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Five Financial and Five Non-Financial Lessons Learned From Our Family Doctor

papas queso gorditas

We are departing from our regularly scheduled program to bring you a guest post on Tuesday. Fear not, you will see a post from me on Thursday, and the reason for the swap will be clear.

Tina and Max of 99to1percent.com are a pair that started from scratch as immigrants and built a net worth of about $2 Million. Today, they share some of the lessons they gleaned from the Family Doctor that helped them get to where they are today.


Five Financial and Five Non-Financial Lessons Learned From Our Family Doctor


Hi guys, PoF (PhysicianOnFire) has been good to us from the time we started blogging when he included our story in his Sunday Best. And now, he has done it again by giving us a great opportunity to guest post for him.

But as it turns out, PoF is not the only good doctor out there. There are plenty more. One in particular that I will forever be grateful to is our first family doctor that we had once we arrived to Canada.

We immigrated to Canada as broke, poor immigrants, and we put ourselves through school, worked 2-3 jobs at the same time, barely had food to eat, lived in not-so-safe neighborhood surrounded by alcoholics, gang members, gamblers, prostitutes, drug dealers/users,…

But were able to overcome the challenges, graduate college, and lead successful careers that now bring in about $400,000K+/year.

One of the four individuals that helped us achieve all of this, was our family doctor. We will call him the good doctor.

In Canada, we have free health care but sometimes, it can be difficult to get a doctor depending on the area.

I remember running around trying to get a family doctor and we had trouble getting one until we reached his office. At first, his secretary refused to register us saying that they were no longer accepting new patients, but for some reason, the doctor came out of his office to tell her to accept us.

From then on, we became very good friends with the doctor, and he eventually became my sister’s Godfather and an amazing mentor to both of us.

He gave us some good guidance throughout our high school, college and professional lives until he retired and moved away.

Here is some financial and non-financial advice he gave us.



Top 5 Financial Lessons from Our Family Doctor


1) Treat your patients / clients like Royalty.


The good doctor treated his patients like royalty no matter what their background was. Whether they were rich or poor, Canadian or new immigrants, successful professionals or students…

He took his time to make sure each patient was heard which sometimes caused a delay but people still lined up from 6 am, just so they can get a chance to see him for the day.

We have used this advice throughout our adult professional lives whether we are dealing with our 9-5 jobs’ internal and external clients, our side gigs’ clients, or our blog readers.

For example, recently one of our blog readers asked us a question about his career, and that same weekend we published a 2,500+ word blog post to help him out.


2) Pay it forward.


We also learned from him that you should pay it forward and help those in need.

As an immigrant, you will hear a lot of negativity such as:

  • The system is rigged against new immigrants
  • The only jobs you can get are cleaning or taxi driving
  • You can’t find a job if you don’t have Canadian education
  • You can’t find a job if you don’t have Canadian experience
  • You can’t find a job if you don’t have Canadian references

Thus, it can be difficult for newcomers to get ahead especially if you hang out with the wrong/negative crowd. Thus we made sure to surround ourselves with only positive people.

The good doctor volunteered to give us references attesting to our good characters and I was able to use that reference letter for my first few jobs in Canada.

Some of the ways we try to pay it forward:

  • Mentoring colleagues, friends and new immigrants
  • Preparing taxes for free for low income/new immigrants
  • Providing tuition to a few low-income students and helping their families with a few basic necessities
  • Helping with medical costs for families in need
  • A lifelong dream of setting up school(s) for kids, especially underprivileged kids. We tried to start the project this past spring, but we realized how expensive and time consuming it was, especially dealing with government bylaws and bureaucracies.

We ended up wasting thousands of dollars for nothing, and thus, the project has been suspended until we FIRE and have enough money and time to manage the project.

  • More recently, helping and encouraging newer bloggers by leaving them comments and/or subscribing to their newsletters, or using their affiliate links.

We remember how ecstatic and encouraged we were when we got the first comment and the first subscriber. Thus, we make sure to provide other new bloggers with the opportunity to experience the same.


