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2018 Q1 PoF Portfolio, Spending, and Blog Performance Update


Another quarter has come and gone. Supposedly, the winter has also come and gone, but you wouldn’t know it if you live Up North like we do. What is this thing you call Spring? She sounds delightful, but I haven’t seen her.

This is the ninth quarter since I started this site, and I just sent out my 9th “Progress Note” to e-mail subscribers. That contains the blog performance info below, plus additional revenue and profit information that I only share with subscribers. If you’d like to see how I’m on pace for six figures in revenue this year, please subscribe here:


2018 Q1 PoF Portfolio Update


This is how our retirement dollars are currently allocated. Not included are the properties we own including our home, cabin, and lakefront property (two of which will be eventually sold), and $248,000 in donor advised funds.



With under 19% in tax-deferred dollars, we’re well-positioned for a low-tax retirement once I tighten the spigot on the income streams. Roth money comprises 27% of the portfolio, and I plan to touch it last. Most likely, we’ll be doing some Roth conversions when my marginal tax bracket drops.

I’ve still got more cash than I normally keep around. This isn’t “dry powder” to invest, but rather money set aside to start building on that lakefront property, which we hope to do as soon as this coming summer.

I’m a Vanguard fan, and the only non-Vanguard funds I own are the one individual stock, Berkshire Hathaway, and a Schwab Total Stock Market Fund in my Solo 401(k). Note that it could be reasonably argued that this fund is not substantially identical to the Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund as they don’t hold the same number of stocks. Why does that matter? Tax loss harvesting, for which I created a step by step guide recently.


2018 Q1 PoF Portfolio Performance


For the first time in a while, I have a number of losses to report, and the 2nd quarter is not off to an auspicious start, either.

Overall, The PoF Portfolio suffered a drop of 1.17% as compared to a 1.22% decline in the S&P 500. So no significant difference there. Data and screenshots are from Empower, my preferred method of tracking my portfolio’s performance and updating the spreadsheet above with one login.


Empower’s You Index in blue


A lone bright spot was the performance of the Emerging Markets Index, returning 2.08%


VEMAX in light blue


The mid-cap index broke even for me, with a return of zero. Could have been worse.


VMCIX in light blue


Bonds performed worse. It was a “smooth ride,” but a downhill one, for a loss of 2.12%. Could have been worse.


VBMFX in light blue


The biggest loser of the bunch was the REIT index, losing 8.13% in the first quarter of 2018. People worry about the risk involved with Crowdfunded Real Estate, but there’s clearly risk associated with any form of real estate. This particular index fund lost 78% of its value in the Great Recession, and Joseph Hogue lost his shirt investing in single-family homes.


VGSLX in light blue


2018 Q1 Spending


In 2016, we spent $62,000.

In 2017, we spent $61,000.

How much are we on pace to spend in 2018? Could it be $60,000?

Well, it could be if we didn’t travel so much. So far, I’ve paid my way to Florida and New York*, and the four of us spend most of February in Hawaii. Traveling and sightseeing in Hawaii is not the most frugal thing to do, particularly when island hopping.


*The Florida and New York trips were for blog-related travel, but I include them in our spending, too. I do get to deduct some of those travel expenses at tax time, so the cost is not quite as large as reported here. My travel to Utah was fully reimbursed, so that didn’t show up on the expense report at all.


We also purchase our tickets to Honduras for a medical mission trip with a side trip to Roatan beforehand. I was able to book the four round trips to Tegucigalpa with American Airlines AAdvantage Miles earned via a combination of credit card bonuses and reward points from assisting in an in-flight medical emergency. The round trip flights to Roatan, Honduras were surprisingly expensive at over $200 apiece, and we had to pay for those.



Travel accounted for more than a third of our budget, and we feel it’s worth it. We also spent about $2,400 on phase I of our younger son’s orthodontic work.



If we hadn’t gone anywhere and had kids blessed with perfect teeth, our spending would have been nearly cut in half. But, we like to get out of Dodge, particularly in the winter, and our boys are regulars in the orthodontist’s chair. As such, it appears as though we’re on pace to spend more than $80,000, but I’ll be surprised if the final tally isn’t under $70,000 by the end of 2018.

Most of the other expenses are in line with past spending reports. Food and drink is typically $1,000 to $1,200 a month. Utilities, including cell phones and internet, run $300 to $500 a month. Most of the “Kids” budget is in music lessons. We’re still doing piano, and have added guitar and ukelele.

The entertainment budget is bloated compared to normal. I probably should have mentioned to my wife that I put four tickets to next year’s Final Four in Minneapolis on our credit card before publishing this. If my smiling face appears on a milk carton soon, you’ll know why. It is a ticket lottery, so there’s at least a decent chance I’ll “lose” and get my money back this fall.

