Christopher Guest Post: Apathy Ends

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine in the personal finance community who writes at the site known as Apathy Ends. He encourages others to take action and build wealth.

Like me, he has a family of four. Like me, he lives in Minnesota. Like me, he enjoys an occasional craft beer, which is something we’ve done together now on several occasions, most recently a week ago. Like me, he’s also been known to pull fish up through a hole in the ice, although he seems to be a more avid icefisherman than me.

Unlike me, he is a millennial beginning his financial independence journey. It all started when he and his wife had blown through $5,000 one year just servicing debt on their student loans. Three years later, they’ve paid of $60,000 of that debt while building a nest egg approaching six-digits.

Allow yourself to be inspired and entertained by AE. Check out the Best of Apathy Ends, follow him on Twitter, and read on to learn more about one of the first bloggers I met in real life.

 

 

What’s a Christopher Guest post?

 

CGP apathy EndsInspired 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 am just over 7 years into my professional career, I started out answering customer support calls in a call center (which is not what you dream of doing as a college graduate). Over the last 7.5 years, I have had 5 different job titles as I shuffle my way up the corporate ladder.

Currently, I work in Product Management for a medium sized technology company (just typing that made me slightly bored). It is challenging, but solving corporate world problems brings me very little personal joy and that is one of the main reasons we are pursuing the FIRE lifestyle.

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Outside of the steady (above average) paycheck and reasonable health benefits, I enjoy solving problems with a team and seeing how powerful technology can be. Especially when it comes to eliminating the mind-numbing tedious tasks that made some of my call center time so depressing.

Type of physician…..I was thinking pharmacist, but I wasn’t sure if they were technically physicians. Turns out they are not, and if you type “are pha” in google the first thing that shows up is “Are pharmacists doctors” so I am not the only one wondering this. I’ll stick to telling people they should go to the doctor when their injury makes me queasy.

If I HAD to choose……The anesthesiologist was my wife’s hero for both pregnancies, he was in the room for under 15 minutes and took 100% of the glory. Can’t beat those odds.

 

[PoF: Well, I’m pretty sure every pharmacist graduating these days gets a PharmD degree and can use the term “doctor.” This is true in more and more fields throughout healthcare, so I tend to use the word “physician” instead, which is co-opted by fewer professions.

At any rate, you’re welcome to have chosen to be a doctor of pharmacy, which doesn’t require medical school or residency, but does require pharmacy school. Although, I feel I should mention that route didn’t work out any better than Product Management for people like our friend Jonathan Mendonsa

Anesthesiologist is not a bad gig if you can get it, and you’re right, we are almost universally revered by our labor patients.]

 

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

 

My blog is all about Taking Action and Building Wealth.

I find a lot of people KNOW they should be doing something, or even KNOW exactly what they need to do but still don’t do it. One of my go-to lines is Knowledge without Action is worthless (although that may not apply to all the pieces of life-saving info in physician’s heads – but it applies to saving, investing, advancing your career and building wealth).

I take a no B.S. approach to the Financial Independence space (as you will see from some of the titles below). So if you prefer to skip the fluff and don’t mind an occasional swear word mixed in, we can be internet friends.

A lot of my content is career-agnostic and I definitely shade toward the higher income brackets (Whats up docs?). There is a healthy mix of the straight line “How” to achieve Financial Independence (Numbers! YaY!). Along with some tactful advice on the mental side of money that commonly trips people up.

I believe in making a high impact decisions that boost our Net Worth every month (cheaper housing for example) instead of smaller day to day decisions that have minimal impacts.

We also have two kids, so if any readers are pursuing FIRE while raising a family there is definitely some content worth checking out.

Above all else – I keep it real.

 

[PoF: Keep it real, don’t sweat the small stuff, and take an irreverent path to financial independence. I like it!]

