Christopher Guest Post: The Retirement Manifesto

Curbside Ad250x250Welcome to another Christopher Guest Post, a Q&A interview series that I will run every few weeks to get you better acquainted with some excellent fellow writers who have graciously accepted my invitation to be showcased here for you.

I’d like to thank Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto for taking the time to share a part of his story and answers to my many questions. His blog dates back to April, 2015, or about 20 months. You’ll see some of his best work linked below, and you can check out all of them on one page here.

Fritz describes himself as a corporate commodity trading hamster by day, aspiring philosopher by night, and a lifelong financial “hobbyist” working toward an early retirement (by ~55 years of age, God willing). The rodent is quite busy on social media, and has been enthusiastically active on the new Rockstar Finance forums.

 

What’s 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.

 

Presenting: The Retirement Manifesto

 

1. What do you do (or did you do) for a living? What do you like best about it? If you were a physician, what type of a physician do you think you would be? Why?

 

I’m doing something I never imagined I’d be doing.

During college, I had a vision that I’d become a big Advertising Executive, and almost got the chance.  I weaved through a field of elites and made it to “The Big Interview” with the Top Dog at one of the biggest Ad Agencies in Chicago.  Yep, right there on the River on Wacker Drive, floor to ceiling windows overlooking Lake Michigan.

I choked.  Man, I’m thankful.  (I love Chicago, but can’t imagine working there every day)

Having failed in my advertising career, I took a “Practice Interview” with a major manufacturing company.  The top sales guy’s daughter was going to attend my University the following year, so it was boondoggle way for him to check out the campus and the soon-to-be graduates.  He was relaxed, and so was I.  I CRUSHED the interview, and 31 years and 9 promotions later, I’m still with the same firm.  Weird, right?

I’m a mid-upper level executive now, trading commodities with folks all over the world.  Pretty cool gig, getting paid good money to travel around the world on an expense account and negotiate with folks for a living.  It beats trying to sell Wheaties (the “star client” of the Ad Agency I interviewed with).  Lucky for you, I’d probably be doing some killer ads for WebMD by now if I’d have landed the advertising gig!

If I was a doctor, I’d be a proctologist.  I’ve spent 30+ years in Corporate America,  need I say more? Yep. proctologist and corporate politics, they’re both kind of the same thing.

 

[PoF: How serendipitous. One door closes, another opens. I think I still have a Wheaties box from when the Twins won the World Series. Yes, I’m failing at minimalism.]

 

 

image with permission of The Answer Man

 

 

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

The Retirement Manifesto

My blog is called The Retirement Manifesto, which I started in April 2015.  Anyone reading financial blogs wants to retire, preferably early.  I’m here to help with that. Docs have a high burnout rate, I get it.  So…read my stuff, and retire early.

I’ll retire in two years at Age 55, and write about how I’m doing it.  I help you know “When Can I Retire?”.  I outline what I’m doing to get ready.  What I’m going to do after I retire.  How to transition your money from the “accumulation” to a “withdrawal” phase.

What I’m going to do about HealthCare in early retirement since Obamacare Is Falling Apart (I suspect your Doc friends will like that one – what a mess!).  Since I need to do 11 sentences, I’m adding one here just because (but seriously, check it out, I want to Help People Achieve A Great Retirement!).

[PoF: Healthcare is a big question mark for any of us looking to retire before 65 without an employer-provided plan. It’s probably the biggest reason I’ve chosen to work one more year a couple times now.]

 

3. 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 blog was only 30 hours old when I wrote the story of How The Retirement Manifesto Started.   I’d had the dream to start a blog for a while, and had picked the name at random as the name for a new file I was using to save some “thinking notes” on the concept.  A day later, I decided to try the filename when registering for a website. I was shocked when the domain name was available, and now realize “Manifesto” is the perfect name for my site:

Manifesto:  noun man·i·fes·to \ˌma-nə-ˈfes tō\. : a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.

 

retirement manifesto library

Picture of library to make the Doctorate look official

The biggest “I’ve arrived” moment was when my Doctorate Thesis: Retirement Is Hard was picked up by Rockstar Finance and my e-mail signups spiked through the roof.

