Christopher Guest Post: Five Year FIRE Escape

The Christopher Guest Post is back! For years, I published one of these faithfully every three weeks. This is the first one since Jillian Johnsrud paid us a visit in early July.

What happened? A few things, I suppose. The main one is that it was a busy time as I was wrapping up my job, in between homes, and enjoying the summer up north. I didn’t get enough invites out, and I’m still waiting to hear back from some of my friends who have accepted (I’m looking at you, Brandon).

I also felt like after 50+ interviews every three weeks, my readers had become numb to them, and they didn’t all get the views they deserved. So I took a break from publishing them.

But I missed them. There’s usually some wittty banter, and I love featuring other people’s work. There are so many excellent stories out there, and I want to expose my readers to a wide variety of people who are on their path to FI, if not already there.

Today’s guest,  along with his wife, are both post-FIRE and still in their early thirties. They managed to make it happen despite living in Canada where the taxes are substantially higher than they are “down here” in the U.S.

From our new home, we can drive three hours north or three hours south and cross over the Canadian border. To reach the man who calls himself Leif Kristjansen, I would actually have to head south and then east to find him in Toronto.

I was thoroughly disappointed to learn in this Forbes article about the guy that his name isn’t actually Leif. That’s my name, too, but it turns out it’s just his “stage name.” I came up with one of those back when I was more anonymous, too. Hence, I go by “Milo Andersson” on Facebook.

Enough about me; let’s learn more about this other so-called Leif from the Five Year FIRE Escape!5YFE

Christopher Guest Post: Five Year FIRE Escape

 

Five year Fire Escape

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?

 

My first thought was that I would want to be Dr. House. Showing up on hard cases and being some sort of detective sounds like good fun. I thought about it though and I see one huge problem with it. Patients probably come in with insane theories or youtube videos that they would end up arguing with me about.

That would drive me nuts! So I would probably prefer a field where that wouldn’t happen. An emergency doctor would fit my bill. I deal very well with speed, stress, and quick decisions so I could be good at it. Plus, in my naive view when your day ends, it’s over. No follow-ups.

That idea attracts me because at my day job those lingering issues are what got to me. Some issues would linger, not completely resolved for years, slowly building tension like a very dry cubicle based thriller movie.

I was in management in high tech. There was always some bug you couldn’t figure out, a bigger risk than you wanted or some competitor hot on your heels. That tension made the job good in a lot of ways. I actually really liked the job exactly because it was so dynamic. There was always something new and I can’t remember having a single slow day in 10 years.

In fact, I liked it so much I still do that job but only part-time with the goal of just loitering around 1-day a week. I still want to help but I want to do my own non-work activities even more.

 

[PoF: Dr. House is in the house! I don’t know that the Emergency Department would get you away from the self-diagnosers. It’s a lot primary care than you think or than the televesion would lead you to believe.

Your job sounds pretty cool to me, actually. I’m not looking for another high-pressure career, but working in “high tech” at the cutting edge is appealing to me. I’m surprised you were able to cut back to part-time. I would think they would want you to be firing on all cylinders at all times or leave you in the dust.]

 

 

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

 

My blog is written for high performers or at least people who have a lot on the go and feel like they don’t have time for finances.

That was one of the big issues I had to overcome when it came to finances and physicians fit into this category perfectly. Everyone knows time is important but ALL of my site and advice are oriented around only what is most time-efficient. I’m very aggressive about it.

The one somewhat time-consuming project I do recommend is real estate and I am really into it. I have lots of ways to keep the time commitments down and I think it’s worth the effort.

I was a manager and created my own retirement-friendly job with plans to teach others how to do the same. My viewpoint from the other side can help you do that although maybe in medicine the path is more straight forward than it is from a cubicle.

I also deliver clear/focused content, have kids, might still have more kids post-retirement, and am funny?? Two spare sentences! Yay!

 

[PoF: Real Estate has worked very well for many physicians. A lot of us don’t find the time to be active participants, but fortunately there are ways to get involved without having to be so hands-on. 

Coincidentally, Dr. Peter Kim’s Passive Real Estate Academy happens to be open for enrollment for a few more days, and it qualifies for CME (making it a business expense or refundable by an employer) and he teaches you how to invest confidently in syndicated deals and real estate funds.]

 

5YFE_1

 

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?

