Christopher Guest Post: Dr. Wise Money

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Welcome to another Christopher Guest Post, a Q&A interview series 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.

Today, I take great pleasure in presenting Dr. Wise Money, formerly known as Debt Free Doc. She is a very busy woman. As a radiology resident and single mother, she somehow finds time to be a prolific writer. In addition to her own blog, she has been featured @ The White Coat Investor and has had numerous popular articles published @ Physician’s Money Digest.

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.

I decided I’d start a Q&A of my own. Not satisfied with just ten questions, this one goes to eleven. Just like Nigel’s amplifiers.

Presenting: Dr. Wise Money

What is your specialty or subspecialty and why did you choose it? If you could turn back time, would you choose to practice medicine and choose the same specialty? Why?

Radiology, I will pursue a Fellowship in body MRI imaging at University of Arizona, where I am doing residency right now.

On 80% of the days, I would definitely choose medicine again and definitely choose radiology again.  Even though pursuing medicine is a financially poor decision, as there are innumerable ways to make money, a lot more and a lot more easily, I know medicine is the most rewarding career I could have ever chosen for myself.  Being a radiologist is something I’m willing to do for free.  The intellectual challenge and stimulation gives me shots of endorphin like nothing else. Knowing that my knowledge can save someone’s life is pretty incredible too.

[PoF: if you’re willing to do it for free, you’re more generous than me!]

Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.

When I look at my dedicated colleagues, I have so much admiration and respect for them.  I think they are incredibly smart, incomparably hard-working, and extremely empathetic.  I deeply believe that if we choose to finish 24th-28th grade in order to help others, we do not deserve to suffer financial plight.

I also realized that physicians do not get much support in our society.  So we ought to look out for each other.  That’s why when I first tasted freedom from paying off all my student loans, just a few months after graduating from medical school, I wanted to share with others how I did it.

>As a first generation immigrant, single mother during medical school, and now a PGY2 radiology resident, I’m purchasing my second/dream home, maxing out my retirement savings and kid’s 529 (37.5k) annually and continually finding tax-efficient ways to save more, and on my way to financial independence in 7 years.  The highest annual gross income I’ve made in my life was $60,000 in 2016 so far.  So if I can do this, other docs can too.

My blog is relatable because I’m one of you/us, and I’m not trying to take your money; I’m sharing how I build wealth for myself and my family, so that you can too. My goal is to shift the 95% of the US wealth from the hands of the 5% richest Americans, back into the hands of ordinary people like you and me by sharing my (sometimes painful) lessons with you at no charge to you.

[PoF: What she has done in a short period of time is quite impressive. Debt-free, maxing out retirement savings, etc… all on a resident’s salary.]

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?

The moment when I was liberated from my 7% interest rate student loans, I wanted to see my friends experience that freedom too. I realize that there’s not enough information out there helping my colleagues to become debt-free, let alone build positive net worth.

I wrote about how I paid off all my student loans as an intern (a few months after graduating from medical school), and my mentor white coat investor took my post as a guest post on his blog, Right when WCI told me that my story may be helpful to others, I decided to start

For my blog, I want to continue to expand my YouTube video collection. I’m recording day 25 of the 30 day Mindful Financial Practice with Dr. Wise Money series. 30 short videos between 4-9 minutes helping people maximize efficiency in building wealth, and achieving financial independence.

I also want to further expand Physician Support Initiate (P.S.I.) P.S.I. aims to raise awareness, empower, and support doctors & their community in maximizing their individual and collective wellness in all of life’s dimensions, encompassing personal, professional, psycho-social, and financial health. I hope do so with in person lectures, podcasts, videos, and articles. I want to share with our society so non-doctors can relate and support doctors and vice versa.

Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.

I publish on Physician’s Money Digest, which has a great list of my best and most popular posts readers have enjoyed. So check the list here.

[PoF: 22 there as of this publication. Two elevens.]

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?

I can retire at age 38. Funny thing is if I were to choose a career in plumbing rather than a career in medicine I could have achieved FI at 31.

This goes to show that early/ultra-early financial independence is available for all walks of life. However I know that I will not retire 38 even though I can. I just enjoy the liberating feeling of going to work because I love to not because I have to for bills (paying someone else.)

