Christopher Guest Post: Early Retirement Dude

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Today’s guest needs no introduction from regular readers of this website. The Early Retirement Dude has been featured numerous times in The Sunday Best and he recently shared a guest post with us entitled Early Retirement Doesn’t Have to Suck.

He’s right you know, and with 13 years of it under his belt, he should know.

The monkey-loving Dude was kind enough to supply an introduction of his own, saving me a bit of time. Thanks, Dude!

Here it is:

Early Retirement Dude was once clean-cut and corporate. But having retired at age thirty-six and being forty-nine now, he looks like he oughtta be leading an Entmoot.

He has a wife, a daughter, a cat named Satan, and however many dogs his family happens to be sheltering that week. Oddly, he’s cool with it all. ERD releases whole cavalcades of dexterous FIRE-centric BS at his blog, EarlyRetirementDude.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @RetireEarlyDude and/or join his mailing list.

 

 

What in the world is 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.

 

 

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?

 

Before I retired I was the senior director of operations for a niche commodity trading company in New England. You’ve heard of Enron, right? We competed with them in the energy trading sector…but not for jail time, thank God, because in our 150-person company we had eleven lawyers keeping us what let’s call “honest.”

So if I could be a doctor, I’d be a Doctor of Jurisprudence. I’m telling you right now: lawyers save as many lives as proctologists. You hope you never have to see one because they’re prone to shining light into places you’d rather not have light shone…but by God, are they great at pulling your head out of your [REDACTED AT THE INSISTENCE OF THE AUTHOR’S ATTORNEYS].

Yuk-yuk. But I’m realizing that must be a stale joke in the medical profession. So sue me.

 

[PoF: A lawyer for every eleven people on the team (give or take)? That’s quite the ratio. I’m glad someone was keeping you people “honest,” although the quotation marks give me pause.

I didn’t ask what kind of doctor you would be — doctorates are handed out like candy on Halloween these days (joking… topical hyperbole this time of year) — I asked what kind of physician you’d be. You mentioned proctologist, so I’ll take that as your answer. Final answer.]

 

 

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

 

Having retired at age thirty-six and stayed that way for thirteen years, I’m speaking from what I’ve personally experienced, and both the knowledge and the ignorance that’s revealed, rather than from theory and/or conjecture. And my blog’s as much if not more about the philosophy and humor of FIRE as it is things technical.

I say that because “technically right” isn’t always the best kind of right to be, especially when the moment calls for color and chaos…like, say, a monkey running amok with a suitcase full of money and a gun. The subtitle of my blog is therefore “Financial Independence, Early Retirement, and Monkeys with Money and Guns.” You might come for information, but I hope you’ll stay for the show.

Show?

Look, I have no idea what the stresses on an M.D. are, but I gather they’re bad and getting worse. Consequently, it’d be terribly insensitive for me to pile stress upon stress, which is why you won’t catch me fear-mongering with articles like “WOE BETIDE YE WHO HATH NOT SAVED SUFFICIENTLY FOR RETIREMENT.”

None of us need that. I’m out to make your day a little brighter…and never ever darker. If I inspire you a little and maybe make you smile, I’ve succeeded.

 

[PoF: The math is the simple part. It’s the psychology and “the feels” part that is tricker to figure out. Thank you for brightening our days.]

 

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?

 

My right hand to God, I started my blog when I was marooned on a desert island.

It was a solo early-spring camping/fishing trip to Cape Lookout–which if you’re not familiar is an undeveloped barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. About as wild and natural a beach as you can visit on the east coast. You can’t drive there…you and your 4WD have to ride over on a canoe-sized ferry that books up months in advance. And if the weather turns foul: suck it up, sailor. You’re stuck.

So of course towards the end of my trip the weather turned foul. Went from eighty degrees and clear skies to ice-cold with forty-knot winds and strong rain. The ferryman balked and the fish all fled, which left me little to do but hunker down in the camper shell of my pickup and entertain myself with my own stench.

