Christopher Guest Post: The Wall Street Physician

Today’s Christopher Guest Post features a physician with a Wall Street background. Not just the vague “invested in Wall Street” backround, but an actual history of working for an investment bank on the trading floor in New York City.

He has been prolific in his thrice-weekly posting since starting his blog at the beginning of 2017.

We have similar philosophies when it comes to investing and personal finance, but we are at opposite ends of the physician career spectrum. He is at the beginning, while I am inching ever closer to wrapping mine up.

Read on and get to know The Wall Street Physician.

What’s a Christopher Guest post?

 

Christopher Guest Post Full Time FinanceInspired 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.

 

 

Physicians: 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?

 

My parents were dentists (like Physician on FIRE’s dad), and I’d wanted to be a doctor since I was a kid. But I became fascinated with the financial markets beginning in middle school (and probably before). So when I went to college, I decided to major in finance while also taking the pre-med coursework.

Wall Street banks and hedge funds recruit aggressively at my college campus, and I had the grades to get a job on Wall Street. So I did a summer internship as a trader at a major investment bank in New York City, who offered me a full-time job at the end of the summer. It was a dream come true.

However, I quickly knew that Wall Street wasn’t for me. Within a year and a half of settling into my job, I had taken the MCAT, completed an evening biochemistry course, and spent weekends volunteering at the local hospital. All the while, the financial system was crumbling before my eyes, and I had a front-row seat to the decline of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

I chose to specialize in radiation oncology because it combines, for me, some of the best things about medicine. In radiation oncology, we use X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation is very successful in treating many cancers, and it’s very satisfying to see my patients get better with the help of radiation. The technology in radiation oncology is incredible (and incredibly expensive) — some of our machines can deliver radiation with sub-millimeter accuracy to tumors that can be less than 1 cm (0.4in) in size.

Some people ask me if I miss working on Wall Street. I tell them absolutely not. It takes different skill sets and personality types to succeed on Wall Street and in medicine. I’m so happy I made the switch and have no regrets.

[PoF: It sounds like you found your calling, and that is admirable. Wall Street banking can be far more lucrative than medicine, but healing people is rewarding in multiple ways.

I can imagine it was a tumultuous time as the markets were crashing all around you nearly ten years ago now. Medicine is always changing, but we do enjoy more stabiity and job security for the most part.]

 

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

 

The Wall Street Physician is a personal finance and investing blog geared to physicians and other high-income professionals. With my trading background, I hope to bring an “insider” voice to the personal finance conversation. Having worked on the trading floor, I understand how banks and hedge funds make and lose money, and can explain the intrinsic advantages these institutions have on ordinary investors.

The typical reader of Physician on FIRE or White Coat Investor would enjoy my blog, especially if they want to delve deeper into investing topics. If you enjoy reading the Bogleheads forums, you’ll enjoy my articles as well.

I’ll admit that my posts are a little bit on the advanced side (not advanced for the typical Physician on FIRE reader, but for the average physician). I’m working on writing articles that appeal to readers of all financial education levels.

My articles are more on the serious side and are generally devoid of humor. You know it’s not good when Physician on FIRE implores you in his guest post invitation to “please inject some personality into the post.

I once made an attempt at a The Onion / Gomer Blog-style post — it didn’t get many views when I published it, but neither did any of my posts back in the early days of the blog. Let me know if you like it in the comments and I’ll try to include a few more of these types of posts in the future.

[PoF: I tell everyone to expose their funny bone, so that wasn’t meant as an affront to you. I simply recognize that money can be a mundane subject, so I try to have a little fun with it (fun with my money and fun when writing about money).]

 

work retirement at computer

the reality of my “retirement” (credit to Mark Stivers)

 

 

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?

 

Like so many other physician personal finance bloggers, the White Coat Investor and Physician on FIRE inspired me to start my own blog. Their websites are blueprints and model examples of how to start, write, and run a successful blog.

I’ve been asked how I’d apply my experience on Wall Street to medicine. Most assume I’d use my experience to devise some magic trading strategy to help myself get rich. One medical school interviewer asked if I had a stock pick for them — I gave them Apple, and I got accepted.

But obviously that’s not the type of financial advice physicians need. My hope is that through the blog, my experiences in finance will help other physicians navigate the complicated and sometimes confusing world of personal finance and investing.

I knew my blog had arrived when my guest posts were published on the White Coat Investor, Physician on FIRE, and KevinMD. It’s like getting articles accepted by the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, and Science of physician blogs (do guest posts count as publications?).

I have no plans for world domination like WCI and his ever-growing empire, but I hope to continue writing for the blog next year and beyond (and I will have sponsors beginning in 2018, so the blog is profitable!). I post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (don’t want to compete with Physician on FIRE). As long as readers keep visiting my site, I’ll keep writing for them.

[PoF: Did you buy Apple back then? I actually had the rainbow logo Apple sticker on my Santa Cruz skateboard back in fourth grade. I took some crap for that, but surprisingly was never beat up. If only I had bought Apple stock instead of Apple stickers back in 1986.