 

 

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 had been a personal finance “lurker” for a while before I even considered starting a site of my own. It started out as a place to hold myself accountable and morphed into a passion project that I do my best to keep up with (two kids – 3 weeks & 17 months as of writing this – are taking a bite out of my blogging time). [PoF: that’s a lot of diapers!]

Initially, I wrote a lot about general personal finance, but once I saw a few articles from the FIRE bloggers and their insane savings rates I got very curious. That curiosity turned into an obsession, which has tapered to a mild obsession as we struck a balance between saving and enjoying our life now.

I don’t think my blog has “arrived” yet, but I enjoy it and will keep working at it. Treating it as a long play and hope to carve out more time to dedicate to it. Right now, the biggest plan is to make it a significant part of my post-corporate world life. Ideally, it would turn into a side hustle type source of income.

 

[PoF: I’ve made a habit of telling everyone who is unsure if their blog has arrived that they can use today as the official day. So remember August 30th as the day your blog arrived. It also happens to be the day my mother and wife use those $24 Hamilton tickets and my father and I cheer the Golden Gophers on to a 1-0 start to their football season.

Crap. I just jinxed it, didn’t I?]

 

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

 

5 Things we Optimize to Make Financial Independence Possible

FIRE isn’t just for bike wielding hippies

Cut The Crap – There are not a MILLION ways to pay down Debt

bankofamericaCan You Do 1% Better?This should embarrass me, but it doesn’t

Dude, Just Effing Do It

Is my FU Fund Ruining my Work Ethic?

Top Down Cost Cutting for the Average American

Budgets Suck, Thankfully You Don’t Need One to Be Rich

Pursue the Guilt Free Spend

OMG…….I Might Be a Cheap A**

 

[PoF: Those last two seem to be in direct opposition to one another, but I know firsthand how it’s possible to be really frugal at times while splurging in other ways.

That pretty much describes my financial life. I’ll use coupons from the mailer to save a couple bucks on a value meal while taking my family to the airport for a week at Disney World.

And you’re telling me there are fewer than a million ways to pay off debt? Honestly, I only know of one. Transfer money from your account to the creditor’s account. I guess there are a few different ways to make that happen, but whether it’s direct deposit, a written check, or a handshake-handoff of cash in the alley behind the dumpster*, it’s simply a money transaction.

*Note that I have not done this in quite some time. 😉 ]

 

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?

 

In ELEVEN (11) years from right now at 42 was the last projection I ran. Our number and date will be shifting for sure as we have two very young kids and our spending will fluctuate with all the costs associated with raising children.

For us, increasing our income has been the main driver of our net worth and FIRE progress so far. I have increased my income over 2.5 times my starting salary in 7 years and my wife is on a similar trajectory.

Since physicians don’t struggle in the income department (at least after all the schooling and residency) here are a few other strategies we use:

  • Automation – I don’t trust myself to be a diligent week in week out to move money from our checking account to our investment accounts or pay bills manually.

 

  • Cut Lifestyle inflation – We have worked our way up to saving 33% of our gross income by banking our raises instead of inflating our spending.

 

  • Investing – I am mostly about the index funds right now as we build our traditional retirement accounts. We are going to be switching over to focusing on cash flow in the early retirement years. I believe Mr. PoF has a nice, easy portfolio allocation that he can link to 😉 [PoF, MD: That’s Dr. PoF to you, sonny!]

 

  • Keep the big costs down – Housing, Transportation, and Taxes are the three biggest buckets people spend their money on. We keep those costs well below average which helps offset the cost of daycare and boosts our savings rate.

 

[PoF: 42?!? Dude, that’s so old!

Actually, it’s also my current age, so I think that would be a great time to reach financial independence. I’m always impressed by the fact that careers that pay a lot less than mine can allow for such early financial independence. Those years of income in your 20s when I was just going further into debt make a big difference.

I like your tips — it’s those big three (housing, transportation, and taxes) that can make life really expensive, particularly for a professional with plenty of disposable income. Just because they call it that doesn’t mean you should dispose of it.]

