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Christopher Guest Post: Abandoned Cubicle

A week ago, I harvested a nice collection of cascade and centennial hops that grow splendidly on the south side of our house. I mention this because I plan to brew a nice IPA with those hops this fall. Until that beer’s ready, I’ve got a nice commercial IPA on tap in the basement keezer — the Cubicle Fugitive from Three Twenty Brewing.

It’s a solid IPA that pairs oh-so-well with the blog featured in today’s Christopher Guest post — Abandoned Cubicle.

“Cubert” — clever name — has been blogging for two full years now, sharing his insights and stories as a cubicle dweller with dreams of escaping those padded confines, a dream that will become a reality in due time.

Like me, he plans to take an early exit from the workforce next summer. Like me, he lives in Minnesota, and like me, he has a vacation home in northern Michigan. Like me, he’s a fan of B1G TEN football and is a diehard Golden Gophers fan like my wife’s family, is a diehard Spartans fan. I’ll let it slide.

Somehow, we have yet to cross paths in real life, but I’m sure we’ll remedy that soon enough. Check out his sweet logo, find him on Twitter, and read on to learn more about the witty writer.


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.


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’m a manager of project managers. Think of Louie from the 70s sitcom “Taxi”. But instead of bossing around taxi drivers all day from an elevated enclosure, I gently and lovingly coach and lead my team from the confines of my oh-so-cozy cubicle.

My job is pretty sweet when:

a.) I can step in to help remove a roadblock or solve some impasse that’s keeping the team hung up.

b.) I get to coach a PM on my team to do better and be better. It’s even sweeter when they teach ME a thing or two!

c.) I can see the difference our projects and deliverables have on individual customers and their families. That doesn’t happen enough in my corner, but when it does, it’s super rewarding.


If I could be a physician, I think I would do best as an anesthesiologist. I don’t have the stomach for surgery, but I think I could handle being the one to carefully put someone under before the “big event”.

I have an appreciation for this specialty after witnessing the magic power of an epidural performed on my wife. Man… Heroic!

For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’d enjoy being a GP at all. Too many viruses and poking and prodding, all. day. long. No thanks. I get nightmares thinking about rubber gloves and q-tips…

[PoF: Another vote for anesthesiologist, I see. Mr. Apathy Ends answered the same and also gave a nod to the epidural. We’re kind of like the field goal kickers of medicine. Expected to do our job. Appreciated but not often celebrated, and everybody notices when something doesn’t go as planned.

Did you notice how quickly the Vikings fired their field goal kicker after he failed twice to kick the game-winner in overtime against the Packers last weekend? We take that rivalry very, very seriously around here, in case you haven’t noticed.]


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


My blog? Lessee… I would describe Abandoned Cubicle as a place I go to reaffirm a vision for my future. It’s a mix of real estate “how to’s”, early retirement and personal finance lectures, and even some fun stuff, like Star Wars movie reviews (SEO police get me every time…).

My blog gives me the affirmation I need to keep getting after it with my approach to money, materialism, and how all that schtuff relates to happiness and relationships. Some posts are deep, while many are fairly mechanical and left brained. All in all, the quality is incredible superb and there are no fart jokes whatsoever. I’m really proud of that. So is my mom.

Physicians seeking FIRE will find abandoned cubicle resonates for a few very good reasons:

1.) I challenge the notion that big incomes require big spending. For an M.D. staring down mountains of debt, the last thing he or she needs is to splurge on fancy cars and uptown condos. I guess that makes me “Doctor Not Feelgood” (cue the Crue, please?)

2.) I tend to think of physicians as fairly worldly, well-informed, and highly educated (at least they pay a healthy tuition to acquire the educated part). When I write, I like to think that I’m channeling a worldly, well-informed and educated argument into every post. No, I don’t use a lot of big fancy words. And I don’t dive too deep into the nuances of topics.

3.) If you’re looking for perspective with a touch of sarcasm and wit after a long day of extracting cartilage from someone’s kneecap, my blog is awaiting your bookmark (errr, email subscription).

