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Christopher Guest Post: Smart Money MD

Welcome to another in the growing series of Christopher Guest Posts. Today’s guest is none other than Smart Money MD. The ophthalmologist has been blogging for nearly two years, with archives going back to March, 2015.

A closer look shows the first post on St. Patrick’s Day, and the busy doctor posted every day for a month straight! Those posts look lonely, sitting there with no comments, so if you’re feeling charitable, head back to the March or April 2015 archives and share your thoughts on a post or two.


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.


Presenting: Smart Money MD

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’m an eye surgeon by formal training (you know, the guys who do LASIK advertisements on TV but we also do transplants on the eye as well!). The decision was mostly due to my prior background in computer science. I liked zapping Asteroids in my childhood, so it is pretty neat that you can shoot lasers for a living.

I think that most of my colleagues would still go into medicine, but I’m not so sure. I was a computer science guy by training, and ended up turning down lucrative career opportunities to enter medical school. After seeing all these IT guys ‘retire’ by 30 makes me jealous! But the grass is always greener on the other side, and I love what I do.

[PoF: The only thing cooler than shooting lasers at work is having a pool of sharks with laserbeams attached to their heads. Maybe someday, you could have both.

I feel similarly to you, although I hadn’t set myself up for a good alternative. I wouldn’t change anything as I’m happy with where this path has taken me, and where I’ve ended up. On the other hand, there are far easier ways to end up in a position of financial independence in your forties.]


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

Smart Money MD focuses on a lifestyle approach for high-income earners. Yes, you can have a good income as a physician. You can be conscientious about money, do the right thing, and reach your FIRE without making drastic changes to your lifestyle.

I love fancy travels as much as PoF loves his good brew. But it doesn’t mean that you should go overboard and burn through your multi-six to seven figure salary just because you crack open heads for a living (Yes, I know someone who was able to burn through a 7-figure pretax annual salary)!

[PoF: I’m a fan of both travel and beer. I have particularly enjoyed recent trips to Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Tropical locations with access to many great American breweries. So many Caribbean islands have so much watered down standard lager, and little else.

There’s no salary that can’t be outspent. Johnny Depp apparently spends more in a typical month ($2 million) than the typical early retiree will target to last a lifetime.]


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?

World domination, of course! Actually, having a web presence really helps us connect with like-minded people. It motivates us to stay in touch and learn.

Hey, without the Internet, I wouldn’t have figured out how to make a pizza. Now, thanks to food blogs, I can make malformed baked dough any time I want (no guarantees that these are edible but will taste better if you wash them down with a chocolate ale)! I hope to build up a like minded audience, turn some heads, and maybe do some good for the physician community.

[PoF: You’ve got to dominate the kitchen before you can dominate the world, right?

I underestimated how much of a social endeavor this would be. I’ve connected with so many people that are interested in what we’re doing here. It’s a lot of fun — like a pumped up Facebook in a way.]


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

You should read the entire website, start to finish. It’ll be easier than studying for the USMLE, and most of the writing will have grammatical mistakes, non-sequitors, and…

For kicks, all readers should check out:

[PoF: Many great topics here. You like to ask questions, don’t you?]


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 probably will need close to another 10 years to be in really good shape. It depends if the future kids go to private school or I start letting loose on expenses. In the meantime, I’m trying to do what the wise guys like PoF and WCI have already done before me: (1) save as much of your income as possible and (2) invest wisely. As physicians, we’ve won the stable income game. You just need to make sure you don’t squander it all.

[PoF: Yep — the longer you wait, the better off you’ll be. I encourage physicians to live on half to achieve financial independence in a reasonable time frame. If you want to keep working beyond that or loosen the purse strings, have at it.]


toddler driving boat
WCI’s not the only one with a boat.


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 always wanted to divide up my free time to broaden my general knowledge and to get in shape. My coworkers who are marathon runners and triathletes do it in their free time after a grueling 10-hour day–I guess they enjoy it enough to do it even when exhausted. I’m more of the lazy time. I barely have the energy to feed the cat and empty her litterbox when I get home (cat knows how to make me pay if I don’t empty the litterbox at least QD).

[PoF: I hear you, SMMD. Time is certainly the most limiting factor in terms of doing the things I want to do. By the time I’ve taken care of obligations, I’ve got to pick and choose between activities that are good for the body, good for the mind, good for the soul, or just plain fun.

Take away the biggest obligation (paid work), and there’s lots more time for all the good stuff.]


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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.

