Christopher Guest Post: Big Law Investor
Welcome to the latest Christopher Guest post.
Today’s distinguished guest has been blogging for nearly a year. He has crushed his debt and put out a number of great posts on the topics of investing, debt payoff, taxes, and more despite his busy day job as a lawyer.
How did a #$(* lawyer sneak in here? Does this site have no criteria? No shame?
Well, to be fair, he doesn’t chase ambulances. He wasn’t the guy handing OJ the little gloves. He’s not John Edwards reenacting the birth of a cerebral palsy patient from the fetal perspective. Read on and you will learn that he is a corporate lawyer in New York City dealing with
murders and executions mergers and acquisitions. Seems harmless enough.
What’s a Christopher Guest post?
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.
Presenting: The BigLaw Investor
What do you do (or did you do) for a living? What do you like best about your job?
I love the project management aspect of my job and the technical requirements of getting the drafting right. It takes a lot of work to memorialize the deal terms in writing and ensure that the pieces of paper reflect the precise agreement among the parties.
[PoF: Thank you for not suing me. And for not suing anyone. Your line of work does sound both interesting and productive.]
If you were a physician, what type of a physician do you think you would be? Why?
Given that I get queasy at the sight of blood, I think we can all agree that it’s a good thing I’m not a doctor. My doctor friends tell me that repeated exposure desensitizes you, but becoming a doctor is never something I considered seriously. If I were a physician, I’d likely quit seeing patients and turn to the business aspect of running a practice. I like people but I have no interest in seeing anything inside of them.
[PoF: Even as a hypothetical doctor, you quit your clinical practice right quick! I would say it is a good thing you never considered medicine as a career.
There is some truth to the desensitization. I’ve heard well-known and highly respected physicians talk about how they nearly passed out at the sight of blood and smell of burnt flesh in their first O.R. experience. Personally, blood and guts don’t bother me a bit, but a finger cracked and bent completely the wrong way still gives me the willies.]
Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
My blog is aimed at lawyers who surprisingly come in two distinct flavors: (1) high earners like doctors (although generally not as much money) or (2) public servants that are paid significantly less. [PoF: Like Financial Panther]
A physician seeking FIRE would likely find my blog interesting since I write about topics relevant to high earners. Physicians, like lawyers, probably don’t realize that whether they want to or not, they practically have a second job managing their money. This means you need to become at least proficient in financial lingo even if you plan on working with professionals to help you manage your money.
Some of your physicians on the lower end of the pay scale spectrum might find some of my writing interesting, particularly discussing PSLF and the various student loan repayment plans.
[PoF: I’ve read a lot of your stuff, and I don’t think a physician needs to be on the low end of the pay scale to appreciate your posts.
I don’t think managing money is a second job — it can be done with as little as a few hours a year once you have done the necessary background learning. But you do need to put in the time to learn the lingo and understand where your money is and how to invest it wisely.]
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?
The White Coat Investor’s mission to deliver personal finance knowledge to doctors resonates with me. I’ve been reading Dr. Dahle’s site for years and always wondered why there was no equivalent site for lawyers. After some time, I figured I might as well create it myself.
Lawyers face different challenges compared to doctors and although it all seems very niche, I think there’s a voice missing that speaks to the specific circumstances of being a lawyer.
[PoF: The good Dr. Dahle has inspired quite a few of us, and I think you discovered his site before I did. Lots of good stuff there. If you can do for lawyers what he has done for physicians and their finances, that will be a huge win.
Although I must admit, there are certain lawyers that I wouldn’t mind seeing skip your site entirely, spend beyond their means, trust their money to a Madoff-type guy, and live unhappily ever after.
And no, I’ve never been named in a malpractice suit [knocks on wood], but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been burned.]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
- Secrets of a $100,000,000 Roth IRA
- Where Are All The Rich Lawyers?
- Should I Borrow Money in Law School to Fund a Roth IRA?
- Why You Should Be Getting a Big Fat IRS Refund
- Financial Independence: Do You Really Want It?
- How to Manage Tax Diversification Like A Boss
- Student Loan Refinancing Guide
- Contribute to a 401(k) or Pay Off Student Loans?
- Your Savings Rate is More Important Than Your Rate of Return
- 11 Financial Mistakes Lawyers Make and How to Avoid Them
- Why I Love The Roth IRA
[PoF: That’s quite a roundup. Regarding your #2, I found the bimodal distribution of lawyers’ salaries highlighted in Lawyer Salaries are Weird post to be fascinating. I think there must be a third spike far off to the right that we’re not seeing, but maybe that’s just a tiny fraction making the really big bucks.]
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?
Retirement is a loaded word in the FIRE community. Please call the Internet Retirement Police. I might never retire. Right now I’m working on achieving financial independence, which I think is equivalent to the same thing.
At this pace, I should reach financial independence by 40, but I’m not worried or focused on any particular age. I take every thing one day at a time and look forward to the freedom each dollar buys you.