I deeply believe that medicine/radiology is one of the best ways I can serve our society, therefore I will continue to work as a radiologist, likely part time between 20 to 30 hours a week after achieving FI. However if there is big academic research project, or radiology related project that takes more time than 20-30 hours/week, I would most definitely work more. The reward of knowing that I help others overcome my natural tendency to have free time for cooking or traveling.

Since my goal is to have financial independence, but not to retire from my line of work that I currently embrace and enjoy very much, I’m doing very simple things to achieve my retirement target, which includes: pay myself first, leverage my limited cash flow (given my highest income was $60,000 in 2016 so far), use tricks learned from the best and the worst, big bad banks, to make money with my or borrowed money, and to focus on things that truly makes me happy, such as spending time with my daughter, exploring nature, and traveling with my family.

em>PoF: I like the last sentiment a lot: “focus on things that truly make me happy, such as spending time with my daughter, exploring nature, and traveling with my family.” That sounds a lot like how I’ll be spending my time (substitute 2 sons for the daughter).]

What does an ideal retirement look like for you? What will you do with your time when full-time work is in your rearview mirror?

An ideal retirement to me means spending my time in the most meaningful, impactful, helpful ways to others and my loved ones. I would love to volunteer at my daughter’s school, since she’s asked me multiple times be her teacher. Mini watches me tutor students from all over the world on Skype in my pajamas. She thinks that I’m very patient, encouraging, and know my stuff when I tutor online. She thinks that I will be the best teacher she’s ever had.

I would also like to cook more, for my friends and family. Since my mom’s a gourmet chef who’s authored 20 recipe books and I grew up sitting on the kitchen counter, cooking and entertaining is in my DNA.

I also would like to be writing or doing research, where I could be helping others on a larger scale in addition to one on one.

I’ll give you 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.

One: be kind to yourself.
Two: create rather than consume.
Three: your time is priceless, irreplaceable.
Four: love and respect your colleagues, in all different medical disciplines.
Five: love unites, hurt/fear divides.
Six: invest your time actively; money passively.
Seven: learn from the best and the worst: big banks.
Eight: learn from and with (your) kids.
Nine: be the adults you want your kids to grow up to be or the adults you want to surround yourself with.
Ten: spend more time, money, energy on what’s inside of you, than what’s on the outside.
Eleven: before buying a purse for $500, realize $500 can support a 3rd world country kid’s medical, educational, nutritional, spiritual needs for a year.

[PoF: Number Eleven is great. How often do we ask ourselves how that money could be better spent? Personally I’d rather have no purse than a $500 purse, but I’m a guy so… IF I needed to buy a purse and had $500, I’d feel better spending $50 on the purse and the other $450 on something more meaningful.]

You’ve got eleven days to visit any place in the world with an $11,000 budget. Where do you go and what do you do?

Shanghai, where my parents are, and my daughter is currently visiting. I’ve never been to China, having grown up in Taiwan, I would love to connect with my cultural heritage.

Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.

Water. Organic seed and berry smoothie. My mother’s chicken broth that is made with one chicken cooked over 12 hours, then switched out with a fresh chicken. My mother’s beef broth. Water. Chamomile tea.

[PoF: I counted six. I had no idea this question would be the toughest question on the quiz.]

Now, eleven foods.

Smoothie made with organic vegetables, fruits, seeds. Baby back ribs. Mac & cheese. Homemade quesadilla with mango salsa. Korean barbecue short ribs. Tortilla soup. Sushi. Kimchi. Homemade dumplings. In and out burgers. My mom’s famous beef noodle soup. Moms fermented sweet rice. Mom’s stir-fry. Mini’s grandma’s salads. My partner’s eggplant sandwich. Lost count…

em>PoF: That’s fourteen if you’re keeping score at home. Maybe we could puree a couple and make them beverages to better balance the count.]

How did you first learn about What one piece of advice do you have for me?

I came across PoF from [PoF: I do frequent the forum, which is where I first encountered you online.]

The only one piece of advice for PoF is to continue being the awesome, generous, brilliant, and ready-to-help person that you have been.

[PoF: You forget to mention ridiculously good-looking. Although, you’ve never seen me, and I’m actually not. Just assume I look something like this. And thank you for all the kind words.

Readers, feel free to ask additional questions or share your comments for Dr. Wise Money below!]


