Christopher Guest Post: 1500Days
Today’s post is the first in a series of Christopher Guest posts that I will run every few weeks to get you better acquainted with some excellent fellow writers who have graciously accepted my invitation to be showcased here for you.
I recently had the pleasure of answering a series of questions (linked here) for today’s Guest, Mr. 1500. I say “pleasure” not as a polite gesture, but because I truly had a blast coming up with the answers. It’s probably the most fun piece I’ve written, and I thought it was a great and generous offer to allow others be featured in the Q&A format.
As the Barenaked Ladies have stated in song, “It’s All Been Done Before.” It’s a poorly kept secret that almost none of the ideas we personal finance bloggers are presenting are original. We’re discussing similar ideas, topics, and strategies. And that’s great! The message is fairly consistent, and of course, we don’t always agree, which creates thought-provoking discussion.
What differs most is the perspective from which we present our ideas, the personal stories we interweave, and the audiences we’re reaching, who may have never been presented these ideas. The Rule of 72 may be old hat to many of us, but it might be new to you.
After taking my turn answering Mr. 1500’s questions, a very dim 4-watt incandescent bulb hovered over my head as I came up with the profoundly unoriginal idea of hosting a Q&A series of my own. I ran it by Mr. 1500, whose idea I wanted to blatantly steal, and he not only greenlighted my idea, but also agreed to be my first Guest.
Sweet! This dude’s blog is full of funny and finance. He has reached financial independence, and is months away from an early retirement. My readers could learn a lot from him, or at least giggle some.
What’s a Christopher Guest post?
Inspired by Nigel Tufnel, the character portrayed by Christopher Guest in Spinal Tap, I took Mr. 1500’s ten questions, and amped them up to eleven. If you’re not familiar with the scene, take 50 seconds to watch this video and enjoy the dialog between Nigel and Rob Reiner. Mr. 1500 took the idea and sprinted with it, creating this meme to promote my Q&A.
I’ve written too much already. It’s someone else’s turn.
Presenting Mr.1500’s Christopher Guest Post.
This one goes to eleven.
1. What do you do (or did you do) for a living? What do you like best about it? If you were a physician, what type of a physician do you think you would be? Why?
I’m a computer programmer, but I ended up in my career by way of serendipity. I’ve always loved science, so in college I majored in Biology and Chemistry. I worked my a** off and never got less than an A, even in Organic Chemistry 331 (the most failed class on campus). I remember my advisor asking me why I wasn’t applying to medical school or at least taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). I’ve never been much of a people person, so I didn’t think I’d be a good physician. My graduation came right before the Y2K crisis, so it was easy for me to work my way into a computer career.
If I was a physician, I’d be in the emergency room. I like a little excitement, uncertainty and drama in my life. Delivering a baby, reattaching a couple severed limbs and saving a gunshot victim in under 60 minutes sounds like fun. Wait, it isn’t really like that TV show?
And just because I’m not an actual physician doesn’t mean that I can’t play one on the internet:
[PoF: Not a people person hmmm… if only there was a doctor whose patients were usually unconscious… yeah, I got nothing. I think it’s safe to say that this is a gent who could have been a practicing physician and chose not to be. Like me in about 5 years. p.s. Love the Stormy Kromer cap]
2. Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
The backbone of my blog is my quest for financial independence/early retirement (FIRE). Reading about money can be boring, so I try to spice my posts up with goofy stuff like plastic dinosaurs, memes and the occasional fart joke. Do physicians ever tell fart jokes? Probably not, but bear with me.
Flatus aside, I’m a science guy, so you’ll be able to relate to my mind and the way I think. I look at life through a lens of rationality. Numbers turn me on. I suspect that most physicians are similar.
3. What inspired you to start a blog of your own? Was there a particular event you remember that made you feel your blog had arrived? Any big plans for your blog in the future?
I started writing because I thought it would be fun to document my journey to FIRE publicly. It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve met lots of great people through the blog, some of whom are good friends today.
Arrived? I’m still waiting. Well, there was one thing that happened recently.
