Christopher Guest Post: J.L. Collins

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.

CAPFUNDR-250x250I’m excited to bring you the one and only one of several men named Jim Collins. This particular Jim Collins might be better known to some of you as J.L. Collins, the author of The Simple Path to Wealth and the popular personal finance blog jlcollinsnh.com known for its witticisms and stock series, among other things.

This summer, I jumped at the opportunity to meet the star of page and screen* while he was sorta, kinda in my neck of the woods. Mr. & Mr. 1500 were going to be visiting Mr. & Mrs. Collins at a lake home along the shores of Lake Michigan, and I was invited to meet up if I was in the area.

I wasn’t in the area. But I do have a car. One Saturday morning this summer, I woke up very early, drove a couple hours, met up with a friend, started a Tough Mudder, dislocated my shoulder, dislocated my shoulder again, and then again, finished the race, and drove a few hours east to Shamba.

Mr. and Mrs. Collins were very welcoming and generous, and the 1500s were as entertaining in real life as you might guess from their written words. We shared a couple great meals, a few tasty beers (to ease my pain), and swapped stories. I was impressed hearing about a youthful Jim’s bicycle ride around Lake Michigan, and I laughed when he told us about the Australian podcaster who canceled their interview when he found out JL was not the other Jim Collins.

 

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.

To see past guests’ interviews, check out the archive. But not until you’ve read what the good J.L. Collins has to say.

 

 

Presenting: J.L. Collins

 

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?

 

I spent most of my career in the magazine business, starting in sales and then as a publisher. The best part was entertaining customers. One of my colleagues described it this way: “My job is to go out and have fun with my friends.”

Now Im retired and write my blog. The best part of that is when people tell me how Ive changed their lives and that they left their soul-crushing job and are now FI or well on their way because of me.

By far the most gratifying work Ive ever done.

Lowest paying, too. I made more as a busboy when I was 13.

The type of physician Id be, in the unlikely event I were to be one, would be a lousy one.

I have a phobia about sicknesses and believe knowing about and talking about them brings them into your life. At my age, more and more people seem to love to talk about their infirmities. I dont want to talk about mine and I sure as hell don’t want to hear about yours.

Maybe not the right bedside manner.

If I had to be in the medical field, being an anesthesiologist might be OK. I understand those guys make huge bucks and dont have to be very bright. Plus they dont get blood all over themselves, right?

[PoF: Oh, I’m sure you would have made a fine physician, but a lousy anesthesiologist, possessing far too much intellect for that job.

I don’t want to hear about your infirmities, whatever that word means, because I don’t want you to have any. Unless those are good things. In that case, I would like you to have lots and lots of infirmities.]

 

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

 

My blog is mostly about whatever interests me and that is usually investing and travel and some otherwise odd stuff. Pretty much in that order. It is most famous for The Stock Series which helps folks understand how to invest effectively and reach FI that much sooner.

But no physician should ever read it, and if you are one dont click on any links. This means YOU. Stop that right now.

Im not getting any younger and soon am going to need as many doctors out there working as possible.

Sorry thats only seven, now eight, sentences. Maybe I should seek medical assistance?

[PoF: I’ll give you a pass. Levity aside, I do sometimes question how wise it is to give my fellow physicians the tools they need to retire before the day that I will need them. Fortunately, this blog reaches a small subset of them. Also, you want the doctor that is working by choice, not the one who is only working to pay three mortgages, two alimonies, and one whole life policy.]

 

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?

 

It all started when I managed to completely turn my daughter off to all things financial. Who knew young kids wouldnt love being relentlessly lectured on savings rates, investing and the 4% rule from the crib thru high school?

“No! Well read ‘Puppy Too Smallor ‘Good Night Moonlater. Now see here in this Wall Street Journal article…”

Once she reached the age when she could just refuse to listen, I resorted to writing a series of letters on financial stuff to her in case, you know, she might be interested after Im dead.

I shared these with a colleague who said other friends and family might be interested and he suggested I put them on a blog. This seemed a great way to archive them.

While, of course, I had heard of blogs before I had never actually seen one. I joke, but it is true, the first blog post I ever read was the first one I ever wrote.

This was in the spring of 2011. This also explains the boring title of my blog.

I wanted those friends and family to know it was me. All the variations of my name were taken until I added the NH (New Hampshire) at the end. Voila: jlcollinsnh.com

Had I any idea it would grow into the international audience it now enjoys, I might have come up with a cool title like “Physician on FIRE

Might not have, too.