There’s already a lot of good financial information out there, much more than a decade ago. Go out there and learn about it, but don’t let money consume your life. Yes, money does buy happiness, but remember that you want to have a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

I am as detailed oriented as any other physician out there (a tenth of a millimeter makes a world of difference in my field), but learn not to sweat the small stuff. If you forget to fund your Roth IRA at the beginning of the year, you’ll still survive if you fund it in November. Work hard, and you will be rewarded. I still believe in that statement after the brutal life during medical school and residency.

[PoF: Smart Perspective, Smart Money MD. Money is only one part of the equation, and beyond a certain amount, additional money buys smaller and smaller increments of that happiness we’re all striving for.]


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?

Grand Canyon Hang On
be careful out there

I would have preferred another zero to that budget, but this is a website about saving money. I’m a big fan of slow travel, meaning that you explore new places in a much more leisurely pace (not that I’ve ever done that given my career choice), perhaps living like a local. If I had to pick, I think that eleven days ought to be enough to hike through the Grand Canyon without needing to be carried out. Better to enjoy Earth’s nature beauties before we all destroy it…

[PoF: Yes, I agree wholeheartedly on the “slow travel” concept and it’s definitely in the near future for my family. But for now, eleven days is about the most we can get away for at one time.

With $11,000, you could have a grand time in the Grand Canyon. Whitewater rafting, experienced guides, and the best burro that money can buy. You could also pay for a whole tour bus to walk the scariest semicircle known to man, the Grand Canyon Skywalk.]


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

Anchor Christmas Beer
i believe i ordered the large beer

I’m not as big of a beer expert as PoF, but Christmas Ale is among my top picks. The answer I give at holiday parties is the 2006 Vintage Dom Perignon. Otherwise, water, milk, and orange juice I hand squeeze from the oranges I overbuy at the local Mexican grocery store are my go-to liquids. I also like most other unhealthy carbonated fruit drinks like Izze and Fanta.

[PoF: A mimosa with the hand-squeezed and the Dom would be a nice companion to a Sunday brunch. Anchor has made a nice Christmas Ale for years — I’ve got the 2015 vintage I’m saving for a special occasion. Maybe my first Christmas as an early retiree?]


Now, eleven foods.

I like my pizza and ribs. And fried turkey. And Costco hotdogs. Donuts too. I think that this is a wake-up call to check my cholesterol and chem panel…

[PoF: I appreciate your honesty here, SMMD. Just a bunch of fried food, meat, and cheese. We served up Costco dogs at our Super Bowl party the other day. You’re a handful of foods shy of eleven, so I’ll do my best to extrapolate based on your first five:

  • Funnel cake
  • Pulled pork sandwich
  • Filet mignon
  • Cheddar bratwurst
  • Kale. Ha! Just kidding. I meant to say Kit Kat.]


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

Not sure, but you sure do reply to e-mails quickly. I can’t say that I could do the same. I blame my employer for making me see 50 patients a day, but then realize that I have it good when my local competitor sees 80 in the same amount of time!

Kudos for playing your cards right financially. You’ve reached a level that is incredibly impressive for anyone a decade your senior, yet alone at age 39. What’s more important is that your wife shares your mentality–that is the most important key in financial success and happiness. I think you’ve got a great opportunity to continue doing a lot of good out there in your charities. Keep it up!

[PoF: Goodness, that’s a lot of patients. Of course, on cataract days, I’ve seen 30 patients before noon, so I can relate. You must have caught me on the ophthalmologist’s day off.

You’re right about the spouse – our plans are family plans. If she were a big spender, didn’t want to travel, or was holding down a job, we wouldn’t be able to have the life we intend to live.]



Thank you, Smart Money MD for opening up and sharing a part of your story. I look forward to reading much more from you over the years. Do you have additional questions for the good doctor? Ask ’em below in the comments.



Did you enjoy this interview? Stick around for Christopher Guest posts from:


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31 thoughts on “Christopher Guest Post: Smart Money MD”

    • Cataract days are the busiest for me, the anesthesiologist. Bouncing back and forth between two rooms, one efficient ophthalmologist can easily knock out 20 cases by noon. That’s a lot of preop visits when we’re also juggling two other rooms with ortho and peds ENT.


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  2. Nice to meet you, Smart Money MD!

    That Grand Canyon picture looks pretty intense! Were you really hanging off the cliff or there was a platform for you to stand on?

    I love Costco Hot Dogs as wel! They’re so cheap and the prices for them haven’t changed in forever, I believe.

    • Hehe. That photo was actually PoF’s doing. I’ve never hiked the Grand Canyon before!

