Christopher Guest Post: Dads Dollars and Debts
He’s a Dad. He earns Dollars. He’s conquering Debt. He is… Dads Dollars Debts!
EJ also happens to be a cardiologist with an interest in financial independence. He settled down in a high cost of living area, bought a million dollar home, and promptly had it burn to the ground after a harrowing middle-of-the-night evacuation.
His interest in minimalism promptly became a forced reality, and one of the first things he picked up after the disaster was a new laptop so he could continue to share his story with the online community.
We’ve been communicating back and forth for the last year, and I have a standing invitation to join him for happy hour at Russian River brewing — an event I partook in just a few months before I realized I had another friend there. Until next time…
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.
What is your specialty or subspecialty and why did you choose it? If you could turn back time, would you choose to practice medicine and choose the same specialty? Why?
I am a heart doctor…aka Cardiologist. I break the hearts and then I mend the hearts …oof… my wife is going to make fun of me for that one.
I ended up as a Cardiologist through my friends. You know they say you are who you know and back in medical school I knew a lot of cardiology fellows. They were kind enough to take me under their wings. I would eat lunch with them, do research with them, round with them, and drink with them. They were just really cool. So it made sense that I would end up becoming a cardiologist.
I also thought it would be cool to shock people like I see doctors doing on tv…for the record, it is cool.
I did briefly toy with the idea of being a Urologist, but after watching my brother go through a year of general surgery internship, I knew it was not for me.
If I could go back in time now…well I would probably pick a field with no patient message in-box. While I think the message basket improves quality of care, it still is a pain to deal with. After a weekend off, I will come back to an inbox full of message. Pathology or radiology sound good. Though after reading the Happy Philosopher’s experience working full time, I am less convinced about radiology.
Pathology it is. Though I failed my first histology exam in medical school…so maybe I should just stick with Cardiology.
[PoF: Shocking people, er… I mean… cardioverting people is pretty darned cool. I’m involved in those pretty regularly since most cardiologists prefer the properties of our propofol to the results they get with your standard versed and fentanyl routine.
I’d say you chose wisely, even if it is a long path to become a cardiologist. If a full internal medicine residency was not a prerequisite, I might have considered the field.]
Non-Physicians: 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?
If I was a non-physician, I would want to be an astronaut. Is that okay to say? I actually interviewed as a finalist in 2009 and 2013, but was not picked in either class. Alas, a person can dream right?
Maybe I should have been a Flight surgeon or a doctor with a focus on Space Medicine. Yes, that is what I want to do. I take what I said above all back. Make me a Space Medicine doc, join the reserves as a flight surgeon, apply to be an astronaut, and then go to space. Bam! Mind blown. No early retirement needed as I will be drifting around orbit and living in the Space Station is kind of like living in an RV.
[PoF: Awesome. No one has ever answered both versions of question #1, but I’m completely thrilled that you did. You were interviewed as a finalist to be an astronaut not once, but twice? Outstanding. Brandon the Mad Fientist applied, but I don’t think his application ever got off the ground, so to speak.]
Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
I started my blog as a dad who was trying to get his financial house in order so I can focus on my family. That being said, I was a doctor before being a dad. So the doctoring part permeates every bit of my thinking and being, but does not define me. So I write about doctoring too, which should interest physicians.
I am seeking FIRE; you can too. My blog is not just about FIRE though, it is about finding contentment now. Being able to find that work-life balance whether it means working part-time or seeking FIRE. So if you want to hear from another doctor about how to live moderately, while seeking a balance in life, then check out my site.
Seek financial independence to give future you choices!
[PoF: Good plan. Past you will thank present you. Or is it future you? Is future you an astronaut, floating around without care in the vastness of space? Well, without care except for the need for oxygen and the tether to not break?]
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 thinking about starting a blog for about 3 years. I had read White Coat Investor, Financial Samurai, and Mr. Money Mustache regularly and was moved by their recommendations and personal stories.
So for 3 years I would have coffee with one of my colleagues, discuss my thoughts about Financial Independence and general life philosophy. I wanted to start a blog that entire time but never was motivated (or maybe secure enough) to do it. Finally, one day I told myself to just start. What’s the worst that will happen?
At worst I could have spent $100 bucks trying something new. That is the worst outcome.
I am not sure I have arrived yet. Guest posting on your site and White Coat Investor’s site was pretty cool. The other day my cousin read an article on Kevin MD I had written and thought it was pretty good. He then looked at the author and realized it was me. So having a family member accidentally read your stuff and think it is good is also cool.
I am going to keep writing Wednesdays and Saturdays. Hopefully my viewers will keep coming back and enjoy what I have to say. Other than that, I have no big blog news. Just keep on trucking as they say. Much like investing, slow and steady often wins the race.
[PoF: You let this idea simmer for 3 years? Dang.
I credit MMM and WCI as my main inspirations, but I also discovered the venerable Financial Samurai before I launched a blog of my own. I think there’s plenty of room for new and different voices in this space as long as they have something unique to offer.