So, really, it is just written for my daughter. The stuff I want her to know about; what has worked for me and what has kicked me in the a**. Im still stunned anyone else cares, but Im delighted to have them along for the ride.

Except doctors. Doctors need to keep working. Im gonna need doctors. Probably lots.

As for future plans, keeping in mind I’ve been doing this for 5.5 years now, read this (one of my first): My short attention span

[PoF: I somehow got away without a single reading of ‘Puppy Too Small’. We were more of a ‘Poky Little Puppy‘ Family.

I hope my boys read my own blog someday. Or yours. That would probably be better. I hope you keep it going for a long time.]

 

 

 

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

 

Well, no physician should read any of these. Just boring financial stuff that can only lead to FI. Not the inspiring work doctors already do tending to cranky old geezers like soon-to-be-me.

 

But for those I dont need as I age…

 

Bonus for those who might need it: Stocks — Part XXVIII: Debt — The Unacceptable Burden

*Yes, star of screen. Note: This video starring J.L.C. borrows colorful language from The Gambler.

F-You Money: John Goodman v. jlcollinsnh

 

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?

 

For me it was never about retirement, as I describe in that guest post I wrote for Mr. Money Mustache

It was about having F-You money, which to me is enough to step away from any job any time for any reason.

I liked my career and I liked working. I just didnt like doing it all the time. F-You money allowed me to take several private sabbaticals along the way. The shortest was ~3 months. The longest ~5 years.

I only “retired” in 2011 at 60. By then I had been FI for 22 years. So, a long but not very scary transition.

But back in 1989 I didnt have even the concept of FI. Id never heard the term and wouldnt actually until after I began blogging.

About three years into that 5-year work break something interesting happened.

During this time, my wife had also quit her job and our daughter was born. (Such things happen when youve got time on your hands)

[PoF: Tell us more, Jim. How, exactly, do these things happen? ;)]

I was reviewing our expenses and investments and I noticed something interesting. For the three years to that point we had no earned income, we were paying our bills as usual and wed made no change in our lifestyle. Yet at the end of each year our net worth was greater than the year before.

I knew something remarkable had happened, but I had no idea what to call it or even that it could have been a goal.

Embarrassingly, it never occurred to me that this also meant I never had to work again. Possibly because I was looking forward to the next gig, but mostly because I was wandering blindly thru the wilderness.

As for when I officially “retired,” I thought I had hung it up for good in 2002 after the tech crash and 9/11 cratered the best company I’d ever worked for and the best job Id ever had. I mourned that loss and figured the universe was telling me I was done.

But then in 2005 a long time friend, a guy who had worked for me in the 1980s, lured me back in to work for him.

He was the best boss Ive ever had and I enjoyed the team hed put together and our customers. But the company was the absolute pits.

After six years (5.99 years too many) I said, “Joe, I love you but I just cant do this anymore.” I don’t think he believed me.

Six months later I said, “No. Really. You gotta find my replacement.”

We were on the way to a fine wine soaked dinner with clients at a first class restaurant, always great fun.

He said, “You know youre going to miss this!”

“Youre probably right,” I said.

We were both wrong.

[PoF: You’ve got a great story. Like you, I haven’t always been as financially savvy as I might be now. I feel quite fortunate to have discovered the term “financial independence” right around the time I had attained it. It might have been a long slog if I had made it a singular goal from career day one, even if I might have hit the goal a year or two earlier.]

 

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?

 

Im pretty much living it.

I have my blog, Ive written my book and I have our annual Chautauquas ( where I get to go to a cool place in Ecuador and hang out with cool people talking about interesting things.)

Plus travel.

Heres what our 2017 is looking like:

January thru March well be traveling to the Philippines, making stops in Hawaii and Guam on the way there and around SE Asia once we are in the area. Details are up in the air. We might return thru the middle East and Europe, but most likely back the way we came.

Spring/Summer we hope to get back to Shamba, our in-laws’ beach house on Lake Michigan in WI for a month or so.

August well be in the UK and possibly over to France.

At the end of August when our lease expires, we plan to give up the apartment, put our stuff in storage, load up the jalopy and hit the road to try hotel living around the US for a year or so. Partially scouting the next place we might live; mostly visiting all the friends weve been promising to visit these last few years.

In late October/Nov well head back to Ecuador for the Chautauquas.

I just need my health to hold up. Know any good doctors?

[PoF: It depends on what your definition of “good” is. But even if I do, it’s up to you to follow through and take care of yourself.