CMGI depleted all foodstuffs save for oatmeal and mangoes and spoiled bait. In a valiant effort to stay sane, I drove down to the one eentsy corner of the island where I could get cell phone signal, set up a hotspot, opened my laptop, rented server space at GoDaddy, installed WordPress, and hacked my blog together in a single day. Wrote article after article until the weather finally broke. Caught the ferry, escaped the island, and here we are.

You asked if there was a particular event that made me feel like my blog arrived. There was. At the beginning of September 2018, it got mentioned in a couple of New York Times FIRE articles that went viral. That was damned validating, man. I mean, people used to treat me like I was nuts when I explained my early retirement plans to them, but now we’re a “movement.” In the future, I’d like to keep pushing this movement forward in my own peculiar way.

 

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

 

Posts? Well, what I’m laying out for you is definitely POSTED, so…

First, David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” oughtta be required reading for every medical practitioner in the entire world. Dr., RN, NP, EMT-P/IV/B, WFR, plain vanilla FR, what-have-you.

Then in no particular order:

 

[PoF: You are quite generous to share the work of many. I was expecting 11 of your posts, but to be honest, I like this approach. That last one might be my favorite.

Not long ago, I watched the Franco brothers’ The Disaster Artist, a film based on the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. What a fascinating story — too bizarre to be made up. Now, why don’t you give me some of your own posts to share with the community?]

The Best of Early Retirement Dude, Appropriately Contextualized with Quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

 

How I Retired at Thirty-Six — And thirty-six shall be the number of the counting.

Early Retirement’s Magic Bullet — Everything you need to know, distilled into once sentence. Could’ve gone with the title “Early Retirement’s Holy Hand Grenade,” but whatever.

The History of the FIRE Movement — AKA, the Tale of Sir All-Of-Us.

Suze Orman Is the New Avocado Toast — And they were forced to eat Oprah’s minstrels. (YAAAAAAY!)

In Which I Burst an Aorta over the Financial Ignorance in This Nation — I fart in your general direction.

We Lost $750,000 in the Housing Bubble, and I’m OK with That — Look at the bones!

When Markets Are Scary, Look to the Vix — The Black Beast of AAAAARRRGGGGHH!

In Praise of My Worst Boss — A spanking! A spanking!

To Find Your Passion, All You Have to Do Is Stop Looking — Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here & take what’s coming to you!

A Serial Killer Speaks out on Corporate Life — I got nothing.

Scott’s Big Night: A Tale of Money, Degeneracy, and Woe — The peril is too perilous.

 

 

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?

 

Like I said, I retired at thirty-six…and I’m glad you phrased that as “full-time work,” because I harp on something: people confuse retirement with idleness.

People think retirement is when they pat you on the back (gently, because old bones are easily broken) and hand you the gold watch and you and your blue-haired and/or bald spouse buy the condo in Punta Gorda and relocate there.

Then the two of you sit around sipping Rob Roys and reminiscing about the glory days until your time runs out and all four of your collective marital kidneys forsake you at the same instant, whereupon you both simultaneously pitch over off your chaise lounges and into the sand and the crabs lap up what’s left of your drinks.

No. That’s not retirement.

In your question, you reference “your retirement target” as if it’s a number preceded by a dollar sign and followed by many zeroes, but it’s NOT. Your retirement target oughtta be a fine full adventurous life. To make that happen you have to engineer it. Money is the wrench; not the machine. You could, in fact, quit your job today and have that fine full adventurous life on zero, but most people can’t handle that kind of risk.

But as far as how much money I thought I needed to retire? Back during my “accumulation phase”? I wanted to own forty pounds of hundred-dollar bills.

 

[PoF: Great take on retirement, but now we’ve got to do a little math to determine exactly how valuable 40 pounds of Benjamins would actually be.

It sounds tricky, but this is one instance in which the U.S. Government actually adopted the metric system in a sneaky way. Our legal tender in the form of “paper” bills (actually 25% linen and 75% cotton) each weigh one gram. 

