Christopher Guest Post: Miss Bonnie MD

I’m honored to have my friend Miss Bonnie MD here to allow us to get to know her better. The good doctor is a leading voice in the physician personal finance space. She focuses on empowering female physicians to take control of their finances to create a better, more balanced life in medicine.

I first met Miss Bonnie when I was visiting New York early this year, and we grabbed a beverage at the world’s best bar.  A few months later, we were both featured speakers at the inaugural White Coat Investor Conference, hanging out in Park City, Utah with a few hundred like-minded professionals.

At Fincon in Orlando this fall, I took part in my first Facebook Live, a conversation with Miss Bonnie MD in a Facebook group where she does a lot of teaching. She’s also a moderator in the Physicians on FIRE group (physicians only) and is active on Twitter and Instagram.

I’m glad to have gotten to know the friendly, highly knowledgable dermatologist better over the last year; now, it’s your turn. I present to you Miss Bonnie MD.

 

 

 

Christopher Guest Post: Miss Bonnie MD

 

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 is your specialty or subspecialty and why did you choose it? If you could turn back time, would you choose to practice medicine and choose the same specialty? Why?

 

I’m a dermatologist which is part of the “ROAD” to happiness specialties. It’s true, our hours are great and few to nil emergencies. I went to medical school at Columbia and we had a robust inpatient dermatology service. I fell in love during that rotation. My first job out of residency was running the inpatient consult service. Yes, I actually showed up to the hospital when a consult was called.

I’m still early in my career but I would choose medicine again despite all the things going on that make medicine harder to practice. With the changing climate of practicing medicine, it’s more important than ever to be on top of one’s finances.

 

[PoF: The lifestyle of a dermatologist makes me and 98% of non-derm physicians jealous. I can’t complain, having also chosen a ROAD specialty (radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesia, dermatology), but my road has had a few more twists and turns and a lot more trips to the hospital!

I agree that I wouldn’t change what I’ve done up to this point. I am excited to change my future, but this career has been good to me.]

 

 

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

 

Miss Bonnie MD’s mission is to empower women physicians to find financial freedom. When you handle your finances, you can have the ultimate work life balance.

Women physicians are often working hard at the hospital, running the household, and doing the majority of childcare. We are sometimes even tasked with taking care of aging parents. That’s a lot to figure out! I’ve made a TON of mistakes and started “late” (finished residency at age 38!) to all this. Yet, I am on my way to FI. So I hope my story can show other women that they can do it too.

My blog isn’t about FIRE per se although I’ll admit I have drunk the FIRE Kool-Aid recently.

I strive to make financial education accessible and approachable. I do this through my blog, the Facebook group, or chatting with Carrie over at the Hippocratic Hustle.

 

[PoF: I’ve enjoyed listening to your “Friends talk Finance” episodes with our friend Dr. Carrie Reynolds. She does a great job with the show, and I appreciate the frequent shout-outs to me and the White Coat Investor. 

I even had the honor of being the first person with a Y chromosome to be a guest on her podcast.]

 

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?

 

My friends encouraged me to start a blog when I became active on the Facebook group. I found myself typing the same stuff over and over again. It soon became easier to just post a blog link. BTW, I think I used your guide to starting a blog to get started!

I get excited whenever anyone shares my stuff (big thanks to you PoF!). Speaking at the inaugural WCICON was a big moment for me. I hope to do more speaking in the future!

After FINCON18 I signed on with a design firm to re-brand and redesign my website so I am really excited about that!

 

[PoF: That’s a big step! I know you’ve been looking at ways to work more efficiently with the blog. I’ve been wanting to do something similar, but I like being hands-on with the website. I also don’t have as much on my plate as you. I don’t have a baby or a full-time job. I’m impressed you do as much as you do right now.]

 

 

[PoF: You make some great points in the “When I’m Rich, I’ll Give” post. I’m glad to see you’ve begun to make some donations while pursuing FI.

The Interviews with Real Women Physicians are great, too. It’s good to read what some of the non-blogging docs are up to financially and otherwise. I know I featured some of the ones you published early on, but I’m overdue to get my readers caught up on those.]

 

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?

 

Matt says I already work part time …

Currently, I have a decent balance working 4 x 8 hr days. But as you know, running a blog isn’t exactly a part-time hobby. I’d love to see patients 2 days a week – so basically go half-time from what I am doing now. My goal is to get there within 5-7 years so age 48 at the latest. This also happens to coincide with when my stepson graduates high school giving us a bit more flexibility with our location. We’d love to move out to the west coast or possibly Hawaii. I’ve kept my CA medical license for a reason :).

