Christopher Guest Post – Green Swan

Contract DiagnosticsWelcome to another in the growing series of Christopher Guest Posts. Today’s guest is the one and only JW from The Green Swan, a healthcare investment banker who reached a net worth of $1 million as a 30-year old, the same age at which I had a net worth of zero.

J-Dub probably had the smarts to pursue medicine, but he followed the money instead. Now, he dabbles in both finance and healthcare with what might sound like a dream job, but has its own demands, more of which will be outlined below.

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: The Green Swan

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?

Hello fellow PoF readers! My name is JW, also known as The Green Swan, and I run the early retirement blog, The Green Swan. For my day job, I am a banker for large healthcare companies (think hospitals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, etc). My primary job responsibility is managing and evaluating the bank’s risk to these companies as we lend them money for various reasons.

One of the most common reasons we lend these large companies money is so they can use it to pay for the acquisition of other companies. And this so happens to be one of the things I like most about my job, being able to work closely with these companies as they complete big transactions (many of which grace newspaper headlines when they are announced). It is very intellectually challenging and when the process is complete and successful it is very satisfying.

However, if I would have made the decision to go the medical profession route back when I entered college (which I was contemplating), I would have wanted to be in pediatrics. I always thought it would be a blast to be able to work with kids and to be their primary doctor throughout their childhood. It would also be attractive because I think the hours would be more in line with normal business hours with most weekends free (valuable family time). While it may not pay as much as some of the other physicians specialties, it would still be a significant sum and provide a nice work life balance.

[PoF: So you’re involved in murders and executions mergers and acquisitions, in an indirect way? That sounds rather intriguing. Although you didn’t end up in healthcare, you kinda did (again, in an indirect way).

Set For LifeI think some pediatricians will tell you the work-life balance isn’t all that great in their field, either. Sadly, some kids need hospital care, too. The pediatricians also visit us in the O.R. on occasion for Cesarean sections when the infant may need a higher level of immediate care.

They also lament seeing the anesthesiologist stroll out of the surgery center at 3 p.m. after a nine hour day, when they’ll be working on charts and the dreaded “in-basket” messages for another four hours.]

 

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

I touch on a number of general personal finance topics and the blog follows my journey toward FIRE. I use many of my real life examples of financial obstacles and considerations to in turn help others on their journey toward FIRE.

My blog would appeal toward the physician seeking FIRE for a number of reasons. I experience many similar challenges including potential burnout from my job (my job is fairly high stress and involves routinely working nights and weekends). But I balance that with the reality of having a high salary and not wanting to say good-bye to it yet (classic one more year scenario). I too face high marginal tax rates and want to find every way possible to lower my tax liability (legally).

In early retirement, I will face many of the same considerations in terms of how to access my various investment accounts including tax-deferred retirement accounts and taxable accounts. And one last reason why I think a physician would find my blog insightful is because like many physicians who own their own practice, I too own a small business. I recently acquired a business with my siblings as partners. On my blog I touch on many of the implications and processes, etc., related to owning a small business.

That’s 11, right?

[PoF: Clever use of the question to get to eleven! I think the fact that you have a similarly high salary and a penchant for FIRE makes your site very much applicable to high-income professionals that tend to hang out here.] 

 

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 created my blog for a number of reasons. In no particular order, this would include wanting to form some sort of a “diary” that I could reflect back on. I began following blogs a few years prior to starting my own and as I would read them, I wanted an avenue to insert myself as part of the conversation. Also, I didn’t think it would be a huge time commitment (boy was I wrong!) And lastly, I thought having a blog would be a nice way to transition into retirement and continue to stay busy.

Now that I have been running The Green Swan for a little while, I have really come to appreciate and value the great comments left on my posts. Readers and fellow bloggers have helpful insights and additional considerations which really help me think through things and add so much more to the posts.

I wouldn’t say my blog has arrived, but there were two milestones I particularly remember. First was having the opportunity to guest post on Financial Samurai. Sam has a great following, I respect his blog quite a bit, and rightfully so, he has a very high hurdle to meet to ensure the post is right for his readers. And the second milestone was when I was first featured on Rockstar Finance. J$ runs a very impressive site and features a lot of great content. It’s always nice to be recognized and featured on Rockstar!

[PoF: Like you, I underestimated the time factor, but I also didn’t appreciate the social aspect of this endeavor. The interaction with readers and fellow bloggers has added another wonderful dimension that I hadn’t anticipated. 

I’ve benefitted from Rockstar Finance, too, and recently had an opportunity to share my story on Financial Samurai

Teaser: I’ll be revealing my “I’ve arrived” moment in a special Saturday post in two short days.