I make no secret that Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) is the reason I’m blogging today. He inspired me to start 1500 Days and much more importantly, caused me to change the course of my life (Working until 62? No thank you!). Guest posting on MMM was the pinnacle of my blogging career, so I arrived that day.
1500 Days will end at some point, but I have a new blog up my laptop that I can’t wait to launch later this year.
[PoF: Looking forward to the new blog! And your linked DIY Electric Mountain Bike is incredible!]
4. Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
Eleven? Whoah. I have over 500 posts. I don’t talk much in real life, but I sure like to write:
The Awakening is the start of my journey. You should start there too.
Secret Millionaries: I live on a modest, middle class street. However, at least 10% of my neighbors are millionaires. The millionaire next door is alive and well.
Why the 4% Rule won’t Steal your Spouse or Give you the Clap: Writing about money can be boring, but it doesn’t have to be. In this post, I write about the 4% Rule, venereal diseases and Komodo dragons.
Sex, Limes and Financial Education: My parents talked to me about sex, but never money. Why is money such a taboo topic?
Enough: Some of my better posts take hours to write. Enough is one of my favorites and took me 15 minutes. It was inspired by a neighbor who thinks you need millions to be rich. I couldn’t disagree more. Everyone needs money, but you don’t need mountains of it.
1500 Cold War: My most popular posts are the ones in which my wife, Mrs. 1500 joins in. When the cold weather sets in every fall, we have an ongoing war over the thermostat. One of these years, it’s going to get nasty. (Mrs. 1500 note: Look for that to happen in about 3 months…)
$160,000,000 and Working in Food Service: Doctors make good money, but not many are worth over $100 million. This post is about teenager with a net worth of $160,000,000 and had a job working at a deli.
Death by Retirement is my most popular post. I believe that my life will be much better after I shed my job, but for some, retirement is the worst thing that can happen to them.
Normal Sucks: Some people send me hate mail where they state that it’s impossible to achieve FIRE while living a normal life. Who ever said anything about being normal?
Mrs. 1500 Chooses Another Man: All marriages go through tough times. Imagine my shock when I learned that my wife had chosen another blogger. (Mrs. 1500 note: Really, it was for the greater good…)
And this is the post where I announced that I had made my financial goal. It happened back in April, but still feels weird. I didn’t grow up in poverty, but we were lower middle class. I was the first one to graduate college in my family. Today, my net worth hovers around $1,400,000. It still hasn’t sunk in.
[PoF: A great selection, representing only about 2% of the blog. Impressive! I didn’t realize I was plagiarizing you when I wrote my Enough post. These things happen. My parents carted us around in a 1984 Dodge Caravan that looked a lot like that faux Woody.]
5. At what age are you most likely to retire (or at what age did you retire) from full-time work? What are you doing to help realize your retirement target?
42 is the age that I plan to throw in the keyboard. Wait, I’m 42 now. I’ve made my financial goal already, so no more need to save (although I still do). I built my nest egg through loads of hard work. I’ve spent long hours working at my computer career and fixing up houses for profit.
It’s timely that you ask about retirement because I decided just last weekend that I’m leaving my job later this year when my contract expires. I feel mostly great about it, but I’m a little scared too.
[PoF: Congratulations on having the gumption to set your FIRE date. Liberating, I’m sure, but I can understand the fear / uncertainty.]
6. What does an ideal retirement look like for you? What will you do with your time when full-time work is in your rearview window?
I love Candide by Voltaire. One of my favorite quotes from the book is this:
“I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off, and run the gauntlet of the Bulgarians, and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley — in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered — or simply to sit here and do nothing?’
That is a hard question,’ said Candide.”
― Voltaire, Candide
In the book, the characters end up with enough wealth to never have to work again. They quickly learn that sitting idle is a recipe for misery. Retirement should never be about not working.
Before I tell you what my ideal FIRE life looks like, we need to discuss the words “retirement” and “work.” I hate them both. They have too many connotations:
- Retirement: 65+ year olds living in Sun City, waiting to die while playing shuffleboard and watching reruns of the Golden Girls.