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I call this stage pre-FI – where you’re not FI but you’ve reached a point where you don’t need to save and invest as much money anymore. You’ve put in the work to get that money making machine going, but can’t yet draw down on it. Let it grow and make enough income to cover spending.

My money making machines are mainly investments in index funds in tax advantaged accounts (we max our work 401(ks), Roth IRAs, HSAs, and we both put some into our solo-401(k)s) and a regular brokerage account. We also just started investing in Real Estate Syndicates to diversify our holdings. We aim to save and invest a minimum of 30% of our gross income annually. We paid off my student loans earlier this year and are debt free.

 

[PoF: I’m with Matt on that one. I worked at least double that in my first full-time anesthesia job. My work-life balance has certainly improved since then.

Fun fact: I had a Hawaii license for a good five years. I renewed it a couple times but never found a good opportunity to use it. 

Pre-FI is a great place to be. When your money is also doing some of the heavy lifting, it makes it easier to take a step back from work.

Congratulations on eliminating that student loan debt! I believe Matt also deserves a pat on the back for his role in that feat.]

 

 

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?

 

My idea of what an ideal retirement looks like keeps changing! Thankfully I love being a dermatologist. I’d love to just work less.

But let’s say I didn’t have to work as a derm at all for money – hmm, would I “work”? Maybe, maybe not. I would probably staff resident clinics at the local university or staff a free clinic. We physicians have a highly specialized skill and every day I see patients I know that my skill set is needed.

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But, I’d have no problem filling up my day if I didn’t see patients. I’d take Jack to school in the morning (or maybe I’d even home school). I’d go to yoga or work out. Cook a bunch of amazing food (I may buy some extra fancy attachments for my pasta machine for example). Pick up Jack from school and hang. I’d also be planning amazing trips. It may seem kinda boring, but I want to be available when he’s older and he needs me more. That iGen study scared the bejesus out of me.

One goal we have is to take a sabbatical when Jack is a little older, like age 7-8, and travel the world for several months.

 

[PoF: The sabbatical idea is a great one, and I think that’s a great age to take Jack on a grand adventure. My younger son will be 8 years old when we begin ours next fall.

It’s tough to think what life would be like without work because we’ve spent so much of our adult lives preparing to do and subsequently doing this one thing. It’s good to see you’ve got some concrete ideas.]

 

 

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.

 

Learn the ropes of personal finance so that you can really get to the fun stuff – creating the life of your dreams. That’s, IMO, the ultimate luxury gift to yourself.

Be present. Put down the phone (or insert other piece of technology here).

Cultivate a practice of gratitude not attitude.

Nurture your friendships. Make new ones. It’s the only thing that has been proven to make you happy.

Being a patient changed me as a doctor. Patients are often scared and nervous to see you. Kindness and an ear go a long way.

 

[PoF: Put the phone down, indeed! I’m as guilty as the next guy or gal, but I read that iGen article you referenced above and I’m genuinely concerned for the next generation. Teens are spending more time looking at social media than socializing face-to-face and the consequences are not good.

And yes, financial independence is the ultimate luxury item. Make it happen!]

 

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 have no problem spending that money on food & wine and nice lodging.

Day 1 – Eat at Noma in Denmark

Day 3 – Eat at Le Cinq in Paris

Day 4 – Head to Reims and have some awesome champagne

Day 5 -11 Italy. Lots of pasta and wine.

 

 

[PoF: I’m not familiar with those places, but I’ll bet they’ve got Michelin stars and no kids’ menu. Might want to spend some of that budget on the nanny or see if Grandma and Grandpa can keep an eye on the little one for those days.]

 

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

 

I love a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning. Anything more than a cup gives me a headache.

Otherwise I basically just drink water during the day. I don’t do juice or soda.

I love wine – red, white, sparkling. I visited many wineries when I lived in Southern California and San Francisco. My favorites include Sea smoke Pinot Noir, Stolpman Roussane (they make great Syrahs too), and any wine by Foxen. I wish I knew more about French wines. I’ve been all over Italy and love their wines. We love the wines by Planeta and Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily. Frappato and Nero d’Avola are two Sicilian wines we love. I met one of the winemakers of Medici Ermete – they make a great Lambrusco. Also love me a good Barbaresco. Weakness for Champagne and Sauternes.

