Christopher Guest Post: Son of a Doctor
Welcome to another Christopher Guest Post, a Q&A interview series that I will run every few weeks to get you better acquainted with some excellent fellow writers who have graciously accepted my invitation to be showcased here for you.
Today, I take great pleasure in presenting the dynamic duo Richard and Christy Pearce, who share blogging duties at Son of a Doctor. The maternal fetal medicine physician and attorney / registered investment adviser have teamed up on several other projects, including marriage and procreation.
They post at least twice a week, and have been featured here in The Sunday Best. Their professional experiences in medicine, law, and investing make for a three-headed monster full of knowledge and wisdom. As you will see below, they can also be quite entertaining!
What’s 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.
Presenting: Son of a Doctor
Physicians: 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?
Christy: I am a maternal fetal medicine physician. (Perinatologist, High Risk OB, Glutton for punishment). I was exposed to a lot of women’s healthcare growing up while following my mother around at her various jobs in ultrasound/X-ray/CT/Mammo/DEXA scanning. I tried not to like OB/GYN in medical school (lifestyle), but I loved it. When I got to residency, I really enjoyed caring for the complicated OB patients, and really thrived in OB emergency cases.
If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t know what I know now. I wouldn’t be as mature, and I wouldn’t listen. Because I didn’t listen then. I thought I could do it all. I actually thought I was going to be better at life/doctoring/family than those who tried to advise me. Turns out you can’t have everything. But I have found a great place of balance currently where I love connecting with my patients, supporting my referring OB’s, and being with my family. I love my specialty and what I do day in and day out. So, no probably no changes. (Schrödinger’s cat, right?) However, if I could have it all (including not aging), I would totally be a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. They are bada$$.
[PoF: MFM’s not an easy job. Neither is pediatric cardiothoracic surgery (or anesthesia). You’ve got to love it to do it well. That being said, I’d rather be any of these than the cat in the box.]
Non-Physicians: 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?
Richard: I am an attorney and registered investment adviser. In this stage of life, what I like most about my job is that I have a tremendous amount of flexibility as my own boss. I make sure to get the job done for my clients –which sometimes means 5am calls and 10pm calls based on their time zone compared to mine– but I also enjoy taking time off with the kids to go skiing, hiking, biking and everything else offered in this beautiful area of the country. I know I’m supposed to answer that I most enjoy helping people, or achieving great outcomes for my clients, etc., and those things are extremely important, but my current flexibility is what allows me to commit so much time to my clients AND my family.
I’m related to Orthos, Cardiologists, Oncologists, Dentists, Pharmacists, Nurses, Sonographers and others in the medical profession and my clients have a much wider reach than that. If I were a physician, it would be a hard choice between whatever paid the best (but not colo-rectal surgery or anything else like that) and something extremely interesting, like in House. I’m so practical and logical, that I would choose whatever was the best combination of pay and satisfaction, favoring the former over the latter. That is why I tried to push Christy to dermatology.
[PoF: He don’t like butts and he cannot lie. Thank you for your honesty, Richard. Dermatology, yes, the end of the ROAD (cue the BIIM). I didn’t consider it for the same reasons you wouldn’t consider colo-rectal surgery. Too much gross stuff. I can handle blood, guts and bisected bones, but derm pathology makes my skin crawl.]
Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
Richard: We created the blog to educate, empower and entertain physicians. I write mostly about financial planning, investing, tax planning and law topics for physicians. Christy writes more about work-life balance and the future of medicine. Sometimes we get together on a post, and we hope to do that more in the future, as we are still just laying some groundwork for future articles.
As an attorney, I have seen too many physicians get burned from poor financial choices, such as trusting the wrong adviser, living beyond their means, or having a poor investment approach. I want to help physicians gain enough knowledge from our blog to handle their own financial planning and investments appropriately (but if they need a quick consult for a flat fee or hourly rate, then that is fine too).
As physicians, you are all on a journey towards financial independence and improving your well-being. I have many physician clients, almost all of whom are also considered friends, who are on this journey with us, as we work through tax planning, retirement planning, employment contracts, investments and everything else that physicians often do not have the time or energy to focus on. We want to build a community of physicians writing articles for the blog to educate, empower and entertain each other.