 

[PoF: Manifesto is a great word, but unfortunately it always conjures up images of the shady hooded man known for months only as The Unabomber. Maybe if I keep reading your blog, that association will transition over time to seeing only your smiling face!]

 

 

 

No, wait, it was when I was interviewed on my favorite podcast, Radical Personal Finance, and crushed the interview.

Man, that was fun.

I make no money on the site, and do it from a desire held deep within; a Purpose, if you will.  My payment is in: 1) Experiencing “The Flow” of writing, what I’ve now realized is a passion, and 2) seeing folks respond to the words I write, and knowing I’m making a difference in peoples’ lives.  My Grandfather and Father were both writers, so I guess I’m keeping the streak alive!

As for the future, the blog is a bridge to my retirement.  We all need bridges.  If you don’t have one yet, Take The Challenge and build one for yourself. In retirement, I hope to expand on the blog (perhaps, a podcast?), maybe write professionally for paid gigs, or perhaps just write about retired folks like me who travel around the country in an RV.

[PoF: Sounds like you’ve got a great bridge. I hope you bring that RV Up North to see us sometime. I recommend summer.]

 

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

Let’s make this easy: Click Here for a list of every article I’ve written, in chronological order.  Oh wait, you guys are all Doctors, and don’t have any time.  Ah well, in that case:

 

 

5 Steps To Take Within 5 Years Of Retirement:  The “Red Zone” is important. Take these steps, and you’ll be well on your way toward a great retirement.

Inspiration:  We all need something to aspire to in retirement.  Find something to run toward in retirement, it’s not about “running away” from your job, Doc.

 

 

It’s About Time:  Time, the greatest of all investments.  It’s given to each of freely, and we spend it until it’s gone.  Spend yours intentionally.

 

 

5 Milestones To Determine “When Can I Retire?”  Check your progress against these milestones to see if you’re ready to go.

The Best Retirement Calculators:  Use these calculators to determine if you’re financially ready to retire.

5 Reasons Why Retirement Is Hard:  If you don’t plan for it, the adjustment to retirement can be tough.  You only want to do this once, don’t blow it.

 

 

Learning From An Unexpected Death:  Live a life others can learn from.  Learn from the lives others have lived.  We’re all going to die – what will be your legacy?

When Can I Retire?  A 4 part series to determine if you’ll have enough retirement income to cover your expenses.  Are you financially independent?

 

 

The Building Blocks Of Financial Independence:  A 4 part series on the steps to get your financial life in order.

The 8 Most Popular Posts of 2015:  Ok, I’m cheating here by including a “Best Of” post, but it’s an easy way to see the most popular posts (based on readership) in my first year.  Since I cheated, I’ll stop at 10 recommendations (but really, I’m stopping at 18!).

[PoF: Great list, Fritz. You gave us all the posts right off the bat, which is great. I was glad to have found a way to do that here on this site. Looking over the subject matter, we clearly have many ideas in common. I also happen to know we’re on similar timelines with similar budgets. Cheers!]

 

5. 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?

We’re closing in on a FIRE at Age 55.  We just sold our house in 7 days and sold 30 year’s worth of “stuff” in 24 hours as part of our downsizing strategy, so we’re well on our way.  We moved to our retirement cabin 5 months ago.  I’m still commuting to a small apartment near my job in the city, but it’s a manageable transition strategy to Early Retirement!  5 years ago we built a plan, and we’ve been working toward it ever since.

We’re running the numbers, talking about our dreams for retirement, and exploring our new retirement town in the mountains while together on the weekends.  I can’t wait to pull the plug and stop commuting to my City Apartment, and reach the point where I’ll spend more time here:

 

Our retirement cabin, a downsizing move

[PoF: I can’t imagine getting rid of all that stuff so quickly the way you did it. Bravo! Looks like you’ve got a great view from the balcony. And are those burgers I smell? You’re making me hungry!]

 

6. 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?

First, let’s look at the definition of “Ideal”:

I love 2a:  “Existing as a mental image..or imagination only”.

I’ve not yet experienced retirement, so it is, at this point, “in imagination only”.  My imagine runs wild with thoughts of post-retirement life.  It’s fun.

Thinking about retirement life is one of the true joys of the FIRE experience.

