Christopher Guest Post: ESI Money

Welcome to the latest Christopher Guest post. Today’s post is a page turner from a veteran blogger and recent early retiree. His latest opus is the site ESI Money. That’s Earn Save Invest. Easy enough.

The former corporate president is a man physicians can identify with. He didn’t retire at 28 on a shoestring budget, but rather at 52 with a healthy 7-figure portfolio.

Read on to learn more about the man, and if you’re willing to share your e-mail address, he’ll gladly share with you his free e-book: Three Steps to Financial Independence. Can you guess what they are?

 

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: ESI Money

What do you do (or did you do) for a living? What do you like best about your job? If you were a physician, what type of a physician do you think you would be? Why?

My 28-year career was spent as a business executive, initially in marketing and then in general management later in my career.

After college I got an MBA, then worked for a combination of Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller businesses. Eventually I became the president of a $100 million company with 800 employees.

If I was to become a doctor there are many specialties I’d be interested in: anesthesiology, dermatology, and cardiology are a few I would consider. But alas — while I love the body and health I hate science.

[PoF: Hate science? You’d be a great orthopedic surgeon. I kid! I kid. Those guys (and gals) love science and brute force.

Very few of us docs will ever know what  it’s like to be in charge of that many people. I’m not even in charge at home and there’s only four of us.]

 

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

My blog is about reaching financial independence in three steps. They are: Earn, Save, and Invest. Hence “ESI.”

I think a physician seeking FIRE would like ESI Money for several reasons:

It’s written by someone who has actually achieved FIRE. I use my real-life experiences, not some set of theories, to explain how to get to FI.

Most physicians have a high income and just need to manage their savings and investing to be successful — which was exactly my life and career.

The blog focuses on the 20% of tips that get you 80% of the results (or more)! I don’t waste time writing on things that don’t work or are meaningless.

My advice and writing style is plain and the content is mostly based on common sense (which isn’t very common these days). There’s nothing too complicated about becoming wealthy and I don’t make it that way.

[PoF: That’s great! When I started this blog, I wasn’t aware of other FIRE / personal finance blogs that focused on high-income individuals. You’d think it would be so much easier to become wealthy with a healthy six-figure salary, but there are so many ways to be separated from your money that it’s really not the case.]

 

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?

Set For LifeIt started simply because I want to help people.

I’ve achieved FI and it’s really not that hard to do. I wanted to share the key steps to becoming wealthy so others could do the same.

I don’t feel like I’ve arrived yet. Not sure if I’ll ever feel that way.

As for the future, I simply plan to keep writing, helping people, and (if things progress) supplement my retirement income so I can give more money to my favorite charities.

[PoF: You probably won’t see it this way, but I’ll give you credit for arriving on this very day. Of course, that’s giving myself way too much credit.

I love the focus on charity. I have a pledge to donate half of my profits from this site to charity. I’ve been asked what I’ll do if this site someday makes WCI type money. My answer: “I’ll donate a lot of money.”]

 

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

Only eleven? 🙂

Here are my favorites:

[PoF: That’s a list tailor made for the high income professional. Well done, friend. I love the idea of the incentive for your kids. I plan to have plenty of money available to my boys, but also to ensure they have some “skin in the game.”]

 

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 retired last fall at 52. You can read about it here as well as what I’ve been doing for the first six months.

I’m still trying to find a rhythm to daily live, though I’m not trying too hard. 🙂

I spend my time exercising, taking walks with my wife, blogging, and spending time with my kids. My daughter heads off to college in the fall 1,000 miles away so I really want to get in as much time with her as possible. We travel frequently as a family and live in a tourist town in Colorado, so there’s always plenty going on.

[PoF: Congrats on the recent FIRE! Sounds like a great way to live. I wonder how life will change when you become true empty nesters.]

 

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?

As noted above, I’m still figuring it all out and am not sure what “ideal” looks like for me at this point.

We still have kids at home so things will be much different once they move out.

My wife and I do want to travel and we’re hoping to get my parents to move to our town.

And of course blogging will keep me busy.

[PoF: I’m sure it will evolve as your family situation develops over time.

I recently blogged about blogging and talked about the importance of white space and short paragraphs.

This exchange embodies that recommendation quite nicely.]

 

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.

Regarding money, simply earn, save and invest. The more you do of all three of these, the faster you’ll hit financial independence.