 

 

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 am going to break this out into two sections since they will be pretty distinct.

 

Pre High School Graduation

At our current rate, our kids will still be well under 18 when we hit our numbers. We don’t plan on uprooting them from their home/school/athletics/passions to do any full time traveling or anything like that.

is it cool to drink icehouse in your ice house?

Depending on our situation we will pick up part-time passion work or consult in our fields to pad our FI number and buy some toys that we will want for the second phase (I am a fisherman, so a boat and an ice house would be ok with me)

So I guess, the first part of our “retirement” will look similar to our current life with less work and more local fun.

 

 

Post High School Graduation

After suffering through this last MN winter (especially after the ice fishing season closed and winter refused to release its grasp for another 2.5 months) we decided on a 2 home retirement solution.

We will keep a home base in MN, ideally on a lake as that is where we love to spend our time, and a winter home somewhere warm, hopefully near water with amazing local food/beer options. We will be spending some time tracking the snowbird location down over the next 5-10 years.

I don’t anticipate being full-time travelers even after retirement, we like having a home base. We will take 2-3 week long trips abroad as well as traveling around the United States as I have seen shockingly little of it for someone who lives here.

Being at the lake is a perfect vacation already so we won’t be rushing away from one of our favorite spots.

 

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[PoF: That’s very forward-thinking. Do you know how to make God laugh? Tell him your future plans!

I caution people not to get too specific with what you want life to look like more than a few years out, but it doesn’t hurt to have that vision or dream. Just expect it to change several times by the time you’re in a position to live it.

Like you, we plan to retire to the lake and spend winters somewhere warm, but I think we’ll have one home base and will visit various warmer locales in our winter months. It would be impossible to run out of places to go, and sites like Airbnb make it easy to bounce around.] 

 

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.

 

Writing an 11 sentence paragraph is too hard so I am switching to bullet points (10 to go).

  • The only harm you shall do is to the lender of your student loans (financially by paying them back quicker – that is the last doctor pun I swear).
  • Lifestyle inflation is the cruise control of wealth destruction – Bank at least 50% of all income increases.
  • The guilt-free spending of time and money is the best gift you can give yourself (and your family), so pay yourself first and when you are around your family (especially young kids) MAKE IT COUNT!
  • More than anything else, Money = Options.
  • Finding ways to save time while working full time is just as important as pursuing FIRE.
  • Sack away as much money in your Roth IRA as you can before you are over the income limit.
  • I have already had periods of burnout in my 7.5-year career, and being a physician is definitely more stressful than my job, so don’t skip your vacations
  • Don’t stop learning; books, blogs, and podcasts are the cheapest forms of fulfilling entertainment.
  • Buy a Roomba, they are amazing.

I packed a lot into those nine so calling this section a win.

 

[PoF: At one point, we had two Roombas — gotta have one for each carpeted floor — but never got used to using them. Gave one away and the other’s got a battery that won’t hold a charge. But to each his own. 

I love the rest of the advice. Avoiding lifestyle inflation, valuing your time, and taking ample vacation, which segues nice to this next question…]

 

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 have thought a lot about our vacation plan and style recently.

For the next 10-15 years, we are all about the beach vacations (before I lose what little ab muscles I have left) and our kids still get excited by a pool/beach. Then we will switch over to “seeing the world” type of travel when our kids will appreciate/understand the beauty and history of the places we visit.

So if I* have eleven days and $11,000 I am hitting Ireland, trekking through all the natural beauty, bellying up to a few Irish pubs and ideally swinging through the Jameson factory. The family is with me, of course 🙂

*My wife would probably have a different plan given this circumstance. The good thing is we will have enough time to hit all of our dream vacations. Remember Money = Options

Not part of the question, but I feel like this is noteworthy. We inflated our Financial Independence number by $100,000 that will explicitly be set aside for travel. I get a little nervous hearing how much traveling people plan to do, but don’t talk about how they are going to afford it.

