A Q & A with Physician on FIRE (that’s me!)

Last summer, I took part in an interview series with another anesthesiologist named Tom from High Income Parents. Unfortunately, his site doesn’t exist any longer, which means my interview disappeared, too.

Why did he stop? All this talk of FI must have gotten to him. He and his family are in the process of selling most of their belongings and making plans to move his family of seven to a sailboat for a major sailing adventure!

With all that is entailed in a major change in life’s course, he hasn’t been able to keep up with the blog. But I’ve already commissioned a guest post that I hope I’ll be able to publish after his amazing new life has begun!

Fortunately, I still had the e-mail I had sent Tom with my interview responses, and I went through my answers, revising and updating them for 2018.

Today, I’m sharing the interview, previously known as the H.I.P. exam, with you (or y’all as they say in Texas where Tom currently lives with his wife and five kids). Hmmm… five kids… I don’t know how he found time to brush and floss his teeth, let alone run a website!

From here on out, the questions are his and the answers are mine. Enjoy!

 

A Q & A with Physician on FIRE (that’s me!)

 

Two Truths and a Lie. Tell us two things that are true and one that isn’t about you. Make them something not too many people would know. We’ll come back to this later.

 

I spent a summer in high school as a glassblower’s apprentice.

I held the course record for a 13.1 mile power walk for the better part of a decade.

My first name was the name of a Swedish McDonalds sandwich, preceded by an “Mc” of course.

 

What do you do for a living? How long have you been doing it? What is your favorite part?

 

I come up with unique names for McDonald’s sandwiches.

In my spare time, I also practice anesthesia. I finished residency in the summer of 2006, so I’ve been at this for nearly twelve years. To be honest, my favorite part is when I find out the last case of the day has been postponed for one reason or another, and my workday ends early.

My second favorite part is performing peripheral nerve blocks under ultrasound guidance. It’s an incredibly effective procedure that patients absolutely love, and it’s quite fun to be able to visualize the needle adjacent to nerve beneath a patient’s skin.

 

How did you learn about personal finance? Did you have any big role models that mentored you financially?

 

My parents shaped my perspectives on money in so many ways. We were a family of more means than I fully realized, but we shopped at garage sales, thrift stores, and were always on the lookout for a good value.

In an interesting contrast, we often did our bargain hunting on the way to or as an excursion from my family’s second home, which was a lake cabin.

It seems paradoxical at face value, but it actually makes perfect sense. A big part of what allowed them to afford a second home (which they have since retired to as their primary and only home) was their frugal ways.

My father also taught me the Rule of 72 and the power of compound interest when I was first earning money mowing lawns. I took that knowledge to heart.

 

How many children do you have? How old are they?

 

My wife and I have two boys, now 7 and 9 years old, and they are our world. As my regular readers have figured out, I have early retirement aspirations. Before I realized I could easily afford it, I figured I’d keep working at least as long as we’ve got kids living with us.

Now that I understand that we’re financially independent and work is optional, we’re super psyched to live out some adventures that we could never manage without the benefit of both financial and location independence.

 

gumbalimba zipline

 

How do you help them manage money while they are young? Do you have an allowance system?

 

We’re the least original people I know. We have the three jars. Save. Spend. Give. Right now, they get a dollar in each. The idea came from the pictured book, The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber, which I can highly recommend, although the juxtaposition of them prepared for the jungle canopy zipline does not exactly suggest they’re the opposite of spoiled.

The jars tend to fill up, so we’ve started a bank ledger of sorts for the Save portion. Any gifted money from birthdays, Christmas, and other celebrations gets added to the balance on a spreadsheet. Every month, the boys receive 1% interest and I show them what they got for leaving their money “invested” with us in the Bank of Mom & Dad.

If any of y’all know of a similar deal at a grown-up bank, please please please let me know.

 

How do you plan to help them manage money as they get older? What will change as they grow?

 

Both my wife and I got “real” jobs when we were 15 or 16 and worked for money before that, so I imagine our boys will do something similar.

We want them to know what it means to work for money, but we also want them to receive an education from others who know a lot more than we do. That provides a good segue to the next question, which is…

 

 

How do you finance their education? Do they go to public school? Private School? Home School? What is the reason for your decision?

 

Both boys had fall birthdays and started pre-school about the time they turned three. Living in rural areas, the bills were quite reasonable. Our younger son does his best to keep up with his brother and was reading chapter books by the time he finished pre-school. He actually skipped kindergarten and went straight into first grade. In hindsight, he might have been better off entering kindergarten early, which would have saved us a few thousand dollars.

Now, they’re both enrolled in the same public elementary school. They both qualified for the district’s gifted program, so they will have the same teachers one year apart and will be learning at a quicker pace with the same group of kids each year.

In another year or two, though, we may very well opt to homeschool, or “road school” or “world school” as we have ambitions to travel the country and perhaps the world while they are still young.

We have done this in short spurts this school year, spending a few weeks each in Mexico (see Guanajuato trip report) and Hawaii (see Hawaii trip report), and we’re currently doing medical mission work in Honduras.

 

Do they plan to go to college? If so, how do you plan to pay for college? Is the child responsible? Are you fully responsible? Is it a bit of both? How did you decide this?

 

As an aspiring early retiree, I’m not about to pull the trigger on a lucrative career without fully accounting for our boys’ post-secondary education.

I have funded a 529 Plan for each of them with balances of $100,000 apiece so far.  With another 8 to 10 years to grow before we plan to touch them, it should be a tidy sum when they matriculate to college and perhaps beyond.