 

It was a vacation. A soul-crushing, life-sucking, brain-numbing vacation I took years ago that started this all. In order to create enough time to be away, I had to work late nights and plow through a lot of extra work.

By the time I managed to get away and onto my trip I was just a husk of a person and I hated how much of my vacation was just recovering from the extra work required to take a vacation.

From that moment on, I became really obsessed with figuring out how to remove my need for a job. I made a lot of mistakes but also did a lot of smart things along the way so I wanted people to benefit from my education and I started a blog.

Believe it or not, my issue with work isn’t unique to me. Other people also get rather annoyed by their jobs ruining their lives. In most industries, companies really try to squeeze every last drop they can get out of you.

You get used to it but before you became employed you probably had non-work related dreams that you have abandoned. I’m not a doctor but I do believe removing the need for work can improve your quality of life, and likely your lifespan too.

When did my blog make it? Nobody knows who I am, but my wife asked for my autograph once! It turns out they were legal papers. 😒

Really, there were two events. I was in your Sunday best in my early days. I’m not pandering but it really did give me the motivation to keep going.

Then Forbes, a slightly larger site, wrote an article and composed a video about me. They thought I was interesting, so I started to type my little fingers off.

I do have big plans for the blog but it’s mostly in terms of content. I am an expert in a few very specialized areas some of which I haven’t even been able to write about yet. My expertise which will at some point become entire sections of my blog:

Simple saving strategies – I hate budgeting because it takes up time and makes me feel bad. I have better methods that are actually enjoyable.

Canada-US investments – I am a Canadian who has invested a lot in the US and knows how to deal with the legal, tax and logistical effects of it. Also when it is and isn’t worth it.

Real estate for retirement – I tried a lot of different real estate investments because I thought it would take much longer to make it to FIRE. My thought was to run experiments for 5 years, find the optimal path and then follow it to retirement. After 5 years I apparently had hit FI, but the benefit for my readers is that I already ran a lot of experiments to find that ideal path.

Keeping real estate efforts minimal – I have a lot of methods to keep this down which I want to talk about.

Very time-efficient investing – I already talked about that.

Creating a good retirement job – I talked about that too. 😛

 

Also, I wrote a book! Its 80% done but my blog is taking all my time away from completing the last stretch. 😒

 

[PoF: Slow down! You’re making some of us early retirees feel like true slackers, man.]

 

 

 

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

 

Money motivation & being the LeBron of FIRE – This is the least sexy and most important post I have ever written.

I hate budgets with a passion and this is my way around them while still saving like a champ.

My real estate portfolio: 7 years, $350,000 and 3 crucial lessons – this details my real estate experiment which is great learning.

Why is it good to invest in real estate? Mortgage Magic! – Real estate is amazing for 1 main reason. Mortgages.

My post-retirement spending increased and yours should too – My version of fatFIRE, maybe it could be called selectively-chubbyFIRE

How extreme stealth wealth can help you get rich – I am very extreme in my stealth wealth and I think others should join me as well!

3 Reasons why reading the news is bad for you (horrible for FIRE) and what to do about it – I attribute a lot of my success to cutting out the news, like in this post.

How to save money with friends: Fight off FOMO and expensive nights out – Everyone will have issues with friends trying to get them to spend too much money.

My very simple method to reliably beating the market, a little bit with indexes!

3 things you can do in under an hour to make a lot of money

What to do with an excess $1,000,000 cash.

 

[PoF: It seems nearly every real estate investor who writes has a littany of mistakes to share. It’s so important to look, learn, and look again before you leap. Those mistatkes have bankrupted people I know.

How many readers do you have with $1 Million dollars just lying around? Posts like that do nothing for your stealth wealth cred. 

SELECTIVELY-CHUBBY-FIRE? I could have fun coming up with the expanded version of an acronym like that.]

 

 

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 started to back out of working aggressively at 32 because I didn’t need the money anymore. I still work somewhat but I consider that my ‘retirement’ date. More importantly, my wife retired at 31. We are a team and she made the jump first.

Why did she go first? She hated her job, was a mom, and there would be no benefit to me being home if she was upset. ‘Happy wife, happy life’ is cliche but it’s true. My mental state is tightly tied to hers so I might as well embrace it.

We got there by saving a bit over 50% of our income (it’s the #1 determining factor in time to FIRE) and diving into real estate due to its high returns. It took us about 5 years once we committed to it.