We’ll Travel:  My wife and I have plans (6 months / year in an RV out West, potentially working part time jobs in National Parks “just because”.  Here’s the camper we’re planning on buying next Spring:

 

Photo Courtesy of Grand Design

[PoF: That looks incredible. It has a kitchen island?!? A proper land yacht!]

 

We won’t need more money.  We’re determined to wait until we’re fully “FI” (actually, we’re doing “FI + 1 Year”, just to be safe.  If we chose to work in retirement, it will be for non-financial reasons (hanging out with folks, doing something interesting, etc.)

We’ll Volunteer:  We just started working at a dog rescue charity in our new town, and look forward to getting more involved in volunteer activities post-retirement.  Time To Give Back!!

[PoF: Awesome! We’ve donated money to our local animal shelters since we started working, but haven’t been able to afford the time. I look forward to shifting the balance to having more time.]

 

7. 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.

  1. Be Humble.
  2. Live Below Your Means.
  3. Avoid Lifestyle “Creep”
  4. Save 90% of Every Raise.
  5. Listen More Than You Talk.
  6. Invest In Stocks via low cost mutual funds.
  7. Self Educate.
  8. No One Cares About Your Money More Than You. Learn.
  9. Buy Less House Than You Can Afford.
  10. Be Generous.
  11. Money Is A Tool, Not The End Game.
  12. Know Your Priorities, And Keep Them In Order.

[PoF: Overachiever. Nicely done, though. I can’t argue with any of these.]

 

8. 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?

 

 

Several years ago, my wife and I accidently played on the beach at Richard Branson’s exclusive Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands (a great story, involving a charter sailboat we were “bareboating”, a buoy, a swim to the beach, and a, um,  “nice discussion” with the security ‘professionals’ who met us promptly on the beach.)

Since it costs ~$30k/week to stay on Necker Island, we’ll negotiate the $4,390 nightly rate down a bit, and target 3 nights for our $11k  (I’ll use frequent flyer miles to get there for free!).

Walking back on the beach that we once unintentionally stole away on, but doing it legitimately……How cool would that be?

[PoF: Personally, I think you should find a way to circumvent security on your next trip and see how long you can last on the island undetected. It could be a reality show, and would save you $11,000. 🙂 Use that money to market the reality show.]

 

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

  1. Trout, caught fresh on my fly rod in Blue Ridge, GA (our retirement home).
  2. Wendy’s Chocolate Frosty (come on, can you resist?)
  3. Hot Dogs from The Hot Dog Shoppe in Warren, OH (really, gotta try it!)
  4. Water.  My favorite beverage.  Just is….
  5. Cajun Chicken.  Any way, any time.
  6. Tabasco sauce (almost a beverage to me, we buy the industrial size!)
  7. Pasta.  Best with Cajun Chicken & Tabasco Sauce
  8. Dungeness Crab, caught fresh daily (I worked in Glacier Bay, Alaska during a college summer, and had unlimited and free Dungeness every night!)

 

 

 

Ok, putting that picture of Glacier Bay into this messed up the numbering system, so here’s the rest: 9. Deep Fried Halibut (Glacier Bay still on my mind, another nightly freebie),  10. A romantic dinner with my wife, love the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant in Blue Ridge!   11.  Some red wine, to toast Doc in appreciation for giving me the honor of this interview.

[PoF: I’ll bet working in Glacier Bay has its downsides, but the view and free seafood are pretty great perks! I wouldn’t turn down a Wendy’s Frosty, but it’s a cup of mud when compared to a Culver’s Concrete Mixer.]

 

 10. How about eleven places you love that you’ve visited or have lived in?

We’ve always made traveling a priority, and have carved out $$ every year for a nice family trip (all of those frequent flyer miles have helped!).  Combine that with the international travel I do for work, and it’s led to some interesting places.  My favorites:

  1. Anywhere in the American West
  2. The Canadian Rockies
  3. Alaska
  4. The Virgin Island
  5. Hawaii
  6. Switzerland
  7. Iceland
  8. Norway
  9. Italy
  10. The United Kingdom (avoid the tourists, go to Wales!)
  11. Moscow (a city everyone should see before they die, just because!)