And obviously, you have arrived. I mean, you’re here, aren’t you? 😉 ]

 

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

All my content is top notch and the crème de la crème, so as you can imagine it was really hard to narrow this list to just 11! 🙂

[PoF: London or Dublin? I hope to see an update on that soon! I’m pretty sure I had read most of these even before you sent them to me — lots of great stuff there.]

 

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 expect to reach financial independence around age 35, about five years from now. However, that would mean potentially 50+ years in retirement and, needless to say, plenty of uncertainty and unknowns that could require a reassessment of my FI number. I don’t want to leave things to chance, especially with such a long retirement time horizon.

While the likelihood of something unexpected to happen to derail my retirement may be low in any given year, over the course of 50 years it is almost a certainty to happen at some point. So with that concern in mind, I plan on building in plenty of cushion before I call it quits.

To help me realize this goal to reach FI by 35 and to retire early a few years thereafter, I continue to save heavily and invest somewhat “aggressively”. Any future raises will be plowed entirely into our investment accounts, no need for lifestyle inflation here. I have an all-equities portfolio. I don’t believe in the sales pitch of bonds providing diversity and I don’t like their consistent underperformance compared to stocks. Stocks consistently provide the best returns over the medium and long term so I plan on maintaining that “aggressive” portfolio composition throughout retirement.

[PoF: I don’t know many physicians that could pull off FI by 35 — you’ve got us beat there. Heck, many docs would be happy with a net worth of zero by 35.

I plan on maintaining a fairly aggressive portfolio as well. I recently revised my IPS to carry five years worth of expenses in bonds, rather then ten. All the reading I’ve done over the last year has convinced me that the best course of action for a lengthy retirement is to have an oversized nest egg, an aggressive allocation, and a willingness to be flexible.

It sounds like we’re both checking all the boxes.]

 

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?

For me, life in retirement is simple. I will spend as much time as I can with my kids and try to be the best Dad I can be. My wife and I want to travel more and we’d love to be able to show the world to our kids. I haven’t stayed in as good of contact with friends and extended family as I would like. Retirement would give me more time and flexibility to visit them.

I will pick back up some long lost hobbies of mine which would include being a fanatic for my college team (and hopefully traveling to see them play live much more), I enjoy the outdoors and would like to get back into hunting more, and I’ll continue to feed my mind by being an active visitor at our local library once again.

[PoF: Umm… ditto. Except for the hunting part — that’s never been my thing, which makes me a bit of an oddball here in the upper midwest.

I hope to see more of my college team beating your college team.]

 

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.

Advice to the doctor: focus on the patient! Our healthcare system is so whack that sometimes the most important part gets lost in the shuffle, and that is customer service and it starts with the doctor. As much as I hate most all things about our healthcare system, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great doctors which has always helped me feel better about the experience.

Advice to every Joe Schmo: live a purpose driven life. Find out what you want in life more than anything else. Then do what it takes to go get it. For me, I want a life full of great experiences shared with the people I love the most. I want to help my kids start out on the right foot as they begin their journey through life. To meet these ends, I want to make a ton of money to retire early to spend more time with friends and family and be the best parent I can be. Again, find your purpose in life. Then find the right path for you to get there!

[PoF: Awesome, J-Dub.]

 

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?

That’s a tough question because there are still a number of places I want to visit yet. But perhaps tops on the list would be an Asia trip. I have never been to Asia and I know there is tons to do and see. Not sure if 11 days and 11 grand would get the job done, but I’d want to hit up China and see what that is all about. I’d have to visit the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and some of the other hot spots there. Then I’d head up the coast and visit Japan.

A close second for me would be a trip to the Middle East. Someday (ideally when hostilities die down a bit) I’d like to hit up the hot spots and this could be the trip to fit it all in including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Dubai (with at least a one night stay in the Burj). Again, not sure if 11 days and 11 grand would do it justice, but it is on the list!

[PoF: The good news is you’ll have more than 11 days to take those trips if you’re able to follow through with your plans to FIRE before your fortieth birthday. You can take 11 months if you like!]

 

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

I have a lot of drinks I love, I’ll try to keep it under 11:

  • Whiskey plain
  • Manhattans
  • Sazerac
  • Old Fashions
  • Tom Collins (although my wife hasn’t allowed me to invite Tom C back into the house since two Thanksgivings ago…I had a bit too much fun with the in-laws)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Margaritas
  • Coffee (ideally with Baileys or Kahlua)
  • Mimosas
  • Any IPA, but I prefer Dogfish Head
  • Aaaaaaaand the eleventh…..a root beer float.

Right now all I can think about is having these drinks, all of them! While I am typing this out Friday after 5, I’m not sure I’d wake up Saturday if I had them all!