[PoF: We have similar missions. I believe I use the word “enlighten” rather than “empower” but otherwise, pretty much the same lofty goal. Great minds…]
Christy: There are a growing number of physicians joining a grassroots movement to improve medicine for our patients and ourselves. We see the brokenness of the system and the need for physicians, not administrators, MBA’s [Richard: careful, I’m a MBA], or politicians to lead the change.
Writing in this blog is my effort to raise my voice, to articulate my thoughts, to learn more so that I can educate and encourage other physicians — particularly those buried in the system so deep they can’t even see out to help themselves, much less the bigger problem. (That was me a few years ago.) Richard has taught me nuances of contracts, negotiation, and leverage that change my interaction on the business end and truly empower me.
Financial independence is certainly a step toward eliminating that “trapped” feeling in a job. Then you can go to work and enjoy it, because you want to do it, not because you have to. Patients definitely benefit when a physician’s mindset is toward a calling, not a job.
[PoF: Encourage. Another good “E” word. You’ve written some powerful, personal stuff that encourages others to deal with their own issues, no doubt.]
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?
Richard: The original title of this blog was going to be “What I Want My Kids to Know”. I planned on using this blog just to catalog my thoughts on financial planning and investing in hopes that at some point my kids would read it and learn all of these important concepts at a fairly young age. As I started outlining some posts, I decided that I could take the same articles but instead focus them on physicians, since they are my largest segment of clients, and many of them have about as much interest in financial planning as my kids (ages 3, 6 and 8).
Interestingly, my oldest child has a pretty good grasp of supply and demand, but she can’t quite grasp compound interest…yet.
Our blog is still quite new, and I certainly don’t think that is has arrived. Hopefully, as we add more content on all of our topics of interest, we will build a community of physicians who write for, comment on and read the blog. I think that is when I will feel that the blog has arrived.
We both want to help physicians be successful and happy. Sometimes it comes in the form of Christy encouraging someone who is struggling with their job, burnout, or balance. Other times it is me helping someone set up their 401(k) plan allocations for no charge just to get them started. Our experiences, and those of our friends, colleagues and clients, give us even more knowledge and skills to better help the next person.
[PoF: My boys are 6 & 8 years old now. That’s one more thing we have in common! I’m going to go ahead and mark today, October 11, 2016, as the day your blog “arrived”. Self-serving, I know. Cheers! You’ve arrived!!!]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
Richard: We should start with Christy’s posts:
Christy: Aww, thanks babe.
Anxiety, Therapy, and Boxes. My story of anxiety and therapy and a plea for other doctors to seek help (even if they think they don’t need it).
Ballet Steps to Physician Wellness. Finally doing something for this momma, no matter how much I embarrass myself.
The Problem with Resiliency Training and Why Physicians Resent it. Resiliency training is great, but it won’t fix medicine.
Physician Wellness-Parent Win. My own anecdotal experience backed up by research that shows getting outside is a must for us.
Physician not Provider. Why it’s important to make the distinction. I’m now learning this post should be followed by “Doctor Doesn’t Mean Doctor Anymore.”
Fake it Till you Make It. It’s ok if you don’t eat, sleep and breathe medicine. It’s ok if you do. And it’s ok to say so either way.
Now for Richard’s nerdy favorites:
How to Decrease Your Odds of Adviser Fraud. I am as down on investment advisers as anyone. As an attorney, I have seen the effects of adviser fraud on my law clients. In this article, I briefly lay out some checks and balances that should reduce the risk of being victimized.
Whole Life Insurance–3 Things You Need to Know. I am as down on whole life insurance as I am on investment advisers (and annuities too. Oh, and mutual fund loads, and snakes). After bashing whole life insurance, I then lay out a situation in which I would recommend it.
The Next Level-Dynamic Cash Allocation. The gist is rather than have a fixed plan for your monthly excess cash flow, look at the current valuation of your investment options and decide what is going to give you the best tax and inflation adjusted return in the long run.
What You Need to Know about Tax-Loss Harvesting and Wash Sales. Kinda like the Frank Sinatra “Love and Marriage” song (although I still see it as the Married…with Children theme song), you can’t have one without at least risking the other. I’ve prepared my share of tax returns, and I have seen wash sales cost tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, tax-loss harvesting is a very powerful strategy to save a significant amount of taxes. If you do the former, make sure you have a very clear understanding of the latter. You can fix wash sales, but not after December 31 of each year.
