Christopher Guest Post: J.L. Collins
Welcome 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’m excited to bring you
the one and only one of several men named Jim Collins. This particular Jim Collins might be better known to some of you as J.L. Collins, the author of The Simple Path to Wealth and the popular personal finance blog jlcollinsnh.com known for its witticisms and stock series, among other things.
This summer, I jumped at the opportunity to meet the star of page and screen* while he was sorta, kinda in my neck of the woods. Mr. & Mr. 1500 were going to be visiting Mr. & Mrs. Collins at a lake home along the shores of Lake Michigan, and I was invited to meet up if I was in the area.
I wasn’t in the area. But I do have a car. One Saturday morning this summer, I woke up very early, drove a couple hours, met up with a friend, started a Tough Mudder, dislocated my shoulder, dislocated my shoulder again, and then again, finished the race, and drove a few hours east to Shamba.
Mr. and Mrs. Collins were very welcoming and generous, and the 1500s were as entertaining in real life as you might guess from their written words. We shared a couple great meals, a few tasty beers (to ease my pain), and swapped stories. I was impressed hearing about a youthful Jim’s bicycle ride around Lake Michigan, and I laughed when he told us about the Australian podcaster who canceled their interview when he found out JL was not the other Jim Collins.
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.
To see past guests’ interviews, check out the archive. But not until you’ve read what the good J.L. Collins has to say.
Presenting: J.L. Collins
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?
I spent most of my career in the magazine business, starting in sales and then as a publisher. The best part was entertaining customers. One of my colleagues described it this way: “My job is to go out and have fun with my friends.”
Now I’m retired and write my blog. The best part of that is when people tell me how I’ve changed their lives and that they left their soul-crushing job and are now FI or well on their way because of me.
By far the most gratifying work I’ve ever done.
Lowest paying, too. I made more as a busboy when I was 13.
The type of physician I’d be, in the unlikely event I were to be one, would be a lousy one.
I have a phobia about sicknesses and believe knowing about and talking about them brings them into your life. At my age, more and more people seem to love to talk about their infirmities. I don’t want to talk about mine and I sure as hell don’t want to hear about yours.
Maybe not the right bedside manner.
If I had to be in the medical field, being an anesthesiologist might be OK. I understand those guys make huge bucks and don’t have to be very bright. Plus they don’t get blood all over themselves, right?
[PoF: Oh, I’m sure you would have made a fine physician, but a lousy anesthesiologist, possessing far too much intellect for that job.
I don’t want to hear about your infirmities, whatever that word means, because I don’t want you to have any. Unless those are good things. In that case, I would like you to have lots and lots of infirmities.]
Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
My blog is mostly about whatever interests me and that is usually investing and travel and some otherwise odd stuff. Pretty much in that order. It is most famous for The Stock Series which helps folks understand how to invest effectively and reach FI that much sooner.
But no physician should ever read it, and if you are one don’t click on any links. This means YOU. Stop that right now.
I’m not getting any younger and soon am going to need as many doctors out there working as possible.
Sorry that’s only seven, now eight, sentences. Maybe I should seek medical assistance?
[PoF: I’ll give you a pass. Levity aside, I do sometimes question how wise it is to give my fellow physicians the tools they need to retire before the day that I will need them. Fortunately, this blog reaches a small subset of them. Also, you want the doctor that is working by choice, not the one who is only working to pay three mortgages, two alimonies, and one whole life policy.]
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 all started when I managed to completely turn my daughter off to all things financial. Who knew young kids wouldn’t love being relentlessly lectured on savings rates, investing and the 4% rule from the crib thru high school?
Once she reached the age when she could just refuse to listen, I resorted to writing a series of letters on financial stuff to her in case, you know, she might be interested after I’m dead.
I shared these with a colleague who said other friends and family might be interested and he suggested I put them on a blog. This seemed a great way to archive them.
While, of course, I had heard of blogs before I had never actually seen one. I joke, but it is true, the first blog post I ever read was the first one I ever wrote.
This was in the spring of 2011. This also explains the boring title of my blog.
I wanted those friends and family to know it was me. All the variations of my name were taken until I added the NH (New Hampshire) at the end. Voila: jlcollinsnh.com
Had I any idea it would grow into the international audience it now enjoys, I might have come up with a cool title like “Physician on FIRE”
Might not have, too.
