Just start investing, Kevin says. Is it really that simple?
Start by starting. I hear our friend The Physician Philosopher say this all the time, and I think that’s such a great line. Sometimes, no matter the endeavor, the best way to start is by doing just that… starting. Once you’re under way, you can often figure things out as you go.
When it comes to investing, it helps to have a little bit of background knowledge first, but if you wait to invest until you know everything you think you’ll need to know to get it just right, you’ll have lost valuable time. And when investing, time is money.
You may recognize today’s “Christopher Guest” from a guest post published here in 2019 discussing the cost to the investor of varying expense ratios. When you just start investing, keep in mind The Long-Term Cost of Investing in the Wrong Index Fund.
Christopher Guest Post: Just Start Investing
What in the world is 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.
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 work in marketing full time, and run the website Just Start Investing on the side. My favorite thing about both jobs is that they require me to be entrepreneurial. Specifically, with Just Start Investing, being the sole owner of the company is rewarding.
It’s a lot of work, but when I get a nice email from a reader or see pageviews go up in Google Analytics, it makes the work worth it for me. I like to see the direct cause and effect of my actions.
Honestly, I don’t think I have what it takes to be a physician! I think I’m too squeamish. But, if I was to be one, it would probably be a primary care or a family physician. Health is extremely important to me (I guess it is to everyone…), and helping people stay healthy and active in their everyday life is something I can get behind.
[PoF: We could use more primary care physicians, but it sounds like you’ve got more than enough on your plate!
I imagine the marketing background helps out with growing the blog and the business behind it. I’ve learned that there’s a lot of marketing that goes into a blog — much more than I realized when I started.]
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Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
You cannot be an expert on everything. Becoming a physician takes a lot of work, but you probably don’t me to tell you that. So if you are a physician, and spent hours and hours of your life working to become one, you don’t also have to spend countless hours becoming an expert in personal finance.
Frankly, you might not even have the time to do it. The goal of Just Start Investing is to make personal finance, specifically investing, easy.
To start investing, you don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to learn how to short stocks or trade commodities. You don’t even have to hire an expensive wealth advisor. You just have to learn the few basic steps to get started, the smart way.
That is what I try to do at Just Start Investing – provide enough information for you to start on your own, but too much information that you get discouraged or confused. Plus, I don’t just stop at investing. I also provide information across budgeting, credit cards, banking, making money, and of course, how investing can help you reach FIRE.
[PoF: I don’t have to learn how to short stocks or trade commodities, but do I need to learn how to short commodities? 😉
Keeping it simple is not only an easy way to invest, but it’s often the most effective. I like to tell people that a three fund portfolio is a great place to start and a fine place to stay.]
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?
There were two very specific reasons I decided to start Just Start Investing.
The first reason popped up when I was trying to find my next credit card. I was attempting to find a calculator or tool that would tell me what card would provide me with the most points or cash back based on my spending habits. I stumbled across the Nerdwallet calculator and a few others, but they were all too qualitative and focused on secondary perks that I didn’t care as much about (like the type of points I would earn).
I needed some cold, hard numbers on which card would pay me the most to use it. Period. And when I failed to find anything, I broke out excel and created my own tool. I entered the details of over 50 credit cards, punched in my spending details, and found the best credit card for me – the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
The credit card tool I built got shared with family and friends, and I started to think, maybe more people would benefit from this tool as well… Which brings me to my second reason for starting the site – I was consistently giving friends and family advice on credit cards, index investing, and other random personal finance topics.
I guess after a while I just realized that I loved researching and talking about personal finance and that I should potentially try to start a side business around it. I also used to have a food blog and knew how to set up a website, so I decided that would be a good place to start.
I spent a couple of months researching and writing the core pages of Just Start Investing and the site went live in January of 2019. Nearly 2 years later and I’m full steam ahead continuing to build more and more content for the site. My primary goal for the site is to keep growing. To keep reaching more and more people, hopefully providing them with the confidence to master their personal finances and set themselves up for a better financial future.
[PoF: You started last year?!? I could have sworn you’ve been around much longer. You’ve certainly made a big impact in under two years. Keep it going, full steam ahead!]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
I’ll start with two of the first posts I ever published on Just Start Investing:
- How to Invest in Index Funds – One of the first guides I ever wrote, it highlights how you can start investing in index funds on your own in just 5 steps
- Credit Card Tool – Where you can get the credit card tool that I created when starting Just Start Investing that finds the best card for you based on quantitative data (your past spending)
Here are nine others from the past two years that I’m proud of, in no particular order:
- When (and when not) to max out your 401(k) – Most high earners should be maxing out their 401(k), although there a few things to consider before doing so.