 

[PoF: You talk about wine like I do beer. Let me guess… you also fantasize about having your own winery someday.]

 

 

Now, eleven foods.

  1. Eggs
  2. Pizza
  3. Pasta
  4. Medium rare strip steak or ribeye
  5. Sushi
  6. Cannolis
  7. Miso black cod
  8. Mac n’ cheese
  9. Kimchi
  10. Soon tofu soup
  11. Korean BBQ

 

PoF: Yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum.]

 

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

 

Gosh, I’m not exactly sure but probably through the White Coat Investor. I didn’t know what FIRE was when I discovered your blog and honestly, it seemed like a pipe dream. Now I realize it isn’t!

Advice for you? Keeping spreading the FIRE!

[PoF: Happy I was able to convince you. I’ll admit I was a bit of a FIRE skeptic when I first learned of the concept and started reading the blogs, but I obviously came around once I dug deeper into the math and took a closer look at where we were at.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!

Readers, continue your reading at Miss Bonnie MD. If you’d like to read more of these, we’ve got quite a few Q&As, as well.]

 

Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out a few of these Christopher Guest Posts:

 

 

Have you got a 12th question for Miss Bonnie MD? Ask away in the comment box below!

 

10 comments

  • I really enjoyed meeting Bonnie at FinCon, too. That was a great trip. (And worth it for anyone considering going).

    Bonnie, I really enjoy your focus on living an intentionally balanced life with family, hobbies, and work. That iGen piece is scary, too!! I already had a fear of that, but reading that article just solidies it.

    Guess I’m gonna have to be the strange parent that doesn’t let their kid have a smart phone. They’ll get something that texts and calls us… but doesn’t do anything else. Can’t wait to have that conversation 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

    TPP

    • Thanks TPP! I’ll be that weird parent too…. I am hoping the pendulum swings by the time Jack is older. In case you’re not familiar, check out Wait Until 8th – an organization that supports parents to delay smart phones until 8th grade. I like theWaldorf School philosophy too. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates limited technology to their kids …

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  • As a card carrying member of the ROAD specialties I too am happy with my specialty choice but my advice to medical students is choose what you love to do rather than pick something you are not suited for even if it is supposedly a lifestyle specialty.

    Burnout exists even in these specialties and will be worse if you never had your heart in it the first place.

    That is wonderful Bonnie that you are well on your path to FIRE despite a later start. I hope to cross paths at next year’s FinCon which will be my first

    • Thanks Xrayvsn! I may not attend FINCON proper next year but it’s a train ride away so I hope to at least make it to another Physician Finance get together (?FINCONDOCS). Agree that burn out exists in ROAD specialties…even dermatology.

  • Bonnie, it was a pleasure meeting you at FinCon and getting to hang a little. After hearing your unconventional path to medicine on your Docs Outside the Box interview, I’ve got more questions for you when we have our next drink!

    Appreciate all that you do,

    CD

  • Thanks for sharing.

    Bonnie is awesome. We definitely need more women to help other women. She and Carrie are making progress with that. We can all learn from women of course, but more female voices may resonate with women who would otherwise tune out when guys talk about finance.

    I love the sabbatical idea. I’ve toyed with that idea for a time. For now, I have made my work weeks easy enough that I don’t really need a “break” from them.

    The ROAD to riches is something for medical students to consider. We used to refer to the “RAP cartel” back in my day. The “easier” higher-paying specialties were Radiology, Anesthesia, and Pathology. I think there should be a good personality fit with your specialty and lifestyle though.

    Income is important for sure, but doctors can make the top 5% or above income in almost any field. The key to financial success of physicians (as you and your readers know) are not just earnings but saving, investing, and protecting those assets. That is hard to understand as a broke and deep-in-debt medical student. I know I didn’t fully understand it when starting out.

  • Side Hustle Scrubs

    It’s always great to learn more about a fellow doc blogger. I enjoy Miss Bonnie MD’s posts as well as the rapport between her and Carrie on Hippocratic Hustle.

    Bonnie – as you plan a future of cutting back and traveling, have you ever looked into derm telemedicine? The internet is the great equalizer, and earning ROAD income from anywhere with a WiFi connection could open a lot of possibilities.

    Keep up the good work!

  • I was thinking locums or part-time. Everyone thinks derm would be so easy for telemedicine but pictures are not as useful as people think. Nothing like an in person clinical exam. But hopefully the imaging technology will get better and obviously some areas are very underserved so telederm is better than nothing!

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