How do we keep most of our expenses at a reasonably low level? I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. We are able to spend less 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.


I've got my 2 acres of non-leveraged, crop-producing, cashflowing farmland via AcreTrader. Get yours.


2018 Q1 Blog Performance


With every update, I have been able to say we saw the best quarter ever here at Physician on FIRE. This quarter was no exception as there were 610,000 pageviews in the first three months of the year as compared to 1,500,000 in all of 2017. March was the best month ever with 240,787 pageviews.




As of 4.2.2018, the site has 385 published posts and 40 pages. These have been visited by people in 210 countries. Still no visitors from Greenland or North Korea.


How readers are following Physician on FIRE


The Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of all-time:

  1. Vanguard Backdoor Roth: a Step by Step Guide  61,122 views
  2. Tax Reform! How Physicians and the Self-Employed are Affected 26,531 views
  3. He Has Read Over 250 Investing Books. He Recommends These Three Funds.  24,307 views
  4. Stealth Wealth: I’m Just an Ordinary Average Guy  21,743 views
  5. The PoF Portfolio 21,319 views

The Backdoor Roth post, updated it with fresh screenshots in 2018, is easily tops. The PoF portfolio, which is also updated regularly, replaced A Tale of 4 Physicians with the last spot.


The Top 5 Posts of the Quarter:

  1. Vanguard Backdoor Roth: a Step by Step Guide  36,032 views
  2. How Much Money Does a Doctor Need to Retire? 14,612 views
  3. Coming Clean: How Financial Independence Came More Easily & I’m Not Exactly Retiring. 14,273 views
  4. I Volunteered for the Hospital Board and was Sued for Millions. 11,922
  5. Tax Reform! How Physicians and the Self-Employed are Affected 11,747 views

The top post was updated and republished this quarter, and the next three posts were new in the first quarter. It’s great to see readers engaged with my new posts.


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

  1. White Coat Investor (69,720 sessions)
  2. Twitter (51,849 sessions)
  3. Rockstar Finance (31,469 sessions)
  4. Facebook (23,871 sessions)
  5. Reddit (12,504 sessions)

Doximity is now #6, and Retireby40 has dropped out of the top 5 to #7.


Top Referring Sites this Quarter:

  1. White Coat Investor (14,396 sessions)
  2. Twitter (13,376 sessions)
  3. Rockstar Finance (9,833 sessions)
  4. Facebook (9,549 sessions)
  5. Reddit (4,790 sessions)

Doximity is a close #6.


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

  1. ESI Money (12,251 clicks)
  2. Bogleheads (8,921 clicks)
  3. Early Retirement Now (7,231 clicks)
  4. The Happy Philosopher (7,059 clicks)
  5. Nerd’s Eye View (6,108 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 in the Jetpack Site Stats. Passive Income MD, the newest addition to the WCI Network, dropped to #6 due to many clicks to Kitces’ tax reform post at Nerd’s Eye View.

Most clicked site this quarter:

  1. ESI Money (3,340 clicks)
  2. Passive Income MD (2,541 clicks)
  3. The Finance Buff (2,483 clicks)
  4. Bogleheads (2,309 clicks)
  5. Nerds Eye View (2,148 clicks)



Thank you all for being loyal readers and for helping me spread the message of financial independence. For those of you whom I have met at gatherings like WCIcon18 and FinCon17, it was great to meet you. If we haven’t met yet, I hope our paths cross in the future.

I’ll be attending FinCon18, the pre-conference Cruise to Cuba, Camp FI Midwest, and perhaps a spontaneous gathering here and there. I also hang out online in my Physicians on FIRE Facebook group. Hope to see you there!


Cheers to another successful quarter!

-Physician on FIRE


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35 thoughts on “2018 Q1 PoF Portfolio, Spending, and Blog Performance Update”

  1. A Final Four story for you. Several years ago I was able to get two tickets through the NCAA lottery to the Final Four. I paid $180 per ticket for nose bleed seats for all 3 games (2 semis and the final). I ended up not being able to go to the semis and sold the tickets for $300 each (before the teams were even final). So I ended up being paid $120 net to go to the championship game. Something to keep in mind for next year…

    • My story from the 2001 semifinal games in Minneapolis. I was in medical school at the time.

      I had just bought a new (well, used but new to me) bicycle and I figured I’d ride down to the old metrodome to see the activity around the event. This was an hour before tipoff. I parked the bike and was walking around and crossed paths with a Maryland fan who was being harassed by a ticket scalper who wouldn’t leave him alone.