 

[PoF: Travel seems to be a key motivator for many of us with FIRE plans. I’m always amazed at the different price points available. One person’s budget for a week will last another for a month, and an experienced slow traveler can stretch that same amount out to two or three months.

I’ve been to most of the places on your list, but haven’t been able to spend nearly as much time as I would like to spend in any of them. I’ll see Iceland for the third time in March, but I’ve never have more than a couple days. So far, anyway.]

 

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

Doc and I run in similar circles in the FIRE community.  I read a lot of blogs, and happened to come across one of his articles earlier this year.  We’re now “friends” in the fascinating social network that is the world of Financial Bloggers, and I consider him a kindred soul.

The only advice I’d give is what you’re already doing:  don’t get caught up in the trappings which come SO easily with being a Doc.  Choose to be different, and take advantage of the incredible wealth available to Doctors, but use it differently than your peers.  Get out early, enjoy life.

[PoF: Our paths have crossed via the interwebs, haven’t they. I believe I’ll be seeing you in real life in October. We’ll have to get together over a… water. You’ll be counting down the months to retirement in the single digits by then. How cool is that?]

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, your advice, and your expertise from a career of several decades!]

 

Questions or comments for Fritz? Make them known below!

 

Did you enjoy this interview? Stick around for Christopher Guest posts from:

 


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34 comments

  • Cool interview PoF. I always enjoy hearing other bloggers’ stories. That’s a pretty good travel list. I’ve been to several of those cities and have plans to go to several more. Iceland is pretty high up on my list. I heard it’s pretty awesome.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Three words for you GFY: “Go. To. Iceland.” It’s one of the most unique countries I’ve ever visited. I had an extra few days on a biz trip there a few years back, but it’s on my FIRE “Bucket List” to drive the loop around the island after we retire. Interesting place.

  • I’ll put in another push for Wales, though hopefully not bringing the crowds. I spent a month on the Britain /Welsh line for work. It’s gorgeous and culturally interesting. Still be prepared for signs and radio stations in two different languages, one of which no one seems to have ever spoken outside the UK.

    • We absolutely love Wales. Great that you were able to spend extended time there. The Welsh people are among the friendliest in the world, even if you can’t understand what they’re saying! (smiles). There’s another backstory there…briefly. My Daughter was 7, and had to write a paper on a country she “drew from a hat”. She got Wales. We decided to go there as a way for her to experience something first hand which she had researched for her paper. I’ll always treasure that trip.

  • So much good stuff here I don’t know where to start! Well, the Italian in my says start with food – Wendy’s frosty gets my vote but only with some hot fries to dip into it. Cold/hot/sweet/salty – yum!! Also, I knew you were into dogs, Cuz, but that first shot of you is a doozie! 😉 Your 11 sentences of advice are spot on. I am currently working on #5 – Listen more than you talk. In a family as big as mine I have been trained to speak up and speak loud…despite the fact that everyone is doing the same! A lot of talking and nobody is ever listening. In my family that’s fine, but out in the world I need to learn to shut up a bit. Sage advice, for sure!

    PoF – LOVE the Unabomber likeness for Fritz… A manifesto certainly conjures such images. Perhaps something for the next Christmas Card, Cuz? 😉

    • Hey Miss Mazuma! Frosty dipping with fries, really? Hmmm, gonna have to try that next time I see that 80 year old working at Wendy’s!

      Gees, now I’m becoming known as a Unibomber lookalike. You’re ruining my reputation, Doc! Hopefully the “puppy loving” will offset the negative sterotype!

  • Wendy’s chocolate frosty? Proctologist? (I think those go together, too). Who knew?

    We first became familiar with you, Fritz, from that episode with Joshua on Radical Personal Finance. It was friendship ever since.

    Great interview! I love all the advice but the one piece that’s ringing most true to me today is “No one cares about your money more than you.” I think that goes for everything in life. It’s all up to you/us. No one else will create wealth for us. If we want it we need a plan. And we need to work hard for it.

    • Frosty & Proctologist. Ok, full (and inappropriate) transparency here, the first thought when I read your comment: “Yeah, they are kinda the same.

      You’re twisting with my head, Mrs. G. I’ve gone to the dark side…. I appreciate our friendship, as well. You and Mr. G are just plain Groovy!