      You’re right. Costco hasn’t changed the price of the hotdogs since they opened. For a while, I thought that the hotdogs were a money loser, but I still think that they turn a profit on the concessions.

      • Oh, for some reason, I thought it was you. :O

        I’m sure Costco make a profit in some way or another. They’ve kept them and the $5.00 Rotisserie Chickens at the same price for years. They’re such a wonderful company to do that.

    • Yes, I inserted the photos for this one. That may or may not be one of my best friends, and he might be standing on a ledge below and feigning the holding on bit. But he might not be.

  3. Great guest post SMMD! It’s good to learn a bit more about you!

    BTW: What’s wrong with Kale? I happen to love the stuff! Melt some parmesan cheese on it in the oven and it’s divine!

    • Thanks! Definitely a recent growth of doctor bloggers coming around.

      I ought to try that. Our local supermarket seems to price kale relatively high, so I tend to overlook it and choose cheaper but probably less healthy veggies.

  4. Nice feature PoF! @SMMD, it’s great to get to know you a little better. 50 pts a day sounds completely insane coming from my perspective as a future IR guy. I love bad food as much as you do, so lemme know if you need some company for that Grand Canyon trip!

    • Sure thing. Next time I’m around your part of the woods, I’ll let you know. I actually stop by your area at least twice a year.

  5. Admittedly, I have always been fearful of having lasers shot at me, but I’m sure you are very good at what you do.

    If you are eating too many Costco hotdogs, you may need to re-think the working out when tired bit. :O)

    I’ll have to pop on over to the site. I always love these interviews.

    cd :O)

    • I sure hope that I’m good at lasers. 😉 I think I once fired 20,000 shots in one day (not all on the same person, to clarify!)

  6. Hahahaha, I do think it’s neat you make a living zapping people with lasers. 😉 It’s interesting that you had training in IT but went with medicine. Did you feel that medicine would be a safer/more lucrative field?

    • Interesting question. Perhaps I’ll do a more complete post in the future.

      Perhaps I was naive, but I figured that I could do more good in the world as a physician. Looking at the numbers my earnings as a physician probably won’t even match what I would have accumulated as a software programmer even now. Was it worth it to go into medicine? I still think so. 😉

  7. Dude, I love Costco hot dogs! So delicious! And their prices haven’t changed in soooo long.

    Great profile, Smart Money. I was more of a fan of Centipede growing up, but it’s great that you get to shoot lasers at your job. I’d get arrested if I did that where I worked.

  8. Good interview Smart Money. You should talk to EarlyRetirementNow – he hiked the canyon rim to rim last year.

    Also, I wanted you to know that I have read a few of your articles in the past, but never commented because your blog requires a login to comment and an account I don’t have.

  9. Thanks for sharing the interview POF! I will check out Smart Money MD’s archives, he has a lot of good information out there 🙂

    I hope there’s a post on how someone blow through their 7 figure salary… would be very interesting!

    • I’ll see if my colleague would be more willing to share that sort of spending spree. Last I checked, she’s actually still doing well financially (I think)!

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    The Chase Sapphire Preferred is my top pick for your first rewards card. Welcome bonus of 80,000 points worth at least $1,000 when used to book travel (after a $4,000 spend in 3 mo) and other great perks you can learn abouthere.

  11. I loved the interview and it’s sorta refreshing to hear MD that likes Costco hot dogs and is willing to admit it 🙂

    Also hiking the Grand Canyon would be amazing. That is definitely on our bucket list.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    • I used to get the churros too, until I found out how many calories are packed into them!

      btw, Costco is the largest purveyor of wines in the U.S., so if you are one of “those” types, the selection and quality aren’t bad.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  12. I’m so glad to see these 11 question posts. It’s always interesting to hear the FIRE motivations of others. The honesty was fun, too! I imagine docs to be the healthiest eaters around. It was hilarious to see a top 11 food list that would be similar to mine. 🙂

    Kit Kats rock!

  13. Nice profile, SMMD and PoF. I’m definitely going to check out the archives and post a few comments. Be careful on that Grand Canyon trip!

      • I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon since childhood. I was just saying, don’t be that guy above who’s hanging off the cliff!

      • I went with CRATE when I was younger they do Grand Canyon Rafting Trips and Cataract Canyon rafting and it was a blast! Definitely one of those bucket list items in my opinion.. Food was good, the crew was super helpful and friendly. Honestly it was one of the best experiences I have done. I can’t wait for my kids to get a little older I want to take them as well as my wife. We live in Idaho now so we do rafting around here and it is fun, but not like that experience :).


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