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.
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:
- Is a degree from a prestigious medical school advantageous for doctors?
- Becoming a rich doctor — having the winning mindset
- How Mustachian can a doctor be?
- Do I need to send my kids to private school?
- A financial plan for busy people
- Why most doctors aren’t rich — fighting the mental game
- Money does buy happiness
- How much money do doctors make
- The daily life of a Dermatologist
- Where you live significantly impacts your ability to build your wealth
- A female doctor’s guide to a raise
[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.]
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.]
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?
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.
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:
- 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