And, yes, I would say you are living an ideal retirement. World travel. Exploration. Following through on promises to visit friends. Remember, you’ve got a friend Up North!]

 

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.

 

Keep working. Focus on geriatrics.

You need a far bigger house and far fancier cars. A little later a divorce from your starter wife followed by some serial trophy wives will help keep you working. Plus they’ll happily take over the continued acceleration of your spending so, now that it routinely outstrips your income, you can focus on new and more sources of credit to keep it going.

Other than that, lets see…

The blog is filled with financial stuff, so Ill let those readers interested in FI hit up some of the posts I suggested above.

A couple of those also talk about being a better human and avoiding those who are not, for those interested.

But none of that’s for you. You’re a young doctor and I need you to keep working just in case. So…

Be sure you don’t just keep up with the Joneses, but you leave them in the dust! You’re a Doctor, after all.

[PoF: You do realize, Jim, that you will only need a handful of doctors. Not all of the doctors. I don’t think I’ve ever typed the acronym LOL on this site before, but I did actually LOL as I read your answers. I wasn’t ROTFLMAO, but I wan’t far from it, either.]

 

Heres a bit of child raising theory:

 

Our daughter is now 24 and in the Peace Corp. Since she was little until this day, people have praised her and, in the process, us for having raised her so well. But my take is a little different. I think the best thing we did is to stay out of her way and let her run.

Ive come to believe that parents have very little ability to favorably influence their kids. However, they have an almost endless ability to screw them up and frequently they do so in their efforts to favorably influence them. Use a light touch.

Heres a technique that worked for us.

One of my great pet peeves is parents unable to control their children in public places. This has gotten so bad that it is now considered normal and the rest of us should just accept it. It is not and we shouldnt.

We travel a lot. Shes been all over the world, has lived on three continents and speaks three languages (Chinese is next).  We started when she was young and such travel means lots of public places. I was determined that my kid was not going to be one of those kids.

Our first trip with her was when she was a babe in arms and so not an issue. The second was planned for when shed be 18 months, and that was the real test.

In preparation I set up a crib in our living room, around the corner and out of sight from where we sat down to eat.

Heres what we did, and note that this was all done with a happy tone of voice and not a cross word to be heard.

When she would start to fuss or bang stuff at the table or otherwise engage in objectionable behavior, Id turn to her and say in that happy tone, “Oh, do you want to go to your crib?”

At first she didnt understand what I was saying, but shed smile back and nod her little head. I’d pick her up and, smiling and happy, take her to the crib, set her down and start back to the table.

Of course, this was not at all what she wanted and shed start to sniffle and begin to cry. Id immediately stop and return. “Oh, Im sorry. Did you want to be with us?” She’d nod her little head and Id pick her up and carry her back. The tears would dry and her smiles return.

The next time she fussed or banged stuff at the table or otherwise engaged in objection behavior, Id do it again, still in my happy tone, “Oh, do you want to go to your crib?”

It didnt take long for her to figure out some behaviors meant she wanted to be with us and others meant she wanted to be alone. Not good or bad. Sociable or not sociable. Never took a raised voice, a harsh word or even a disapproving look, let alone the endless, empty threats the few parents I see even try, use and fail with.

[PoF: Great advice, Jim. Many of us young-ish doctors are also parents of young children. We do our best not to overindulge ours, but like you, want them to grow up and be “worldly” or something along those lines.

Some of our potential plans in early retirement include living in New Zealand and/or Australia for a year or two, perhaps a year in a Spanish speaking country, and a nationwide motorhome tour. Our international travels begin this spring with a trip to Paris and Reykjavik. Shhhh… the boys don’t know it yet.]

 

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 do?

[PoF: Hypothetically, yes.

Actually, no.]

 

Let’s see, a thousand bucks a day, eh?

It has been a long time since I’ve been to London and I’ll bet I could run thru a grand a day there no problem. Even with the Pound in the tank.

I’d wander the streets, stop for afternoon tea and spend the evenings at fine restaurants and shows.

“When you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.”  Samuel Johnson said that, or something close to it, back in the day. It’d be fun to see if it still holds true.

Oh, BTW, can you tell me just when to expect this check of yours?

[PoF: If this post sells 33,000 copies of The Poky Little Puppy, I’ll take you & the Mrs. to London on our Amazon Affiliate riches.]

 

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

 

At this point I seem to be losing my taste for a lot of things, but these three are critical: Wine, water and coffee. Not necessarily in that order. Coffee.