[PoF: I’ve really enjoyed following your Airbnb / VRBO articles. As a potential future short-term rental host in northern Michigan, I’ve learned a lot from your follies and successes.

Gotta love the musical references, too. Mix in a fart joke or two, and the blog will have something for everyone!]


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?


After spending two years reading up on Mr. Money Mustache, The White Coat Investor, Done by Forty, Can I Retire Yet? and others, I figured I too had a story to tell. What makes my story compelling in the slightest? In fact, it’s nothing more than simply being “exhibit Z” for the Simple Math Behind Early Retirement. Here I am: just one more upper middle class family living a modest middle class life in order to retire before 50.

But when you write good, Derek Zoolander, there’s nothing better than getting spikes of traffic from guest posts on Budgets Are Sexy, 1500 Days to Freedom, and Physician on FIRE. And getting featured on Rockstar Finance a handful of times was like ‘roids for my humble little blog! I’m very grateful to Jay and John for those little stars.

Earlier this winter we had Erik (Mastermind Within) and Gwen (Fiery Millennials) over for dinner. Erik made a side comment about me being a “star”. I laughed so hard I almost choked on a nacho chip. (It might have been Gwen’s nacho chip – inside joke…)

10K monthly views is neat, but I have my work cut out for me to get to the “B” and “A” leagues. I think Erik was trying to make me feel better about being whooped at cribbage, but it was a nice compliment nevertheless. Now look at THAT guy making a go of it!

Big plans? I have a few. Ideally when I retire from the corporate gig next July, I’d like to put more time and effort into promoting the site. That means more time for engaging in the FIRE community, e.g., FinCon and FI Anonymous camps. At the very least, I just need more time to get those durn Pinterest pins propagated!


[PoF: The more, the merrier! While more or less any conceivable topic may have been covered by one blog or another, none of them have covered it from your perspective. Keep up the great work!

I’ll probably be about a month behind you in beginning an early retirement of sorts. I’m coming to terms with the fact that it will be more of a career transition than a retirement if I continue to put in the effort into my online endeavors that I do now.

So what did Gwen say to Erik when he stole her cheese? “Hey, that’s my cheese, nacho cheese. Give it back!”

Cheesy, I know.]


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

Why You Don’t Need a Boat, Cap’n! This one goes out to all my physician friends who have their sights set on some big fancy yacht. Hand over the keys. C’mon, you can do it…

Do You Have the Courage to Quit Your Job? Coming up on the finish line and getting cold feet? You’re not alone. The dream sometimes sneaks up on us and it feels scary to take that leap.

PRK Laser Eye Surgery – My Story Get your kicks, ophthalmologists and optometrists, with a tale of corneal ablation!

Happiness? Better to Pursue Purpose and Struggle Instead Sometimes you’ll get the Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy on abandoned cubicle. These are the posts that will change your life, Son!

Cycling vs. Golf Another one Tailor-Made (har!) for the M.D. set. Golf is silly. Period.

The Hidden Benefits of Being a Landlord Looking to hang up the white coat a little early? Look into real estate investing! It’s my preferred wealth building vehicle outside of my regular paycheck.

SemiFIRE: How to Semi-Retire Early No, you don’t need FatFIRE when SemiFIRE gets you to the finish line even quicker. This is a “food for thought” exercise, if work is still your thing, but you simply want to downshift.

Where Should You Live? Every late winter we get tired of Minnesota and pine to move somewhere warmer and sunnier. This post is an exhaustive look at where in the continental U.S. people thrive.


Get More Productive: With the Eisenhower Box Ever wondered how to perform two appendectomies at once? Or maybe you’d like your techs to perform the geriatric prostate exams instead of YOU? The Eisenhower Box doesn’t enable those efficiencies per se, but you might find it helpful!

The Extraordinary (and Inevitable) Fear of Boredom in Retirement This isn’t something daily golf will solve. But reading my blog might!

