I’m one of the more productive procrastinators I know. I can get a lot done while avoiding the work I actually should be doing. My friend Anthony from Break the Twitch introduced me to this wonderful term to describe this tendency: “procrastitasking.” It’s what I do and I do it well.
If those big-timers had participated, surely I’d be game. A quick 5 months later, I had answered each and every question posed to me.
Unfortunately, by then, he was no longer publishing the interviews. I followed up with him six months later, and the series remained on the back burner.
Now, here we are nearly two years out, and I’ve been enjoying lots of fun summertime activities, and not doing a whole lot of writing. In other words, procrastinating. Or procrastitasking, as it were.
Fortunately, I’ve got about 2,000 words that I’ve written that have never been published, and here they are below. Note that I’ve updated my answers to reflect the fact that I have now retired from medicine, whereas I was about six months away from doing so when I first put my thoughts down in this wide-ranging interview.
Band of Bloggers: a Physician on FIRE Q&A
Tim Ferris says that “Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.” What is one vague wish you were punished by or one specific ask you were rewarded for?
A few years ago, I decided I was ready to work part-time, but I didn’t think it would be feasible in my group of five anesthesiologists. One evening, I happened to be volunteering at the local curling club with my colleague that makes the schedule. It was our turn to run the concession stand and bar.
It seemed like a long shot, but I described my ideal schedule to him. Four days at our day surgery center followed by a 72-hour hospital call shift. A month’s worth of part-time work squeezed into seven busy days.
A few weeks later, with the cooperation of my four colleagues who each agreed to work 10% more, I was able to work 40% less and my ideal schedule became my new work schedule.
It was a great way to transition from working full-time to zero-time, which happened nearly a year ago in August of 2019. By the time I was done, I had worked my ideal part-time schedule for the better part of two years.
As my father says, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
What is the one book (or books) that you have given to your friends? Or What are one to three books that have greatly impacted your life (money related or not)?
I have gifted The Millionaire Next Door. It’s important to understand that looking and acting like the stereotypical depiction of a millionaire is exactly what prevents most people from actually becoming one.
A couple of other favorites are Jonathan Clements’ How to Think About Money and the late John Bogle’s Enough. Both have a wonderful mix of finances and philosophy that encourage the reader to make the right choices with money and in life.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last year (or in recent memory)? The more specific details, the better!
If I didn’t have a fourth grader, a National Parks Annual Pass would have set us back $80. Since I do have a fourth grader, it was free. Thank you, Every Kid in a Park program!
That pass saved us over $100 as we visited Walnut Canyon and the Grand Canyon and others on a family vacation in Arizona in early 2019. I imagine we’ll visit quite a few more parks now that we have an RV and international travel is more cumbersome. I’ll gladly pony up for the paid pass, although we’ll get another free year now that our younger son is about to enter his fourth grade year.
How has a failure or apparent failure, set you up for success later? Do you have a favorite success?
I’ve gotta say my favorite success would be that of this website, physicianonfire.com. The site has garnered over 8.5 million pageviews as of July, 2020, and has given me something else to focus my energy on now that the world of medicine is behind me.
It’s my first real attempt at a blog, but I vaguely recall setting up some kind of a site on Geocities back in the day, so I suppose we could consider that the failure that set me up for future success. But not really.
What is a quote(s) that you live your life by or that you find yourself repeating to yourself?
I’m going to choose two.
First, “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” It’s a quote that was attributed to Henry Ford about six months after his death, and it’s unclear if he actually said it, but I like it.
It’s not 100% true, of course. Believing you can do something won’t always make it so, but believing you cannot almost guarantees you’ll be correct. Mindset is a powerful thing.
I also like Ferris Bueller’s “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Before I discovered the concept of financial independence, I feel I was missing too much of it.
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What’s one of the best or more worthwhile investments you’ve made (money, time, energy, etc.)
When we added Passive Income MD to the White Coat Investor Network, I had the opportunity to invest in a small piece of equity in PIMD. According to WCI, that investment has returned 851%. I have also made what I expect will be a lucrative investment in The Physician Philosopher. These income streams aren’t entirely passive, but they’re pretty close.
I’ve also invested a good amount of time and mental energy into creating and growing Physician on FIRE. I now have a whole new set of skills and knowledge that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t pulled the trigger on registering that domain name.
In 2019, the site’s fourth year, I started earning enough online income to cover my family’s annual spending, even after I fulfill our charitable mission by donating half of my profits. To date, we’ve donated over $300,000 as a result of this giving pledge.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
I mentioned my affinity for Bogle’s Enough, and it’s that concept that was introduced to me by the financial independence community that has had the most profound and positive effect on my life.