3) Avoid student loans as much as you can.


Multiple degrees hanged on one of the good doctor’s office walls. He told us how his true passion was education and how he was forced to stop studying at 35 years old and start working because of his huge student loans.

He told us to try everything to make sure we limit how much student loans we take on. It is with this advice that I started hunting for scholarships, and was able to score one. With a part-time job, I was able to limit my student loans to $40,000 which I paid off before graduating.

It is because of his advice and his reference letter that I was able to get some Canadian experience and eventually land a full-time job one year before graduating college.

It was an entry-level accounting job that paid only $40,000 a year. However, even though I was still attending school full-time during evening and weekends, I did a lot of overtime, and brought home about $70,000. Because of that, I was able to pay off my $40,000 student loans within a year just before graduation.

[PoF: Bogged down by student loans? Check out The Student Loan Resource Page]


4) Live the frugal life and avoid lifestyle inflation.


The good doctor had his own practice and patients lining up to come to see him. He made good money but he valued experiences, relationships, and not material things. He lived the frugal life.

  • He wore the same khaki pants and blue shirt on most days.
  • He drove a rusty 20+ year old car
  • He had a small house even though he could afford a bigger, nicer house.

We have been able to follow his advice by living on only 15% of our income.


5) FIRE and Geo-arbitrage


The good doctor was able to FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) and took advantage of geo-arbitrage by moving to Portugal.

He worked in Toronto where he could earn a good salary as a doctor, but once he FIREd, he sold his very small but expensive house in Toronto, and moved and bought a house in Portugal in the countryside where both real estate and life are generally much cheaper.


Top 5 Non-Financial Lessons


1) Embracing different cultures and diversity


The good doctor taught us to embrace different cultures and diversity. For example, when introducing us to Canada, he took us to all types of cultural events whether it was the Toronto Greek taste of Danforth, or the Toronto Taste of Little Italy.


2) Be a foodie.


As a foodie, he also took us different types of restaurants such as Canadian, Portuguese, Italian Ethiopian, sea-food restaurants and more.

I ended up picking up the habit and fortunately, my husband is a foodie too and part of the reason we love to travel is to be able to experience the real authentic local food.


papas queso gorditas
gorditas con papas y queso, guanajuato


3) Always eat your veggies; you never know who’s watching.


The first time he took my sister and me out for lunch, he took us to a Portuguese restaurant. He recommended we get the Portuguese grilled chicken and a salad. Have you ever tested the Portuguese grilled chicken? It is so yummy.

My sister and I devoured the chicken but barely touched the salad. We only ate the avocados.

We parted ways and headed home. As soon as we got home, our mom gave us a very long lecture. Apparently, the doctor had called our mom and told her how we did not touch our salads. Whatever happened to patient-doctor privilege and confidentiality? 🙂


4) Honesty is very important.


After I found the full-time job when still had a year of full-time studies, I found myself struggling to keep up with my education.

A couple of times, I tried to get him to write me a doctor’s note so I can take time off to study for my exams, but he always refused. Typically, other doctors I knew would write the notes without a problem for $20 / note.

Instead, he would challenge me to find ways to manage. I had to learn to stop procrastinating and studying at the last time. I learned to manage my study time a little bit better.



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5) Never marry a doctor?


I left the most controversial lesson for last. The good doctor used to talk a lot about how his wife was lonely, because he worked long hours, Monday to Saturday.

His wife used to be a nurse but had to quit so that she can take care of the household since he was practically never home. He would tell us never to marry a doctor.

I would say this is probably the only advice we did not agree with. Instead, we decided to follow our hearts.

For example, even though my sister did not marry a doctor, she ended up marrying someone who is sometimes gone for 2-3 weeks at a time, but then he’s home for another week or so.

As for me, I ended up marrying a programmer who works from home in his pajamas, and I get to see him every morning when I wake up and every evening when I come home.

While I’m commuting 3 hours a day (1.5 hrs each way), he is able to get Baby 99to1percent ready for daycare, feed her, drop her off, pick her up and feed her again.

