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2017 Q3 PoF Portfolio, Spending, and Blog Performance Update

It’s time for a quarterly update on our investment portfolio, our family’s spending, and blog stats. Another quarter has come and gone, and the overnight freeze warning notification on my new phone is one of many indications that fall has clearly arrived.

I’ve been looking forward to this time of year. The part time portion of my career began last week, but I’m putting my time in this week, getting all my monthly hours in over the next eight days. Free time will be limited, so let’s get right to those updates.


2017 Q3 PoF Portfolio Update


Below you will see my asset allocation with the money I’ve got earmarked for retirement. Several items are not listed, including our:

One could argue for inclusion of the first two items as those have value and could be sold to fund retirement. I do include those when I calculate our net worth. I also include our 529 Plans in our net worth (it’s about 8%), but do not include it in our retirement portfolio, as it’s earmarked for a different purpose.

The DAF money, which would represent about another 8% of our portfolio, is no longer mine and will eventually be granted to charities of our choice. I don’t include that in our net worth or the retirement portfolio, but it will certainly serve a purpose in our retirement.



The taxable account remains over 50%, and only 17.7% of the portfolio is in tax-deferred dollars. This is a great setup for easy access to our dollars in early retirement. When all earned income ceases, we should have no trouble paying zero federal income tax as retirees.

The number that jumps out to me is the 3.3% cash. I’m not a fan of keeping a sizable emergency fund, but this cash represents a full year’s worth of expenses.

Why would I be hoarding cash? We’ve been thinking we may start building on our lakefront property as soon as next spring. I’m not a big fan of putting money that’s expected to be spent within 12 months into the stock market. Also, the easiest action is inaction, and so far, I haven’t come up with a better place to park the money. I do have most of it in their 11-month no penalty CD earning 1.5% APY.


Our Current Asset Allocation is pretty close to what I have targeted. I’ll plan to continue “rebalancing” with new investments.



I haven’t set a specific allocation for the percentage of large, mid, and small caps, but I like to have some idea of what it is. I’ve learned that my numbers are a bit skewed, as Vanguard’s small cap indexes have some funds that are considered mid-cap. Empower gives me a more accurate number if I really need to know, as explained in my Q2 Update.


2017 Q3 PoF Portfolio Performance


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we had another good quarter. According to Empower’s You Index, my portfolio delivered returns of 4.17%, as compared to 3.96% for the S&P 500.

Impressive? Not so fast. My S&P 500 index fund outperformed both, with a quarterly return of 4.48%. That figure includes reinvested dividends, which are oddly excluded from many reports of the index returns, including the default view from Empower. I’ll omit that orange line from the remaining figures after this one, using my You Index as the comparison.


my S&P 500 > your S&P 500?


My top holding from the last quarter happens to be my favorite (and only) individual stock, Berkshire Hathaway, with a return of 8.24% or nearly double that of the overall portfolio.



Another top performer of the third quarter was the emerging markets index fund, returning 7.77%. You tend to see more volatility with emerging markets, but good stretches can be really good.



The dud of the bunch, which should come as no surprise, is the total bond market fund. Most of the time, I’m glad I keep my bond allocation low at 10%. The smooth ride ended with a 0.09% quarterly return.



2017 Q3 Spending


In the first quarter of 2017, we spent $14,000. Last quarter, it was $12,000. Care to guess where we landed in quarter #3?

We split the difference with a total output of $13,000. The consistency is remarkable. I don’t expect it to last, as I owe $1,500 to my hospital for an E.R. visit after mangling a fingertip, and we just paid a nearly $2,000 biannual property tax bill in early October.

The last quarter’s spending did include about a $800 property tax bill for our cabin and a $900 electric upgrade to my Fortifed Bike. Stay tuned for much more detail on that bit of fun next week.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I continue to gain new readers, so I think this set of bullet points may become a standard disclaimer. We are able to keep our expenses low while living a comfortable life as a family of four by taking advantage of the following “cheats.”