  • Wow, 31 years at the same job? That’s nearly unheard-of nowadays, but way to go! Sometimes life’s “bad times” turn into something even better. 🙂

  • I love the Christopher Guest post series and getting introduced to bloggers or getting to know bloggers better, if I already know of them. “No one knows who they were or what they were doing” 🙂

    Great interview Fritz, Love the backstory. Time to check out some of those top eleven posts!

  • 31-years, awesome. I’m on 17, and really won’t mind if it turns to 31. I’ve got to think a proctologist must be one of the worst medical professions, but someone has to do it, maybe you could volunteer in your retirement years. :O)

    I like you mostly because of your name. It is my brother’s name. Fritz is a cool name. And you write fairly well, too. :O)

    Always love the interviews.
    cd :O)

  • “Thinking about retirement life is one of the true joys of the FIRE experience.”
    I love this concept. Anticipation of any positive life event is sometimes just as good as the event itself, and since it often lasts longer (weddings, anyone?!), it might even be better!
    Thanks for the peek inside your world, it was just as kind and enjoyable as anticipated. Cheers!

  • Looking forward to checking out some of your content, already added you to my Feedly.

    Cheers,

    Dom

  • That picture. Dogs are ……..weird.

    Good interview, Fritz and PoF! Your cabin in the woods looks lovely Fritz, and that RV is luxury on wheels.

  • Ty

    That dog picture quickly wiped away the mental ‘A$$ Man’ license plate image I had after reading proctologist.

    And +1 for Wales. I lived there for a while. Beautiful place.

    Finally, green with envy re: your cabin. That looks a lot like what I want my early retirement to become.

    • Haha, love the vanity plate idea! I love that pic of the cabin, even more now that “our old guy” (the golden retriever in the pic) passed away just before Christmas. Miss that old guy, he was special. The cabin remains so, and it’s from within those walls that I’m typing these comments today! Great place, indeed.

  • Congratulations on (almost) reaching FIRE, Fritz! I look to reading your work on The Retirement Manifesto. -WSP

  • “Aspiring philosopher by night”

    I think I can relate to that 😉

    Great interview, gonna go dig into some of these posts you referenced. Thanks guys!

  • Great interview, and thanks for the links to your articles. Will need to check those out. I also liked your travel list. There are a few places that I have my eye on, particularly Iceland and Moscow.

    I love hot dogs, too. My favorite hot dogs are from Costco. Still only $1.50 for a dog and a soda! That’s the same price as when I was in high school!

    • Moscow’s a surreal place to visit. Happy music pumped out onto the streets near Red Square (brainwashing?), one of the most memorable runs I’ve done anywhere in the world. (Getting a Visa for Russia is a pain, tho, and expensive! Plan ahead!!)

      And, you haven’t eaten a hot dog until you try The Hot Dog Shop in Warren. Amazing place!

  • Love it Fritz! It is great to get to learn more about you (even though I’ve read most of your posts). It’s also nice to find folks more in my age group too 🙂 Love the cabin shot too – looks so incredibly relaxing there!

  • Fritz, awesome interview! I thoroughly enjoyed this post. PoF’s questions definitely trickle out some unique insights and personal stories that folks wouldn’t have shared otherwise. I wouldn’t want to call it “backstory” anymore because that term has now been tainted forever, after that picture with the dogs. Thanks, PoF! 🙂
    Also, I got a little bit scared when PoF put up the Unabomber poster and in the next paragraph, Fritz talks about an interview on a Radical Personal Finance. But it’s all clean fun, good to know! Thanks for sharing some of the earlier posts I had missed so far!

  • That’s a nice looking RV out there. I’ve run into many people who actually just travel across the country in their RV’s (often towing a smaller car for local travel). I was surprised to hear about how accessible campgrounds and RV hookups are in the country.

    Great job on FIRE!

  • Fritz seems like a very interesting guy. I haven’t read his blog before, but I certainly found his interview intriguing.

    Thanks PoF. Great interview.

  • Cool interview, PoF! Congratulations on making it till now, Fritz!

    That’s a pretty cool travel list! I’ve been to most places outside of America, but it seems like I should be checking out the awesome places in America as well!

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