I used to have The $10 Million Dream, but I’ve realized that I likely wouldn’t live any differently with 1/4 to 1/3 of that, but I could enjoy a lot more freedom if I stopped chasing that loftier goal.
I know what Enough is for us, and we’re there. It’s a freeing feeling.
What advice would you give to a smart, industrious, newbie blogger as they start out?
In the first 6 to 12 months, focus on creating great content, making connections with other bloggers in your niche, and growing your traffic.
Do not focus on monetizing initially. You need to grow your traffic first, and trying too hard to make a few pennies early on can be counterproductive if the ads are distracting and drive away readers. You can start to focus on income after you’ve built a following.
I share my top blogging tips in one big post: Successful Blogging: 10 Steps to Building and Growing a Website.
What common advice should they ignore?
I don’t know if it’s common advice, but some bloggers are pretty stingy when it comes to linking out to other sites. They like to keep readers on their own site, and I can understand that.
I’ve taken a different approach and refer people out all the time. I think my readers see my site as a good source of information, whether it’s my own content or articles that I link to and recommend.
My weekly Sunday Best blog roundup series is usually the most widely read new post each week.
What are 1-3 apps/programs/plugins that have allowed you to maximize your time/energy?
I use Microsoft’s OneNote to write articles and organize all sorts of content related to the blog. It’s similar to Evernote, but totally free for PC users.
I’ve got a plugin called Revive Old Post that automatically tweets out an old post on a set schedule.
I’ve also found Pretty Links to be useful for shortening those ridiculously long URLs that you get from affiliates into something more palatable like physicianonfire.com/chasesp. My credit card master post has a whole bunch of ’em like that.
What one thing has been most effective for increasing traffic on your blog?
You have to help people find you. I did that by leaving what I thought to be insightful, humorous, or helpful comments on popular sites and by guest posting on them.
What does resilience mean to you? When have you had to be resilient?
Resilience is remaining strong in the face of adversity or bouncing back quickly when you cannot.
There was a point during my surgery rotation in medical school that I was not loving life. Another student had mentioned that you could get a 6-figure job as a consultant right after medical school, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do some Google searching to try to find those opportunities.
Shortly thereafter, I had my first anesthesia rotation, and I found that life (for me) was better on the other side of the blue drape.
Residency was no walk in the park, either, but I persevered, knowing that life would get better. And it has!
What’s the most important thing about money kids should know and how would you teach it to them?
Kids should understand the lessons of The Millionaire Next Door. Acting rich does not make one rich; it actually has precisely the opposite effect if you’re not also saving and investing a substantial sum.
Another important lesson is the time value of money. I taught my boys the Rule of 72 when they were 7 and 9 years old.
We also run The Bank of Mom and Dad, which is a spreadsheet listing their savings balance with us, and we give them 1% interest on their money every month. No, The Bank is not accepting applications for new accounts.
How has generosity been a part of your life (someone generous to you or vice versa). What impact did it make?
To be honest, I’ve had some self-induced guilt related to leaving a worthwhile and lucrative profession a couple of decades before a normal retirement age. One thing I’ve done to battle those guilt pangs Is to build up a donor advised fund prior to hanging up the stethoscope.
In 2017, our DAF balance hit a quarter million dollars, which was about 10% of our nest egg at the time. We continue to grow that balance while also giving from the fund according to my website’s charitable mission.
What are the top 3 most common money problems you’ve seen people consistently fighting to overcome?
My audience is heavily skewed towards high-income professionals, so the money problems can be of the “first world” variety, but they’re still quite real.
Lifestyle inflation is rampant, particularly among physicians who have delayed gratification for far too long. When a physician’s income can increase 4x to 10x after residency, it can be difficult to exercise restraint when the paychecks start rolling in.
I challenge physicians (and other high-income earners) to live on half their takehome pay , using the rest to pay down debt and invest.
Another mistake I commonly see is student loan debt mismanagement. The right strategy, whether it’s a loan forgiveness program or refinancing can save an individual tens of thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars. I link out to dozens of great resources on my Student Loan Resource page to help readers make sense of what to do with their student loans.
What is one thing you have an abundance of and one thing you’re working on building an abundance of?
I’ve got an abundance of ideas for blog posts, so I think I’ll keep this thing going for a while.
Somehow, almost a year after I left my anesthesia gig, I’m still working towards having an abundance of free time. In some ways, I have more free time than ever, but I’ve managed to fill it with daily exercise, education, and of course, helping others to achieve financial independence with this blog.
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Got another question? Go ahead, ask me anything.