It takes 10,000 $100 bills to make a million dollars. Those 10,000 grams would weigh 10 kg or 22 pounds. Your 40 pounds would be closer to $2 Million dollars. To be precise, 40/22 = 1.81818181818, so we’ll call it $1,818,181, give or take a few Bennies.

Our governments CPI Inflation calculator tells me that amount of money 13 years ago has the buying power of $2,334,251. Close enough to fatFIRE to count in my book. Nicely done!]

 

 

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?

 

When the day came and full-time work was in my rearview mirror, I smashed the f-bomb rearview mirror. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time gazing back at the place I’d worked so hard to leave. And besides, staring overmuch into the rearview is how people cause front-end collisions. I figured the road up ahead would lead someplace interesting, and whaddaya know, it has.

 

[PoF: Most of my interviewees can only envision what they hope early retirement will look like. You, my man, are living it and it appears to be as colorful as your self-censored language.]

 

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.

 

    • Most people think about themselves all the time.
    • For the love of the Holy Virgin, do what you know is right and heat up that damn stethoscope before you mash it into my bare chest.
    • Someday, when somebody pitches you on the idea of investing in a venture capital fund that specializes in medical technology, read and think about the prospectus before you write the check.
    • It’s not my place to tell you how much narcotics to prescribe and to whom, but I like them way WAY too much…so if I show up in your office complaining of severe pain in my glabella and demanding perc tens, call my wife and tell her you’re having me arrested and she needs to bail me out of jail and take me to rehab immediately.
    • If you have a calling, you’re fortunate. The FIRE movement wouldn’t exist if everybody felt called to their occupation.
    • ER docs especially: if you’re in a happy committed relationship and you’re thinking about getting married, STOP! Why isn’t being in a happy committed relationship enough?
    • As I hope you already know, you wouldn’t say “he is bipolar” anymore than you’d say “he is cancer.” Too easy to define people by their medical conditions, especially when it comes to mental disorders.
    • Wrap it.

 

[PoF: Were you married or engaged to an ER doc? I feel like I’m missing some background info here. 

Sorry about the cold stethoscopes and the over-prescribing of narcotics. At least we’re starting to do something about the latter complaint. I don’t personally write scripts for narcotics or anything else, but opioid addiction awareness is high, and new guidelines are finally being written.]

 

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?

 

DDQ
Cash? Locate a House of Joy, I suppose, and–

Or not. I’d likely hop a flight to Spain, buy an expensive bicycle, spend eleven days riding from tapas restaurant to tapas restaurant until I got to Pamplona, run with the bulls, and–assuming I survived–fly the bike and myself home.

 

[PoF: Muy bien! I’ll bet you’d have a grand time on that bicicleta.]

 

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

 

Is sausage gravy a beverage? No?

Then let’s go with 7-Up and Four Loko. Adds up to eleven, if I’m not mistaken.

 

[PoF: Too funny. Almost made me spit out my Four Loko!]

 

Now, eleven foods.

 

Killer hot biscuits with organic honey & olive-oil ersatz butter, conch chowder, pawpaws, homegrown shiitake mushrooms, pot brownies, my wife’s world-class Caesar salad, S&BJD (a need-to-know basis thing), snack boxes from Dublin streetcorner fish & chips places, spinach sautéed in olive oil with red pepper and garlic and sea salt, caprese, and Sriracha anything. I’d eat a croquet ball if it had Sriracha on it.

[PoF: That could be arranged.

I’ll assume that a pot brownie is a brownie baked in some sort of pot or skillet. Sriracha optional.]

 

 

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

 

Twitter? Reddit? Somewhere in social media-land. Early in my bloggery you featured me in “The Sunday Best” out of the clear blue, so I said thanx and we made nice.

One piece of advice? For what? Your question was truncated in the questionnaire you sent me…hence my one piece of advice is twofold: “Prepositions require objects,” and “A sentence should end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.” Love ya, doc. 🙂

 

[PoF: Nothin’ but love back at ya. And I fixed the sentence with the dangling participle or whatever it was.