So, really, it is just written for my daughter. The stuff I want her to know about; what has worked for me and what has kicked me in the a**. I’m still stunned anyone else cares, but I’m delighted to have them along for the ride.
Except doctors. Doctors need to keep working. I’m gonna need doctors. Probably lots.
As for future plans, keeping in mind I’ve been doing this for 5.5 years now, read this (one of my first): My short attention span
[PoF: I somehow got away without a single reading of ‘Puppy Too Small’. We were more of a ‘Poky Little Puppy‘ Family.
I hope my boys read my own blog someday. Or yours. That would probably be better. I hope you keep it going for a long time.]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
Well, no physician should read any of these. Just boring financial stuff that can only lead to FI. Not the inspiring work doctors already do tending to cranky old geezers like soon-to-be-me.
But for those I don’t need as I age…
- Mr. Money Mustache
- Why you need F-you money
- How I failed my daughter and a simple path to wealth
- What we own and why we own it
- Why I can’t pick winning stocks, and you can’t either
- You, too, can be conned
- How to Give Like a Billionaire
- I could not have said it better myself…
- Plus the 30 here: Stock Series
Bonus for those who might need it: Stocks — Part XXVIII: Debt — The Unacceptable Burden
*Yes, star of screen. Note: This video starring J.L.C. borrows colorful language from The Gambler.
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?
For me it was never about retirement, as I describe in that guest post I wrote for Mr. Money Mustache
It was about having F-You money, which to me is enough to step away from any job any time for any reason.
I liked my career and I liked working. I just didn’t like doing it all the time. F-You money allowed me to take several private sabbaticals along the way. The shortest was ~3 months. The longest ~5 years.
I only “retired” in 2011 at 60. By then I had been FI for 22 years. So, a long but not very scary transition.
But back in 1989 I didn’t have even the concept of FI. I’d never heard the term and wouldn’t actually until after I began blogging.
About three years into that 5-year work break something interesting happened.
During this time, my wife had also quit her job and our daughter was born. (Such things happen when you’ve got time on your hands)
[PoF: Tell us more, Jim. How, exactly, do these things happen? ;)]
I was reviewing our expenses and investments and I noticed something interesting. For the three years to that point we had no earned income, we were paying our bills as usual and we’d made no change in our lifestyle. Yet at the end of each year our net worth was greater than the year before.
I knew something remarkable had happened, but I had no idea what to call it or even that it could have been a goal.
Embarrassingly, it never occurred to me that this also meant I never had to work again. Possibly because I was looking forward to the next gig, but mostly because I was wandering blindly thru the wilderness.
As for when I officially “retired,” I thought I had hung it up for good in 2002 after the tech crash and 9/11 cratered the best company I’d ever worked for and the best job I’d ever had. I mourned that loss and figured the universe was telling me I was done.
But then in 2005 a long time friend, a guy who had worked for me in the 1980s, lured me back in to work for him.
He was the best boss I’ve ever had and I enjoyed the team he’d put together and our customers. But the company was the absolute pits.
After six years (5.99 years too many) I said, “Joe, I love you but I just can’t do this anymore.” I don’t think he believed me.
Six months later I said, “No. Really. You gotta find my replacement.”
We were on the way to a fine wine soaked dinner with clients at a first class restaurant, always great fun.
He said, “You know you’re going to miss this!”
“You’re probably right,” I said.
We were both wrong.
[PoF: You’ve got a great story. Like you, I haven’t always been as financially savvy as I might be now. I feel quite fortunate to have discovered the term “financial independence” right around the time I had attained it. It might have been a long slog if I had made it a singular goal from career day one, even if I might have hit the goal a year or two earlier.]
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?
I’m pretty much living it.
I have my blog, I’ve written my book and I have our annual Chautauquas ( where I get to go to a cool place in Ecuador and hang out with cool people talking about interesting things.)
Here’s what our 2017 is looking like:
January thru March we’ll be traveling to the Philippines, making stops in Hawaii and Guam on the way there and around SE Asia once we are in the area. Details are up in the air. We might return thru the middle East and Europe, but most likely back the way we came.