From what I’ve read, I believe that you’ve got that. If you had only started a couple years earlier, I’d probably be answering a Q&A on your site.
If you do start one, I’m game. These are my favorite kind of posts to write. I had so much fun filling out Mr. 1500’s questions, that I was compelled to start a similar series. With his permission of course; Mr. 1500 was my first guest, and he knocked it out of the park.]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
- Work for freedom
- Setting up a revocable living trust with LegalZoom
- Saying no to doctoring
- Why financial freedom?
- Moderatism versus Minimalism
- Sunk cost fallacy
- Entropy: Nothing is permanent
- Debt is the great equalizer
- Embracing contentment
- Being in private practice makes me a better doctor
- Paying off debts as asset protection
[PoF: The sunk cost fallacy is a huge one for physicians to both understand and psychologically overcome. It does no good to look back on what you’ve done to be where you are at this precise moment; you need to evaluate your life and options from this moment forward.
That is extraordinarily difficult to do when you’ve been through what we’ve been through.
That post on private practice sounds provocative. Are you just trying to anger up the blood of your academic compadres?]
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?
The earliest I can imagine retiring is age 48. That is 11 years from now. Though I plan on going part time sooner. Likely in 2019 (age 39) I will go down to 90% and by 2022 (age 42) down to 80%. Then I will ride it out until I am at vested in my pension as explained in my drawdown strategy.
The other option is to drop down to 60% work at some point (3 days a week is not too bad) and work until I am qualified for full early retirement at age 60. If the job is good, then I will keep working and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
As for short and long term goals to realize my retirement target, I am paying down debt and saving money. I do live in an expensive house with a beautiful sunset view. I am going to stay put for now, but if I decide to retire early, I will likely sell it and buy a smaller property for cash.
[PoF: It pains me to read about your beautiful house, because I know this was written before your life was turned upside down by the Tubbs fire.
I’ve said it many times, but I will reiterate the fact that I am thankful to have been clueless to the whole concept of financial independence until I had set enough aside to have it.
Having dropped to part time work at 60% of my previous pace, I can tell you that it does make the work / life / blog balance much more manageable. In three days, we’re heading out on a three-week family Spanish immersion adventure. No way that would have been possible with a full time job. I hope you’re able to pull it off!]
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?
The first thing I want to see in my rearview is my house. [PoF: check!] I fantasize buying an RV and driving around the country for at least a year. Visiting national parks, hiking, visiting family and friends all over this great land.
After that I suppose I will audit some classes at the local community college and maybe get into wine making (I do, after all, live in wine country).
I imagine living January though April in New Orleans and then coming back to Northern California for the rest of the year. I would have the best of both worlds. The parties and festivals of NOLA and the nice weather of Cali. I think buying 2 condos or small homes would make this feasible.
[PoF: If my wife’s browser history is any indication, an RV is in our near future, too. I think she spends more time on RVtrader.com than I do on this stie!
I’ve spent many a New Year’s Eve on Bourbon Street, and braved the crowds for Mardi Gras one time, but I think I got all that out of my system. I still do love the city for the architecture and history, but I’m not sure I’d want to spend extended time in New Orleans.
If you’d rather learn to make beer and not wine, I know a guy. ;)]
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.
Start saving money in medical school and definitely by residency. You may burnout sooner then you expect, so it is good to be financially able to step away if needed.
Self-care is the best care. Often we our so deeply involved in taking care of our patients that we forget to take care of ourselves and our families. If we take the time to protect ourselves then everyone will benefit. Your family will be happier and more patient with you, your patient’s will receive higher quality care, and you will be content and less likely to burn out.
Think long and hard before buying a home in residency, fellowship, or even your first job. I did not follow this advice and while I did not lose large amounts of money, it did tie up capital that I could have invested, time I spent fixing things, and stress about managing and selling a home. There is a beauty in renting and having no real commitment to the home you are living in. You can focus more on training and learning to be a good doctor.
Try to learn as much as you can in training because it does not get easier when you get out.
[PoF: This interview, written well before the Tubbs fire, is a fascinating read after the fact. Great advice all around, EJ.]
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?
Eleven days. My next continent to visit is Africa, so I would fly a red eye in and spend the 11 days visiting various countries. I would plan on seeing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and going on a dry Safari. Seeing a volcanic lake would be pretty amazing too. Mount Nyiragongo which rises hundreds of meters above Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo would be one such lake. So those are 3 pretty big things to want to do.
I imagine we could do it well under $11k. The airfare would be the biggest issue. We don’t mind staying in hostels. Even with a young child we could get a private room for cheaper than in a hotel.
[Way to stretch that travel budget! Go big or go home, I guess. Use some travel rewards bonuses for the airfare and you could probably spring for the hotel, too (or use points for the lodging, too!
I’d like to get to Africa at some point, but I don’t do well with shots. Or animals twenty times my size. :)]
Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
- Coffee. Start my day with it every day.
- Tea. Preferably Persian Black Tea, but I will have a glass of camomile or green tea at night.