When we do work long hours, it is usually from home, sitting next to each other and chatting it up. I do consider myself lucky.


I've got my 2 acres of non-leveraged, crop-producing, cashflowing farmland via AcreTrader. Get yours.


There you have it, guys; those are top 5 financial and non-financial lessons I learned from the good doctor and I will forever be grateful to him.

How about you? What financial lessons or non-financial lessons you have learned from your doctor or anybody else who has been key to your success?

PoF: And be sure to visit 99 to 1 percent to learn more about this power couple.


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23 thoughts on “Five Financial and Five Non-Financial Lessons Learned From Our Family Doctor”

  1. Pingback: Financial Advice for “Low-Income” Doctors - DrDons 'Selected News You Can Use' Media
  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. I think that you should treat all your clients and those that part with their hard earned money like royalty. Even if it is only a small sum. I always remember how people make me feel. The ones that make me feel bad I run the other way. Trust your instincts. Whether it is relationships or finances because usually the first response is the correct one.


  4. Does this Doctor have a name? Would you like to acknowledge them publicly? How many other patient families they helped like this?

    • He prefers to keep his privacy and we also blog anonymously. We will give an update should things change in the future. Thanks

  5. I have found that there are always good people willing to help. I have received so much help throughout the years: the attending that got me an observershio program, the family member that let me stay with her for a month when I arrived to the country, the friend that would leave everything to help you out, the blogger who would answer your questions in 24 hrs, the mentor who taught me about lab research, etc.

    Definitely paying it forward is an opportunity not to be missed. Repeatedly studies have shown that by serving others you achieve certain level of happiness.

    Thanks for sharing

  6. Nice post! Finding a great doctor in Canada who is accepting new patients is quite a challenge. When we moved to Canada, the only practice accepting new patients was 45 minutes away.

    It’s awesome that you found not only a great doctor, but a wonderful friend who has so positively impacted your life!

    • 45 min? Oh wow

      Thankfully, it’s easier now to find a doctor where we live. It’s a new(ish) suburb that’s attracting young families and doctors.

      There are medical offices everywhere, and new ones being built. It’s amazing.

  7. You never know who’s going to impact your life. Love how you brought the story back to fire. Very few people have montors like this. Thanks for sharing.

  8. “Instead, we decided to follow our hearts.” <– This! Leaving (or never pursuing) a relationship just because of someone's career seems silly to me. Same with hobbies, level of education, age, upbringing, etc. Let dishonestly, distrust, religious beliefs, and desire for children be the potential deal breakers.

    • I agree. Following your heart, having a few things in common, and making sure you are on the same page when it comes to those deal breakers; is what makes love/marriage last.

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  10. People who are doctors are doing a great deed. Yes, they get paid a lot, but that comes with a lot of responsibility. In addition, there’s a lot of pressure and stress – I can’t imagine working on people’s body parts with the possibility something would go wrong…

    Thanks for sharing PoF and 99to1 couple.

  11. Great post. I wonder how the doc us doing in Portugal these days.
    The fact that he was kind enough to take time and interest in a family new to a nation is incredible and important. Helping your family navigate the system is something anyone new to a country could really use.

  12. I think paying it forward is so important. I can remember to this day the times this happened in my life. An attending physician letting me stay at him and his wife’s house for a month so I could shadow him during undergrad. The same attending buying me a suit for residency interviews. When one of my future colleagues bought me the nicest Scotch I’ve ever had when my first randomized control trial was accepted for publication.

    It is easy to get to where you are and to not look back and help those who are coming behind you. Just as it is easy to forget to live the frugal life once you’ve attained access to monthly income you have waited 7 to 10 years to see. You feel like you’ve earned it.

    It seems like the overriding principle that family doctor taught you was “stay humble” and “be kind to others,” which translated to his many lessons. He thought of others first and gave a helping hand to those in need.

    Good post and a good reminder of how wealth isn’t everything and that a good perspective towards others mends the soul!

    • Looks like you were very blessed with some awesome people in your life too. And yes, helping others mends the soul.


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