 

[PoF: I’ll see you there, McApathy O’Ends! 

That’s the first I’ve heard of a retirement fund solely for travel. Reminds me a bit of my donor advised fund that I have set aside solely for charitable giving in retirement.

With $100,000 in the retirement travel fund, you can plan some pretty nice vacations guilt-free without worrying about the impact on your overall withdrawal rate. That’s a great idea!]

 

 

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

Beers
  • Fresh Squeezed IPA
  • Summit EPA
  • Bent Paddle Golden IPA
  • Sculpin Grapefruit
  • Any IPA really

 

[PoF: Great list, but if you’re going to have a Summit, might as well make it a Saga IPA. The EPA isn’t a bad beer by any stretch, but it’s basically become the Spotted Cow of Minnesota; it’s spotted everywhere.]

 

Non-Beers:
  • Water
  • Coffee (Black – also love cold press)
  • Sparkling Water
  • Orange Juice
I have 2 left, here is what I don’t Drink
  • Milk – Don’t get it, never been a fan
  • Pop – Quit so I could drink beer calories

 

[PoF: I drink more milk than pop these days (that’s soda for most of you or “coke” for some people in Texas who ascribe the brand name to all types of soft drinks.]

 

 

Now, eleven foods.

 

Entrees

  • Any Thai stir-fry dish that is spicy
  • Sushi (Tuna or yellowtail is my go to but not picky)
  • Pot Roast
  • Chilaquiles
  • Fish and Chips

Sides

  • Buffalo Wings
  • Potato Salad
  • All vegetables except tomatoes (Try them fresh from the garden every year and spit them out — don’t come at me with tomatoes aren’t a vegetable; no fruit tastes that bad)
  • Rice and Beans

Not much of a dessert person, but I like fresh baked chocolate chip cookies

Hot sauce (Eleven!) to make any food not on this list tolerable (I have hot sauce recommendations if requested in the comments)

 

[PoF: You are a dessert person; you just don’t realize it and you call it beer. I mean, if beer can be breakfast, why not dessert, too?

I’ve been making spicy tuna poke lately with the good stuff from Morey’s. So simple, so spicy, and sooooo goooood.]

 

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

 

I don’t remember how I heard about PoF the first time, probably on Twitter or from commenting on each other’s blog when we were both new to the scene. I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Dr. PoF a few times already and am looking forward to raising glasses of craft beers with him again.

One piece of advice…..I honestly think you are doing everything right from a blogging, saving, investing, vacationing, family(ing) standpoint. Maybe you should carve out some more time for Surly, Fulton and Dangerous Man with your fellow MN bloggers 😉

 


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[PoF: Point taken! I’ll be at Surly after the Gophers’ next home game (9/8). Consider this an open invitation to you and any of my Minnesota friends (or diehard Fresno State fans making the trip up north).

Readers, do you have a 12th question you’d like to ask Mr. Apathy Ends? Like, how do you get any sleep with two babies at home? Or which beer pairs best with fresh northern pike? Or how does he deal with the Y-bone when “cleaning” northern pike?

Ask away in the comment box below!]

 

Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out a few of these Christopher Guest Posts:

 

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21 comments

  • “Knowledge without action is worthless.” Pure gold. Should be accompanied by “Excuses without knowledge is pointless.”

    Far too often people like to make excuses about why they can’t obtain financial independence without actually taking an introspective look into what is happening to their life.

    “My income isn’t as high as yours. It would be easy if I made your kind of money.”

    I just want to point all of these people to the plethora of frugality blogs written for people who make an average income. Lifestyle is a choice. They just missed the memo that things won’t make them happier and keep on spending to learn that lesson over and over and over.

    Thanks for taking a no BS approach to this.

    P.S. I love some grapefruit sculpin IPA. That’s one of my “go-to” drinks.

