Jim is retired.
Jim retired just under a month ago at the age of 43. That’s my age.fatFIRE existence — he became a millionaire for the first time back in 2017 — their budget will feel pretty fat when he moves to Panama with his wife and daughter this summer. That’s right; they’re moving to Panama to take advantage of some international geographic arbitrage.
I first met Jim at FinCon17 where he famously and hilariously attended the Halloween party as J. Money from Budgets are Sexy, complete with a real mohawk. He’s a fun, friendly guy who has found a way to trade his corporate gig for a life of freedom.
Let’s get to know Jim from Route to Retire a lot better.
What in the world is a Christopher Guest Post?
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?
Until I retired from my job at the end of 2018, I spent the past 19½ years at working at a single company in IT. I was hired and trained as a Systems Engineers back in 1999 to fight off the dreaded Y2K bug, which, for those of us old enough to remember, was a big dud (that’s a good thing).
I enjoyed all the excitement technology brought with it over the years – it was awesome to see all the new innovation. But over the years, everything seemed to become overly complex and customers seemed to become less friendly. I still enjoyed the job, but the fun was definitely starting to diminish.
After six years, I became the manager of the engineering team… the wonderful world of middle management. If you’re not familiar with middle management, it generally sucks. You have a limit to your decision-making and you get crapped on both from above and below. Not only that, hiring and firing people is not much fun either… and I’m a guy who likes to have fun!
I didn’t hate it for a few years, but eventually, it got to the point of just rolling through the motions. Eventually, I stumbled onto the FIRE movement and recently found my way out of the rat race.
I’ve never really thought much about becoming a physician, but of course, if I did, I’d want to become an anesthesiologist – those guys are awesome!!! Um, ok, fine, I lied a little just to kiss a little #$% – in all actuality, the idea of a pediatrician comes to mind.
When we see my daughter’s pediatrician who works at a small office outside of the giant mega-hospitals, I can tell there’s still a lot of job satisfaction. He’s good at what he does, has a relatively normal schedule, and works well with both kids and their parents. Sheesh, it almost sounds like I want to date the guy, but really, it just seems to like a fulfilling job.
[PoF: Well, your daughter’s pediatrician is a doctor, and as such, he can probably score a hotter date than you. Unless you still have the mohawk. Do you still have the mohawk?
Middle management sounds… middling. I can see why you’d be looking to do something different. Or nothing at all. I’ve seen Office Space.]
Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
I realize that each person’s path to FIRE will be unique due to their own circumstances. When I started the Route to Retire blog in 2015, I aimed to be cognizant of this point and not try to pigeonhole anyone’s own route to retirement (see what I did there?!). [PoF: I do!]
I’m a regular guy who’s had his share of fun with debt and bad financial decisions. But when my daughter was born, I hated that I had to go back to work and wasn’t able to be with her as much as I wanted. It really crushed me and when I found FIRE, it gave me the motivation to become financially free so I could open up my time and be with her more.
My goal with Route to Retire is to not only discuss the journey I had in reaching financial independence but to talk about the strategies I continue to learn along the way as well. Regardless of whether you’re a physician, an engineer, or a garbageman, the general principles of saving and investing still apply.
I’ve always had a way of breaking things down in a logical way that makes sense to others. That might be my engineer mindset, which I think is similar to the way many physicians tend to think as well. I’m also pretty easy-going and like to have some fun. Because of that, you’ll find that the content is solid, but discussed in a way that’s not so dry that it puts you to sleep.
[PoF: I’ve noticed over the last year or so how you’ve been sharing new things you’ve been learning as you prepare for this first year of retirement. That’s a perspective fairly unique among FIRE blogs, particularly with your international angle.
Having a child can be a powerful motivator to fix your finances and find financial independence. It costs a bit more with kids, but the endpoint seems so valuable.]
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?
When I started down the FIRE path, Joe from Retire by 40 was my inspiration. Here was a regular guy (no offense, Joe!) with circumstances almost exactly like mine and he was able to retire before he turned 40. This was the life I wanted – the independence to choose what you want to do and to be able to spend more time with your family.
