Five years ago, I was vigorously reading up on financial independence. Some back-of-the-envelope math told me we had it, and I was starting to think about a five-year plan to do something with it.
Four and a half years ago, I was thinking I should start a blog of my own.
Four years and a few days ago, I did just that. Physician on FIRE was born on January 9, 2016.
Five months ago, I finally did something with my not-so-newfound financial independence. I retired from medicine at 43 and told the world why. It was my top new post of 2019.
For the last three years, I’ve published quarterly updates detailing the performance of my investment portfolio and a number of blogging statistics.
I also shared detailed spending reports, but I stopped those when I had more than enough data to know that our spending level was consistent over several years. I no longer keep such detailed records.
I didn’t publish a quarterly update in October of 2019 and no one seemed to notice. Four times a year was probably overdoing it. From now on, I plan to share an update like this once a year on the blogiversary.
In addition to sharing some numbers with you, I’d like to talk about the main reasons I continue to spend as much time as I do on this endeavor. Namely, fellowship, fun, and philanthropy.
No, not the medical training kind. I never did one of those. For the community hospital work I wanted to do, a one-year fellowship in specialty anesthesia training would have been overkill and would have cost me about $200,000 (after tax) in lost wages.
The fellowship that I get from being the Physician on FIRE is a much kinder sort of fellowship.
Fellowship: “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests.” -Google
I have this friendly association with people all over the world who share this common interest in financial freedom.
Via the internet, I am able to engage in fellowship with these FI-minded individuals on a daily basis. We congregate in places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email. We share knowledge and wisdom. We ask for help or recommendations and receive them. We joke around a bit. Social media, while imperfect, can truly be quite social.
Not all of our interactions are virtual. I’ve chatted with hundreds of great people at events around the country. There are informal gatherings, ChooseFI meetups, regional events like CampFI, national conferences like the FinCon and WCICon, and overseas events like Chautauqua. I’ve done them all, and every time, I meet a bunch of interesting, intelligent, and well-intentioned people.
Before I had a blog, it was tough to find people who could travel the way we did at the times we could. That’s no longer an issue. When we cruised to Cuba, we were joined by other physicians, bloggers, and physician bloggers. We’ve got at least a few who will join us on our next cruise to China this fall.
Anywhere we go, we find people we know or would like to get to know. In Valencia, I’m meeting up with an early retiree who moved here from San Diego, CA. The FIRE Community is very welcoming, and it’s not difficult to find others excited to hang out and chat about life in the slow lane.
I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun.
I’m not saying I never had fun in the hospital, but trust me, when you compare Job A (anesthesiologist) to Job B (blogging), Job B is much more fun.
It’s fun to see what comments people leave on the blog posts. What they choose to retweet and respond to and what clever animated gif I can leave in response.
Coming up with new ideas for articles is fun, and actually writing them can be quite satisfying, as well.
Fun and fellowship often go hand in hand, particularly after the sun goes down at the aforementioned in-person events. Yes, beer is often involved. Beer’s fun, too.
It’s fascinating that I can make money doing something that I enjoy this much. This site does make good money, but it’s not money I need, and if it all goes away tomorrow, I won’t be waiting in a bread line, despite what author Jason Zweig ( <- that’s a poorly disclosed affiliate link from a company that’s sure to run out of VC capital soon) says about FIRE bloggers. I’m sorry, but the FIRE movement is here to stay.
I was one of a few dozen people to take pleasure in responding to that curmudgeonly take. It was fun!
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Once I realized I could be done saving for retirement, I knew that we could afford to be more generous. We could also afford to spend more, but frugal habits are hard to break, and I’d just as soon improve the lives of others than splurge more on myself. We already live a very good life.
I didn’t do much to monetize the site initially, but as site traffic took off, so did the requests for advertising. I didn’t feel right telling people that I was financially independent on one hand and taking advertising dollars with the other, so I found a compromise that worked for me.
I would donate a big chunk of my website profits.
Now, I did keep some skin in the game. I believe I work much harder at this as a result, which means more income for me and more money for charity.
This arrangement is working out well. In 2019, we started supporting the salary of a physician with whom I’ve worked at a free surgical hospital in Honduras. I’ve donated $10,000 or more to charities requested by site sponsors and readers each of the last two years (2018 and 2019). Much of the remainder has gone to a donor advised fund where the money will continue to be granted to the charities we choose for many years to come.
How much have we donated?
As of the end of 2019, the total amount pledged to be donated over the last four years was $222,290. I’m happy to say that we’ve done that and then some, anticipating continued online income. It’s wonderful to have that much of an impact, and I couldn’t do it without you, the readers.
The PoF Portfolio now looks like this. I don’t like to give exact dollar amounts here, so the numbers have been altered to add up to a million dollars. The proportions, however, are precise.