- Water. I really don’t drink sodas or juices so I end up drinking a lot of water
- Whiskey. Nothing like a good glass of whiskey neat. I am currently partaking in a bottle of Tullamore DEW. [PoF: That sounds neat!]
- Red wine. There is no shortage of this where I live. My current favorite is Russian River Vineyards.
- Beer. I typically only drink local beer. There is a lot to choose from here in Northern California. [PoF: I managed to visit all 3 of these last year]
- The Bear Republic: Racer 5
- Lagunitas Brewing Company: A Little Sumpin’ Extra
- Russian River Brewing Company: Blind Pig I.P.A. Yes, the Russian River is down the street from me and yes I enjoy their beer, but I save it for special occasions with friends and family
- Moscow Mule. It is simple and easy to make. Personally, I am not good at making cocktails, but will seek out cocktails when I go to restaurants. I will start with the moscow mule (preferably in a non-poisonous copper mug) and work my way through some other cocktails, always with a designated drive on hand (thanks Uber and Lyft).
- Dough. I grew up drinking this delicious (or weird) yogurt drink. I prefer the carbonated kind that you can by from the stores. I will drink this any time I have the chance.
- Mate. I enjoyed this throughly in Argentina. It is a tea like beverage that is shared with a group through a single cup called a gourd and sipped through a straw named a bombilla. Once you get over the sharing of group germs, it is quite the social experience. Honestly I have not had much of this recently, but in 2012 it was my go-to drink. Makes me want to go have some right now.
Now, eleven foods.
- Hamburgers…with bacon and blue cheese. While I can make a hamburger easily at home, I am always suckered into buying one at restaurants. I am curious to see how delicious they can make this staple.
- Persian Kobideh Kabob with basmati rice and grilled peppers and tomatoes. A Sunday staple at our house.
- Pizza. Man, I love pizza. Preferably meat lovers though a prosciutto and fig pizza can be quite delicious. One of the worst part about our move in 2016 is that we have not found a delicious pizza place in our new town yet.
- Ghormeh Sabzi. This is my favorite Persian dishes of all the persian dishes out there. Eat it with some rice and plain yogurt and there is nothing more comforting…
- Well, except for mac and cheese. Mac and cheese is very comforting and outside of hamburgers, I will often go for a good looking mac and cheese meal at a restaurant.
- Seafood Paella. A delicious mix of rice and seafood with delicious flavoring. I have never made this for myself, but my brother-in-law puts a pretty spectacular version together.
- Lamb. I will eat lamb in any form, flavor, shape. There is something quite rich and succulent about this meat. The best is slowly roasted over an open flame as they do in the country side in Argentina.
- Fried chicken. Not one for the cardiologist to be recommending, but give me some good fried chicken any day. If you ever have the chance to be in Memphis go to Gus’s Fried Chicken. It is the best fried chicken around.
- Bar-B-Que, preferably pork to beef. My favorite spot is in Memphis also. It is called Central Bar-B-Que. Get the full rack of ribs, dry. Thank me later.
- Crawfish. While they can be a pain to eat, it is an experience. A good crawfish boil in March or April in New Orleans with a cold beer is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. I prefer the sausage and potatoes to the corn found in the boil, but to each their own.
- Chocolate cake. It has to be moist and fresh, preferably with a chocolate ganache.
Man, that was fun. I do like to eat and am now very hungry.
[PoF: Yeah, I’m hungry, too! But I need to let the beer settle before I can eat. The last section made me so thirsty, I couldn’t resist!]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
You know, I am not quite sure. I stumbled upon this site some time in the last year and have been reading it since…Maybe it was through the White Coat Investor or some random Google search.
As for advice, hmm…I am not sure how much you work out, but as a Cardiologist I recommend 20-30 minutes of moderate activity. You should be able to speak in sentences, but not full paragraphs. That is moderate activity. It will help you live a long happy retired life. Also, lift some weights and stretch. Please stretch. None of us stretch as we get older and it messes us up majorly. So stay healthy, my friend. We have a long ride ahead of us.
[PoF: Have to be able to write. In full sentences. Before I can. Speak in full sentences.
Sorry, I was just getting a little exercise in. It was great to get to know you, better, EJ, and I encourage my readers to pay him a visit over at Dads Dollars Debts.
Interested in hearing how other top personal finance blogger have answered these questions? Check out the following Christopher Guest Posts:
- Full Time Finance
- Gen Y Finance Guy
- Get Money Got Money
- Mr. Tako Escapes
- My Money Wizard
- Senior Resident
- Big Law Investor
- Ten Factorial Rocks
- Family Money Plan
- My Money Wizard
- ESI Money
- The Green Swan
- Smart Money MD
- The Retirement Manifesto
- J.L. Collins
- Johnny K. Johnson
- Early Retirement Now!
- Son of a Doctor
- The Happy Philosopher
- Future Proof MD
- Dr. Wise Money
- The White Coat Investor
- Mr. 1500 of 1500 Days