  • No mortgage or rent payments. We own our homes.
  • No loan payments. Student loans have been paid off.
  • No term life or disability insurance. We dropped them once we were FI.
  • Health Insurance provided by employer. We will bear this cost when RE.
  • Travel Rewards. Credit card points and CME travel reduce our travel costs.
  • School-aged children. Both are enrolled in a quality public school.
  • We live in a fairly low cost of living area.
  • I do not count income tax in our “spending.” It’s a cost of earning income.
  • Donations. We give to and from donor advised funds, and track that separately.


Here is the breakdown of our quarterly output, courtesy of Mint.com:


Food and Dining consistently comes in at around $1,000 a month. This represents restaurants, alcohol, and groceries, including things like dog food, toothpaste, toilet paper, and tiny umbrellas. We shop cost-consciously at places like Aldi and Costco, but still manage to spend $1,000 month in and month out.

If our fourth quarter spending remains under $16,000, and I believe it easily could, our annual spending will be under $55,0000. That’s $7,000 less than last year’s total of $62,000 and well under my prediction of about $60,000.

We’re not going out of our way to spend less, but I think we have a heightened awareness that we have more than enough. Our relatively newfound interest in embracing some level of minimalism (or a little less maximalism) has us spending less time shopping online, in stores, and at our neighbors’ garage sales.


2017 Q3 Blog Performance


E-mail subscribers can stop reading here, as this information was recently shared. You can subscribe here:

The site now has 289 published posts and 32 pages. These have seen some solid traffic.

  • 1,517,000 all-time pageviews with 425,000 in the last quarter.
  • from 202 countries. Still no love from Madagascar, Greenland, or North Korea.


How readers are following Physician on FIRE

  • 3,424 e-mail subscribers (880 new in last quarter)
  • 841 Feedly subscribers
  • 178 RSS Feedburner subscribers
  • 5,450 Twitter followers
  • 868 Facebook followers / friends

If you’ve got any friends who may benefit from my content, please forward this e-mail on to them. I’ll give them plenty of links to my top content. For example…


The Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of all-time:

  1. Stealth Wealth: I’m Just an Ordinary Average Guy  18,037 views
  2. He Has Read Over 250 Investing Books. He Recommends These Three Funds.  17,423 views
  3. Vanguard Backdoor Roth: a Step by Step Guide  15,840 views
  4. A Tale of 4 Physicians: The Impact of Lifestyle  14,108 views
  5. 20 Steps to Effective DIY Investing  13,709 views

Not much has changed here, other than #4 & #5 trading places.


The Top 5 Posts of the Quarter:

  1. Can a Bear Take Away Your Financial Independence?  5,884 views
  2. Second Generation FIRE 5,509 views
  3. The Sunday Best (9/3/2017) 5,178 views
  4. Four Rules I Followed To Get Wealthy 5,129 views
  5. Don’t Retire To Something. Retire On Something. 5,037 views

A couple of these were featured on Rockstar Finance, and #4 was a classic post from The White Coat Investor. It’s funny to see a Sunday Best post here, but I happen to know that my friend JL Collins linked to it for the Fortified bike featured in my commentary beneath the posts.


Where is my traffic coming from? Top 5 referring sites:

  1. White Coat Investor (47,228 sessions)
  2. Twitter (28,421 sessions)
  3. Rockstar Finance (17,388 sessions)
  4. Facebook (9,833 sessions)
  5. Retireby40 (8,120 sessions)

Reddit has replaced 1500days as #6. I’ve been listed as the 4th most popular financial independence blog in their FI subreddit sidebar, which puts me among some great company.


Top Referring Sites this quarter:

  1. Twitter (7,915 sessions)
  2. Rockstar Finance (5,794 sessions)
  3. White Coat Investor (5,262 sessions)
  4. Facebook (3,308 sessions)
  5. Reddit (2,667 sessions)


Where do people go from Phyisicianonfire.com? (mainly referred from The Sunday Best & Christopher Guest Posts🙂

  1. ESI Money (6,373 clicks)
  2. Bogleheads (5,624 clicks)
  3. The Happy Philosopher (5,438 clicks)
  4. Early Retirement Now (4,762 clicks)
  5. KevinMD (4,212 clicks)

I’ve mentioned this before, but whitecoatinvestor.com would very likely show up as #1*, but some setting must exist that keep me from seeing those clicks.