What Elon Musk Can Teach Us About Early Retirement Why not? We’ll all be zipping around in electric cars, bikes, scooters, and tubes soon enough. [PoF: And smoking doobies with Joe Rogan for the whole world to see?]


[PoF: But I just want to boat around, play golf, retire up north, and be happy! Well that’s not entirely true — I haven’t played golf in years. I meant all the other stuff, though, and I’m not too keen on landlording, but I am interested in the short-term rental side of things, as I mentioned earlier.

What’s an Eisenhower Box? They didn’t mention this at the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents. They did have a life-size robotic replica of Mr. Eisenhower, but he was outside the box, so to speak.

So I guess I have some reading to do.

This seems like a good place to add the guest post that Cubert wrote for me: Early Retirement Bliss: Getting Your Partner on Board]


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 claim that I’ll be done at age 46, but don’t be surprised if I pull a Carl and stay on an extra year, simply to front-load the kiddos’ 529s. The main thing driving the master plan is CASH FLOW.

I dig real estate. We have five rentals that generate some decent cash flow month over month. My wife is a chiropractor and runs her own practice. She loves her job. She’s her own boss. So for the next five to ten years (or more?) she’ll continue to bring in cash flow from her business.

Even though I’ll be retired early while she still works, she’ll have the same option to hang it up before she reaches her 50th birthday. I’m almost 10 years her senior (man that makes me sound OLD) so we’ll follow similar paths, only asynchronously.

Obviously, there’s the expense side of the deal too. We purposely avoid extravagance in order to achieve our financial goals. That means the kids share a bedroom. That means we drive paid off cars until they won’t go anymore. Ultimately it means we take care of our health with regular exercise and a whole foods diet. There’s no sense pursuing financial freedom if you’re not willing to take care of yourself. (Can you tell we’re fans of The Biggest Loser???)


[PoF: Cradle robber. 😉 I’m also a Gen-Xer married to someone who usually qualifies as a millennial based on birth year, although I often tell my wife she’s a lousy millennial. She pays no attention to her phone, avoids social media as much as possible, and never kills anything, even though millennials are supposedly killing everything. Yet somehow, it’s my job to kill every spider, wasp, and centipede that finds its way into our home.

Your wife wins those obstacle races? I was happy just to complete them when I got muddy with my buddies.

I like the idea of loading up the 529 Plans — that’s a good reason to work that extra year or two.]



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’ve written a few posts addressing this very question. My time would be divided up between some regular daily activities. I intend to put a few hours into blog each day, so long as I continue to enjoy it. I’ll devote an hour to exercise, and ideally an hour or two to reading/learning. Heck, I could pick up the guitar again, or try to master the French language?

Beyond learning, I expect to get my hands dirty with the rentals and with some remodeling projects on our own house. We have a pink bathroom. ’nuff said.

It’ll be fun just to be able to walk the kids to school without the pressure of having to get to an office. I’ll probably be the chef de cuisine, so there’ll be some dedicated kitchen time, along with the requisite grocery shopping.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll fire up a property management business or get my realtor’s license? I haven’t full teased it all out just yet. I have just under a year to figure some more of it out. At the very least, I’ll be on my bike to get from point A to point B, whenever possible!

[PoF: Part of the beauty of retiring early is not knowing what you might do. It’s good to have something to retire to (or something to retire on, as I’ve argued) but you’ve got young kids, which is a big something right there.

Aside from being a more present father, you also get to decide what you want to be when you grow up all over again, and now you don’t have to be concerned much with whether or not that person you become is earning money. It really is an amazing opportunity.]

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.


I love this question. I recently had a med school student rent from me for two years. He has a great head on his shoulders, so I’m not too concerned about where he lands. (I forgot to tell him about your blog when he moved out, PoF. Dang it!) But I’ve heard and read enough horror stories of young docs in debt, so advice is the least I can offer.