[PoF: I can tell you were thirsty, as you made most of them plural. That’s the subconscious talking. I’m surprised you didn’t say “Whiskeys plain. In pint glasses.” 🙂 ]

 

Now, eleven foods.

If my daily diet were to consist of just 11 foods, I think I could get by with the following menu selections:

Breakfast: Bacon and/or sausage

Lunch: Pizza (Hawaiian, BBQ Chicken, and Pepperoni)

Dinner: BBQ Brisket with a side of mac-n-cheese or spicy potato salad

Dessert: Chocolate caramel brownie ice cream, a must-have every day!

As a doctor though, I’d love your opinion…how advisable would you rate this menu on a health scale from 1 to 11?

Not good…then I’d toss in the option of adding an apple to the breakfast menu and a salad on the lunch menu. Otherwise, I think that’ll cover me fine. That’s 11 items, right? It doesn’t hurt my feelings if you want to check my math :).

[PoF: I don’t know if you’re Catholic or not, but now that Lent has begun, you might want to give up some of these sweet, fatty taste treats. On a scale of healthy eating from 1 to 11, your diet is a negative 4.]

 

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

I first heard of PoF shortly after you began blogging. I saw your guest post on Retire by 40 and began following regularly. It’s been fantastic watching your blog takeoff and be so successful!

One of the things I’ve particularly enjoyed is hearing how thoughtful you are in planning vacations and keeping costs low. Two posts come to mind, the one where you extended your work trip to the Bay Area to take a mini vacation and the other how you’ve enjoyed traveling to follow your college team. My only qualm with any of this is the team you’ve chosen to follow…given the rivalry with my team! 🙂

[PoF: That guest post was a great day for this blog in its infancy a year ago. I remember checking the stats when I found Wi-Fi in Nassau (we were on a Disney cruise) and my subscribers jumped from 22 to 33 in one day — a 50% increase!

I recall seeing your moniker as the first commenter on many of my favorite blogs, including mine! I could tell you were a hustler, and in the Eastern time zone, which makes it a bit easier to be the early bird. I was impressed with your posts on the DIY solar panel installation.

Thank you, J-Dub, for taking the time to share a bit of your story here on the pages of Physician on FIRE. I look forward to meeting up in person someday, perhaps over a heated rivalry football or basketball game.]

 

 

Did you enjoy this interview? Stick around for Christopher Guest posts from:

 


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38 comments

  • Ooh, Hawaiian Pizza! I’m with you on that one, Green Swan! Although people might think we’re weird for liking that.

    I hope you get to check out Asia soon (or when you’re FI), it’s super lovely and is my favorite part of the world. China has the Great Wall of China, South Korea has a great railway system (even better than Japan’s, in my opinion), Japan is quirky and is a very lovely place (Our Next Life is currently there, I believe), and more!

  • Great to see you over here Green Swan! I’ve been to both China (including the Great Wall) and Japan, and highly recommend both of them. If you go, be sure to visit several different cities. It’s amazing just how different one city is versus another. In China I went to Beijing, Shanghai, and Jinan-they were all so different it was like I was in a different country each time! And for Japan I went to Tokyo and Kyoto, and only wish I could have gone to more cities. Maybe next time!

    • Oh great suggestion on visiting multiple cities, how interesting! My cousin was over there visiting a few countries in SE Asia and the pics were amazing. Hopefully someday soon!

      Thanks for the comment, Liz!

  • Thanks so much for having me on, PoF! Hopefully it works to meet up for a rivalry game soon. We can bet some bacon on it. 🙂

  • I may be in the minority and feel free to boo me off the stage. Fruit and veggies does not belong on pizza 🙂 It’s not suppose to have any semblance of healthy. I’m a big fan of meat, cheese and more meat on pizza 🙂

    I’m just kidding.

    Anyway that’s awesome that you were able to go to the Middle East. I’ve always wanted to visit Israel and soak in the historical accounts that I’ve read about. It’s definitely on the bucket list.

    • Boo, Boo. Veggie pizza’s are the best. And I don’t put cheese on them either. Of course I’m a vegan and allergic to cheese and dairy so there you go. :O)

      • That thing you described — the round thing lacking in cheese and meat — does not qualify as a pizza, sorry.

        I’m not saying you can’t eat it, or that it isn’t healthier than pizza (it is) but I would be sorely disappointed if I asked for a pizza and got that thing.

        :;
        -PoF

        • Yeah, if I didn’t have to eat this way, I’m not sure I would. But it has been 4-years (maybe 5) now so I am use to it. Chips and Cookies are my downfall. You can find very unhealthy, vegan safe food. Of course, I run most of it off. :O)

          I do have some fun with my fleshie family, which of course they don’t always appreciate. I’m not actually a raging, lunatic vegan – only in fun.