At that point, I knew we needed to make some changes and with that, we found ourselves on the way to true freedom.
And that’s when Route to Retire was born.
Blogs tend to be slow-growth so I wasn’t expecting to gain an audience quickly, but it’s been growing much stronger than I anticipated. It’s no Physician on FIRE site (what is?!), but I’m very pleased with the community of readers I have.
Now that I’m done working, I’m ready to start putting in even more time with the site. Over the next couple of months, I plan to give the site a nice makeover – new theme, new logo, and revamp the mailing list.
More importantly, I’m ready to ramp up the posting. I’ve always done at least one post every week, but I owe it to the readers to deliver more quality content. I’ll be posting more myself, but I’ll also be bringing in more solid guest posts. I want to be careful with the guest posts because I want to ensure that I only provide worthwhile posts that add value to the site for my readers.
And, although this isn’t specific to the blog, I plan to write a personal finance book (and maybe one for kids as well). I’ve written and published a couple of technical books before, but it’s time to start focusing on fun stuff like money and the freedom it can provide! These books will likely fall under the Route to Retire “empire” I have going.
What do you mean it’s hardly an empire? Maybe fortress? No? How about establishment? Tent? Ok, let’s go with that – the Route to Retire tent. I like the sounds of that!
[PoF: Call it what you like. Empire, tent, cardboard box in the back alley… I’m not going to argue!
I’m not surprised to hear you’ll be pouring more energy into the blog. I think anyone who is industrious enough to reach financial independence at the tender young age of 43 is not going to be idle once employment ceases.
I didn’t know you were a published author already. I look forward to seeing what you come up with for a personal finance book or books!]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
- There is a Secret Formula to FI, But It Ain’t No Secret! – the holy grail to financial independence!
- Is One Million Dollars Enough to Retire On? – don’t jump the gun and answer until you read this post.
- The #1 Question We’re Asked About Moving to Panama… – wait, what? You didn’t know we’re moving to Panama… summer of 2019!!
- Working Toward FIRE is Not About Sacrifice – life is about choice, not sacrifice – choosing freedom doesn’t mean you need to stop enjoying life.
- Is Retiring Early Really the Best Thing for Our Family? – an honest guest post from my wife who struggled with the idea of the idea of FIRE.
- I Was Wrong… It Really Is Who You Know – yeah, I said it and I mean it.
- $1 Million Net Worth… Now What? – what do you do once you reach a million dollar net worth?
- Sh!t Just Got Real… Moving Early Retirement Up to 2018! – get up-to-speed on the excitement when we realized we could move up our FIRE date – this is some good reading!
- Is FIRE Possible Without Knowing Your Numbers? – if you’re someone who doesn’t know or want to know every speck of minutia with your own investments, this is the post for you!
- Paula Pant Kicked Me Where It Hurts – this was the wake-up call I needed to realize the importance of balance between today and tomorrow.
- Is Rule 72(t) the Escape Tool for Me? – you might already know about the idea of a Roth IRA conversion ladder, but are you familiar with this alternative option?
[PoF: I didn’t have any trouble getting my wife on board with fatFIRE, but I haven’t gotten a single guest post out of her yet. She does help out quite a bit behind the scenes with social media and some proofreading, though.
I feel like Sh!t’s about to get real around here as my FIRE date approaches. It’s now just 7 months away!]
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 actually just retired from the world of IT at the end of 2018 at the ripe age of 43. My wife (aka Mrs. R2R) who’s 41 is done with her regular job as well.
We’re just regular people who made a good (but nothing crazy) living. We dabbled in different areas like real estate and side hustles and continued to learn.
But overall, we saved 60% of our income year after year and that’s what got us to the point of FIRE. Other details like tax strategies helped solidify our position, but this just saving a lot more than we earned absolutely paved the way.
And all I can say is… woo-hoo!!!
[PoF: That savings rate is key. It doesn’t matter how much you make. If you can live comfortably on 40% of your income, you’re going to become financially independent at that standard of living in about a decade.
Does your wife now have an irregular job? Can she continue to work irregularly from Panama?]
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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?