- Work: Perform an action for 40 hours a week for a pointy haired boss to earn a paycheck.
My ideal version of my FIRE life is working hard at various activities, but with two important rules:
- Money won’t matter: I will work at many things including writing, building stuff in the garage and coding phone apps. However, my goal (and measure of success) will never be money. These activities will be about personal growth and accomplishment. (And coding phone apps for fun.)
- Work time will be limited: My work, whatever form it takes, won’t consume my life. Twenty hours per week sounds good. With the rest of my new-found time, I’ll read, ride my bicycles, explore, and chase my children around the mountains of Colorado. We’ll spend at least a month in the summer in our car traveling slowly wherever we feel like.
[PoF: Well said. Early retirement is about doing what you want to do with your time, not what you have to do based on others’ expectations or a real or perceived need to earn more or have more.]
7. You’ve got eleven sentences to dish out advice to a young physician. Any and all advice is welcome. We talk about personal finance, so money is fair game, but if you have advice on being a better doctor, a better parent / spouse / friend / human, we’re all ears.
I don’t have many physicians in my life’s sphere, but when I come across one, they usually fit the societal mold: $800,000 home, fancy cars and vacations at exotic places. One physician that I know has her own practice on the prestigious North Shore of Chicago. She has four homes, each worth over $1 million and lives a lifestyle that I had only previously seen on TV.
Know that you don’t have to fit the physician caricature. It’s perfectly fine to keep driving the old Honda Accord that served you well during your residency. You don’t need eight bedrooms or a vacation home on an island.
Think back to the happiest times of your life (do it now, I’ll wait). The memories that I cherish most are those of family gatherings, camping and playing with my children. Not much money was involved in making these memories.
And never forget that your children want your time more than anything.
8. You’ve got eleven days to visit anyplace in the world with an $11,000 budget. Where do you go and what do you do?
I’d go to Kauai with a stopover in Santa Rosa, California. In Santa Rosa, I’d pick up a bottle of Pliny the Elder for every evening that I’d be in Kauai.
Kauai: This is the sleepy isle of the Hawaiian chain. No Apple store. No throngs of tourists. No high-end fashion stores. Just beautiful beaches and fruit stands.
I’d wake up every day at 5am and watch the Sun come up. After that, I’d explore the island. I’d hike the Na Pali Coast and Shipwreck Beach trails. At night, I’d have local seafood for dinner and a Pliny.
[PoF: Excellent advice in #7. We stopped off in Santa Rosa a month ago, as chronicled here. $3.75 pints of fresh Pliny! We just booked a trip to Maui, but sadly, I don’t think we’ll get to Kauai. When we retire, there will be time for all the islands.]
9. Name eleven foods and beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
Russian River’s Pliny the Elder: The first time I tried Pliny, I thought “Meh.” It took me a couple more bottles to realize just how good a beer this is. If you can get your hands on a bottle, I highly recommend it.
Diet Mountain Dew: I converted to diet after one disastrous visit to the dentist: “Three cavities? WHAT?”
A deep dish, sausage pizza from Pequod’s in Chicago: Skip the tourist places and go here instead.
Brussels sprouts: How on earth does this fit in with all of the other unhealthy good? Brown sugar and bacon changes everything.
Asparagus: I love it. Plus, it makes my pee smell funny (shout out to asparagusic acid!).
A really good cheeseburger: I don’t like eating meat. Cows are bad for the environment, so my diet is mostly vegetables now. However, I have a hard time passing up a really good burger. I look forward to the day when I never eat another animal.
Anything with Mole on top of it: Mole is a Mexican sauce that contains tomatoes and chocolate. Sounds disgusting, right? Making good mole is an art. If you’ve had the real deal, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
A Chicago style hot-dog: Never, never put ketchup on it. Never. (Mrs. 1500 note: I know I’ll lose my Chicago card when I dispute Mr. 1500’s ketchup comment, but I didn’t grow up in Chicago and mustard is gross. Follow your bliss, even if that means putting ketchup on a hot dog.) (Mr. 1500 response: The horror! The horror!)
