This is the fifty-seventh in a series of interviews with fellow personal finance bloggers. Today’s guest is POF from Physician On FIRE.com
Physician on FIRE, is a 40-year old medical doctor who has been in practice for 10 years since graduating from residency in 2006.
Physicianonfire.com is a personal finance site with a focus on financial independence and retiring early. Most posts would apply to anyone with an interest in personal finance and FIRE concepts, but my target audience consists of physicians and other high-earning, and perhaps high-spending professionals. I’m trying to help them with the latter.
I publish two original posts most weeks, a Sunday Best post weekly, and I have recently started an interview series of Christopher Guest posts that is a lot of fun. 1500Days and the White Coat Investor were my first two guests, and both did a great job with it.
Who is the Physician on FIRE?
POF: I live up north with my lovely wife and 2 incredible young boys. As a full time anesthesiologist, my job is to guide patients through surgical operations and procedures as safely and comfortably as possible.
In my limited spare time, I thrive on family time, exercise, beer brewing, camping, hiking, travel, photography… I have more hobbies than time, which is a situation I am conspiring to change. I’m ready to tip the work / life balance scale towards life.
I play the physician role quite well when I’m at work, but I’m pretty lousy at it once the scrubs are off. I live in a middle class neighborhood, and drive a ten-year old non-luxury car. I haven’t golfed in years, and I don’t wear a fancy watch, or any watch for that matter.
I do have a boat, and I keep it at our cabin / second home, BUT the two combined cost me thousands less than one BMW 7-Series, and bring my family and I much more joy than any luxury automobile could.
Why did you start your blog?
POF: I’m fairly new to the world of blogs. I used to surf mainstream media, and read the articles that caught my eye. ESPN, CNN, USAToday, MSN and the like over and over. A Marketwatch article about a peculiar person who retired at 30 turned me on to a blog called Mr. Money Mustache.
I devoured about five years worth of blog posts in six weeks. I was probably practicing 80% of what he preached already. It wasn’t any kind of wake-up call, but I did start riding my bike to work after reading his blog. I also realized that an early retirement was quite possible, as I was very close to having Enough to be considered financiallly independent at the time.
Around that time, I discovered another website created by Dr. Jim Dahle, the White Coat Investor. His site was a treasure trove of financial facts and wisdom from the perspective of a practicing physician who, like Mr. Money Mustache, was right around my age.
I learned through my reading that the two inspirational bloggers had actually met and know each other, but have fairly different philosophies when it comes to spending and working. My philosophy lies somewhere in between.
I thought about all the choices my friends were making, the money they were spending, locking themselves into a long career they may not love. As Dr. Dahle points out, 60% of Doctors Would Retire Now if they could, and burnout is a growing problem. But most docs are locked into a big salary, big spender mentality from which there is no easy escape.
I created physicianonfire.com to educate other physicians and other high earners that there is another way to approach life that can give you options, the pursuit of financial independence.
This list goes to eleven (well, sort of). In no particular order:
- MMM & White Coat Investor as previously mentioned.
- 1500days, jlcollinsnh, Budgets Are Sexy, Mad FIentist, Retire by 40, Root of Good, Cait Flanders, Financial Samurai, Go Curry Cracker. All are excellent, well-established, and popular enough that they don’t need the outstanding publicity that comes with having their very own line in the middle of this Q&A.
- Think Save Retire: unique takes from a reformed spender who lives in an Airstream and will soon embark on a grand adventure with his wife. (could probably go above with #2)
- Our Next Life: great perspectives on life from a couple who are also approaching their FIRE date.
- Mr. Tako Escapes: another father with 2 young boys like me who clearly understands the value of money. Already FIREd. Fun captioned photos and a sweet logo.
- Mr. Fire Station: recently FIREd with a generous post-FIRE budget. Also an up-north guy, and closer to my age than some millenials.
- The Happy Philosopher: a radiologist who reflects on the present and past and the roles that money and work play in a life well-lived.
- Early Retirement Now: a relative newcomer with some extremely well researched ideas and strategies in personal finance.