Spring/Summer we hope to get back to Shamba, our in-laws’ beach house on Lake Michigan in WI for a month or so.
August we’ll be in the UK and possibly over to France.
At the end of August when our lease expires, we plan to give up the apartment, put our stuff in storage, load up the jalopy and hit the road to try hotel living around the US for a year or so. Partially scouting the next place we might live; mostly visiting all the friends we’ve been promising to visit these last few years.
In late October/Nov we’ll head back to Ecuador for the Chautauquas.
I just need my health to hold up. Know any good doctors?
[PoF: It depends on what your definition of “good” is. But even if I do, it’s up to you to follow through and take care of yourself.
And, yes, I would say you are living an ideal retirement. World travel. Exploration. Following through on promises to visit friends. Remember, you’ve got a friend Up North!]
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.
Keep working. Focus on geriatrics.
You need a far bigger house and far fancier cars. A little later a divorce from your starter wife followed by some serial trophy wives will help keep you working. Plus they’ll happily take over the continued acceleration of your spending so, now that it routinely outstrips your income, you can focus on new and more sources of credit to keep it going.
Other than that, let’s see…
The blog is filled with financial stuff, so I’ll let those readers interested in FI hit up some of the posts I suggested above.
A couple of those also talk about being a better human and avoiding those who are not, for those interested.
But none of that’s for you. You’re a young doctor and I need you to keep working just in case. So…
Be sure you don’t just keep up with the Joneses, but you leave them in the dust! You’re a Doctor, after all.
[PoF: You do realize, Jim, that you will only need a handful of doctors. Not all of the doctors. I don’t think I’ve ever typed the acronym LOL on this site before, but I did actually LOL as I read your answers. I wasn’t ROTFLMAO, but I wan’t far from it, either.]
Here’s a bit of child raising theory:
Our daughter is now 24 and in the Peace Corp. Since she was little until this day, people have praised her and, in the process, us for having raised her so well. But my take is a little different. I think the best thing we did is to stay out of her way and let her run.
I’ve come to believe that parents have very little ability to favorably influence their kids. However, they have an almost endless ability to screw them up and frequently they do so in their efforts to favorably influence them. Use a light touch.
Here’s a technique that worked for us.
One of my great pet peeves is parents unable to control their children in public places. This has gotten so bad that it is now considered normal and the rest of us should just accept it. It is not and we shouldn’t.
We travel a lot. She’s been all over the world, has lived on three continents and speaks three languages (Chinese is next). We started when she was young and such travel means lots of public places. I was determined that my kid was not going to be one of those kids.
Our first trip with her was when she was a babe in arms and so not an issue. The second was planned for when she’d be 18 months, and that was the real test.
In preparation I set up a crib in our living room, around the corner and out of sight from where we sat down to eat.
Here’s what we did, and note that this was all done with a happy tone of voice and not a cross word to be heard.
When she would start to fuss or bang stuff at the table or otherwise engage in objectionable behavior, I’d turn to her and say in that happy tone, “Oh, do you want to go to your crib?”
At first she didn’t understand what I was saying, but she’d smile back and nod her little head. I’d pick her up and, smiling and happy, take her to the crib, set her down and start back to the table.
Of course, this was not at all what she wanted and she’d start to sniffle and begin to cry. I’d immediately stop and return. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did you want to be with us?” She’d nod her little head and I’d pick her up and carry her back. The tears would dry and her smiles return.
The next time she fussed or banged stuff at the table or otherwise engaged in objection behavior, I’d do it again, still in my happy tone, “Oh, do you want to go to your crib?”
It didn’t take long for her to figure out some behaviors meant she wanted to be with us and others meant she wanted to be alone. Not good or bad. Sociable or not sociable. Never took a raised voice, a harsh word or even a disapproving look, let alone the endless, empty threats the few parents I see even try, use and fail with.
[PoF: Great advice, Jim. Many of us young-ish doctors are also parents of young children. We do our best not to overindulge ours, but like you, want them to grow up and be “worldly” or something along those lines.
Some of our potential plans in early retirement include living in New Zealand and/or Australia for a year or two, perhaps a year in a Spanish speaking country, and a nationwide motorhome tour. Our international travels begin this spring with a trip to Paris and Reykjavik. Shhhh… the boys don’t know it yet.]