Most clicked site this quarter:

  1. ESI Money (2,435 clicks)
  2. Wealthy Doc (1,828 clicks)
  3. Bogleheads (1,507 clicks)
  4. My Curiosity Lab (1,376 clicks)
  5. Early Retirement Now (1,291 clicks)

*My suspicions are confirmed. The White Coat Investor informed me that I sent his analytics registered 16,607 clicks in the third quarter. That’s more than these other sites combined!

Exciting Stuff!


I’ve kept my blogging persona and real life person pretty well separated in these first 21 months. Only a handful of people who knew me in real life before I started this site are aware that I’m doing this. I’ve met probably 15 to 20 new friends in small meetups in Minnesota and Colorado — mostly other bloggers and FI minded people.

Those numbers are going to grow by leaps and bounds. Later this month, I’m attending the biggest anesthesia meeting (ASA annual meeting in Boston) and the biggest personal finance bloggers meeting (FinCon17 in Dallas).

I will obviously meet hundreds of people in Dallas, and I think that will be exciting and somewhat liberating as there are very few people that I actually talk to about all this blogging and money stuff. None of it will be taboo there, and I’m looking forward to meeting so many amazing people that I only know from our online interactions so far.


A Meetup in Boston


If you’re in town for the ASA, or just happen to live there and want to get together over beer and doughy soft pretzels, I’m inviting you to meet me at Harpoon Brewery on Monday 10/23 at 4:45 pm for the 5:00 brewery tour. It costs $5, lasts an hour, includes some sampling time, and there’s a large beer hall where we can sit down afterward. I hope to see a few of you there! Please share with anyone you know that might want to join us.


The Plutus Awards


I am humbled to have been named a finalist in a couple categories in what are pretty much like the Oscars, but instead of rich famous actors, it’s lowly bloggers taking home the gold, or plastic, or whatever they’re made of. I’m thinking plastic.

Anyway, those trophies or plaques or participation certificates will be doled out Saturday night a FinCon and I’m honored just to see my site’s name alongside these other excellent blogs.



The winners will be determined by a panel, but there is one category in which you’re allowed to vote. I’m campaigning for The White Coat Investor to win the People’s Choice Award. Please consider taking a minute to cast your vote with this link in which Dr. Dahle’s site is already filled in.


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52 thoughts on “2017 Q3 PoF Portfolio, Spending, and Blog Performance Update”

  1. Pingback: How Kids Impact FIRE - The Physician Philosopher
  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. Nice Post

    , love and relationshis are the thing which can cure us from different difficulties.

    Online Dating also can help you to find perfect match.
    great work, keep posting , Thank You.

  4. Man, those are some serious traffic numbers for only being around for a little over a year. Awesome job! What do you think played the biggest role in driving that traffic since the beginning? (outside of the referrals that is).

    • Thanks, Adam.

      I shared my top tips in one page, but I would say the best thing I did was find a niche that had yet to be filled. There are lots of docs burning out and looking to live a better life. I can’t fix the systemic problems causing burnout, but I can help them discover and achieve financial independence, and that can go a long way to alleviating those stressors. I’ve taken advantage of my FI status by dropping to part time (just started this month).

      There were quite a few FIRE blogs when I started, but not many (or any?) focused on physicians and other high-income professionals. I was looking for a site like that and didn’t find it. So I decided to create it myself, and it’s been a ton of fun.


  5. Congrats on another successful quarter. This is one of my favorite blogs and I love checking out your new blog posts as soon they come out. Keep up your good work.

  6. Thanks for the in depth look into your asset allocation and best of luck with the lake house construction next year. I try to essentially mimic an ACWI total world approach for my overall asset allocation with some slight tilts to small cap and emerging markets.

    I’m very comfortable with my overall asset allocation plan, but recently I’ve been struggling on deciding the optimal ratio in a taxable account between VTSAX and VFWAX. With VTSAX you get the benefit of having almost all qualified dividends while VFWAX had roughly 75% qualified dividends. That being said I know you can only make use of the foreign tax credit in taxable accounts. I’d be interested to hear how you weigh the increased dividend tax rate vs the foreign tax credit in VFWAX. Keep up the great articles!