Negotiating Your First Employment Agreement. I’ve helped negotiate well over one hundred physician employment agreements. This article explains a few concepts that need to be kept in mind, and the title is misleading because it applies to any physician employment agreement, not just the first one.
[PoF: Lots of great articles across the board there. The first, third, and tenth post were featured here on The Sunday Best!]
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?
Richard: I think we are both very happy with our jobs and work schedules, so while we are saving aggressively towards financial independence, we do not have a retirement date in mind. If I had to guess, I’d say once the last child is in college (only 16 more years to go!), Christy may switch to locums or we may move to New Zealand for a while and both work there.
That said, we want to get to financial independence as quickly as possible, because if Christy’s job (or medicine in general) goes south, we do not want to be stuck with any job or to any one place. (Although to be clear, she loves her job and we love where we live.) I want to keep helping physicians as an attorney and investment adviser for as long as possible. With my clients all over the country, I could see myself continuing to have conference calls and video conferences with my clients from the beach, slopes, or even New Zealand down the road.
Christy: Don’t be jelly, y’all. He really does talk to clients when he is on the beach. Reception isn’t so good on the slopes though. I’m sure by the time we retire it’ll be better.
Richard: Out of laziness as much as anything, we use an anti-budget. We have a savings goal for the year, and how we want to allocate that savings between 401ks, HSA, IRAs, etc. That savings goal is over 20% of our take home pay. We do not stress too often about how we spend the rest, but I use a regular budget every 3-6 months to look for areas of over spending, in hopes that every so often our checking account is even larger than expected and we get to exceed our savings goal. Hopefully, we will use our blog to hold ourselves accountable to saving even more aggressively and documenting our successes and failures.
Christy: By overspending, he means when I go to Costco unsupervised.
[PoF: I usually overeat when I go to Costco unsupervised. Eleven samples later, I’m not all that hungry for dinner. New Zealand is in our near-term plans. I’ll be surprised if we’re not there in three years. We should be able to offer some pointers when your turn comes. Maybe we’ll even return to visit!]
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?
Richard: An ideal retirement looks like a small home or condo near a town with skiing, hiking and lakes, but we will only be there a couple of months out of the year. All of the rest of the time, we will be traveling the world and visiting grandkids and friends. I hope at that point to still have a few good client-friends who have reached the same level of financial independence, such that our quarterly conference calls are more celebrations of success than the current worries about what debt to pay off first and how to pay for college.
Christy: I feel like I have 3 lifetimes worth of goals stored up (that lack of balance through 11 years of training and first years out may have contributed). I want to see my kids, see their kids, volunteer, travel, do mission work, be the old lady on the slopes passing all the young whipper snappers, write a book, learn languages and instruments, read, mentor, and finish the kids’ baby books. And beat Candy Crush.
[A small home with freedom to travel. You sound like minimalists in training. Your vision is strikingly similar to what we have in mind. If and when we have grandkids, a bigger home might make sense. Time will tell…]
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.
Live way below your means so that you do not have to take unnecessary risks with your investments or incur too much debt from buying stuff. As Jimmy Buffett says, its just a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.
Befriend a good, loyal attorney (and accountant). Many of the smartest businessmen that I know are good friends with very skilled business attorneys, who are worth their weight in gold in terms of creating opportunities, avoiding mistakes and solving problems.
- Have Courage and Be Kind: (love me some Cinderella) You are strong, smart and resilient. You will overcome. You will continue past whatever seems insurmountable right now. Have the courage to be kind: to yourself, to your loved ones, to your patients.
- Whistle while you work: (Snow white whipped those dwarfs into shape, but it wasn’t a thankless job after all) Love your job. If you don’t, find out why, and work to change the why. Have fun with your co-workers and your patients.
- Read about boundaries, and then set some healthy ones for you and your patients. No one will stop you from bending over backwards, and when you finally break, they will expect you to keep on going anyway. So don’t start.
- Go get some counseling at some point. You will have bad outcomes, you will bear burdens too hard for one person to bear. You will feel guilt, anger, frustration, elation, numbness. There are people trained to help you sort this out. You are not less-than for this. You are human. And drugs, alcohol, anger, and suicide have way worse stigmas than counseling.
- Get outside. A lot.
- Be humble. That means knowing what you do and don’t know. Assert what you do know to help your patients, and admit what you don’t know…to help your patients.