One new addition is CCL, my second individual stock after BRKB. I bought Carnival Cruise Lines for the free onboard credit on all of their brands. The stock happens to have gone up about 25% since I purchased it in October. Better lucky than good.
I’m a little overweight in international stocks and a bit underweight in US Stocks as compared to my desired asset allocation. Towards the end of 2019, I made another six-figure donation of VTSAX to the donor advised fund, a move that is partially responsible for the imbalance there. The rest looks pretty good.
If you’d like a copy of the template I use to track my portfolio, you can download it here.
2019 turned out to be another good year to be invested 100% in US Stocks. I’m not, so the returns of my publicly traded assets were closer to 25% than the 30% or so that US stocks earned.
My mid-cap holdings, a top performer in 2019, eked out a slight edge over the S&P 500.
Stock funds performed very well, but bond funds didn’t have a bad year, either. It was a low performer relative to the rest of the portfolio, but I’m quite happy with a 7.5% return on my bonds.
If you like these fancy charts, Personal Capital’s free software ( <- affiliate link again #charitablemission) does this and a whole lot more.
As of 01.13.2020, the site has 756 published posts and 55 pages. These have been visited by people in 217 countries. Still no visitors from Greenland, Svalbard, North Korea, or Western Sahara.
Please tell all of your friends in Greenland, Svalbard, North Korea, and Western Sahara about the site so we can fill in the rest of the world map. Since the last update six months ago, we had a visitor from the Republic of Congo, one of eight nations with one pageview apiece.
Here’s what that map looks like. Don’t worry about those other white spots between countries. I won’t get credit for visits from the Baltic, Black, or Caspian Seas.
The site’s pages have been viewed 7,450,000 times and counting, and the site averaged about 8,000 pageviews a day over the last year. Traffic is a bit higher than that now, as it picks up at the end of the year with tax-year deadlines and stays strong as people make their financial New Year’s Resolutions.
How readers are following Physician on FIRE
- 7,919 regular e-mail subscribers & 1,782 weekly digest subscribers. I deleted some “cold” subscribers who hadn’t opened anything in months.
- 2,205 Feedly subscribers
- 332 RSS Feedburner subscribers
- 16,020 Twitter followers
- 5,311 Facebook Page followers
- 1,245 Facebook Friends (under my FB pseudonym Milo Andersson) Friend me!
- 18,206 verified physicians in my Physicians on FIRE Facebook Group
- 9,778 members in my fatFIRE Facebook Group
- 2,009 Instagram followers
The Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of All-Time:
- 1. Vanguard Backdoor Roth 2019: a Step by Step Guide (367,480 views) (has been republished with annual updates x3)
- 2. How Much Does a Doctor Need to Retire (85,678 views)
- 3. The PoF Portfolio (60,989 views)
- 4. Is Having a Mortgage a Great Way to Force Savings? (53,681 views)
- 5. Credit Cards for People Who Love Free Travel and Money (55,522 views)
Tax Loss Harvesting with Vanguard: A Step by Step Guide is next in line. All of these posts rank highly for certain terms on Google and other search engines, and several are pinned to the top of my site’s front page.
The Top 5 Other Posts of 2019:
Many of the top posts from last year overlap with the top posts of all time. These are the top 5 from last year that don’t appear in the list above.
- 1. Retired from Medicine at 43: Why, How, and What Now? (31,292 views)
- 2. Paying Off the Mortgage Early is a Mistake I’ll Never Regret (22,265 views)
- 3. Top 5 Expenses that Go Down in Retirement ( 21,418 views)
- 4. Taxes on a Million Dollars of Earned Income (20,651 views)
- 5. The PoF Portfolio (18,749 views)
I waited a loooong time to write that retirement post, and I was not surprised at its popularity.
Where is the traffic coming from?
Top 5 referring sites all-time:
- 1. Facebook & Facebook Mobile (182,966 sessions)
- 2. White Coat Investor (156,046 sessions)
- 3. Twitter (129,380 sessions)
- 4. Rockstar Finance (43,589 sessions)
- 5. Doximity (23,684 sessions)
Where do people go from Physicianonfire.com? (mainly referred from The Sunday Best & Christopher Guest Posts): All time clicks:
- 1. ESI Money (37,267 clicks)
- 2. Passive Income MD (26,410 clicks)
- 3. The Physician Philosopher (17,152 clicks)
- 4. Bogleheads (17,001 clicks)
- 5. Nerd’s Eye View (kitces.com) (16,995 views)
So that’s where we’re at after four years. You can read my prior annual updates to see how far we’ve come below:
- 2018 Q4 & Annual PoF Portfolio, Spending, and Blog Performance Update
- Physician on FIRE Turns Two.
- 2017 Q4 & Annual PoF Portfolio, Spending, and Blog Performance Update
- One Year of Physician on FIRE. Happy Blogiversary to Me!
Thank you for joining me in fellowship as we continue to travel on this fun and philanthropic journey!