Wisconsin Fish Fry: This is what Wisconsin people do on Friday night. Throw in some deep-fried cheese curds to finish your heart off for good.
Samoas (girl scout cookies): My annual tradition is to consume an entire box (15 cookies) in one sitting. One sitting = 5 minutes. (Mrs. 1500 note: Don’t forget to disclose that you put the empty box back in the cabinet…)
I’m a healthy guy who enjoys exercise and eats right most of the time. I consume more broccoli than red meat, but you’ll never see “enjoy” and “broccoli” in a sentence that I write.
[PoF: I’m with you on most of these, especially the DIPAs and Samoas (caramel deLites – did the actual Samoans complain?). I’d rather have broccoli than brussel sprouts or asparagus any day. Broccoli with brown sugar and bacon would be an alliterative taste treat!]
10. How about eleven places you love that you’ve visited or have lived in?
Pismo Beach, California: An old school, California beach town.
San Diego, California: Can’t go wrong with fish tacos and the ocean.
The Northwoods of Wisconsin: Peaceful. Quiet. Fireflies.
Madison, Wisconsin: I lived here for 6 years. Madison is probably my favorite city in the world. It’s beautiful. When I lived there, I rode my bike around Lake Monona almost every day. To balance out the biking, I ate unhealthy amounts of Stella’s Cheese Bread at the Dane County Farmers’ Market.
Yosemite National Park: The most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on.
Kauai: Yes, more ocean.
Chicago: My hometown. The lakefront is beautiful. So is a deep dish pizza.
Any random hiking trail: I do my best thinking on foot. There is no better way to experience nature.
Anywhere near the ocean: I already mentioned Pismo, San Diego and Kauai, so I’m cheating a bit. Besides books, not many things can make me sit still for longer than 5 minutes. I could watch the waves come in all day though. When the kids are grown, I’ll live at least part-time next to the sea somewhere.
Any library: I love to read and I seek out libraries, even when on vacation.
On my front porch, talking to you: Yes, you Reader. I know that we’ve probably never met, but that’s OK. The fact that you’re here reading blog like Physician on Fire means that we have a lot in common. Sometimes, I have trouble relating to people. I don’t catch much TV or sports and you can only talk about the weather for so long. The folks I’ve met through blogging have been spectacular.
[PoF: Looks like eleven great places. I’d love to visit that porch someday. You won’t believe the before and after pictures. This guy can remodel.]
11. How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? As a fellow blogger, what one piece of advice would you give me regarding this blog or blogging in general?
I heard about you on a late night informercial. If memory serves, you were an undergrad and one of your jobs was trying to sell the Super Duper, Non-Stick, Ultra No-Smoke, Indoor/Outdoor/Underwater Grill.
[PoF: Close. So close. I was hawking the cornballer.]
Wait, that wasn’t you? I have no clue then. Somehow, our electrons crossed paths on the internet. It doesn’t matter.
I consider you a virtual friend. I have a feeling that in the next year or two, our physical paths will cross and we’ll enjoy a nice pale ale or two together. I look forward to it.
Advice: Let your personality shine through because it’s the best way to differentiate yourself. There is no shortage of blogs and everything that needs to be said has already been said. Set yourself apart with stories about you and your life. Put your own spin on whatever you’re writing about. Don’t hold back. There are billions of people connected to the internet and your message will resonate with some of them. Find your voice and embrace it. Be creative and tenacious. The readers will follow.
[Taken to heart. Cheers! – PoF]
Readers, what do you think of the new series? And is this guy awesome or what?
(don’t say what)
On deck in the Christopher Guest post lineup is The White Coat Investor, followed by Future Proof, MD and Dr. Wise Money. I’ll be posting a Q & A roughly every 3 weeks. If you are interested in being featured, and feel your blog would be a good fit for my readers, please contact me.
Also, please comment below. Mr. 1500 and I look forward to conversing with you.