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Christopher Guest Post: Mad Fientist


It is my distinct pleasure to bring you a guest who has been a part of this online financial independence movement for a good long while, more than twice as long as I have, in fact. Physician on FIRE is in its fourth year, while Brandon has been writing and podcasting at Mad Fientist since 2012, and is now in year number eight.

That pretty much makes him an O.G. in this space along with people like Mr. Money Mustache, who was his first podcast guest, and prior Christopher Guest Post interviewee, Joe from Retire by 40.

I first met Brandon at the same event that I’ve met most other bloggers and podcasters in this personal finance space — at Fincon. We swapped stories at a beer share that ran a little bit late into the evening for some people, notably Brandon and his co-hosts for the next day’s podcast recording, Mr. & Mrs. 1500.

Fortunately, they all recovered in time, and I got to steal my 15 minutes of fame as a guest on the big show. It was a truncated episode, and I hope to record a full-length one sometime in the future, preferably in person in Scotland where he spends about half of his days, and preferably after I retire. That date is coming up quick!




Mad FientistWhat 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.



Christopher Guest Post: Mad Fientist


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?


I created the Mad Fientist back in February of 2012 for two reasons:

  1. I knew I could come up with strategies to help me (and others) reach financial independence sooner but I also knew that I’d need external motivation to do the necessary research so I figured having a blog would provide that motivation (it worked!)
  2. I started the Financial Independence Podcast at the same time because I wanted to talk to people who retired early to find out the strategies and tactics they used to do it.


My blog finally arrived when I started researching tax-avoidance strategies specifically for early retirees.

All the financial advice out there at the time assumed you’d work until you were 60+ so it didn’t really apply to people planning to retire early.

I dove into the tax code to come up with optimizations specifically for future early retirees and that research allowed me to show that Traditional IRAs are better than Roths, an HSA is actually the ultimate retirement account, and there are multiple ways to get your money out of retirement accounts before standard retirement age.

Those are the posts that brought topics like the Roth Conversion Ladder into the FI world and ultimately made my site popular.

As far as what’s next for the Mad Fientist, I plan to release more software to help people who are on the path to FI.

I’ve been building custom software for the Mad Fientist since the beginning (e.g. FI Laboratory, Credit-Card Search Tool for Travel Hackers, FI Spreadsheet, etc.) but I have an even bigger software project in mind that I’m hoping to start in 2019.


[PoF: Doing the math, I think you were barely 30 years old when you started the blog. That’s a ten-year head start on this guy who started Physician on FIRE at age 40. 

You are absolutely right about the importance of minimizing your tax burden, and there’s only so much one can do, particularly when you’re a W-2 wage earner in the upper income brackets. While it doesn’t help my bottom line, I’ve found that the most effective strategy for me is to donate a bunch. The new 20% QBI deduction should be valuable, as well.

I look forward to what you come up with for a new software tool to share with the world in 2019!]



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


  1. How to Optimize Your Journey to Financial Independence
  2. The New Tax Law and How It Impacts Your Early Retirement
  3. The Other Portfolio You Need to Focus On
  4. How to Get Your Spouse on Board with Early Retirement
  5. Mega Backdoor Roth
  6. Hierarchy of Financial Needs (and the Meaning of Life)
  7. Safe Withdrawal Rate for Early Retirees
  8. Why Everyone Should Have Their Own Business (and How to Guarantee Success)
  9. Section 199A – The Tax Break of the Century
  10. Unique Risk – Diversification
  11. How to Retire Early with 13 Kids


Those are all written posts but here are a few of my favorites from the Financial Independence Podcast:

  • Very first episode with Mr. Money Mustache back in 2012 (apologies for the sound quality back then)
  • Great interview with Michael Kitces that explores financial planning for early retirement
  • Fun episode I recorded with my brother next to a canal in Venice, Italy (he’s even crazier with money than I am)
  • PDF containing all the answers to the question that I ask every guest, “What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone on the path to financial independence?” – PDF Download


[PoF: The Mad Fientist is all about optimizing, and perusing these posts will help you fine tune you financial life. There are some real gems up there, and I’ve listened to each of the podcasts you’ve highlighted, as well.

The Kitces was one a great one to nerd out to. I was pumped to show up in his most recent weekend reading for a post I wrote on my favorite kind of wealth, stealth wealth.]


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


My blog focuses on strategies and tactics for achieving financial independence as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I like to dive into the math and numbers so I target a more advanced audience (definitely not FI 101).

Basically, I’m just writing for someone like me who is good at math, loves optimizing things as much as possible, and is interested in learning why something is optimal (rather than just taking someone else’s word for it).

I know that’s not eleven sentences but I hate self-promotion so I’d rather you just check out some of those links above and judge for yourself.


[PoF: A blogger and podcaster who hates self-promotion? That’s like a wide receiver who doesn’t want to be thrown the damn ball!

It’s taken me a good long while to get comfortable with the whole self-promotion aspect of blogging, but I’ve realized it is important, and it’s one of those things where the end justifies the means. 