 

[Go Team Kristjansen! (if that’s your real name… which it’s not). We’ve taken a team approach, as well, but with my hours and pay, it made little sense for my wife to work much outside of the home.

The people I know who hit their FIRE goals in a five-year time frame have real estate as a common thread. I wonder if it’s still possible with elevated valuations that we see today? The same could be asked of the people like me who became FI within 10 years on the stock market alone.]

 

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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?

 

My ideal retirement includes two things:

1 – Some work because I am a motivated person with work-related goals.

2 – Lots of spare time or optional tasks. I don’t want to be rushed anymore. If I decide I want to read all day that’s what I’ll do. If my daughter wants to spend all afternoon poking toads in the forest, then I am 100% there.

I actually try to get up early and do what’s important to me before my kids get up. Then the day is ostensibly over. I’ll even do this when we are traveling, school just disappears and my days are that much less productive. 😛

5:30 – Get up with a quick premade breakfast, then I’ll do 2 hours of whatever needs doing for the day.

7:30 – Get the kids up and away for the day. It takes us forever!

8:30 – Eat my breakfast then meditate, yoga, stretch.

9:30 – At this point, hopefully, I’ve finished the actual things I care about. Then I have all my ‘nice-to-have’ tasks or I will actually go off to work for the day.

My ‘nice-to-have’ tasks, are reading, blog tasks like social media, house jobs, some fun side projects, going to the gym, or volunteering. They are productive but the important feature is that if I blow them off for something else it’s fine.

5:00 – Pick up the kids and be together until bedtime at 7:00.

After that, I don’t do anything productive on purpose. I’ll read, hang out with friends or play games.

This is my ideal day. In reality, I never get moving quite fast enough to make it all work and I spend too much time blogging because I write slowly.

It’s a work in progress!

 

[My desire to be productive post-FIRE has me spending quite a bit of time in front of the computer, as well.

It does not, however, have me waking up at 0530. I quit that alarm clock nonsense months ago. Although I will admit on the days that I randomly wake up early and can’t fall back asleep, I can be very productive with that time when everyone else is sleeping?

Last, two breakfasts? That’s two more than I eat on a normal day. I no longer buy into breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Was that sponsored by Quaker Oats? I can almost hear Wilford Brimley saying it.]

 

 

 

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.

 

First of all, life isn’t all money and work, but it is easy to focus on them. If your practice was failing or going bankrupt, you would do something about it, and you should take the same vigor to your family, friends, and other things you care about.

The order of importance of your finance efforts is important. Most important is learning to save, then invest, then side gigs, then fancy investments like real estate. [PoF: One could argue that real estate is a side gig, depending on how you approach it.]

Try to live like a student for as long as you can because your savings rate is your best predictor of ability to FIRE. Your other physician friends might get drunk on the extra income, but learn to not be affected by their peer pressure. My main advice to fulfill those to things is to learn to be OK with being odd and include a little bit of oddness in your practice every day.

Work hard to stop your investments from absorbing your time, as a doctor’s time is very valuable and easily converted into money (like your wealthy Urologist friend).

You don’t need fancy investments to do well. In fact, simple index funds beat active managers almost 100% of the time according to the SPIVA report.

If you do want to do something fancy, don’t pick stocks but instead pick houses. Mortgages can let you leverage your money into the stratosphere and with a doctor’s income, you can easily avoid the hardest part of real estate investing: cash shortfalls.

 

[PoF: There is definitely more market inefficiency (mispriced assets) in real estate as opposed to the stock market. The better you know your local market and the more you’re willing to get your hands dirty, the higher the profits can be.

I haven’t gone that route, but I actually have the time and the capital now to do so if I choose to do so. 

I like the recommendation to be a bit odd. Being an outlier in certain ways has allowed us to do things I never would have guessed were possible at this age, like FIRE and travel for months at a time!]

 

 

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?

 

Are you coming? Your family? How spendy are you? [PoF: All my bags are packed; I’m ready to go. I’m standing here outside your door.]

Either way that’s easy. I have no real desire to live it up on an expensive trip to Vegas. In fact, I vastly prefer to be off the beaten path. Also, I like to travel slowly and really get to know a place, so in 11 days I would do 1 activity.