    • Sculpin is great stuff – def expensive but worth it

      I love “Excuses without knowledge is pointless” as well and will put that in my back pocket.

      Glad to see there are people out there that appreciate the no BS approach!

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  • LOL! My husband hates tomatoes too! I thought he was the odd ball. You two are weird. How do you feel about blue cheese? Tomatoes are yummy! I should you give my mom’s tomato and egg stir fry recipe =)

    “We will take 2-3 week long trips abroad as well as traveling around the United States as I have seen shockingly little of it for someone who lives here.”

    I know right! Besides Steve and Michelle I think. Abroad is nice but ughhh I dread international travel. Long immersing vacations and a US home base is my ideal too.

    • Blue Cheese is solid – Tomatoes are poopy (Although I will eat salsa and cooked ones don’t kill me as much)

      International is fun! But I get burned out and want my own bed back after awhile 🙂

  • I love the only harm you should do is to your lender line. That’s an instant classic.

    The roth advice is also spot on. I wish I took advantage of that while my income allowed it (pretty much residency only).

    Looks like a similar desired retirement age as what I want (around 53 which is time my daughter should start college).

    • I had to throw 1 doctor pun in 😉

      Yea, I wish we had more in the Roth already and we are still able to contribute (for a few more years I assume) that tax-free bucket is soooooo valuable

  • I came across Apathy Ends not too long ago and have it in my feed reader. It’s great to get a behind the scenes look. I have kids that are 5 (almost 6) and 3. 17 months and 3 weeks sounds extremely challenging!

  • Nice interview! I have a Fresh Squeezed IPA currently bubbling away in my fermenter (well a clone recipe of it anyway) and I have a hoppy red recipe on deck. Probably get that brewing this weekend since I’ve got enough equipment for fermenting 2 batches at a time. It’s been a while since I brewed, and moving to OK where you have to buy full strength beer hot and in liquor stores only kicked me in gear to get some good beer on hand.

    I like the 2 home base idea. We were discussing that as one of our options too. Have a winter and summer locale, and if we wait until the kids are gone, we can make one of them a lot smaller and more affordable to maintain. Now back to the bigger question of, Where??? Good luck figuring it out. When we were looking at where to move around the country once we hit FI, it was really fun, but kind of overwhelming at first. So many options, you’ve got to find what’s good for you to start narrowing them down.

    • NICEEEEE – Hope it turns out for ya, that will be a hit in the house when its finished. I brewed for a few years, but don’t have the time right now. Will pick it back up down the road

      Yea, that is going to be an interesting problem to solve – will have to do our fair share of research and figure something out.

  • Love the behind the scenes look at one of my favorite MN bloggers, on the site of another one of my favorite MN bloggers! And hey, we’re a family of 4 too – is that MN thing? Go Gophers!

    Also – 42 – so old right? Hold on, I’m 42 as well. That’s not old!

    Love the focus that Apathy Ends has on getting the big things right, housing, transportation, etc. I think blogs can often focus too much on the pocket change, when there are big bills floating around for the taking when it comes to keeping the big expenses lower. The opportunity cost of having a larger house, or a bigger car can be huge!

    Here’s to seeing you both at the next meetup!

  • Beer is gross.

    Question #12: can we still be friends?

  • “Coke” covering the general world of soft drinks is not limited to Texas. California is the sort of place where you might ask for a coke, be asked what kind, and reply with something that is carbonated but unrelated to the Coca Cola family of soft drinks.

    If you can continue blogging with a 3 week old at home, you are tougher than most and I laud your moxie!

    Enjoyed your interview,

    CD

  • Britt

    Hi AE! Congrats on the baby!I’ve popped into your site a bit over the last couple years but will head there more now that I know you have two littles. I’m also 31 and a Twin Cities resident, and we have a 3yo and 1yo. Sleep deprivation is a real thing, but like you said…it’s only a year or two, right? We will survive 🙂

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