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?
[PoF: Hypothetically, yes.
Let’s see, a thousand bucks a day, eh?
It has been a long time since I’ve been to London and I’ll bet I could run thru a grand a day there no problem. Even with the Pound in the tank.
I’d wander the streets, stop for afternoon tea and spend the evenings at fine restaurants and shows.
“When you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.” Samuel Johnson said that, or something close to it, back in the day. It’d be fun to see if it still holds true.
Oh, BTW, can you tell me just when to expect this check of yours?
[PoF: If this post sells 33,000 copies of The Poky Little Puppy, I’ll take you & the Mrs. to London on our Amazon Affiliate riches.]
Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
At this point I seem to be losing my taste for a lot of things, but these three are critical: Wine, water and coffee. Not necessarily in that order. Coffee.
Vodka, ice cold and served up with a couple of olives, still works for me. As does the occasional beer. But beer has gotten so fancy I hardly know how to order it anymore.
[PoF: I can help with that.]
Brandy late in the evening is very nice once in awhile.
Diet coke and 7-up used to appeal to me more than they do these days. Now I’m more likely to drink cranberry juice with breakfast. I dilute it so I can drink a lot.
Ice tea in the summer, hot tea on the rare occasion when I’m in the mood. (Better work on that for when your check arrives and I head off to London…)
OK, that’s eleven if you count hot and iced tea as separate beverages which as clearly to any reasonable person they are.
Now, eleven foods.
I like most any kind of food short of fired Tarantulas on a stick. Although I’m told they are delicious. Some things are better believed than tested.
Recently we’ve stared eating more vegetarian meals, mostly because my wife found some really great recipes. It might be healthier too, just in case all these young doctors start reading my blog and retire early, becoming unavailable to me and I have to take care of my own health. God forbid.
We had a veggie stew tonight that is just fabulous. Not sure what all is in it (I seem to spoon up a different vegetable every time) or how it’s spiced, but it is really good. She also makes a sort of paste/spread from avocados and black beans and other stuff that is outstanding. Had that on toast for breakfast this morning.
She makes a very simple salmon with veggies that might be my current favorite. She also makes a very simple chicken, also with veggies. Other top dishes: Her lamb curry, beef stroganoff, Greek chicken.
I like a good steak on occasion and on the rare occasion I cook, I can make a mean chili.
Sushi we love, but have to go out for.
I like all kinds of fruit and nuts, especially oranges, cashews and almonds.
Guess that’s over eleven. Screw it. Both teas are the same and I’m using that extra slot here.
[PoF: I can attest to your wife’s cooking — most excellent. With that diet, you may not need much from the doctors for awhile. You certainly won’t need all of us, no how many Turtles you eat.]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
When Mr. 1500 Days brought you to the Shamba beach house in WI last summer for a visit. We’ve been friends ever since.
Advice? For you? Seek out a better class of friends.
[PoF: I see what you did there.]
And treatment for this obsession with the number 11 you have.
[PoF: Well, that was fun! This was the second time I’ve featured a blogger that I’ve met in person first, and I think the familiarity comes through in the writing. I hope to have more interviews of a similar nature for you in the future.
Did you hear that JLC received a recent e-mail from The John Bogle of Vanguard fame? It’s true. He wrote about it. I would, too.
Share your comments below, and since Mr. Collins doesn’t bother much with social media, please do us a favor and share his interview via Facebook, Twitter, or whatever it is the kids are into these days. Cheers!]
Interested in hearing how other top personal finance blogger have answered these questions? Check out the following Christopher Guest Posts:
- Dads Dollars Debts
- Full Time Finance
- Gen Y Finance Guy
- Get Money Got Money
- Mr. Tako Escapes
- My Money Wizard
- Senior Resident
- Big Law Investor
- Ten Factorial Rocks
- Family Money Plan
- My Money Wizard
- ESI Money
- The Green Swan
- Smart Money MD
- The Retirement Manifesto
- J.L. Collins
- Johnny K. Johnson
- Early Retirement Now!
- Son of a Doctor
- The Happy Philosopher
- Future Proof MD
- Dr. Wise Money
- The White Coat Investor
- Mr. 1500 of 1500 Days