  7. Appreciate you mentioning my site so often. I’ll buy you a coffee at FinCon if you’re up for it (doctors drink lots of coffee, right?) 🙂

    By the way, I saw Flatliners yesterday and thought of you. Maybe this could be a side offering at FinCon? Ha!

  8. Nice work on your move up the charts, Doc! Gotta hear more about the microbrewery investing. Sounds like a delicious adventure.

    Hope you have a blast in Dallas. Let’s connect soon. And sorry in advance if Michigan State drops the hammer on Goldy this Saturday. I’ll be there to watch it all unfold. 🙂 (and shoot, better get on that guest post!)

  9. Incredible progress! I think you’ve carved out a great niche and good transition from clinical medicine to a venue perhaps even more enjoyable!

    Great work on the website. Hope to meet up at some point in the future, and keep up the hard work!

  10. Another great post. The one thing I am wrangling with, do I move more out of taxable accounts to pay off the house right before the two kids start college? Financial aid does not consider the value of your primary residence, and ignores the tax sheltered retirement investments. 2 kids to fund, and 529 not going to cover it all. But still 6 years away, taxable could get big enough that it will not matter.

    • That’s a great question and an interesting strategy. You’ll know better in five years, but I hadn’t thought about hiding money from the FAFSA in home equity. You’ll have to consider the capital gains hit, which might offset any benefit. Food for thought, for sure.


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  12. Great work. I won’t see your unmasking at FinCon, but I guess I’m one of the few that have had the privilege of seeing behind the mask already. Have a great time.

  13. Bummer I won’t be able to make your “unmasking” at FinCon; maybe next year! And congrats on the Plutus nominations! I can’t think of a more deserving website.

    • Much obliged, Dr. C. I don’t suppose you signed up for the WCI conference in Park City, did you? That will likely be my next appearance as Physician on FIRE, and first real public speaking gig. Should be a fun one!


  14. Congratulations on the Plutus Award nominations! I’m looking forward to celebrating with everyone at FinCon this year. See you in Dallas!

  15. Congrats on the fantastic numbers! Speaking of numbers, the last few updates have shown VGSLX with an ER of 0.1 and I was curious if that has been a typo or not.

    • Good catch — it’s listed as 0.12 in my Roth and 0.1 in hers. I guess we rounded down there, but 0.12 is more accurate. I would not be surprised if others were off by a basis point or two. Vanguard has been lowering fees across the board lately.


  16. Fantastic!

    I think I’ll get to meet you in person at the WCI conference. Hopefully you are celebrating some Plutus awards by then.

    • I’m not holding my breath on the trophy, but the WCI conference will be another great venue to get to know some like minded folks.

      The white coats are coming! The white coats are coming!


  17. Great work, POF, and congrats on being nominated for two blog awards!

    I enjoyed listening to your recent podcast with Doctor’s Unbound. I highly recommend it to all of your readers.

    • Thank you kindly, TGE.

      Best comment I’ve seen about that one is someone who thought @doctorsunbound was Doctor Sunbound. I think that could easily apply, too.

      Here’s the link to anyone who missed the podcast.


  18. Congrats on another successful quarter! It’s so amazing to see how your blog has grown so fast and now ranks higher than many blogs that have been around for years!

    I really like that you and your family keep your spending at such a low level! Our biggest expenses at the moment are our mortgage, daycare, and groceries. I can’t wait until we pay off our house and our son goes to public school! ^.^

    • It will be a beautiful thing when you have the ability to “cheat” like we do. Of your three largest expenses, we only incur one of them.

      In time, so will you.


  19. Great job on the blogging and finances. I think you’re about to start an exciting and fun lifestyle change with the part time work and more time to travel with the family. You’re setting a wonderful example for young doctors!

  20. Congrats on your success. Lots of fun stuff for you and your family. Amazing how cheaply a Doctor lifestyle can be obtained when you are debt free and not keeping up with Jones.

    • Thanks, Hatton1!

      This morning, someone told me they thought I must have been the one parking the Porsche in the surgery center parking lot.