Mainly, focus on your bedside manner. All too often, M.D.s forget that they’re most effective when they demonstrate listening with intent, and empathy. Do it. It’s a scientifically proven fact. Nothing’s worse than an a-hole doctor!

Focus on your family. Be present for them. Yes, you sacrificed a lot to get to where you are, but others are sacrificing an ideal husband/father relationship to be with YOU. Follow what the PoF has to say, so you can create a life that meets your needs, without sacrificing family bonds.

Date nights once per week. Non-negotiable.

The obvious? Live life (money-wise) like a college student, at least until you’re free and clear of your Med School Debt. Even then, avoid trying to keep up with the Joneses. I have to believe that physicians are no different than anyone else when it comes to regrets from the death bed.

In other words, try not to work too much, try not to let old friendships wither on the vine, and try to live life on your terms. We’re all on the clock!

[PoF: The bedside manner advice is golden. As an anesthesiologist, I don’t have a ton of time to get to know my patients, but I do my best to be friendly, confident, and show them that I have already spent time with their charts and am familiar with their medical and surgical history, medications, allergies, etc…

That helps put patients at ease and helps me earn their trust. I want them to know I feel privileged to be able to take care of them. It’s also been shown that physicians with a better bedside manner are less likely to be sued for malpractice [knocks on wood].]


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?


Oh man. Decisions decisions!

Italy, following the suggested Rick Steves itinerary for 11 days. But I’d probably spend more time in the Cinque Terre enjoying hiking by the coast between all those lovely little seaside villages. Aside from hiking, we’d certainly go crazy over the food. Rome would be on the list, and while there, I’d go on a photographic frenzy. Not too many museums though. They kind of bore me.

We’d stay in modest accommodations along the way, and use the train where possible. Before the journey, I’d catch up on any and all Anthony Bourdain shows from “the Boot”, to try to follow in some of his footsteps.


[PoF: Looks terrible. That Italian coastline is really something. I haven’t been to any of the villages in Cinque Terre, but we did spend a week in Atrani along the Amalfi coast, which looks pretty much identical. We were around the bend from Amalfi, and a bit of a hike below Ravello, and a zany bus ride from Positano. I’d go back in a heartbeat.]



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


  • COFFEE in just about any form but mainly black / low or no sugar
  • Water (my go to for cycling)
  • OJ for a dose of Vitamins C and D!
  • Kombucha for the gut health

Fun stuff:

  • Kolsch and Lager style beers
  • Peanut butter porters (thank you, Dangerous Man!)

    Honestly? I’m game for just about any local micro-brew beer of any style. Thank goodness we’re no longer stuck in the age of mass produced 3.2 garbage!!!
  • Gin and Tonic in the summertime
  • Manhattans
  • Old Fashioneds
  • Limoncello on the rocks
  • Cuba Libre if I’m in a party mood

[PoF: You’ll find great limoncello when you spend your 11 days in Italy. Keep it in the freezer and enjoy before, during, and after dinner.

I’ve had that PB Porter from Dangerous Man. They’ve got a nice tap room there in Nordeast Minneapolis.]


Now, eleven foods.


Steak – medium rare

Fries (accompanying said steak, and then add the peppercorn sauce. Ooh la la!). (these two are whole foods, right?)

Apples. One a day…

Guacamole and chips. Right after a siesta, while on vacation in Mexico. Ole!

BBQ brisket.

BBQ ribs.

Foie gras. When in Paris, it’s a must.

Vietnamese rice noodle salad bowls.

Chocolate mousse made with raw eggs

BBQ chicken

A simple sandwich and handful of chips on the beach or mountain trail for lunch.


[PoF: I’ve never done the foie gras, but I’m on board with the rest of it. I don’t know that I’ve had chocolate mousse with raw eggs either, but I’ve eaten my body weight several times over in cookie dough made with raw eggs. They say you shouldn’t, but you can call me Elton John, ‘cuz I’m still standing.]