Funny enough, I just wrote a post that detailed a lot of the things I’m ready to try… FIRE Gives You the Freedom to Fail Miserably.
We’ve just gotten over the what I think are the two biggest hurdles we’ve had in our way for a while – lack of time and money. We’re now in a position where we can spend all the time we want together as a family while still chasing our individual dreams. That’s exciting!
Part of our early retirement transition still has yet to take place. We’re moving to Panama this summer, hopefully for the long haul. Although we’re excited about the new adventure, it’s just going to be a big change all around.
So as far as an ideal retirement goes, that will hopefully be it. Beautiful weather and beaches, extremely low cost of living, and a simpler lifestyle.
But even if we stay there a year or so and decide it’s not really for us, I’m excited that we’re going to give it a shot. I’d rather hate it and move back than be an old man wondering “what if…”
Keep in mind that although we no longer need to work, we’re not going to be resting on our laurels. I plan to work more on this site as well as all kinds of other projects. And Mrs. R2R wants to do some volunteer work. Additionally, we’ll be homeschooling our daughter (at least for the first year), so that’ll take up some of our time as well.
[PoF: That’s a great attitude. You can afford to fail, and I wouldn’t call your Panamanian adventure a failure even if you come back to the States after six months. At least you’re giving it a shot!
I’ve got lots of ideas of what I’d like to do as an early retiree, but we’ll be taking it one year at a time.]
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.
I think any physician who knows to read this blog already knows to not to get sucked into lifestyle inflation. A higher income gives you an opportunity to save faster than someone in a lower-paying job generally can pull off.
Use these circumstances to reach financial independence as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean you need to quit your job – it just puts you in a position to be in complete control over your life and your future.
In the meantime, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy life today. I learned a while ago that you need to find some balance between saving and spending. Once you’ve automated all your saving and investing and have a high savings rate in place, have a little fun along the way. You never know if today’s your last day (how’s that for morbid?!).
The same goes for your work/home life – work hard every day, but don’t work your life away so much that time slips away from you. You’ll never get that back.
[Hmm, I’m still short of my eleven sentences… ooh, I’ve got one:]
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
[PoF: Shouldn’t we just trust whatever we read on Facebook? What do physicians know, anyway? I jest, but there is a remarkable amount of misinformation out there, and the World Health Organization has identified the anti-vaccine movement a top threat to global health in 2019.
Finding that balance among spending, saving, and leading the life you want to lead is a difficult task for many. I’m happy to hear you’ve figured out what works for your family.]
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 sounds wonderful! That 11 days and $11,000 would make for one helluva good cruise!
My regular readers already know that cruising is our favorite kind of vacation. In fact, the banner of the Route to Retire site is a view of the ocean from one of our cruises.
What’s strange is that I’m not so picky about the “where” for the cruise. My favorite part of the cruises is actually the “at sea” days when I can just sit out on the balcony and stare out at the ocean while reading a good book (bucket of beers at my side, of course!).
It’s mesmerizing and soothing to just watch and hear the ocean as you’re traveling along. Not only that, on a clear night, you’ll see more stars than you could from most of the mainland.
As long as it’s somewhere warm, I’m good – cold weather and I don’t mix! Anywhere in the Caribbean seems to work well for us.
So this sounds good and is very generous of you, PoF. Please send the $11,000 via PayPal to my email… I’ll be waiting patiently.
[PoF: That could be a transatlantic cruise or maybe one of those repositioning cruises via the Panama Canal. You could wave to your friends as you pass through!
My wife and I have gone on cruises about every other year in the nearly fifteen years we’ve been together. The last two were a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas and a Royal Caribbean Cruise to Cuba. Our boys came along for the ride on both and loved it.
The check is in the mail. I hear the Panamanian postal service can’t be trusted, though.]
Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
- Mmm, beer – let’s just leave it open-ended in case I miss one…
- Samuel Adams – any will do – they’re all fantastic. Old Fezziwig might be the best name for a beer ever! Porch Rocker is a close second!
- Fun beers – I like different beers like Sweet Baby Jesus, Wells Banana Bread Beer, Great Lakes Christmas Ale, or Avery White Rascal. Mortal sin, though… I’m not generally an IPA guy.