As for advice about life, here’s something that’s always worked for me:

Small gains over a long period of time add up to big things.

You may have also heard it described as “eating an elephant one bite at a time.”

No matter what the issue, if you make a bit of progress every day at it, you’ll see tremendous results over time.

This applies to everything — money, kids, relationships, health, etc.

I have a list of tasks each day that I check off. Many are small and even somewhat trivial. But over the course of a year they add up to some pretty big accomplishments.

Take that effort over years and decades and you can really make an impact.

[PoF: Solid advice, but I don’t think anyone should be eating elephants. Or 800 pound gorillas. Or any metaphorical animal, for that matter.]

 

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?

No doubt: the Caribbean.

We’ve been several times and especially love the Eastern Caribbean islands of St. Martin, Antigua, Barbados, and the US and British Virgin Islands.

We LOVE the water, the warmth, and the relaxing pace of life.

Since you’ve given me $11k to burn through, I’d live it up, probably rent a private boat, and have the crew sail my family from island to island for eleven days.

[PoF: You could have a marvelous time with $11,000 in the Caribbean! I’ve been on a few cruises and spent a week each in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, but have yet to experience the islands you mention as if this were a Beach Boys song.]

 

Atlantis Beach

 

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

  • Water
  • Sparkling water (La Croix)
  • Coffee (Lattes — make my own)
  • Protein shakes made with almond milk
  • Milk
  • Tea
  • V8
  • Izze’s — Once in awhile
  • Soda — Enjoy it, but don’t drink it any longer
  • Icees — Limit these to maybe one a year
  • Juices — Limited, too much sugar

I drink the first four 99% of the time.

[PoF: I could drink you under the table. In skim milk. I was probably the only person in my dormitory that bought it by the gallon even though I had access to it three times a day in the cafeteria.]

 

Now, eleven foods.

These are eleven foods I enjoy — not ones I eat often. Otherwise I would be HUGE!

  • Steak
  • Pork Ribs
  • Bacon
  • Pizza
  • Ice Cream
  • Cake (yellow cake with chocolate icing)
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Mexican food
  • Chinese food
  • Pancakes with real maple syrup
  • Pasta

[PoF: I’m with you on the maple syrup – I make my own, but my parents have perfected the art (my Dad built a sugar shack, for crying out loud), so I usually just enjoy theirs.]

 

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

I read about 200 personal finance blogs to keep track of what people are writing about. I ran into yours along the way and it’s become a favorite. Certainly within the top 190. 🙂

My advice is to be sure you have something to retire to (something to do). If you do, retirement is better than you think it is. If you don’t, I’ve heard that it’s pretty empty.

[PoF: Thank you for the thoughtful advice, ESI Money. I hope to crack your Top 180 some day. 

And thank you for humoring me and answering all of my questions. It was great to get to know you better, and I look forward to hearing more from you over the years as you delve further into your post-FIRE life.]

 

Readers, do you have additional questions for the former executive? Let us know in the space below!


What, you’re still not using Personal Capital? Track all your accounts in one place like I do.

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20 comments

  • Great to see you over here ESI money! I really enjoy reading your articles (and POF of course), good to see them coming together. I didn’t know your background – president of a $100 million company, that’s amazing. Off to see if I can find out more about it in your background!

  • Thank you ESI Money for sharing your story. What’s your investment strategy / asset allocation as a 50-something who has achieved FIRE? Feel free to link an article (or two) if you’ve already written about this.

    • Here’s the last post where I updated my asset allocation.

      https://esimoney.com/current-money-management-investment-plans/

      As you’ll see, I’m a bit in flux right now. One thing I’d like to do is sell some appreciated index funds to cash them out while the market is high. Because my retirement income is low enough I MIGHT be able to do so and pay zero capital gains tax. (Discussion here: https://esimoney.com/big-tax-savings-due-early-retirement/).

      I’d LOVE to be able to buy a few more investment properties with the proceeds. The market is way too hot both where I live (Colorado Springs) and where I have my properties (Grand Rapids, MI), but a correction seems possible within the next few years. If I can convert the brokerage investments to cash in the meantime, I could be in a nice cash position by the time things cool off a bit.

      Would appreciate any comments or insights you may have.