We welcome more voices educating physicians and everyone on how to better manage their money. We have enough stress in our professional lives. We shouldn’t be stressing over money.]

 

wall street physician

 

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

Like my children, I love all of my posts equally. But if I must pick eleven, here are the ones I would choose:

  1. Eight Reasons Why You Should Not Trade
  2. How Wall Street Is Like A Game of High-Stakes Poker
  3. Building a Vanguard Three-Fund Portfolio (Or Other Simple Index Fund Portfolios)
  4. The Benefits of Simplicity in Personal Finance
  5. What Should Be Your International Stock Allocation?
  6. Why Jim Cramer Is Wrong About Doing Your Homework
  7. Primary Care Physicians vs. Specialists: The Impact of Fees
  8. The Bull Market Is Over (Or Is It?)
  9. Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Mouth: Mike Tyson And Asset Allocation
  10. Psychology Versus Math In Personal Finance
  11. How Much Bonds Should You Have In Your Portfolio?

[PoF: So when will be bull market be over? If you could please share with us the date and time of day, that would be terrific! Thanks in advance. We owe you.]

 


You're still not using Personal Capital? That's how I track the PoF portfolio.

 

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 don’t plan to retire early – I enjoy being a physician and I’m not sure I’d have something to retire to if I were to leave medicine early.

On the other hand, I do hope to be financially independent years before the traditional retirement age. To help realize this goal, it’s more about what I’m not doing rather than what I’m doing. Physicians will be more successful in reaching their financial goals by not losing money through fees, excessive trading, risky investments, and taxes than trying some advanced stock-picking strategy.

[PoF: I’m not too big on making specific future plans, but I am keen on having options. Plans, wants, and needs tend to evolve over time.

If you pursue FI, you’ll have many options. I wish for every physician to have a long, fruitful, and fulfilling career, but many doctors have found that it’s just not happening for them. With your knowledge and background, I trust you’ll be making good choices with both your finances and professional career.]

 

 

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?

Since its so far in the future, I don’t think about retirement as much as many in the FIRE community.

I imagine my dream retirement to be similar to most “regular” people — lots of travel, golfing, and playing with grandchildren. Even better, I’d like to travel to play golf with my grandchildren.

Right now, I’m more focused on enjoying my pre-retirement life than thinking about what my post-retirement life will look like.

[PoF: There is certainly something to be said for not wishing life away. Focusing on the Now and making your current life enjoyable should be a key focus. I’ve jumped over a lot of hurdles, expecting life to get a little better with each successful leap.

So far, I would say that’s been the case, but what does life look like when there are no obvious obstacles to overcome? That remains to be seen.]

 

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.

 

Sure — consider this a TL;DR version of my blog.

  1. Investing is like riding a bicycle — you need some speed (stocks) to keep you upright, but go too fast and you might crash.
  2. Don’t try to beat the market; the few people on Wall Street that do beat the market have resources or advantages that no practicing physician has (except perhaps insider information, but don’t go to jail to make a buck).
  3. Don’t grow into your attending income too quickly; consider a “financial fellowship” right after residency.
  4. Always be an “informed physician investor” who understands the products insurance agents and financial advisors are selling you.
  5. A few index funds and a reasonable asset allocation are all you need to succeed in investing; everything else is just details.
  6. Keep fees low; they add up quickly.
  7. Personal finance and investing is 10% math and 90% psychology.
  8. Don’t try to time the market – traders rarely win.
  9. Consider purchasing term life and own-occupation disability insurance as a resident, and certainly as a young attending.
  10. The savings race is a sprint, not a marathon; start out fast and let the engine of compound interest power you to the finish line.
  11. The Bible says, you cannot serve both God and money; think about what’s really important to you, and I hope your life can be more than just trying to make a lot of money.

[PoF: All great advice. #10 stands out — I like to see contrarian statements that actually make perfect sense. Nicely done.]

 

Earn a $100 bonus when you make your first REALTYSHARES investment using promo code Partner100

 

 

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?

 

My wife and I have so many countries on our dream travel list. To name a few: Croatia, Tahiti, Korea, New Zealand, Seychelles, Costa Rica, Kenya, Italy, Vietnam, Argentina, and Japan. That would probably be eleven $11,000 vacations.

The first $1,000 of any $11,000 vacation would be spent flying the kids to the grandparents 🙂

[PoF: I can only check off three of those so far (Costa Rica, Italy, Japan). It’s a great big world out there, and we’re excited to explore it!

For the first five-plus years as parents, we traveled sans kids more often than not. Now that we’re way past diaper changes, naptimes, and public tantrums, we’ve found its quite enjoyable to travel with our two boys.]

 

Japan memorial

japan circa 2004

 

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

 

Water, fruit smoothies, Starbucks Doubleshot Espressos, iced coffee, Pure Leaf unsweetened black tea, Guinness, protein shakes, avocado shakes, bubble tea, Mexican Coke, and coconut water.