Vodka, ice cold and served up with a couple of olives, still works for me.  As does the occasional beer. But beer has gotten so fancy I hardly know how to order it anymore.

[PoF: I can help with that.]

 

 

Brandy late in the evening is very nice once in awhile.

Diet coke and 7-up used to appeal to me more than they do these days. Now I’m more likely to drink cranberry juice with breakfast. I dilute it so I can drink a lot.

Ice tea in the summer, hot tea on the rare occasion when I’m in the mood. (Better work on that for when your check arrives and I head off to London…)

OK, that’s eleven if you count hot and iced tea as separate beverages which as clearly to any reasonable person they are.

 

Now, eleven foods.

 

I like most any kind of food short of fired Tarantulas on a stick. Although I’m told they are delicious. Some things are better believed than tested.

Recently we’ve stared eating more vegetarian meals, mostly because my wife found some really great recipes. It might be healthier too, just in case all these young doctors start reading my blog and retire early, becoming unavailable to me and I have to take care of my own health. God forbid.

We had a veggie stew tonight that is just fabulous. Not sure what all is in it (I seem to spoon up a different vegetable every time) or how it’s spiced, but it is really good. She also makes a sort of paste/spread from avocados and black beans and other stuff that is outstanding. Had that on toast for breakfast this morning.

She makes a very simple salmon with veggies that might be my current favorite. She also makes a very simple chicken, also with veggies. Other top dishes: Her lamb curry, beef stroganoff, Greek chicken.

I like a good steak on occasion and on the rare occasion I cook, I can make a mean chili.

Sushi we love, but have to go out for.

I like all kinds of fruit and nuts, especially oranges, cashews and almonds.

My terrible sweet tooth leads me to ice cream and those incredible Turtle candies (chocolate, walnuts and caramel). But I’m avoiding that stuff just now.

Guess that’s over eleven. Screw it. Both teas are the same and I’m using that extra slot here.

[PoF: I can attest to your wife’s cooking — most excellent. With that diet, you may not need much from the doctors for awhile. You certainly won’t need all of us, no how many Turtles you eat.]

 

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

 

When Mr. 1500 Days brought you to the Shamba beach house in WI last summer for a visit. We’ve been friends ever since.

Advice? For you? Seek out a better class of friends.

[PoF: I see what you did there.]

And treatment for this obsession with the number 11 you have.

[PoF: Well, that was fun! This was the second time I’ve featured a blogger that I’ve met in person first, and I think the familiarity comes through in the writing. I hope to have more interviews of a similar nature for you in the future.

Did you hear that JLC received a recent e-mail from The John Bogle of Vanguard fame? It’s true. He wrote about it. I would, too. 

Share your comments below, and since Mr. Collins doesn’t bother much with social media, please do us a favor and share his interview via Facebook, Twitter, or whatever it is the kids are into these days. Cheers!]

 

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

 

 


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35 comments

  • I’ve only heard of one Jim Collins and when you said it wasn’t him I almost stopped reading. I am not a smart man, nor do I know that other dude.

    Jim, thanks for sharing the letters you wrote for your daughter. I started writing to try and get my family and friends on board, don’t know that I’ve had as much luck helping folks as you though.

    And what’s this beer that smells like weed and blueberry? Sounds like something I would half like at least 🙂

  • Very fun read! Love to start my mornings like this. PoF and Jim Collins are two of my inspirational bloggers for all things FI related, so the combo was just perfect.
    The best part is that you guys have met in real life! That is pretty cool.
    One thing that you mentioned really hit home for me; and the fact that I am learning all about the possibilities of FIRE this early in my physician career may not be that good!

  • Very entertaining read. I didn’t even know of the other Jim Collins and I’ve only read a few posts on this Jims blog. I think it I may have to give it some more time. Still I’m with you POF, pokey little puppy for the win.

  • Jim’s rendition of The Gambler scene is an all-time FI classic. I can’t get enough of that video.

  • Well, that was incredibly fun. Like maybe a few others, this Jim Collins is the only one I know, but did just recently discover him via the Boglehead forum. Despite my aversion to foul language, I may have to watch that video as others have said it as quite entertaining.

    Great lessons on child rearing. Thank you for doing the guest post and sharing your letters to your daughter with the world.

    cd :O)

  • Such a fun read from two of PF’s best bloggers. Thanks for the smiles and for both of your hard work teaching us about FIRE.
    JLC- don’t worry. We’d all happily suspend our retirement if you needed us. Just don’t stay sick for too long–we have travel plans too!