  • Oh hey, ESI! I didn’t know you were involved in marketing; that’s my neck of the professional woods. It sounds like you’ve been touched with imposter syndrome–I’m sure you’ve made a much bigger difference to your followers than you’ll ever know. 🙂

  • I so agree with the thoughts on slow gains over time. Taken as a big picture most major things in life seem insurmountable. Break them into bite size milestones and often the milestones give the psychological impact of making the whole thing seem much easier.

    Oh and we’re so there with the maple suryup, even if around here we also use it on scrapple (it’s a Mid Atlantic thing)

    • I have an entire post coming up on this topic (in a month or so — I write in advance.)

      So much of my progress in life has simply been getting a bit better every day in one area or another. On a day-to-day basis, it seems like nothing is moving forward. But those small gains add up and you look back a year, five years, and ten years and tremendous progress has been made.

      Man, I sound old. 🙂 But it does work — really well.

      Thanks for bringing that point to the comments.

      I had to Google scrapple to even see what it was. I’ve never had it. I’m surprised as we used to live in PA and it appears it’s from that state. I’m going to have to give it a try!

  • It’s great knowing more about you ESI. I love your charitable spirit!

    I can SO relate to trying to find a daily rhythm but not trying too hard. I’m approaching the 6 mo retirement mark and I’m still figuring it out.

  • Great advice on having something to retire to. I’ve seen this topic come up a lot recently in various blogs and even had it pop up in conversation with friends. It still amazes me how many people think they would be bored if they retired early. I can’t tell if they’re rationalizing not saving more to do so or if they really have no hobbies or pursuits that are important to them outside of work.

    • My dad is someone I worry about in this area. He has absolutely zero interests outside of work. No hobbies, doesn’t read, doesn’t exercise, nothing. Unless you count watching TV.

      I’m afraid he’d go crazy in retirement (they are considering it.)

      On the other had, my list of stuff I want to do keeps getting longer!

      Between the time I completed this interview and its posting (a couple weeks or so), we have decided to investigate spending next January (the whole month) in the Caribbean to avoid the cold here and have a blast there. So that’s my latest project — figuring out where, when, who’s going, etc. Our initial plan is to get an extra bedroom and invite friends and family down one at a time to see us. If nothing else, the planning should be fun.

  • RocDoc

    ESI Money,
    I’ve enjoyed your millionaire series and thank you for the guest post. It seems like there are a lot of early retirees in Colorado. I hope your parents will consider moving to your town. I’m sure it would be wonderful for all of you to spend more time together.

  • Thanks! I enjoy them too. It’s so interesting to see the different ways people grow their net worths to such high levels.

    If you (or anyone reading this comment) would like to do a millionaire interview, I’d love to have you (only qualification is a million dollars or more in net worth.) I’ve posted six of them, have four more waiting to go live in the next couple months, and have a couple more being worked on. I’d like to get to at least 100, so we have a long way to go!

  • DruggedZebra

    With the Spinal Tap reference/link…I’m now forever loyal to this blog!

    Great post too, glad to see a venture outside of medicine. It is important to note that the basics of generating wealth are very similar regardless of the field you are in.

  • I’m also a big fan of the Caribbean. We just got back from our free trip to Jamaica, and I already miss the warm blue waters. Barbados is one island I want to get back to for some slow travel. The people, food, forests, and crystal clear waters really left an impact on us. But we still have a bunch of other Caribbean islands we want to check out as well 🙂

    • One group of PF bloggers had a “mastermind retreat” to the Caribbean earlier this year. By combining business and pleasure, I’m sure they were able to write off at least some of their travel expenses.

      I’m thinking of doing the same thing one day.

  • Nicely written….retiring by 52 sounds nice and I am glad to see you made it ESI. My goal for early retirement is to spend time with my son, so Kudos to you for getting into retirement while the kids are still home. I am sure the freedom when they leave will be both exhilarating and sad.

    I look forward to reading more of your site!

  • Mike

    I am a longtime reader of ESI (whatever happened to Old Limey?) and late last year found POF, and now regularly read both. I think that many readers will find many similarities between the two–higher incomes and new worths, more established financially — that make them different than many blogs that are out there.

    In particular, I have enjoyed ESI’s detailed analysis of how he will fund his retirement by diversifying his income streams as well as the Millionaire series.

    Glad to see you getting exposure to a potentially new audience.

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