Off the top of my head, I would choose to be air-dropped into a hard to reach part of the Amazon rainforest with my family, supplies and a guide or some equivalent in South East Asia. I could certainly use up the money that way (with or without you PoF) and I could accomplish something interesting.

Or I would see how many friends and family I could bring to some waterpark in Florida to have raucous kids week. It would be memorable at least and with the $11,000 I would hire some sort of baby sitter to chase the kids around.

 

[PoF: Have you seen The Lost City of Z? You may want to become familiar (it’s free for Prime members at the moment) before jumping out of that perfectly good airplane or helicopter. The guide may be able save you… or not.

Since I’m already slow traveling, why don’t you just come visit my family and me? I don’t know how we’d manage to blow that amount of money in Mexico (without buying actual blow), but we could have some fun trying!]

 

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

 

1 – Plain water. It’s recommended by most doctors!

2 – Any cold beer. After a long hard day, beer is more relaxing than it has any right to be. It melts me into a happy puddle of a person.

3 – Wine with company. It’s my go-to ‘sitting around with my wife and talking’ beverage. Life is good when we are frequently talking. We aren’t picky though. It’s the company that matters.

4 – Tequila. It has a lot more depth than people give it credit for and you can get REALLY into fancy tequila, which I am. Plus it’s fun at a party.

5-11 – Craft beer is just for me. No sharing. 🙂

Northern Logger – I’m a sucker for the artwork

Leffe Blonde, Leffe Amber (It’s not really craft beer but it’s delicious and was originally brewed by monks, so that’s worth something).

Waterloo Dark – Guinness-like but better

Orange Creamsic Ale – tastes more like the treat than makes any sense without being full of sugar.

Any Trappist beer – Monks get my vote every day of the week.

 

[PoF: There is a place here that sells quite a few beers from around the world, and they have no shortage of Belgians. And there’s obviously no shortage of tequila, or its cousin Mezcal. We could probably make a dent in that $11,000, after all.]

 

Now, eleven foods.

 

1 – Bean burrito with guac – Guac is great. All the next ones have guac by default too.
2 – Breakfast burrito – Tortilla + eggs + toppings = The best way to consume eggs
3 – Calamari burrito – The calamari texture takes it to the next level
4 – Forbidden burrito – If I can’t have it, I want that one!
5 – California burrito – It has fries in it! Invented by surfers.
6 – Beef burrito – Why not?
7 – Halibut burrito – A high-class burrito.
8 – Frozen home burrito – It’s late and you’re hungry.
9 – Breakfast burrito with eggs and potatoes – My normal breakfast rolled into a tortilla.
10 – Sweet potato burrito – They are healthy if they have sweet potatoes inside, right?
11 – Korean burrito – Kimchi burritos are delicious!

If you didn’t notice, I love burritos. Portable, somewhat healthy and delicious. I even used them as an experiment for a saving method I use and wrote a post about it.

 

[PoF: Oh, yeah, you’ll get along just fine here in Mexico. Tenemos muchos burritos!

You might struggle to find that halibut burrito, though. I hope you can deal with tilapia.]

 

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

 

I have no idea how I first learned about PoF but I think you were the second FIRE site I discovered after Mr. Money Mustache. Actually, until I hit FIRE I didn’t know FIRE existed! [PoF: You and me both!]

I remember thinking ‘why is this physician on fire?!?’ I was both sad and happy to learn there was a whole community out there of people like me.

Advice for you. Not financial, you have millions. You don’t need a job. AHA! Travel advice!
I haven’t read any posts about how you travel but I recommend you take it slow. You have the time now and slow travel makes for a much better experience especially with kids. After reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts I went out of my way to be a slow traveler and I love it. [PoF: I should really read that book. You’re not the first to recommend it.]

Oh and another one! Can I give two? Too late, I already started! Find something that really moves you and dedicate yourself to it. I know you are very charitable, but you have the brains, internet presence, money and time to make a real difference in the world. Use it!

 

[PoF: Thank you, “other Leif”! Right now, I’m just trying to get caught up on sleep, learn more Spanish, eat more burritos, and hang out with the family. Perhaps bigger things lie ahead, but all of that plus the blog keeps me busy enough at the moment!

Slow travel is indeed our plan. This trip is nine weeks in Mexico (with me disappearing to Ecuador for a week, and the next big trip from January into March will be of a similar length in Spain.

Thank you for coming on as a guest and sharing your story! I’m always so impressed by people reaching FI while over a decade my junior. I was barely better than broke at your age!

