer also plays a big role into the happiness you find in your profession.

      Reply
  • Mr. SSC June 21, 2018 at 7:58 am

    I’m a geologist and left my last company due to unhappiness. Four years at the current place have been mostly happy times and if I had to stay here another 2-3 years, I’d be fine with it.

    My last profession before O&G was a geotechnical engineering company, very small <15 employees, and I loved it. Excellent camraderie and I did my best not to screw around when working there.

    Good luck on finding more OT's and sorry I couldn't help further that much… 🙂
    Mr. SSC recently posted…FFLC Transition and Moving Update

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 21, 2018 at 8:05 am

      I feel like a lot of jobs are just ok. They’re not great, but they are not bad enough to make someone want to find another one. Glad you found another one that was better than the first. Clock is ticking at your current company right? Couple more weeks?

      Reply
      • Mr. SSC June 21, 2018 at 9:28 am

        Yes! Down to 18 “technical” working days, but in reality, only 14 actual working days due to meetings and work travel. 🙂 Aug 2 is my last day, but I’ll be taking ~15 days off between now and then as well, lol.
        Mr. SSC recently posted…FFLC Transition and Moving Update

        Reply
        • Mrs WoW June 21, 2018 at 10:57 am

          Woot woot! FFLC here you come!!

          Reply
  • Fervent Finance June 21, 2018 at 9:34 am

    I don’t know any OTs but my fiancee is in a similar spot where she’s all on board with FI, but not so much the RE part. Things could change in her career which would potentially charge her stance on RE, but it’s definitely something that I struggle with understanding.
    Someone can actually like their job enough to do it when they don’t need the money???? – sounds like blasphemy to me 🙂 But posts like this help me understand her point of view.
    Fervent Finance recently posted…Reversion To The Mean — A New Podcast

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 21, 2018 at 10:11 am

      That’s awesome that your fiancée loves her job too. I know I wrote this post mainly for OTs, but I had a feeling it would resonate with many non-OTs who also like what they do for a living. Some times I wished that I didn’t like what I did, so I could just put my head down and save and then walk away without a worry, but then other times I know am lucky to like what I do.

      Reply
  • Steve June 21, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    I heard you two on a podcast recently. I’m not an O.T. but I am in the field of Mr. Wow. Going from B.I. to F.I. I don’t mind it at all, but I wouldn’t do it for free. I praise everyone in the medical field though. You all do amazing things!
    Steve recently posted…Are You FINE? Financial Independence Near Extinction

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 21, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Steve! I know I’m one of the weird FIRE people that actually likes their job and would continue to do it even if it wasn’t paid for. There aren’t many of us in this community… From B.I. to F.I, that has a nice ring to it!

      Reply
  • Ms. Fiology June 22, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    Great post and it really sounds like rewarding work. I think the key to feeling purposeful in a profession is knowing that you make a difference in people’s lives.

    I am not an OT but I do love my job. It is nothing I planned to do but fell into. I manage accounts for a broker/TPA. What I love about it are my boss and the environment. He is super smart, innovating and rewards us for working hard and keeping a healthy environment. We help clients in reducing their healthcare costs. I get to crunch the numbers and teach their employees about consumerism and our unique solution. It’s not a perfect job but I mostly feel purposeful in it.

    However, I do have other things that outside of my profession that I am passionate about so we’ll see what FI brings…

    That is great you do medical volunteerism. Definitely sounds like you know your purpose in FI!
    Ms. Fiology recently posted…Single Doesn’t Have To Mean Lonely

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 22, 2018 at 8:47 pm

      I’d go even further and say that “knowing you make a difference” is the key to finding purpose in a profession whether that is in a person’s life, or perhaps the environment or with animals too. That’s awesome that you love your job and that your boss is supportive and fosters a healthy working environment. Loving your job definitely puts an interesting spin on the whole FI/RE thing.

      Reply
  • Julia June 23, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    I am a pediatric RN (although primarily a SAHM now) and I love and appreciate all the OT’s I have worked with over the years! I’d love to see more from medical people besides MDs in the FI blog world 😉

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 23, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      We appreciate all that you do too! I hear you, there are a ton of doctor FI blogs and although many of them are awesome, it is also nice to hear from other medical specialists too. You can definitely expect to hear more from my OT perspective!