If you want your message to be heard, and you want to reach more people to teach them about this magical thing called FI, you’ve got to promote.

The person you described who is a mathlete looking to optimize the value of his dollars is pretty much me to a T. It’s no wonder we get along so well. Well, it’s some combination of the math, good beer, and gangsta rap which provides the background ambience while I type this out.]


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.


  • Don’t put off happiness until you reach FI.
  • Money gives you a lot of power even before you hit FI so recognize the power you have and use it to make your life better.
  • Taxes are a huge piece of the money equation that most people seem to ignore so figure out how to pay the legal minimum.
  • Make sure you have something substantial lined up for after early retirement (if you’re a doctor, you probably enjoy working on difficult things so hobbies and leisure will only keep you happy for so long).
  • Fun things are more fun when preceded by something difficult (for example, laying on the couch feels so much better after a hard day in the gym and going on a nice beach vacation is a lot more enjoyable after working hard during the months leading up to it)
  • FI is the important part and RE is optional and should only be done if you’re very confident it’s the right move
  • Don’t blindly follow other people’s rules (e.g. why write 11 sentences when 7 will do 🙂 )


[PoF: Speaking of doing your own thing, I glanced at the post when Brandon was done and asked him to please answer the first two questions. It turns out he had; he just rearranged the order. We’ve had nearly 50 of these, and Brandon’s the first to take such artistic license and I commend him for it.

I like this concept: “Fun things are more fun when preceded by something difficult.” That’s probably why I enjoy spring and summer so much; it feels well-deserved. We’re definitely paying our dues this winter!] 


What do you do (or did you do) for a living? What do you like best about your job?


I was a professional software developer.

At my last job, I wrote web and mobile applications for an Ivy League college and played A LOT of ping pong.

Programming’s great because it allows you to work from anywhere, it’s challenging/rewarding, and it doesn’t force you to interact with the public (my wife is an optometrist and I hear a lot of stories so I feel for all the doctors out there).


[PoF: Man, I wish I could get paid to play ping pong. Foosball would do, too. 

Blogging has a lot in common with programming, but it can be a lot more social, like medicine. The best of both worlds in some ways. You’re still communicating with people and helping people, but you’re in control of what those interactions look like.]


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?


I’ll never stop working on things that interest me but I reached FI and retired from my full-time software career in 2016 at the age of 34.


[PoF: That’s a good answer. I need to have an answer to what I “do for a living,” and some form of “I work on things that interest me or excite me, but I retired from a career as an anesthesiologist” could work. 

The cool thing about FI is that you have the freedom to work on anything that piques your interest, and you can work as much or as little as you care to, or not at all. Now I have the conundrum of figuring out just what I want to be again when I grow up.]



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?


Surprisingly, it’s sticking to a routine.

Before I quit my job, I planned to travel full-time after FI. Every day would be different and exciting!

After trying that out though, I realized that I get much more lasting happiness from making progress on projects that are important to me. And the easiest way to do that is to get into a good routine.

So my ideal life is the one that I’m currently building where I have a good routine when I’m at home (e.g. I visit the gym regularly, work hard on creative projects, etc.) but then I also travel occasionally to do fun stuff and spend quality time with friends and family.


[PoF: I know from experience that children benefit from routine, and it’s not surprising that grownups do, too. I feel like routine is possible when slow traveling, but that remains to be seen for us.

Our vision is similar to the one you had, but even now, I’m realizing that we’ll probably live a hybrid between the vagabond world travelers’ lives we idealize and the more practical family with a home base to spend quality time at and launch from.]


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?


I’d fly to Japan, spend a few days eating my way through Tokyo, and then would head up to the mountains for some Japanese powder skiing.

I’d then use my frequent-flyer miles to book my favorite airline sweet spot of all time for the trip home (Asia to Middle East in business class for 40k AA miles, which I wrote about here – How to Travel Around the World for Less than $1,000).

Since you can have as many layovers as you want on this route (as long as they are less than 24 hours and don’t go too far out of the way), I’d stop in Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Doha to eat a lot of good food and maximize that amazing business class experience.

I’d then fly from the Middle East to Italy and would use the rest of the money/time to eat as much as possible in Italy before flying back to Scotland.



[PoF: Way to work those travel rewards! I’ve inadvertently ended up with a lengthy European layover that had me exploring Amsterdam for several hours on a Sunday morning.

I didn’t know about that amazing sweet spot with Aadvantage miles. We used some of those to fly my family of four to Honduras last year. A pretty sweet redemption worth over $3,000 from the miles earned as a welcome bonus on one card (by both my wife and me getting our own).


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


  • Water – I drink so much every day and Scottish tap water is super cold and delicious
  • Pour-Over Coffee – Making this every morning is one of my favorite parts of my daily routine.
  • Tea with Milk – Preferably made by my Scottish wife or her family (it just tastes better when they make it)
  • Red Wine – Oaky but not too dry
  • Scottish Whisky – The peatier, the better
  • New England IPAs – Preferably the OG…Alchemist Heady Topper
  • Stouts – It’s hard to beat a cold Guinness in a cozy pub
  • Sour Beers
  • Mojitos
  • Old Fashioneds
  • Sparkling water with lime – I usually only drink this on flights for some reason but it’s nice.