      The fan says to me, “Here are those tickets I had for you. You can pay me when you find the ATM,” or something like that with a wink. He give me two tickets and said no worries, enjoy the game. he just wanted to get the guy off his back.

      So I called a buddy and we saw both semifinal games for free. About five years ago, I gave extra tickets I had for a set of regional games to a random Gophers fan on the sidewalk down in Ausin, Texas. Maybe he’ll pass on the same good karma some day.


      p.s. Good to know the resale value should hold up if I do get lucky in the ticket lotto.

  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
      • Interesting

        I was down only 0.5% for the quarter. I’m 70/30 with pretty optimized funds (not Vanguard) and I do all the quant maneuvers to tweak non-correlated diversity. I’ve never had a good way to track how diversity effects my portfolio but our portfolios are similar enough to give something to track. 3/4% is about what I would have predicted.

  3. Yes – much too cold here in the Bold North not to spend some $$$ on travel. We spent about the same amount on trips in Q1 but were only gone for 18 days total. A month in Hawaii sounds perfect right now with all of the snow we go this week!

  4. 385 posts! Impressively done. The traffic breakdown is fascinating. And I’d have to say I think you’re doing something absolutely right where travel is such a significant chunk of your spending for the year 🙂

  5. I’m most interested in the guitar and ukie lessons :). I was looking into these for my son. I’m too lazy to drive him to lessons right now, but I did notice there is a tend for virtual 1 on 1 lessons from takelessons.com. I’m interested in this because we’d like to receive a lot. We could still theoretically do weekly lessons. we were on the road.

    What kind of lessons do they do?

    • We bring them to a teacher who teaches all the instruments out of her small studio, which is an old classroom in a repurposed school.

      We learned in Hawaii that the original pronunciation is ooh-kulele, not yoo-kulele, and my son is very particular about that. It’s pretty cute. He calls it his “ook.”

      I haven’t looked into takelessons.com, but we may in the future. Thanks for the tip!


  6. You are a “go gitter” PoF! Glad to see it paying off. Your stock in trade is your continuously varying content. You leverage that nicely. Plus you freely reveal you’re having a blast. That in itself is infective!

    I’m going to give you a different perspective. Not to be critical in any way but to illuminate another side of the retirement equation.

    I don’t understand why you poo poo your diversity. -1.22% v -1.17% is not trivial. 1.17% is 4% better than 1.22%, a bonanza. You would loose your mind if your mutual fund had an extra 5 basis points cost but that diversity just paid you 5 basis points free money and “it’s no big deal”?

    This is a different way to think about a portfolio, from a risk perspective instead of a reward perspective. Real estate volatility is why I own only 2%. It was down 4.7% in my portfolio (benchmark was down 5%) but gold was up 2% and I own 5% of that. REITS are more risky than Total stock market (20% v 14%) and are fairly well correlated to each other 1: 0.57 so they don’t provide much diversity. In fact stocks went down, REITS went down more. Gold is correlated 1:.03. As demonstrated stocks went down, gold went up.

    Of course then Monday happened and all bets were off. 🙂

  7. You’re living well when your top spending is on travel, food, and dining 🙂

    Nice work on the blog traffic, some stupendous performance! Making the rest of us look bad.

    • Thanks, Mr. CK. Not trying to outshine anyone. Hoping to see a rising tide of FIRE raise all our blogging boats… or something like that.


  8. FI docs have Vanguard and Baby berks. No surprise here. Love how you spread out your investments. That’s the most useful aspect of this whole physician blogging thing. Too many docs think that talking about money is beneath them. Very unfortunate indeed.

    • There’s no good reason to keep secrets, and you don’t need to share anymore than you are comfortable publishing. I’ve chosen to show percentages rather than hard numbers, but I’ve given readers a pretty good general idea of where we’re at.


  9. I've got my 2 acres of non-leveraged, crop-producing, cashflowing farmland via AcreTrader. Get yours.
  10. Thanks for all the information.

    One question I have about portfolio allocation between taxable and non-taxable accounts and rebalancing (pardon if you’ve covered this elsewhere)
    In the case of a major market correction that involves US and international markets, it would appear that it would be difficult for you to rebalance your large taxable account given lack of accessible bonds/cash equivalents. Is this a consideration?


    • Great question, Tom.

      I only sell in taxable to either tax loss harvest or fund a large purchase (like our current home). I rebalance in the tax-advantaged accounts and track the overall allocation of the portolio across the accounts rather than within the accounts.


  11. Your taxable account looks beefy. Nice job. Our taxable account is much lighter in comparison. I plan to do some Roth conversion when Mrs. RB40 retires.
    Wow, the orthodontist is expensive. Is there any alternative?
    Congratulations with your traffic. That’s really great. You’re pulling way ahead of us. Keep at it!