To reach my retirement target, I am maxing out my 401(k), Roth IRA and HSA accounts each year. Last year I decided to pay off the remaining $75,000 of student loan debt. While it was at a low 3.03% variable rate, I’ve become a firm believer that most wealthy people don’t have student loan debt, so I decided it’d be a good idea to shed them and free up the cash flow.
[PoF: FI by 40 will match my feat — I know you’ve got a few years left, and I hope you make the goal. How great does it feel to be rid of those student loans?]
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?
An ideal retirement for me just means not needing to exchange time for money. It means waking up to work on the projects I want to work on and not having my schedule dictated by other people’s priorities.
When you think about, most of humanity has existed without a “job” mentality for quite a long time. It’s only with the recent rise of the corporation that humans have shifted to thinking about receiving wages in exchange for a commitment to a job. I spend a lot of time thinking about the behavior psychology of personal finance and all the scripts we’re programmed with. Having a “job” seems to be one of the big ones.
A good thing for both lawyers and physicians is that their practice allows them to pursue a more entrepreneurial type employment than the general population. I’m always looking for those lawyers.
[That sounds pretty great for a partial retirement. Oh, great… now I’m the retirement police. Your ideal job sounds like a good gig if you can find it in the law or business world. It certainly won’t happen for you in BigLaw.]
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’ve been through a lot of bad things in my life, some of which actually happened. – Mark Twain.
- Taxes are a huge drag, so start maxing out your retirement account as a priority before everything else.
- Live like a resident for the first five years.
- Write out an investment policy statement (tax rates, insurance coverage, portfolio, goals, etc.) [PoF: You mean Investor Policy Statement. ;)]
- Approach stuff with the mentality that you already own everything that the world has to offer, you’re just keeping it in storage and have to pay a small fee to retrieve it. [PoF: That’s pretty revolutionary. Did a minimalist tell you that?]
- Watch out for convenience.
- Dripping water hollows a stone. -Ovid
- The days are long but the years are short.
- There is always an alternative path.
- New York is the kind of place where you can earn enough money to solve problems that don’t exist elsewhere.
- Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
[PoF: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, or so I’m told. A funny thing in medicine is that the New Yorkers generally earn less and have much higher cost of living than their counterparts throughout the nation. Geographic arbitrage has worked wonders for me, and I can still visit NYC whenever I want.]
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?
Easy: I’m chasing summer for a year and following the major tennis tournaments starting with the Australian Open in January. After that, we’ll head to the US for tournaments in California and Miami, circle back through France and the UK during the summer months and then end up in NYC in September.
For $11,000 I might not be able to do it in a fancy way, but it’d be a great way to explore the world and see some good sporting events while I do it.
[PoF: I love the chasing summer concept. Tennis isn’t my jam, but I’m down with that general itinerary.]
Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
- Carbonated Water.
- Honest Iced Tea.
- Inns & Gun Rum Aged Beer.
- Mid-Winter Margaritas.
- Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sour.
- Beltane Ranch Rose.
- Root Beer.
- Shiner Bock.
[PoF: Shouldn’t that be a Brooklyn Lager in place of the Shiner? Looks like a good mix of beverages — mine is evolving. A few weeks ago, I gave up diet soda and effectively all caffeine, then went on to work my busiest month in years. Haven’t really missed it, surprisingly.]
Now, eleven foods.
- Steak au poivre.
- Pepperoni Pizza.
- Chicken Kiev.
- Brussel Sprouts.
- Coffee Butter.
- Short Rib.
- Shishito Peppers.
- Pecan Pie.
[PoF: You just threw in the sprouts and okre to try to look good, didn’t you? It’s alright; I’d probably list broccoli on my list. It’s not among my favorite foods, but as far as vegetables go, I tolerate the florets quite well. The stalks, not so much.]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
I was trying to log on to this dating site … [PoF: Oh, you mean POF. I was honestly oblivious to that until a reader pointed it out.]
ACTUALLY, I learned about PhysicianonFIRE from a post on White Coat Investor. I didn’t realize there were other physician personal finance blogs until I saw your post. It’s been great to see you struggle with “retiring” from such a high paying position. It seems like you want to move on to other endeavors, but I know it must be a challenge when you have a high paying job to leave (not to mention all the sunk costs around the training involved).
My only piece of advice for you would be to remind you that figuring out what is “enough” is perhaps the greatest challenge for financial independence, particularly for high earners. What’s enough for you PoF?
[PoF: I’ve read Bogle’s book appropriately entitled Enough and I’m still trying to figure it out. We’re rapidly closing in on some goals I outlined in a guest post a few months ago and should be able to check all those boxes by the year’s end unless we enter a bear market in the meantime.
As my wife and I start talking timing, the exit strategy has little to do with any dollar amounts. I’ll start my part-time schedule this fall and plan to give that a year or two. We’ll see what happens after that!]
BLI — Thank you so much for taking the time to share more of your story here. Readers, what questions do you have for the BigLaw Investor? Ask away!