Thank you for taking the time to indulge us with your insight and intellect. May the next 49 years be as fruitful as your first 49, Early Retirement Dude.]

 


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Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out a few of these Christopher Guest Posts:

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13 comments

  • ERD is hilarious.

    That is all.

    No, honestly, I appreciate the raw honesty you bring. “Money is the wrench; not the machine.” This is the big point I’ve focused on lately. I’d argue that time is the ultimate commodity, not money. Being able to design your life in a meaningful way that brings you joy is the ultimate goal. Not a number. Money is simply the tool that makes it a little easier to do that. Thanks for providing a similar perspective on this, which I think is important for people to hear.

    TPP

    • Very much appreciated. As far as:

      >raw honesty

      We’re emotional beings. I think A) my responsibility is to give readers everything I’ve got, which includes vulnerability, and B) communicate both ways rather than just doing knowledge dumps.

      Thanks again!

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  • Amazing the set of circumstances that led to a creation of a very popular blog. Thank goodness for bad weather I guess 🙂

    I love the quote, “money is a wrench, not the machine.” Too often people think having money is going to bring them happiness. It does not. P. Diddy said it best, “MO money MO problems.” You have to engineer a life you want to live and then use money to accomplish it. Not the other way around.

    Nice math to figure out what 40 lbs of Benjamin’s comes out too. Great association between weight and FAT FIRE

  • Brilliant interview doc. And ERD, having enjoyed your blog posts, I expected nothing less from you! I love the “Money is the wrench” quote. I call it as “tool” in my version but “wrench” makes its utility more specific and gives it a lower pedestal. Superb!

    May you continue to be the dude that always shines the light on the early retirement pathway for many others to follow!

    • Notice how I didn’t specify which kind?

      Wrenches are very versatile tools–besides dealing with bolts/screws, you can also smash out glass with them. Never know when that might come in handy,

      Glad to hear you enjoy the blog.

  • Great interview as always. Funny and informative.
    Because of the link to the NYTimes article, I read that one again too. I had a thought that I’m sure you have thought about but I have not.
    There seems to be a gender difference or sexism in this “FIRE movement.”

    I met Carl in Orlando. He was on a “FIRE” panel discussion with PoF. He is a soft-spoken former engineer who is friends with Pete (MMM) in Longmont.
    He is “retired” and is an example worthy of a NYTimes story.

    But wait. His wife works. And she makes the money that they live on. I’m assuming their benefits come from her job too. He sleeps in, exercises, cooks, and makes time for his daughter?

    If he worked and she did that, what would that make her? Would the NYT write about her as an extraordinary early retiree? I doubt it. She would be what used to be called a “housewife” and is now a “stay-at-home” mom.
    Am I right? If so it is odd that the left-of-center NYT didn’t mention it.

    At any rate, in my writing and talks I promote FI (Financial Independence) but not the RE (Retire Early) part of FIRE.

    • Agree. For FI to make sense, I’ve always thought that it should be considered in the context of a household, not individuals in a marriage. Otherwise, my wife has been FI since our first son was born.

    • >There seems to be a gender difference or sexism in this “FIRE movement.”

      I hate…hate, hate hate…how it seems like so often on the financial independence boards when a woman comes on and says it’s hard to meet guys who are into FIRE, she gets hit on in an objectifying way. I’m glad to see so many women, especially Millennials, blogging and doing podcasts.

  • Early Retirement Dude is the writer I wish I could be.

    It’s rare to hear from a FIRE blogger on the other side of the fence (actually retired). Keep on enjoying life and inspiring others.

    • >Early Retirement Dude is the writer I wish I could be.

      Wow, man…and if I could step out on a limb with an unsolicited comment? I mentioned Cormac McCarthy above. He’s the writer I wish I could be, so maybe pick up No Country For Old Men if you haven’t. He leaves us all in the shade.

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