Christopher Guest Post: White Coat Investor


Welcome to the second 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 The White Coat Investor, Jim Dahle, MD, whose excellent website is one of a couple (the other being MMM) that inspired me to not only fine tune my financial and future plans, but also to create a website of my own.


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 White Coat Investor


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?

Emergency medicine. I loved the variety, didn’t want to ever be on call, wanted to have the skills necessary to take care of a broad range of problems, and fit in with the people in the specialty.

I also considered OB/GYN and general surgery but was turned off by the people in the specialty and the brutal lifestyles. Despite enjoying the medicine, I never felt welcome as a male on the labor deck or in clinic by staff, the docs, or the patients. And the general surgeons seemed to consider medicine as the only thing they were going to do with their lives. I had too many outside interests to pursue that.

I should have looked at anesthesia a little closer. I think I would have liked that. I’d go to medical school again as those were four of the best years of my life, and residency was my favorite job I ever had. I still enjoy practicing EM and so I still do it even though I don’t need to.

[PoF: EM and anesthesia have a lot in common. Patients rely on your care for a few hours; you deliver the care that they need to the best of your ability. A few of them try to die on you, but many patients are fairly straightforward. Every day is a new day.]


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

The White Coat Investor has been increasing financial literacy for physicians and other high-income professionals since 2011. If you want to FIRE, you’re going to need to have a very high level of financial literacy, so you might as well get started.

There are over 900 posts on the website discussing personal finance, budgeting, investing, student loan management, mortgages, retirement accounts, asset protection, estate planning, and other important topics. I post twice a week and also publish a guest post each week.

[PoF: Not quite eleven sentences, but the man has written enough to fill eleven sets of encyclopedias]


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 the blog mostly because I was sick of typing the same thing into internet forums over and over again. I had already been helping docs with their financial issues for 5+ years prior to the starting the blog. Now I can just post a link to a relevant post that answers that question.

I was also very interested in developing a source of passive income at the time. The blog allowed me to help others and explore my entrepreneurial bent at the same time. I guess two big days for the blog was the day it was linked to on the front page of CNN and the day I realized it was providing me a six-figure income.


I have some new books in the works, but they’ve been waiting for me to cut back a bit on my clinical shifts so I have the time to do that without stealing it from my family time.

[PoF: “Some new books.” Not just a new book. We will look forward to them! I’d better read your first one sooner than later.]


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

There should be 11 there.

[PoF: There are exactly 11 12. And the last post has 11 comments. The planets have aligned nicely. Note: There were 11 when Dr. Dahle wrote this. Then The X Factor became an instant classic, creating a disturbance in the force.]


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?

60. Maybe 70. Maybe 50. Not really sure. I could retire from medicine today. I expect I could retire from any kind of work by age 45 or so, but I doubt I will.

As Seth Godin said, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Maybe instead of trying to figure out how to retire from work ASAP, you need to find work that you’d like to spend your life doing.

[PoF: You and Seth make a good point. Many physicians are looking for escape, though, as you shared with us in 2012 in the post 60% of Physicians Would Retire Now if They Could.]


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?

I’m trying to turn my current life into my ideal retirement life. Right now that looks like 6-8 clinical shifts, a week long vacation, a shorter 3 week trip, and a few days to write each month.

[PoF: That sounds like a great setup. I continue to contemplate creating a part-time option for myself. I can’t imagine you’re currently only taking a few days each month to write, but I guess that depends on your definition of writing. Between the frequent posts, comments to them, Forum posts (WCI Forum, Bogleheads forum (over 11,000 lifetime posts), etc… you’re giving the keyboard a serious workout!]


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.

Figure out who you are and what makes you happy as soon in life as you can. The most miserable doctors I’ve met are those who are spending their time doing something they don’t like. If you hate being on call and working 60+ hours a week, don’t go into general surgery for instance. Realize that different things will be important to you at 35 than seemed important at 25. I’m sure it is the same for 45, 55, and 65. Plan your financial life so that you can take advantage of those changed priorities.

Limiting yourself to one house, one spouse, and one job will save you a ton of money and grief, so shop for each of them very carefully! Start saving from your first paycheck. Meet with your partner once a month about money, even for a few minutes. You’ll get on the same page within a few months and then never have a money-related argument. Remember the patient is the one with the disease-medicine can ruin your life if you let it.

[PoF: Eleven sentences that will be difficult to best. The fact that different things will be important every 10 years is so true. I believe I’ve always been the same person, but my current wants and future desires have certainly evolved as I have grown.]


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’ve got a lot of dream trips on my list. Europe is always a fun destination. 11 days in Scandinavia would be great. Climbing Kilimanjaro and doing a safari would also be a great 11 day trip. A canyoneering trip to New Zealand would also be a dream trip. Am I allowed to name 11 of these?


svea viking

I can recommend scandinavia


[PoF: You are allowed as many as you can afford in retirement, as long as you abide by a reasonable safe withdrawal rate. Or go all out and try to do it all while you’re still making a great salary!]


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

Are there 11 different types of chocolate milk?

Seriously, this is a tough question. I don’t drink alcohol and never have liked carbonation. I’m trying to cut back on my liquid calories anyway.


[PoF: Just when I was starting to think we had a lot in common 🙂


not what PoF would put in that glass.

To recap:

  1. Chocolate milk
  2. Chocolate milk
  3. Nonfat chocolate milk
  4. Chocolate milk
  5. Chocolate milk
  6. Chocolate milk
  7. Dark chocolate milk
  8. Chocolate milk
  9. Regular milk with Nestle’s Quik
  10. Chocolate milk
  11. maybe water?]


Now, eleven foods.

Lasagna, pizza, anything served in France, ribs, polish sausage, oatmeal cookies, chili dogs, shrimp, steak, mangos, and raspberries eaten right off the bush.


single raspberry

I found you one


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

I’m sure it was a comment you left on my blog. My advice: Don’t be afraid to say no to stuff you’re not really interested in doing. What’s the point of having a blog providing passive income if you have to start working harder at it than the job it freed you from?

[PoF: Excellent advice! I’ve been feeling a need to slow down a bit; having others write the posts for me is fantastic! Thank you very much!]



Share your thoughts with the PoF community.