[PoF: When you say stouts, does that include bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts? I know you were loving the Surly barrel aged Surly Darkness late one night but maybe not so much the next day. There was some Wiley Roots involved, too, as I recall.

Another O.G. reference, and we’re not talking Original Gravity, which is a term used more often by homebrewers and maybe urologists.]


Now, eleven foods.


I love all food (besides puffin and whale, both of which I ate in Iceland and did not enjoy) so I’m going to have to list my favorite food countries:

  • Japan
  • Italy
  • Thailand
  • Hong Kong
  • Mexico
  • France
  • United States
  • Spain
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Peru


When I travel, all I’m concerned about is eating and drinking as much as I can. Sightseeing is just something to fill the time while I digest.


[Maybe puffin and whale are better when combined, kind of like John Madden’s turducken. Whaluffin. Or maybe Puffale. I’d pronounce it puff-olly. Sounds fancy. But who eats puffin? Did you also try the rotten shark in Reykjavik? 

You’ve eaten in more places than most people will ever set foot in. Strong work.]


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


I think Mr. and Mrs. 1500 from 1500days.com told me about PoF. They said, “You have to get this guy on your podcast!”

I took their advice and I invited both Mr. and Mrs. 1500 to co-host the show with me live at a financial conference.

Sadly, we were only given a 20-minute slot so it was a much shorter episode than normal. Also, Mr. 1500 and I were both ridiculously hungover from the beer party that happened the night before so it wasn’t exactly the smoothest interview ever (we recorded it at 3pm and I got a text from Mrs. 1500 at 2pm saying Mr. 1500 still wasn’t out of bed yet so she wasn’t sure it was going to happen, haha).

Despite all that, we still had a good time and Mrs. 1500 even performed a rap that she wrote so check it out here – Physician on FIRE – Geographic Arbitrage, Sunk Costs, and Gangsta Rap

As far as advice is concerned, the Notorious PoF is already killing it so what advice would you give me?!


[PoF: Turning the tables. Very clever.

I only wish you would post more often. We love hearing from you, whether it’s in a written or audio format. Otherwise, keep doing what you do, and I look forward to our paths crossing again soon!]


Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out additional Christopher Guest Posts from many of the top personal finance bloggers:



Ask a 12th question below or let the Mad Fientist know what’s on your mind. He’s already interviewed me and our radiologist friend The Happy Philosopher. Any requests for future guests on his financial independence podcast? 


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6 thoughts on “Christopher Guest Post: Mad Fientist”

  1. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  2. Mad FIentist was one of the first blogs that I read after hearing about MMM and learning about FI.

    All his posts are so thorough, easy to understand and well thought it.

    His trip around the world sounds awesome and fun!

    I can’t wait to see what his next project is!

  3. Brandon has been immensely helpful on my journey to FI. I didn’t realize I loved optimization so much before reading his posts and listening to his podcast. I don’t really care as much about FIRE now as I do having my life optimized. I would also recommend listening to his podcasts on reflections from his first few years of retirement

    As a physician I know I cant have the wondering freedom and flexibility a software engineer has, but having a routine and part time schedule sounds like a very good long term plan.

  4. Great interview with some posts that I haven’t come across yet but am definitely going to check out (why traditional IRA is better than a ROTH is one that has me intrigued as it is something that I thought would be the opposite as people try to do ROTH conversions to avoid RMD).

    It sounds like you have designed a post retirement life that is ideal, and I agree that it will be hard to sustain full time travel as your only post-retirement goal. Have to fill it in with something productive or we will start losing our mental acuity and have physical decline.

  5. Brandon is one smart guy. Some really solid advice here. Honestly, my favorite of it right now was when he said, “Don’t put off happiness until you reach FI.”

    That is SO important. I am really prone to the error of aiming for a goal and then putting my head down and my blinders on until I achieve it. I have to constantly remind myself to pick my head up, slow down, and to enjoy the scenery. Seeking “the good life” before you hit FI is so important, because financial independence is not a magic bullet that makes everything suddenly fantastic. Humans require routines, productivity, and purpose.

    This can all be found before (and after) FI if we are intentional about it. FI just gives us the power to make that happen.


    • Same problem. My wife reminded me of this yet again last night.

      My parents told me they were getting a hot tub. First thought was that is expensive and not a very FI thing to do. She had to remind me that they are already FI, are 65 and should enjoy what they saved, if not now then when, that other people’s hot tubs are awesome. So what if they only use it a few times. They will enjoy the crap out of it when they do.

      Live FI today. Tough one when the goal is set and the journey is long. I think this was one of Brandon’s key takeaways after hitting FI. That maybe he was a little too hard core. Finding that balance seems to be tough for a lot of us over achievers….


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