- Bud Light / Miller Lite / Budweiser – doesn’t matter to me which one – any make for a sufficient, cheap day-to-day beer. I’ll lump Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold in there as well even though it’s not as cheap as the others.
- Bloody Mary – needs to have just the right amount of spice and a smorgasbord of food hanging out of it.
- Malibu & pineapple – perfect for a hot, summer day!
- Vodka and cranberry – this drink might as well be called Kool-Aid – these go down way too easy.
- 7 and 7 – my go-to drink at weddings. It usually ends with a major headache the next morning.
- Dirty banana – yeah, yeah, yeah… save your jokes. Amazing frozen drink.
- Water – weird, right? But I love water. If I’m not drinking beer, I’m probably drinking water.
- Mmm, beer (yeah, I know)
Like you said, you know how to have a good time! I’m a fan of the fun beers and weird beers, and especially the IPAs.
I’m glad you mentioned water. I was worried we’d have to graduate you from an 11-question interview and enter you into a 12-step program!]
Now, eleven foods.
I’m not picky when it comes to food. I think it’s because I don’t have a good sniffer and it probably affects my taste buds. I should see a doctor about that – know a good place where I might find one?
- Chicken paprikash – I’m drooling just thinking about it!
- Stuffed peppers – why is something as simple as this so delicious?
- I’ll take a good bacon barbecue cheeseburger over a steak any day… yeah, I said it!
- Grilled salmon Caesar salad – does something healthy like this make up for the bacon cheeseburger?
- Spaghetti Aglio e Olio – I’m half Italian… Mangia!
- Ham salad sandwiches – these have to be sliders on buns like those King’s Hawaiian ones, but I’ve loved this stuff since I was a kid!
- Mexican food – I’m not going to try to pick a specific here – tacos, enchiladas, even chips and salsa are all good with me!
- Mmm, beer – don’t judge – I swear a chocolate peanut butter porter like Sweet Baby Jesus is technically a food!
- Speaking of… chocolate might be God’s gift to all mankind!
- Pickles – yeah, now I’m just throwing things out here now, but I could eat easily a jar of these suckers.
- Chinese food… and not the healthy, make-it-at-home kind. I’m talking about delivery with fried everything, thick sauces, and plenty of egg rolls!
[PoF: You’re making me hungry, Jim! And thirsty.
I must say your list was a little more interesting than that other Jim who answered these questions. He struggled to come up with anything but water and milk in the beverage department.
Come to think of it, you’re actually the third Jim to grace this series with a Jim-presence. Who could forget the venerable Jim L. Collins? That was an entertaining one!]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
Physician on who?? Oh, yeah – that guy! He’s alright – he gave me a koozie at FinCon a couple years ago… a man after my own heart!
But I actually became familiar with the site a few months after its existence in the summer of 2016 when he commented on an old post of mine called Things I Should Be Doing Instead of Working… The response was very much like the Physician on Fire we all know and love:
I could write a very similar piece, and title it “Things I Should Be Doing Instead of Blogging.”
I try not to let my online time interfere with all the important activities you bring up, but it’s tough to juggle it all, especially while still working. I’ll let you know when I’ve got it figured out.
I don’t know that I could give you (PoF) any worthwhile financial advice that you don’t already know. However, my recommendation otherwise would be to enjoy every minute of life you have.
In fact, my second piece of advice to you is to take a trip to Panama at some point after this summer and call me when you’re there. I’ll introduce you to this thing called “cerveza” and perhaps even buy you one… or eleven.
[For what it’s worth, I still haven’t figured it out. Although, I think dropping one of my jobs this summer will improve the situation. I’ll be sure to let you know.
Thank you so much for taking the time in your first month of freedom to indulge me in this zany series of questions. I look forward to the Panamanian cervezas. We may want some help from nuestras esposas if we’re going to throw down on 11 cervezas!]
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Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out a few of these Christopher Guest Posts:
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If you’ve got a comment or 12th question to ask Jim #3, the comment box below would be a great place to place it.