      Nope, but that was my bike in the bike rack!


    • The first week, I got caught up on the blog, visited family, went to a hockey game, watched some Homeland (we’re on Season 2) and usual family stuff.

      The trips to Boston and Dallas will take up most of the latter part of October, but I’ll have time to prepare and recuperate before and after.


  21. Congrats on your downshift to part-time work! I’ll be interested to hear more about that in the next few months. Looking forward to connecting at FinCon too! And congrats on the nominations!

    • Much appreciated, Vicki. So far, so good on the job front, and I’m really looking forward to having the last half of October off!

      See you soon!

  22. Congrats on an awesome quarter in the markets. Unless investors are being stung (and unfortunately, some are…) by 2% AUM fees, loaded funds and lofty advisor quarterly fees, it has been another great quarter for many of us. Like you, all our international funds have done well this quarter and indeed all year, particularly VEMAX and FPMAX (similar funds at Vanguard, Fidelity – we moved some assets in Q1 to Fidelity to take advantage of a no-brainer AA AirMiles offer).

    Congrats on the Plutus nominations. Richly deserved!!

    I will do my very best to make it over to Harpoon Brewery on the 23rd, assuming no crazy work fire-drills that afternoon. I look forward to it. On my arrival, I will ask the staff to direct me to the frugal anesthesiologist with a penchant for hoppy drinks. And hope to bump into you at FinCon also for more financial nerd geekery.

    • Cheers to that!

      It sounds like I may meet several friends in both Boston and Dallas. I’ll look for the pie-eating Ph.D. with the British accent.

      Or is the accent tainted with some Boston Southie jargon?


      • Southie jargon crossed with (still quite heavy) Scottish accent. Like Mrs. PIE, you won’t understand a single thing I say.

        Not a bit of Queen’s English from me. None at all!!

  23. Hi PoF. Love the site, started following about a year ago, and lately trying to make it through just about every post. I recently graduated residency, and I’m trying to make sure everything is in order.

    I may have missed this elsewhere, but I’m curious seeing your breakdown above. How is your RothIRA such a large percentage of your total portfolio, given that the limit is so much lower than the other accounts? Also, why is your wife’s RothIRA so low, have you not been funding hers regularly? And (sorry, one more question), is your 401k larger than the 457b because of matching, or something else?

    I ask this all purely out of naive curiosity. Just trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks again!

    • Thanks, Toby! You beat me to it.

      The answer to the 1st and 3rd questions is SEP-IRA. I used to be an independent contractor and that’s where I put my money. Most was converted to Roth in 2010, and the next couple years’ worth was rolled over into my current 401(k).

      Also, the 457(b) only gets $18,000 a year, whereas the 401(k) gets the $18,000 employee contribution from me, plus over $21,000 in match & profit sharing as an employer contribution.

      I started a Roth IRA for my wife when we were engaged, actually, but I think we left it alone for a number of years when I made too much to contribute directly. We’ve done the backdoor Roth contributions for 4 or 5 years now.


      • Incidentally, that was one of my open tabs, just hadn’t gotten to it yet! Thanks, this is all starting to (kind of) make sense. Much to learn.

  24. Congratulations on a wonderful quarter. Your spending is impressive for a family of four and it’s great that you’ve reduced it compared to last year. I have also been less of a maximalist in terms of consumption and definitely more cognizant of what I’m spending.

    • Some would say our spending is impressively high. Others impressively low. It’s all about perspective, but for us, it feels just right.


  25. You are absolutely killing it with the blog. Awesome work and keep pushing out awesome content. I can’t believe you have only been around for 21 months and have been able to accomplish as much as you have. It’s a testament to your hard work!!!

    • Thank you, MSM, and congrats on being among the Plutus award finalists!

      Don’t worry, I won’t go Gillooly on you. I’m saving that stunt for Mr. 1500.


  26. Looks like you had an awesome quarter POF! I’m looking forward to seeing you at FinCon. I wish I could make the meet up, and would have if it were a weekend, but alas I can’t make it to Boston that early on a Monday. Darned work! Have a great time and see you soon!


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