Readers, if you haven’t clicked any of the links above, head on over to Five Year FIRE Escape to learn more from our friend to the north.]

 

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

 

 

Leave your comments and 12th questions for Leif Kristjansen and his Five Year FIRE Escape below.

 

11 comments

  • How were your FIRE plans different from us Americans regarding healthcare or other things like accounting for taxes?

    Also… What games? ☺️ I always like hearing about FI folks playing games, like ESI Money.

    I am not a manager but I also work for a Fortune 50. I could definitely see being a manager being overly stressful. I try very hard to keep a hard line between work and life, not making it a habit to reply after hours, do extra work, etc. I actually used to a bit early in my career before kids and all, and I do think it helped. Sometimes putting in that extra investment will pay off earlier and it wasn’t stressful at the time, I really enjoyed what I was doing. I still enjoy a lot of what I do for work but ironically the more senior you become the less you do purely technical “building” and you have more meetings and mentoring. I love mentoring, not so much the meetings. Currently we have an issue of too many things to focus on, so it’s tough to do an awesome job at everything and there’s a lot to keep track of. But I know I’m not interested in being a manager as I’ve turned down offers to do that before, I enjoy being an individual contributor and it fits better with my future goals.

    • The biggest difference to me for living in Canada is free health care. It just takes a lot of planning (and expenses!) out of FIRE. Everything else is surprisingly similar. We have tax-free investing accounts, a social security equivalent, index funds.

      There are many more differences but I think a bigger factor is where you live, California vs Montana will have a bigger effect than Canada vs the USA.

      The only good reason to become a manager is that it lets you contribute on a larger scale. If I were doing it over again I wouldn’t make the jump because of what you mentioned. For the blog though it’s great! I know how to create a very FIRE friendly job and how to jump through the HR hoops so I can help others!

      Oh! Right now I am playing Divinity Original Sin by myself or Slime Rancher with my kids.

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  • Your water park adventure sounds right up my alley. There’s something to be said about taking a trip that’s “just for the kids”, especially when you find a water park that offers fruity rum punch. One of my dreams is to go to the Atlantis resort with my family.

  • Lynne

    I really enjoyed this post. I’m also a burrito fan. One of my 2 favorite breakfast concoctions involves a flour tortilla (plain or spinach), scrambled eggs, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar or Mexi-mix cheese, salsa, avocado, and sour cream.

    I was also a highly stressed/burned out IT person. Discovered the reward for being the expert and working hard was, you guessed it, MORE work and responsibility. One December I found myself stuck with a managerial demand to produce at least 80 more hours of billable work in the last 2 weeks of December, effectively canceling my planned time off between Christmas and New Year’s. Then I discovered that same manager, and most everyone else at senior level, was out of the office for 9-14 days during the time I was stuck slaving away. That cemented my resolve to FIRE, after I gave in to a hissy fit no one else witnessed. I am rarely that angry, but I NEEDED that time off, and it was yanked away without even asking me if I cared to forfeit the PTO. All so they could make THEIR numbers and get THEIR bonus.

    • I feel your pain Lynne. I believe it’s universal that companies will try to squeeze whatever they can out of you. I haven’t written a post about it yet but I do believe everyone can make their 9-5 FIRE friendly.

      When I write it, step 1 will be to move around until you find a job with a good boss. Your boss sounds like a jerk. 🙁

  • ChrisCD

    I’m so glad you found the time to post another of these. I have missed them. “Leif” great job all the way around. Really enjoyed the interview. I like burritos to. I can’t drink alcohol, Bai is my new favorite drink. And Naked’s.

    • I’m glad to hear you welcome the CGP back! I need to take some time and extend more invites.

      If you could drink alcohol, mixing a Truly with a Naked juice would be a refreshing summer drink: Truly Naked.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

      • ChrisCD

        I might have to make one for my wife. Honey, do you want to get “Truly Naked”. :O)

        True Story: My daughter was 16 and I felt the need to embarrass her as dads sometimes do. Her favorite drink at the time were Naked’s. So I yelled across the store, [insert name] do you want to get (a) Naked. Oh she was so mad.

        cd :O)

    • Thanks Chris! Alcohol is nice and all but not necessary. A spicy burrito with a mango lassi is a powerful pick-me-up. No liquor required. 🙂

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