  • What an excellent interview! I especially like the part about your daughter thinking you would be her best teacher (I’m a teacher/administrator.) She’s nailed it with patient, encouraging, and knowing your stuff! That’s a wonderful compliment! Your comment about the plumber is incredibly important too. With proper planning and making smart choices, FI is available to people at different income levels.

    • RocDoc

      I enjoyed this interview Dr Wise Money and PoF! Dr Wise Money you are a breath of fresh air. So many doctors are dissatisfied with their lot in life and I think we often forget what a magnificent life and job we have. Your encouraging words may help doctors realize what a fantastic opportunity they have. I like that you also mention that although medicine is a career to be enjoyed, that we also need to treasure our whole life and the people in our life. I enjoyed reading the whole interview and especially liked your advice to young physicians. Inspiring interview! Well done PoF on inviting this wonderful Doctor to share her thoughts.

      • Gotta love DWM’s optimism. My glass remains half-full, but I’ve encountered enough career turbulence, i.e. hospital bankruptcy, turf wars, etc… to be more cautiously optimistic. I also have the outstanding benefit of being financially able to walk away at any point.


      • dear roc doc, thank you so much for your kind words. i really appreciate your positivism and encouragement. in fact, i’ve gotten quite a bit of negative comments about my blogging and sharing so it’s really nice to get some positive input 🙂

        my mom says that i tend to be too excited and enthusiastic and that i should be more reserved and not tell everyone how i think and feel all the time.

        i’m still learning to find the balance and trying not to overwhelm others with my rosy lens of perceiving the world.

    • definitely agreed. early FI is possible for anyone and any profession as the saying goes it’s not how much you make but how much you keep. i do really look forward to working part time as Mini wise money’s teacher one day and pick up my dream of writing children’s book once again 🙂

  • Gosh, I remember when I was a resident and thought radiology was so exciting and fun, and I could not believe that I even got paid to do it,… Fast forward 20 years, and let’s just say that the thrill is gone.

    I would caution Dr. Wise Money of the inevitability of the person changing over time, along with the field and practice of radiology changing (also, inevitable). In retrospect, I wonder if it is more realistic to think in terms of five years bands of time, as these seem more predictable, especially in retrospect.

    That said, excellent job in grabbing the financial bull by the horns and kicking a**!

  • DWM, Even though I am neither young nor a physician, I simply loved your 11 pieces of advice. Your youth belies a very old and wise mind. Are all of your mom’s cookbooks in Chinese? If any have been translated, can I find her on Amazon?

    • Dear johanna, thank you for your kind words. mom only writes in chinese, but it is our hope to eventually translate for her 🙂 i miss her cooking so much. i love cooking too but i avoid chinese cuisine as it is too labor intensive!

  • Very real, enjoyable and refreshing read.

    I don’t know much about MD salaries but I get the picture of a dramatic jump from residency to practice. Is that assumption correct? Are residency hours still crazy high ? I had a friend back in the UK who was doing outrageous hours for a long time.

    Apologies for perhaps naive questions from a non MD.

    Food favorites just got me very hungry. Mmm!! Decisions, decisions for dinner tonight…..

    • thank you mr. pie! yes there’s usually a jump. i think for radiology, we may go from 50k to 250k starting salary. i like to work for VA hospital or academic hospital because I love veterans (they remind me of my grandpa who raised me until i was 10) and i love residents and teaching.
      private practice people can make more than VA/academic

  • I love the answer to what age that you are most likely to retire. It’s fascinating how everyone can retire early, no matter what the income is as long as discipline and good choices are made. What’s even more interesting is that not everything does retire early, which has boggled my mind for years. I think it may have to do with psychology as people with low income levels don’t believe that they can achieve it but over the long-term, they most certainly can.

    • I think a big part of the reason that people do not retire early, even though they can afford to, is the desire to be needed and have a purpose in life. For many, that is their career because their children are up, maybe not out, but certainly more independent than in the early years.

      • i definitely agree that frequently after FI, people may continue to work because they enjoy what work means to them. i know several radiologists who are way past retirement age (one of them 86) who still works part time simply because they love what they do 🙂
        i see myself cutting back on working as a radiologist but not necessarily retiring when i reach FI 🙂

Share your thoughts with the PoF community.