  • Thanks for sharing, Jim and thanks for another great interview, PoF. I wasn’t aware that there are so many Jim Collins around and I can assure you, our J.L. Collins from NH was the only one I knew. In fact, once I almost ordered a book on Amazon about entrepreneurship written by a Jim Collins, but then I found out it was written by some motivational speaker dude with the same name. Close all! So, don’t feel bad about that Aussie podcaster canceling the interview!
    Cheers,
    ERN

  • This interview was such a happy way to start the day. Thank you.

  • Love it and LOL’d (I have never used that either) more than a few times too! I’ve read Jim’s site for years – never commented until I started my blog. I was also lucky enough to review his book – and I keep one on a shelf at school and I’m giving a few as gifts this year. You guys are both awesome and thanks for what you do for folks seeking help with their finances and for those “infected” with FIRE fever 😉

  • Fun interview! Jim seems to be a very funny guy, but I don’t often get that from his blog.

    Nice to see a different side of him here!

    Good stuff, thanks PoF! You certainly keep some high quality friends!

  • Thanks all…

    For the very kind words. Glad you enjoyed the interview, I sure had fun doing it.

    I’m especially glad to hear, at least in this FI group, I am displacing that other Jim Collins. His name, and books, are the reason I went with JL Collins on my own. Although now I rather like it.

  • Ty

    I can’t help but read this post in Jim’s voice, which I know well from all of the podcasts he’s appeared on.

    Jim’s advice has indeed changed the direction of my life. I hope one day to shake his hand and say thanks!

    I’d even buy him a beer, but absolutely not the ‘smells like weed’ craft brew that PoF tipped us off to – after my 12+ months of riding the bus, I’ve had quite enough of that smell.

    • Thanks Ty…

      …and since it won’t be the blueberry beer that smell like weed, I’ll let you pick the brew when the time comes.

      One taste of that one put it up there with tarantulas on a stick.

      Mmmmm….

      …maybe that’s the right pairing….

  • That was informative and hilarious! I’d like to try that weed-smelling beer, but they might test me at work.
    But wait… I’ve got the FU money, so maybe I should accelerate my FI timeline a bit and enjoy the weed beer.

    Thanks for great post.

  • I agree that doctors should not reach FI. Ever.

    I know it’s a joke, but Mr. Collins is right that the US has a shortage of geriatric medical professionals.

    He could learn about delicious beer. So many flavors. So much enjoyment.

  • Arrgo

    I really appreciate Jim’s work. His concept/ post on F-you money has probably resonated with me the most. I think many people aren’t aware of how important this is. You can work at your job for many years and things are going ok or even great. But you have to be prepared if or when things take a turn for the worse. That great manager that always took care of you – he’s gone. …A new VP takes over and decides they are going to shake things up and you are going to do “this” now etc. You want to give yourself a way out (and be able to say F-you 😉 It might be ok when you are younger and starting out, but that game can get old. You can only live it and tolerate it for so long. Its your life and you want to put yourself in the position to walk and not have to compromise your values just for the money. Probably more so as you get older. Plus when you are 50 do you want to have to take a crappy 3rd shift job or one with a 2 hour commute just to pay the bills? Or pump gas out in the cold? (Yes they still pump our gas for us here ;)Things have turned out ok for me but I wish I had been more focused a bit earlier. Just putting in my 11, I mean 2 cents. Sorry for the rant 😉 Keep up the good work Jim!

  • Well said on the value/imporatnce of F-you money even in good work situations, Arrgo…

    …and Thanks!

  • Entertaining and amusing post. I loved it.

    My kids are grown but I will defintiely pass along the child rearing hints.

    PoF – keep up the good work. You have inspired me to add written interviews to my blog in the near future. I doubt they will be as entertaining as yours, but thanks for the inspiration!

  • I’m torn between agreeing that PoF shouldn’t be read by physicians because we need good physicians, and thinking “but they should get to be happy soon too!” There’s got to be a happy medium where they work as much as fits well into their lives but we also get medical care, right?

    I had to laugh about the crib and dinner training. We do a similar thing with JuggerBaby. When ze starts to play with zir cup or food, we say oh, you must be all done! Ze quickly gets back to business lest we take zir food or drink, or end dinner.

  • David B

    Having worked with Jim Collins across two different publishing companies I can attest to his character (he is one). When we have the rare occasion to meet our conversations are of the type I imagined that I would be having more of.
    So PoF – having met Jim I want you to encourage this lovely human being to take better care of himself. He has a positive impact on so many people. Me included.

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