      Reply
  • Joe June 26, 2018 at 8:16 am

    You love your job so you shouldn’t retire. Maybe you can cut back to part time somehow. Our son’s friend sees an OT and it helped a lot. His behavior improved and he’s doing much better in school. I’ve only heard about OT recently, but it seems like a magic bullet for many parents. I was considering this for our son, but he is behaving a lot better these days. So he doesn’t really need it.
    Thanks for helping all the parents out there. No need to retire if you love your job.
    Joe recently posted…10 Days with Kids in Incredible Iceland

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 26, 2018 at 8:21 am

      Thanks Joe! Often times us OTs are dubbed to have a magic wand, but we couldn’t do our job without the rest of the team, mainly the parents. I don’t think that I will ever retire from my job completely, but I will change the capacity that I work in. Whether that means going part time or volunteering more, only time will tell.

      Reply
  • FIRECracker June 30, 2018 at 2:18 am

    “Basically, an occupation is defined as anything that a person does with their time.”

    So true. I keep thinking of it as paid work, but really that definitely is way better.

    Wanderer’s sister is also an OT and she explained it to us as “life hacker” which I thought was a pretty good description.

    From my experience, it seems like people in the health-related fields where they see the tangible affects of their work are happier than people in fields like mine (computers), where it’s all abstract and everything’s up in your head. You don’t see your work really helping anyone.

    That being said Wanderer really loved his job before we retired and yet, when I ask him if he regrets walking away his answer is always no.

    I guess, like you said, it’s about being able to choose and do more volunteering. Choices are what drives our happiness. Regardless of whether we love or hate our jobs.
    FIRECracker recently posted…Let’s Go Exploring! Poznan, Poland: Enigmas, Goats, and Naked Saunas

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 30, 2018 at 7:23 am

      That’s so cool that his sister is also an OT and I love the phrase “life hacker”. I’ve also heard that we are not the jack of all trades, but we are the jack of the trade since OTs help people with so many various life skills and activities. I just heard a story about an OT that built a mock airplane since their client was a pilot and wanted to get back to flying planes. I mean wow that’s just so awesome!

      I agree to an extent about the health-care fields being happier, but there is also an emotional aspect that is completely draining, which I don’t see happening in computer/tech fields. Being a part of people’s lives who are sick and dying, suffered some massive trauma like stroke or brain injury, or identifying significant delays in a child and having to tell the parents that further testing needs to be done (i.e. for autism) really takes a toll on the medical provider.

      Whether we love or hate our jobs, it is definitely about having the ability to choose, the freedom to take control of our lives, and the opportunities to pursue the live we want. This is something I feel that you two have mastered and have also inspired so many others to do the same.

      Reply
  • Jacq June 30, 2018 at 5:37 am

    I do like parts of my current job, and my goal is to get it remote / part time, eventually. Really my reason for a flexible schedule or considering early retirement is there’s so much out there to do, so many wonderful people to spend time with. We have started an ‘alternate work schedule’ program & doing 1 work from home day & 1 day off in a 2 week period has been interesting. I get a lot accomplished working from home, with limited work distractions, and no commute. The days off has so far been used to travel to friends, and then prepare for them to visit. It will be used next week to visit family for the 4th of July holiday, making it a long weekend. It would be ideal to do my job from a lower cost of living area, with a great view, like 3 days a week, and have that extra time to hangout with friends and family. Mr Crazy Kicks reflection on 2 years ‘retired’, mentions now having the time to meet neighbors and deeper dive into hobbies and make friends through those activities. Most of what I know about my neighbors is from mom seeing them when she is here mid afternoon, vs me exhausted after work and just pulling into the drive way & wanting to be done for the day. I’m going to see where life and work schedules lead while saving for the FI part. 🙂

    My brother’s girlfriend is an OT, and we have learned so much about what her job is by knowing her. The work you (collectively) do is amazing! Thank you OTs!!

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW June 30, 2018 at 7:27 am

      Going to a flexible work schedule sounds like a great place to start and that it has already had a positive change on your work-life balance. I loved Mr. Crazy Kick’s “2 years wrap-up” and how he talked about having more time to hang out with his neighbors. We have lived in our place for 2 years now and have only met 2 neighbors so far. I think everyone on our street is too busy working and they are never outside. Kinda crazy to think about!

      Great to hear of another OT and thank you for the kind words about our profession!

      Reply

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