- Future Proof MD: To-the-point personal finance posts from a radiology resident, who like me, also writes for Physician’s Money Digest.
- The Finance Buff: A provocative personal finance site that forces you to think. Some good actionable information, too. Also well-established but definitely not a FIRE blog like most of these are.
- Living A FI: Updates are more rare post-FIRE but every post is from the heart and delves deep into the brain. Never monetized, but highly comicized.
When did you first become financially literate?
POF: I was starting to feel burnt out during one of my more difficult medical school rotations. This was before any restrictions on call frequency or duty hours. I started to look for a get-rich quick scheme and stumbled upon some articles on swing-trading, which is like day-trading, but you hold stocks for a few days rather than a few minutes or seconds.
I shared them with my Dad, and he bought me a book, The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need. It wasn’t exactly that, but it was full of useful information and it piqued my interest in personal finance. That book taught me some valuable lessons and helped me avoid big mistakes later on when I would actually have money to play with.
I’m improving my financial literacy most every day. I read books, blogs, and forums continually. One of personal finance’s everyday heroes, Taylor Larimore, is on Bogleheads more or less every day at age 92. Financial literacy has no specific endpoint.
What was the last item you regretted purchasing?
POF: A bag of Cheetos before a recent road trip. I could stand to lose five or ten pounds, and not only are Cheetos not going to help me do that, but their cheesy powder sticks to my fingers and everything else I touch like orange on orange rice.
Thankfully, I can’t think of any big ticket items I regret buying in recent years. It’s not like I’m blowing $500 on ping pong robots.
If you died today, would your family be okay from a financial standpoint?
POF: I’ve already earned my FI merit badge, so it’s all gravy from here until retirement. I no longer carry life insurance or disability insurance, because my wife and kids could live pretty well off our current portfolio.
On the other hand, I would not be okay if I died today. In fact, I’d be dead, which, to quote Marsellus Wallace, “is pretty $#!*ing far from okay.”
What are you teaching (or will you teach) your kids about money?
POF: My boys are five and seven. They have piggy banks, and we often add but rarely take from them. If there’s something they want, and the cost isn’t substantial, we sometimes let them spend some gift money.
I’ve read about other techniques, such as the three-jar method where one jar is for saving, one is for giving, and one for spending. I’m not sure I’m ready to have them spending for the sake of spending when all their needs and most of their wants are already being met by us, and our friends and family.
Unlike many households, we do speak openly about money, including the cost of not only objects, but also experiences and things they don’t see, like electricity, taxes, and Daddy’s nasty gambling habit.*
*I made that last part up. Unless you count Fantasy Football, in which case, the struggle is real
What’s your dream job?
POF: The word “job” implies obligation, and obligations prevent us from doing things we might rather be doing, so it’s tough to come up with a dream job. I’m more interested in freedom.
I guess the dream for me and most FIRE bloggers is not to have a job. Or at least to have enough money that you have no real need for a traditional job. I’ve got at least the bare minimum to call myself financially independent, but I mostly like my job, and it pays extraordinarily well, so I’m planning to stick with it at least a few more years.
To me, writing and the other “work” that goes into blogging doesn’t feel at all like a job, and I am definitely my own boss in this realm, so I guess my answer today is that blogging is my dream job.
What plans do you have after your early retirement?
POF: It’s an evolving plan and subject to change, but my wife and I have a few six-to-twelve month ideas for memorable family adventures that we could embark upon when our boys are middle-school age.
One would be a last hurrah as an anesthesiologist, practing locum tenens someplace exotic, most likely New Zealand or Australia, with our boys enrolled in the local public school.
Another not-quite-fully formed idea is to spend a year in a Spanish speaking country, learning the language while my wife teaches English as a second language.
Finally, we could take a year to “road-school” the boys. Like home-schooling, but spending months at a time exploring our great nation, and learning its history and politics while visiting the places we study. Oh, the Places We’ll Go.
I can’t say with any certainty that we’ll do all three, or any of them for that matter, but I would say it’s quite likely that we’ll undertake at least one or two of these grand ideas and make them a reality. Because we can.
That’s what financial independence affords us.