Four Years of Physician on FIRE: Fellowship, Fun, and Philanthropy

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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.

 

Fellowship

 

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.

Also, we occasionally make friendly bets that our alma maters will beat one another on the gridiron (looking forward to those beers, Mr. WoW — and did your shipment arrive safely, Scott?).

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.

 

Fun

 

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.

 

Jason Zweig Twitter

 

I was one of a few dozen people to take pleasure in responding to that curmudgeonly take. It was fun!

 

Start receiving paid survey opportunities in your area of expertise to your email inbox by joining the Curizon community of Physicians and Healthcare Professionals.

 

Use our link to Join and you'll also be entered into a drawing for an additional $250 to be awarded to one new registrant referred by Physician on FIRE in the month of February.

 

Philanthropy

 

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 half 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.

 

Portfolio Update

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.

 

PoF_Portfolio_2020_allocation

 

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.

 

PoF_Portfolio_2020_YouIndex

 

My mid-cap holdings, a top performer in 2019, eked out a slight edge over the S&P 500.

 

PoF_Portfolio_2020_midcap

 

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.

 

PoF_Portfolio_2020_bonds

 

If you like these fancy charts, Personal Capital’s free software ( <- affiliate link again #charitablemission) does this and a whole lot more.

 

 

Site Statistics

 

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.

 

1 Pageview Nations

 

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.

 

PoF_Map_2020

 

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

 

  • 332 RSS Feedburner subscribers
  • 1,245 Facebook Friends (under my FB pseudonym Milo Andersson) Friend me!

 

 

The Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of All-Time:

 

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.

 

 

I waited a loooong time to write that retirement post, and I was not surprised at its popularity.

 

How much interest are you earning in your checking and savings accounts? Explore accounts offering 20x what many banks are offering. High Interest Savings Accounts

 

Where is the traffic coming from? 

 

Top 5 referring sites all-time:

 

 

The next largest sources of traffic are  WCI Network partner Passive Income MD and Reddit.

 

Where do people go from Physicianonfire.com? (mainly referred from The Sunday Best & Christopher Guest Posts): All time clicks:

 

 

WCI would very likely show up at the top, but something keeps me from seeing those clicks in the Jetpack Site Stats.

 

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:

 


Track your investments for free with Personal Capital. It's how I track my portfolio.  

 

Thank you for joining me in fellowship as we continue to travel on this fun and philanthropic journey!

-PoF

 

17 thoughts on “Four Years of Physician on FIRE: Fellowship, Fun, and Philanthropy”

  1. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  2. Congratulations Leif.

    4 years of blogging is remarkable and especially how prolific you are with the posting schedule.

    I am still 3 months from my 2 year blogoversary and know how much effort it takes to blog.

    I’m not sure how I did it but I did get a visitor from Greenland which filled out that massive white space on the map. But I’m lacking on the continent of Africa myself.

    Your site’s success is truly remarkable and well deserved. At my pace I might have to be blogging for another 2 decades or so to hit 7 million+ page views or more.

    Reply
  3. I find myself impressed but also a little disappointed at a fellow physician who at some point decided that a life of serving the sick was too old fashioned. Let me explain for a moment. I was a practicing physician (pediatrician) for more than 35 years. I worked pretty hard and was never able to make the income of my classmates in the more highly compensated specialties. I do not regret that for a moment but I saw a lot of specialist friends who began to measure their success with the size of their paycheck rather than the service they were providing to patients and families. I know things are a lot different for those who enter medicine today with the financial burdens of massive student loans and corporate oversight and EMRs, but I do hope that we all do not forget the professionalism that is part of being a physician. I also wonder about the public good and the public return on investment that being lost with the training of physicians who then retire after just a few years in practice. We are all paying for that as access to quality physicians is a continued problem and early retirement makes that worse. So I don’t want to make you feel bad for your personal decision (that is clearly yours to make), but I do wonder on the larger scale if we are doing something wrong in our physician training programs that makes our your physicians seek early retirement and larger paychecks rather that following that oath that we all said at the start of our careers:

    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

    I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

    Reply
    • Blah, blah, blah
      Don’t critic if you never practiced medicine in this era. I’m too an early retired Md. Medicine is not what it once used to be, managed care, electronic medical record, peer review, loss of autonomy, sense of entitlement from patients, law suits, just to name a few.
      Once I accumulated the “FU money”, I’m gone, I don’t feel I owe anything to society, my student loans are paid for, nobody helped me, you can do whatever you want once you reach FI including continue to practice if that’s what makes you happy.

      Reply
      • Hope the money does it for you. Otherwise it is sad you chose to serve and end up serving yourself. By the way I must take issue with your assertion that no one helped you. I find that a bit unbelievable. Good luck.

        Reply
    • I was a practicing physician (pediatrician) for more than 35 years.

      So, by your own admission, you are violating the oath you quoted? By not working until the day you die? If you have enough money to retire, why don’t you volunteer at FQHCs or community clinics.

      Otherwise, it sounds like you are criticizing someone who for not living up to some ideal that you yourself don’t live up to…glass houses and all that.

      Reply
      • Not sure I understand your position. Why one leaves practice is a personal decision, as I mentioned, and my oath did not include never retiring, but implied a long fulfilling practice. As medicine is both science and art, the time one spends serving is always going to vary. If financial independence is the primary driver then my concern is that we are all losing a lot of practice years and return on investment that we all pay when physicians in large numbers spend less time in practice than they did in training. And all that.

        Reply
  4. To be fair the FIRE bloggers dominating the headlines have been folks making $50k-$100k/month. And 100% VTSAX proponents. I offered to show them a different perspective but not heard back lol.

    Worst case, we can all be like Jason and write behind a firewall tonget paid if we run of of money in our 60s 🙂

    Reply
  5. Congrats Leif. Can’t believe it has been 4 years already, time sure flies. Very impressive blog stats but the philanthropy stuff is even more impressive. Well done!

    Reply
  6. Well done, Leif. I find it admirable that you walked away from a high income job and chose a life that focuses on quality, family and community (all while giving half your profits to charity) vs a life focused on your job and the grind just to keep making more money than you need. I wish you and your family well and look forward to reading your blog for as long as you keep putting out the informative and fun content. Cheers!

    Reply
  7. Start receiving paid survey opportunities in your area of expertise to your email inbox by joining the Curizon community of Physicians and Healthcare Professionals.

     

    Use our link to Join and you'll also be entered into a drawing for an additional $250 to be awarded to one new registrant referred by Physician on FIRE in the month of February.

  8. Awesome Stats, you are an inspiration.
    “I bought Carnival Cruise Lines for the free onboard credit on all of their brands.” I am going on my first cruise this year and going to look into this. Goal: Give the first FIRE presentation on a cruise liner. …we live in an ironic world 🤣

    Reply
  9. Cheers to 4 years friend! Congrats on all your accomplishments. Glad that we have connected through this space and have been able to be a part of some of the shenanigans over the years.

    Reply

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