Richard: I leave you with 7 sentences and you use 22…
[PoF: There’s a penalty for going over, but I’ve forgotten what it is. Consider yourselves lucky… this time. I like a good Buffett quote, Warren or Jimmy. We tend to see more of the former around here. ]
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?
Richard: I’d probably blow $9,000 of that on a first class flight to New Zealand, and then stay in hostels and campgrounds for well under $2,000 during those eleven days. I would hike, bike, ski, sail, soak, and sight-see, mostly on the south island.
Christy: Agreed. New Zealand is amazing. The flight there, not so much.
[PoF: Travel hack your way to free tickets, then live it up or stay much longer. My $0.02]
Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
- Any craft beer (I could name 100 that I like, but I’m game for pretty much any beer, and if it is cold and free, then even better.)
- Okay, I’ll name one: Trappistes Rochefort 8
- Moscow mules (I have a good, simple recipe that I really like right now)
- Margaritas on the rocks with salt
- Bourbon (straight, on the rocks or mixed in)
- Wine (not picky, but prefer not too sweet)
- Steak and Shake milkshake
[PoF: If you could share that Mule recipe in the comments section, I don’t think anyone here would mind. здоровье!]
Now, eleven foods.
Richard: I have a pellet smoker and I love to experiment with food, but I am by no means a pro. Not surprisingly, all of my choices are meat.
- Steak–filet or NY strip preferred, cooked medium rare.
- Salmon–they are great smoked with just a little salt, or I have a great bourbon-based recipe (drunken salmon) that an attending from Christy’s IM rotation in med school shared with us.
- Pulled pork, or as my kids like to call it, Boston Butt. It is the easiest meat to smoke after a salmon.
- Hamburger–we have a couple craft burger places here, and I love to experiment. Avocado, jalapenos, onion straws with grilled cheese sandwiches (or donuts) as the bun? I’m game.
- Brisket. It takes a long time to smoke one, and it requires more effort than just about anything else, but the payoff is worth it. I sure hope Christy mentions pizza, because I’ll do to a pizza the same thing I will do to a hamburger.
- Filet (medium rare) with side of bernaise and a glass of pinot noir
- Profiteroles (pic from acozykitchen.com/profiteroles)
- Baguette and President butter
- Brioche and Nutella
- Butternut Squash Risotto
Oops. No Pizza.
[PoF: So how’s vegan life treating you? ;)]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
Richard: I believe that I came across your blog via twitter. There’s a saying that you can train a physician to run a hospital, but you can’t train a hospital CEO to become a physician. I have found the same to be true with finances, in that most of the older physicians that I work with are more financially savvy than younger physicians, as they have had more time outside of their medical training to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to manage their finances. I am amazed, though, by physicians such as yourself who can survive their training while becoming exceptionally knowledgeable on finance and investing. That is what drew me to your website.
The advice that I have for you is the same for all physicians. You should have an attorney on speed dial who is knowledgeable about the aspects of law pertinent to your career, and keep in touch with that attorney. Most of us don’t charge $500 an hour or charge for every e-mail read and phone call taken. We want to help our clients succeed. For most physicians, the same goes to having an investment adviser, even if that person just serves as a sounding board or check-and-balance to the physician’s management of his or her own investments and financial plan. Plenty of investment advisers are fee-only, will charge an hourly rate, and just want to help physicians succeed. Find someone you trust. But don’t trust them blindly. Let them educate and empower you as they advise.
Christy: My husband introduced me to your site. And then I wanted to clip coupons and cut cable because I was jealous. But not so jealous that I won’t run the gas fireplace.
Richard: Do I need to put a disclaimer on here? As an attorney, I’m kinda used to disclaimers. I bet Christy wishes I provided some disclaimers when we first met. Now that’s a topic for a husband-wife post…
[PoF: Thanks for playing! This was enlightening, empowering, energizing, and… eclectic, maybe? Thank you for the kind compliment; I floundered for quite awhile before I really got a good handle on personal finance and investing, but I know at least as much as I need to know now, and I’m happy to share that much with the world. Fortunately, I avoided major mistakes along the way.
And for the record, I didn’t quite cut the cable cord (I tried), but I do love a good discount. As I add my responses on a Tuesday afternoon, my wife and I just returned from a lunch date at BWW (half price wings on Tuesday!) and I promptly started a fire in the woodstove when we got home.]
What would you like to say to Richard & Christy? Be sure to check them out @ SonofaDoctor.com, and leave your comments below.
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