- 3 Fund Portfolios – This one made it onto the Boglehead forum, posted by Taylor Larimore himself! One of the bigger accomplishments of JSI to this point.
- How to Calculate Net Worth – I measure my net worth every month, although I don’t publish it publically. I think it’s an important metric to monitor, especially as you pursue FIRE.
- High Earner, Not Rich Yet (HENRY) – “HENRY” is a term I heard a few months ago, and it struck a chord with me, so I wrote a post on how to avoid becoming one.
- Rent vs Buy Calculator – I looked into renting vs buying a little while ago and built out a calculator to help me understand the financial implications of the decision.
- Rich vs Wealthy – In this article, I dive into the exciting lives of “Pro Athlete Andy” and “Working-Class Carol” to better understand how to successfully build wealth.
- Types of Bonds – Fair warning, not my most exciting article, but other investing nerds like me might enjoy learning a bit more about bonds. To be honest, I knew next to nothing before researching and writing this article.
- How to be Fiscally Responsible – Being fiscally responsible isn’t just for governments, and I wrote a guide on the 10 steps you can take to be a more fiscally responsible person.
- Advantages of Credit Cards – The ultimate anti-Dave Ramsey post, I wrote an entire article on why I love credit cards.
[PoF: Good stuff! I know that those credit card referrals can be lucrative (and some pay us maybe $10). I’ve got a dedicated credit card page and maybe a half-dozen posts dedicated to the topic. I do like to remind my readers that half of the profits from those referral fees or any other income generated from my site are donated to charity.]
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?
Oh man, tough question. I don’t feel great with this answer, but here it is, I honestly don’t know. I have no current plans to retire, which probably isn’t a popular answer on a website that focuses on FIRE, but let me explain why this is still a FIRE-approved answer.
I’ve always been a big fan of the “financial independence” part of FIRE. I think that reaching financial independence provides a tremendous amount of flexibility and freedom, and that’s what I’m after. Once I reach that point, I’m in control of my future. I can retire, keep working, travel, take a new job, take more risks, or just spend more money!
To help me get to FI, I’m saving and investing aggressively, but without sacrificing my current lifestyle. To give a little more detail, this is the VERY high-level formula I tend to follow when it comes to budgeting and saving:
- First, I max out my retirement accounts, or at least get very close to the max numbers. This applies to a 401(k), Roth IRA, and HSA.
- Next, I spend on things that bring me value.
- Then, I invest the leftover money in a brokerage account.
The key is in step 2 to only spend on things I value. I don’t budget a certain amount of money for wants and luxuries every month and spend no matter what to get there, I just spend on things that I know I’ll value more than their cost.
Plus, after doing this for more than a few years, I have a sense of how much I want to invest in step #3. If I feel myself spending a little too much in step #2, I pare it back.
[PoF: I followed a similar plan that looked a lot like your steps 1,2, and 3. I thought I would want to retire, but as this blog became a business, I realized I wasn’t necessarily ready to fully retire, either.
Hence, I retired from medicine and now maintain this quasi-retired state. Retired not retired, I like to say.
Best wishes on reaching your goals so you can do as you choose with the rest of your life!]
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?
Well, not surprisingly, the guy who doesn’t know when he will retire doesn’t have a firm plan for it either. Though, I do know two things:
- I want full control of my time
- I want to travel
Retirement will grant me the ability to work on projects I want to work on, or spend more time with family, or maybe just sleep a little more. No matter what I choose, I’ll be in control of my schedule.
I’m also hoping by the time I retire we’ll all be able to travel freely again! That’s an important and fun part of my life right now, and will certainly continue to be part of my life in retirement as well.
[PoF: The great thing about a blog is that you can travel as much as you like as long as you have internet, and that’s becoming just about everywhere in a hurry!
The bad thing about a pandemic is that you can’t safely travel anywhere, but it sounds like we’ll be well beyond this one before you retire. Whatever you do, try not to retire 6 months before the worst pandemic in a century. I really, really don’t recommend it. At all.]
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.
First, some quick money advice – do a little bit of research and make a game plan. It doesn’t have to be a detailed, 10-page, Superbowl-worthy game plan, but you do need a plan. Since Just Start Investing is focused on money basics and making things easy, here are the five things you should look into first:
- Understand your Debt – specifically, if you have student loans, know your interest rates and have a plan to pay them off.