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


I think I stumbled upon PhysicianonFIRE.com through the White Coat Investor’s blog. What a great idea to collaborate with that dude!

As far as advice for the Grand Master PoF? I’d suggest you move closer to the Twin Cities, so you can hang out more with the rest of us FIRE nuts! Otherwise, keep doing what you’re doing. You inspired me to give my blog money (meager as it is) to a worthy cause (Childrens Heart Link) and that’s just plain neat.


[PoF: It’s great to see another FIRE blog with a charitable mission!

It is a bit of a challenge to make the Twin Cities meetups, given the fact that I’m at least a couple hours away. I do get down there quite often, but usually with family and for a limited time. I’ll be back for a couple Golden Gopher football games in November. Maybe we’ll see you then!

Thanks again for taking the time to answer all my silly questions; it’s been fun getting to know you better. Readers, be sure to click on over to Abandoned Cubicle and come back to see how some of your other favorite bloggers have answered these same questions.]


Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out additional Christopher Guest Posts from many of the top personal finance bloggers:


Comments for Cubert? Have a 12th Question you’d like to ask as a follow-up? That’s what the comment box is for — ask away!

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18 thoughts on “Christopher Guest Post: Abandoned Cubicle”

  1. Cubert!

    I feel like I got to know you pretty well, but it’s neat to read such an in depth take.

    But black coffee? No cream? What’s even the point of FI if there’s no cream?

    • I lied! I do take cream from time to time, but first thing in the morning, it’s pure black gold for this fledgling writer…

      If I splurge on a coffee later in the day, better believe it’ll have cream. Maybe even whipped!

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  3. Northwestern alum here. It’s definitely been a rough start to the Big Ten season. Of course PoF might have a big head given that his Golden Gophers are undefeated right now. Can you say soft schedule? 🙂

    We did our honeymoon in Italy and the Cinque Terre was our favorite place to go to. When we went 16 years ago, we weren’t big into hiking, but now we would totally do all of the hiking between the villages. Rick Steves is definitely the go to resource for Europe!

    • Go Cats! It has been rough for the purple this year. And Sparty looks really shaky up-front on offense. Still, it is kinda early…

      Great to have your endorsement on Cinque Terre! It simply looks to package everything we’d enjoy in travel. Soon enough (see prior comment)

    • Maybe if we rent the highest house on the hill? 😉

      That, or a Ferrari? Seriously, I’d imagine we’d spend no more than $4,000 if we had to pay for flights. We’ll see – this trip is on our list for next year!

  4. Fun to see two MN bloggers unite forces! I really enjoy both of your blogs. Plus it’s encouraging to know that people can make it through MN winters with young kids…we are dreading the upcoming cold with two little boys 🙂

    My husband and I are more and more interested in going vegetarian. We’d probably lean the direction of 80/20 like yourself, partially because we eat at friends’ houses frequently, and partially because…bacon. But I could eliminate any cow meat today and never look back, that’s for sure.

    I also so appreciate the retire-in-mid-40s blogs. I’m 31 and I think that’s where we’ll fall, with maybe a mini-retirement or two between now and then. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the blogs of people retiring before 35 and feel like we aren’t going as hard as we should be. But in reality, 45 is still 20 years earlier than most!

    • Britt, I’m with you!
      We discovered the whole FIRE thing when we were already mid 30’s, but have been using the principles to improve life in the mean time. Becoming FI by late 40’s is still pretty amazing when I know lots of people who just plan they’ll need to work forever!

    • Hi Britt!
      United indeed! I rib PoF from time to time, like a little brother would a big brother. Course, I’m a year or two older I think, but my blog is definitely the junior to his senior!

      Hang in there. Winter is coming, eh? But I’m going to take a hygge stance this year, and bundle up to get out with the kids snowshoeing or skating, and then curling up in a ball by the fire with hot toddies.