  • I’m with you on the BBQ brisket and the BBQ chicken pizza. My favorite! Great interview. Sounds like you have a good plan for what you want to do in retirement, which may be just as important as getting there.

    • Yes I’d agree they’re probably equally important.

      Speaking of brisket, a new small bbq chain is popping up in Charlotte called City BBQ. Headquartered in Ohio I guess. Just like any other bbq joint in town though, I’ll have to give it a try…

  • sounds like you have a great plan going forward. I echo chief money officers point to see multiple cities and countries in Asia. Living in the bubble the US it’s presented as largely homogeneous at the country level, but it truly is night and day. Sort of like where you live now versus New York or California.

  • Thanks for doing this interview, JW! I really enjoy this series. Reading the thoughts of millionaires inspires me to continue to work towards my goals.

  • Arrgo

    Sounds like you have a good plan mapped out. I’d probably lean towards keeping that high salary rolling as long as you can stand it as you are pretty young. But I can also understand the stress and demands a job like that can have. You only want to devote that much of your life to it for so long (money or not). Once you get to where you want to be in a few years you can re-evaluate and see how things are. The good thing is you should be in a good position to make changes if you want to. Always enjoyed the Green Swan site.

  • Nice interview Green Swan!

    I echo the brisket and potato salads for fav’s, although I tend to vary my flavor of potato salad depending on my mood and the weather. I didn’t see a bad drink on that list either, some nice choices there.

  • Ahhh, I can only aspire to have a $1 million net worth by age 30. I have 5 years, but I do have to eliminate quite a lot of debt before then. 😉 Oh man, I don’t think I could ever handle working in pediatrics. Everything makes me cry, especially when there are kiddos involved that aren’t feeling well.

    So once you achieve FIRE, JW, do you plan to completely quit from all forms of work? I think I’d like to pursue money-making opportunities during FIRE that I actually want to do. It’s a great way to cushion your income in the likely event of an economic downturn over the next 50 years. Of course, working for a longer period of time would give enough cushion for that as well; I guess it’s just your preference. 😉

    • It’s hard to say for sure at this point. I would consider some part time work in a job that was near and dear to my heart but I have no intentions at this point. Another option would be working part time for the small business venture my brothers and I have.

      It’s good to have options given the long retirement horizon as you mentioned!

      Thanks for the great question, Mrs Picky Pincher!

  • Xyz

    Nice interview. However, customer service is not the most important part of our healthcare system. Quality patient care is. There is a difference.

  • Great to see you on here, JW! Love all things $hwanigan!! Really interesting to hear more of your background, and congrats on being on track for retirement at Age 35 (that is, truly, incredible)!

    Tho, I think Doc scooped you with his big announcement: “I’ll be revealing my “I’ve arrived” moment”!! What’s that all about in the middle of your Guest Post! Excited for the reveal, Doc!

  • Old Fashioneds rank way up there on my list of things to drink too.

    One million at 30! At age 30 I had been in this country for less than two months and I had a NW (including savings back home) of about $60k. I think I’ll go drown my sorrows in an Old Fashioned.

    Thanks for the fun interview!

  • Great interview and inspiring to see how others in other industries are achieving FI and may move to RE. Your food choices look like a heart attach waiting to happen, so hopefully you don’t eat that way all of the time. :O)

    Is Green Swan supposed to be symbolically the opposite of a black swan event or something else?

    POF, by the way, I have noticed (at least with the FF browser) that as comments nest in the replies, the font gets smaller and smaller. You might want to see if there is someway to control that if it is from the plug-in or if some oddity in the CSS.

    • No I don’t eat that way all the time, special occasions only. But I knew it would get a rise out of the MDs reading! 🙂

      Yes, The Green Swan is a metaphor to my lifestyle approach resulting in wealth accumulation and FIRE similar to a Black Swan surprise event resulting a major effect. My little spin on it…:)

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Great interview! Welcome to the PoF Christopher Guest Post Alumni Club! Geez, you’re not messing around with the beverages. I can’t say I’ve had all of them but they sure sound tasty. High caliber blog, high caliber drinks, and big caliber hobbies you got there. Good for you!
    Cheers!
    ERN

  • Great to learn more about you here, JW. Asia or the Middle East would be tough to pull off with only 11 days. But as PoF said, you’ll be in the position to take 11 months! I like your comment about leading a purpose driven life. Let’s clink our glasses filled with Mimosas to that!

    • Agreed! So much to see and do over there. Ideally I’d love to learn a language or two before heading over there.

      Thanks! I know you folks have done well on that front.

      Have a good weekend!

  • I’ve been following the Green Swan’s website for a few months now, excellent stuff. Love the guest post this week!

    ID

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