I want it to be enough money to keep them out of debt if they pursue reasonably affordable options (like a quality public university) and if there’s money left over when they’ve finished their schooling, those dollars can grow for another two to three decades and be used for our grandchildren’s’ education.

If they need more than the 529 provides, student loans may be in their future, but we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.

 

 

What is the most important financial lesson you could teach your children?

 

One. Just one?

I’ll assume they’ll read at least some of what I’ve written and know how to be relatively frugal, invest wisely, and attain financial independence in due time.

My lesson will be to give generously. They’re starting from a position of incredible advantage and need to recognize that.

In addition to the college funds, I also plan to have donated 10% of our nest egg to donor advised funds designated to be given away throughout our retirement. I’d like our children to be at least as generous, if not more.

 

Okay, fess up. What was the lie? Tell us about the truths.

 

I’m incredibly good at drinking from a glass (you should see me sometime!), but I’ve never blown glass.

Regarding the Power Walk, I refused to run when my new bride wanted me to be a runner. She signed me up for a 5k. I am a stubborn man. She had no idea to what extent.

I walked the 5k.

She signed us up for a 10k. I walked the 10k.

I started getting into the not-running of these races. We signed up for a race that had a half-marathon with a walker’s division. I had perfected my swivel-hip racewalking routine and finished in first place, coming in about a minute ahead of a 66-year old with a two hour and sixteen minute time.

It turns out that was the best time in the history of the event and it held for another eight or nine years until an Olympic-caliber racewalker shattered my time by about a half an hour.

When I was a medical student on an away rotation in Stockholm, my name was in lights with a “Mc” as a prefix. I never ordered the sandwich, but in hindsight, I wish I had.

 

What is the number one money/finance/investing tip you have for high income parents?

 

Ignore your income. At least when it comes to spending. The two should be completely uncoupled.

Take every deduction available by maxing out your tax-deductible contributions and charitable giving, but when it comes to spending, forget how much you make. You’ll be the Millionaire Next Door before you know it.

 


You're still not using Personal Capital? That's how I track the PoF portfolio.

 

I’d like to thank Tom for the interview and for giving me material to post on my site while we’re traveling. I look forward to your comments. Although I may not get a chance to respond soon, I will be reading them. 

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16 comments

  • Great to get to know you a little better, POF.

    I definitely don’t have a sandwich named after me, but I like your ideas about teaching kids about money. I was listening to a podcast from Doc G at DiverseFi yesterday and he had an idea of giving his kids money each year and it was their responsibility to be good stewards with the money. They had a set amount for the year. It was up to them to save for toys or to put the money away. Seemed like a good idea.

    How well equipt do you feel at homeschooling your kids around the world? That sounds challenging to me, and I am not sure how good I would be at it. Have you looked into it yet?

    Hope you are enjoying the mission work! Can’t wait to hear about it.

    TPP

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  • I miss Tom, I really enjoyed his site. Glad he’s doing well!

    You finished residency in 2016? Is that a typo?

    I’ll have to check out that book and maybe implement the 3 jar system as well.

  • I always wondered what happened to HIP. Happy to hear he’s doing well and about to / already on his next big adventure!

    Love your quote about uncoupling your income and spending. It works really well, unless your spending is more than your income 😉

    -WSP

  • Hmm… was the sandwich called “McFrugal”? I hope not, because if that’s the case, the Swedish McDonalds might sue me…

    In all seriousness, great interview. I like how you approach handling money with your kids. They are set for life. And we plan to do something similar to our kids too.

    I’m glad Tom is doing fine. (Or better than fine since he’s living a cool life on a sailboat now.). Too bad his site is no longer up for people to peruse. It was so good!

  • H

    Love the 3 jars. Do you give them percentages they have to put in “spend”, “give” and “save” jars? Do you put the 1% interest for the money they have with the bank of mom & dad in their “save” jar?

    What do your kids and wife do while on the medical missions trip? We’d like to do something similar when our youngest is older (currently they are 9, 7, 5, 3 yo so not sure how much ‘help’ they’d on a missions trip).

    We homeschooled our 4 this year but will enroll our oldest in a few online classes next year since we think he’ll do better with a teacher who isn’t his mom.

  • GasFIRE

    Your favorite part of the job is having the last case of the day cancel and going home early? Funny but so very true.

    • Thanks! I thought I might take some heat for that nugget of truth, but the anesthesiologist that prefers a case added on to the schedule as opposed to taken off is a rare breed.

      I rarely cancel a case unless there’s a very good medical reason. It’s the no-shows or patients calling in sick or not yet medically stable that tend to reshape the schedule.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Great interview! I am glad to know you better, especially as a fellow parent.

    I’m also very happy to know Tom of HIP is doing well. I miss him.

  • I love the comment regarding to “ignore your income” when it comes to spending.

    That should be etched in stone on every paycheck.

    Also, I want to hear if your boys are STILL your life whenever they are teenagers! 😩

  • These days I’d be thrilled to RUN a half in 2:16, much less WALK one. That’s a mighty interesting factoid.

  • I love it!! Hi! I know you more now!!!

    “The two should be completely uncoupled.”

    So true…I know some guys that make good money being in the construction game in Seattle (it’s booming here) but they save none of it. They claim they do but the real numbers are like…2%, which isn’t considered saving for me.

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  • Gasem

    We home schooled all the way through except my youngest wanted to try high school so she went her senior year. I wrote about our experience over on crispydoc.com as sort of a primer and proof of concept for families who might be considering Home School

    I recommend!

  • Gasem

    I can just imagine you swivel hipping your way to recovery STAT! Wouldn’t want to mess with your momentum.

    Good read

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