      Bacon is the best reason ever to not go fully vegetarian. It’s almost a vegetable in many respects, if you ignore the pork and nitrate aspects I guess. Ever tried it on doughnuts? It’s all the rage I hear…

      I think those retiring before 35 are missing out on too many years of “can’t miss” office hi-jinks and shenanigans. 40 seems like the right age to call it a day. By then you’re settled enough and mature to know you’ve done “that phase”.

  5. Awesome interview! Your writing style is hella funny and we have several things in common. My wife and I are 100% vegetarian, and 99% whole food plant based vegan. I only say 99% because I’m sure some things that we eat may have traces of dairy, eggs, or fish. It’s hard to be 100% and I don’t obsess about it. Also, my wife is a big time runner / athlete too. (I’m not, I lack endurance and will power, LOL!).

    I like your idea of spending 11 days in Italy on the Rick Steves itinerary. He makes the best itinerary plans for Europe. We did 14 days in France, basically following his France road trip 2 week itinerary going from Paris to Normandy, to Loire Valley, Dordogne, Provence, and the Cote d’Azur. It was a fantastic trip. Definitely top 3 in my book. Since it was before we went vegan, we definitely had a lot of foie gras in the Dordogne region. It was fantastic. But as an ethical vegan too, I can do without it 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Dr. McFrugal! Very kind words.
      Hey – I’m with you on the “I’m not a big time athlete” thing. I hack my way to my own personal level of greatness. But when early retirement comes around, watch out Jim Thorpe…

      Rick is the bomb. He’s done right by us in France and Switzerland, so I’d expect Italy would be better with him along as well. We also checked out Normandy, but just for a day and a half, then Colmar for an overnight, the rest in magical Paris.

      Foie gras is a tough one. I enjoy it once every two years if I’m lucky. I can only hope that what Bourdain observed in his travels is accurate – that the geese look forward to their feedings and aren’t mistreated any worse than organic, free range birds. I’ll have to get informed on this, lest I be called a quack.

  6. foie gras is the best. it costs too much here in the states when you can get it but in spain you could get a whole plate of the stuff for about 5 euros. i’m glad you’re working on possible routines in early retirement. it’s got me baffled right now, remembering that it won’t be like vacation, except for the not showing up to a job part.

    • I love it too! It’s a very rare treat for me though and that’s okay. Maybe once a year? Remember, I’ve got an 80% vegetarian diet, so I’ve got to prioritize my meats.

      I’ll be sure to post about the progress with planning my retirement routine. There could be a beer brewing operation in the mix, thanks to PoF’s Cubicle Fugitive inspiration. Abandoned Hops, perhaps??

  7. I agree with you on hiking the Cinque Terre! We didn’t get to do that when we were in Italy and I wish we had. I’ve never heard anyone who did it say “Oh, well that was terrible!”.
    We did part of the Rick Steve’s plan and went to that city Civita with the disappearing land bridge. Very dramatic! I would recommend. Nice post. 🙂

    • Well, if you get there first, be sure to share how terrible it truly was! I bet the food is really bad and the people obnoxious. Wait a minute, that’s Wisconsin.

  8. I love the concept of semi-retire FIRE. That is probably the glide path I am currently on over the next 5 years. I want to go part-time for awhile to take advantage of subsidized health care as well as still padding my nest egg with a decent salary despite part-time work.

    I think medicine can be much more manageable if we are not forced to work insanely long hours and cram in as many patients (for me imaging studies) as possible because I finances dictate we have to.

    I agree with not buying a yacht (or boat) as in my personal experience I never did take advantage of having a boat and the saying rung true that the best days of having a boat are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.

    Hard to improve on bedside manner as a radiologist by the way 🙂

    • X-Ray man! Yes yes yes to Semi FIRE! I do like a little Fat FIRE once in a while too (see “exhibit A” over at Jay’s place)…

      It is crazy how the system of healthcare continues to push volume and fee for service while the talking heads blather on about coordinated, accountable care. Time will tell (and policy) if and when we get there…

      You guys should have the best bedside manner. You can see right through people, after all? *chuckle*


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