- Build an Emergency Fund – hopefully, you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll be thankful you have it.
- Have a General Sense of Your Budget – you don’t need to track every expense, but understanding how much you make, spend, and save is important.
- Invest and Retirement – you can’t retire without investing, so do some research and understand your options.
- Use Credit Cards – and use them responsibly, ensuring not to overspend while enjoying the points and cash back.
Like I said earlier, you don’t have to be an expert, but having some money knowledge can go a long way in making sure you are on the right track and not flying blind.
Second, in broader life, have empathy. Understanding other people’s points of view can not only make you a better human overall, but it can make you a better doctor and better with money.
[PoF: Well said, sir. Be a good human and things have a way of falling into place.]
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?
This is a fun one, and there are a lot of close seconds, including Iceland, Patagonia, Hawaii, and Italy. [PoF: I’ve been to all but Patagonia. It’s on our list, though.]
I’m going to go with Australia and New Zealand as my final answer. My wife and I have dreamed of this trip for a few years, and with an $11,000 budget, we can maybe even splurge for some first-class tickets on the long flight!
[PoF: And we were supposed to hit those two nations up on a trip we’re supposed to be on right now! I strongly considered working as an anesthesiologist in New Zealand, but then I figured I’d be much happier just spending time there without having to spend so much time in a hospital.]
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Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
I think I could comfortably get by in life by drinking just three – water, coffee, and beer. For the sake of turning this thing up to eleven though, here are all the beverages I enjoy:
- Water – big fan
- Coffee – I drink a cup of Botz coffee every morning (shout out to Danny who sources some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted)
- Beer – specifically, I like IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, lagers, and anything brewed by Half Acre
- Wine – some pinot noir when out to a nice dinner
- Tea – once in a while, I like a hot mug of tea
- Kombucha – I’m all in on this new trend
- Orange Juice – when in Florida
- Old Fashioned – although cocktails are crazy expensive in Chicago, sometimes I splurge for one
- Gatorade – a rare treat after a long hike, brings me back to childhood
- Diet Coke – if I’m desperate for some caffeine on a long road trip
- Smoothies – with some fresh fruit and almond milk
[PoF: Why not the Whole Acre? 😉 I kid! I love their Daisy Cutter and obviously the Double Daisy Cutter.
Kombucha? Not so much. I prefer my vinegar on a salad.]
Now, eleven foods.
This one will be a little easier for me!
- Pizza – specifically, my wife’s homemade pizza
- Pancakes and eggs – a weekend staple
- Burgers – a previous number 1 spot holder, has dropped in the power rankings, but still very much enjoyed
- Thai food – almost always opt with Pad See Ew
- Banana and crunchy peanut butter – an underrated combo, and yes, it has to be crunchy
- Turkey Club – a classic lunch
- Pulled Pork – or any good BBQ will do
- Dark Chocolate – it’s healthy, right?
- Ice Cream – with sprinkles on top
- Fresh Pita Bread and Hummus – from Ema and it’s even better
- Popcorn – with a movie
[PoF: You and Elvis with the peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I just don’t know if I could do it. I’m with you on the rest, though!]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
I think you were one of the first personal finance blogs I started to follow, right behind Mr. Money Mustache and My Money Wizard.
It’s hard to give advice to someone who is 10 steps ahead of where I’m at both with your website and in your professional career. Maybe… don’t forget about the little guy? I loved learning about You Be Three and John from Financial Freedom Countdown in this format, and appreciate you doing things like these interviews!
[PoF: Thanks for playing, Kevin. Here’s to getting everyone out there to Just Start Investing!]
- Just Start Investing
- Financial Success MD
- Making Sense of Cents
- You Be Three
- Financial Freedom Countdown
- Five Year FIRE Escape
- Montana Money Adventures
- Can I Retire Yet
- The Physician Philosopher
- Wealth Well Done
- Mad Fientist
- Financial Panther
- Route to Retire
- Mr. Crazy Kicks
- Miss Bonnie MD
- She Picks Up Pennies
- Go Curry Cracker
- Abandoned Cubicle
- Apathy Ends
- Root of Good
- Retire by 40
- Chief Mom Officer
- Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks
- Our Next Life
- Crispy Doc
- Distilled Dollar
- Coach Carson
- Think Save Retire
- Financially Alert
- Life of a Med Student
- The Wall Street Physician
- Dads Dollars Debts
- Full Time Finance
- From Cents to Retirement
- 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
Got a 12th question to ask? Look for the comment box below.