    • “Wow, the orthodontist is expensive. Is there any alternative?”

      Tell people they’re adopted from Great Britain? 🙂

      One of the benefits of a high income is running out of tax-advantaged space fairly quickly. Sounds like a disadvantage, but I love my taxable account. It’s easily the most versatile.


      • Orthodontics are brutal. We’ve got one kid with a few months left to go, and another one about to start. After insurance it’s $4k per kid.

  12. These are amazing numbers, PoF! Inspirational and also about how you just gotta keep at it and know your audience. Stats on FIRE lol

  13. If my math is right, your blog should be getting all visits from the entire internet in about 6 years. Congrats!

    But seriously, I think one of the most impressive things is that much travel with that small a spend. The Cuba trip sounds awesome too – that was on our shortlist to visit when we still lived in Florida. Can’t wait to read about how that goes.

    • Thank you, Adam.

      We knew the travel budget would go up when I dropped to a part-time clinical schedule last fall. Right now, we are making round trips and paying taxes on three properties (and utilities on two).

      Once I drop the part-time anesthesia gig, we plan to eventually get down to one home that can be partially or fully rented out when we’re away. We’ll be able to make one-way, open-ended trips and our travel expenses will look more like living expenses.


  14. I’m sure most investors posted losses during the first quarter. It was quite a bumpy ride. I’m working on my first quarter analysis, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be in the red as well.

    Ouch about the REITs. I’m investing in real estate crowdfunding, so it will be interesting to see how things pan out moving forward.

    Congrats on the stellar blog stats!

    • Even if you take an occasional total loss (which I haven’t heard of), as long as you’re diversified in multiple deals that work out more or less according to plan, it’s no riskier than a mutual fund that can lose > 3/4 of its value!


  15. Ghast – losses 😉

    We haven’t experienced those for a while indeed. No biggie though, been there done that.

    You’re going to love Roatan. I’m a scuba diver and went there in 2008, it’s really nice. It’s mostly known for it’s diving but if you’re not certified there’s other things to do as well.

    • We’re looking forward to it! I’m PADI certified, but my sinuses don’t handle the depths well.

      There’s nothing quite like realizing you’re leaking CSF out of one nostril on a remote Galapagos island. And that was just free-diving with a mask and snorkel to about 20 feet!


      • Yikes! I’ve been diving in the Galapagos too – was it Kicker Rock? My Galapagos trip was one of the best vacays of my life!

  16. Keep up the strong work, POF! Thanks for being a shining example of what this community is supposed to be about. Transparent and helpful.

    What are you going to do with that Berkshire stock when Buffet finally succumbs to the mortality of this life? I recognize it is a really small portion of your overall portfolio, and probably doesn’t matter… but am curious to know your thoughts there for people who invest more heavily in Brk stock.

    Still debating going to FinCon this year, but it sounds like most everyone thinks its a worthwhile trip. May have to check it out.

    Keep up the good work!


    • I believe he and Munger have solid succession plans in place. I’m not saying it will outperform the market when they’re gone — and it hasn’t really over the last decade or more — but I like the fact that it pays no dividend. Makes it a great candidate for a taxable account.

      Some have hypothesized that the value could increase when they’re gone because the company would be more likely to spin off dividends, which is a feature many investors seem to like. I don’t like to make predictions, but I’ll keep some stock just for the invite to the annual meeting if nothing else. We’ll be in Honduras this year, but I hope to make it next year.


      • I look forward to being able to start a taxable account when my debt is paid off. Half of the typical monthly student debt payment will go to our new mortgage and the other half to a taxable account.

        I suppose I’ll consider Berskhire Hathaway then, which is why I asked.

        Thanks for giving me some honest thoughts. Here’s to hoping they never adopt dividends for our taxable accounts.


        • Instead of paying taxes Berkshire defers taxes and effectively reinvests that money plus some insurance float money in equity similar to a mutual fund so given the structure it’s unlikely there will be dividends any time soon. Dividends would trigger a lot of taxes. This maneuver is like using the government for leverage. The succession planning has been transparent and thorough. If/when Buffet dies I’ll let the dust settle and buy more and hold it forever.

          Since inception in 1996 BRK.B has gone up 870% compared to 293% on S&P. It’s correlation to S&P is only 0.45:1 so for an equity it provides pretty good diversity, better than a REIT and it returns 12.87% with a 19% volatility compared to 9.89% return with 14.89% vol. If you mix BRK.B 55% and SPY 45% you get a portfolio that returns 11.28% (compared to 9.89%) with the same volatility as the S&P. BRK.B is very diversified except for tech.

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