[PoF: You snuck that beer in there for my sake, didn’t you? That’s cool — I do enjoy a good nitrogenated stout. It sounds like New Zealand has a similar cane sugar Coke like they do here in Mexico (where we happen to be living for a few weeks), but I’ve been advised to steer clear of the Columbian Coke.

Have you heard Avocado Shakes‘ latest album? Good stuff!]

 

Now, eleven foods.

  • Starters/Appetizers: Chex Mix, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
  • Main courses: Thanksgiving dinner (send me your leftovers), Sushi, Ribeye Steak, Pajeon, Pho, BBQ Beef Brisket
  • Dessert: Banana Split, Baklava, and Almond Roca.

[PoF: Did you just prepare an eleven-course prix fixe meal? It looks filling, but sign me up! I’ll find a cicerone to prepare a beer-pairing to accompany the feast.]

 

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

 

I think I found you in late 2016 through the White Coat Investor — your 4 Physician series was excellent and made me a regular reader.

My advice to you and other Physician on FIRE readers is to focus on simplifying your investments, not making them more complicated. Passive index investing can be pretty boring, and if you’re the type of person who enjoys reading blogs like the Wall Street Physician or Physician on FIRE, it can be tempting to try out new investments (e.g. peer-to-peer loans, cryptocurrencies, baseball cards, etc.) just to “shake things up.”

[PoF: I’ve never gotten into P2P lending or cryptocurrency, but I do have many thousands of football and baseball cards in the basement.

Thank you for taking the time to indulge my curiosities and for sharing your insights with my readers.]

For more from today’s guest, check out Wall Street Physician. For more interviews like these, see the extensive list below!

 

Interested in hearing how other top personal finance blogger have answered these questions? Check out the following Christopher Guest Posts:

 

22 comments

  • Hey docs, thanks for this awesome interview. Job well done.

    WSP, thanks for bringing us an « insider » voice and I’m glad to hear our boring investing strategy is the way to go. Though we plan to spicy it up, once the mortgage is paid off and we can afford to play with /lose some $$$.

    Btw, you must be a genius being able to do Finance and Pre-med at the same time!

  • It struck me that if you started interning during Lehman……you’ve only ever seen a bull run during your investing path 🙂

  • Vagabond MD

    Well done, WSP. I have enjoyed reading your thrice weekly blogs and making an occasional comment. Congrats on your success!

  • hatton1

    WSP I too enjoy your blog. I especially like your forum mailbag posts. Congrats and continuing good luck. FWIW I almost switched into radiation oncology from OB/GYN.

    • I’m happy you like the forum mailbags — I’ll keep on writing them. Radiation oncology is a field that waxes and wanes in popularity — right now it’s pretty popular and a competitive residency to apply to.

  • Hey, WSP, great to see you featured here. I’m an avid reader of your blog as well. I didn’t see that Onion-style post the first time around, but I like it!

  • Nice learning a little more about you WSP. Enjoying your blog!

  • Well. Another really great site to add to my regular visit list. I think you will help some docs out there for sure. Part of what traps us into being stupid investors is that we are otherwise used to smart, analytical, decision making in medicine. Thinking we can do that with trading doesn’t translate well. You’re fighting that with evidence, analysis, and rationale that will appeal to the same crowd of docs and hopefully keep them on the right path.

    • Many physicians, thinking they out-homeworked their classmates in college and medical school, can do the same in investing. Unfortunately, the people on Wall Street are just as smart, spend more time analyzing the markets, and have more resources than the doctor practicing clinical medicine.

  • Ann

    Thanks WSP. Your blog is great–very informative. I like what you said about the different skill sets necessary to succeed in medicine vs Wall St–I get tired of the argument that doctors should make more money because if they weren’t doctors they would be killing it in the financial sector. I think the exact qualities that make me a good physician would get me trampled on Wall Street, and I think the same of many of my colleagues–at least the ones I like 🙂

    • Just like medical students are mostly bio majors with a smattering of non-science majors, finance is mostly economics / finance majors, with a minority from other majors (although more likely to be history or math majors than bio majors).

  • Would an avacado drink really be good!??? That sounds kinda gross…. also great post I’m going to share those eleven points that you would give a young physician with my class. Hopefully they will like it.
    It’s really fun I’m starting to get my colleagues to think more about finances it’s great!

  • Very cool post. I like all the questions and answers. What fascinates me the most are the people who excel at multiple professional fields. Investment Banker and medical doctor definitely fit into that category. Before I retired, I worked for a bank. The bank’s general counsel was a lady who studied mathematics for undergraduate. Obviously she was successful as a lawyer. Another example is Jim Tressel, who used to be the OSU football coach, now is the college president.

    Great advice and humor. The one I like the most is: “4) Always be an “informed physician investor” who understands the products insurance agents and financial advisors are selling you.” You are absolutely right! There is no free ride for sure.

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