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The Sunday Best (1/22/2017)

The Sunday Best is a collection of a handful of posts I share with you each week. With so many informative and inspirational writers out there, I have no trouble coming up with a number of worthwhile reads each week.

Every featured post should be of interest to any physician seeking financial independence. Some will be written by your physician colleagues; others will be written by our friends and patients who share common goals and interests.

Presenting, this week’s Sunday Best:


Harvard was the one undergrad school that denied me. I’m in good company. Travis Hornsby (and his 1490 SAT score) @ Millennial Moola explains, I’m Thankful to Be a Three Time Harvard Reject.


Maybe Harvard’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The Biglaw Investor invokes the three-fund portfolio and explores how Harvard Lost Billions, Would You?


When I started investing in a taxable account in 2009, I did not choose wisely. Where were you then, Wall Street Physician? Pick Your Taxable Account Allocation Wisely.


Stealth Wealth. It’s a hot topic (and a Bogleheads thread that will not die). Smart Money MD gives us his take on the subject in Stealth Wealth Revisited — This Applies to Doctors Too!


In an oldie but goodie, Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks explored a topic that should be popular with Spring Break approaching. Disney For Free: Learn the Travel Hacker’s Secrets the Happiest Place on Earth


You don’t need to have any kids to fund a 529 Plan. Miss Bonnie MD is taking advantage of this fact and the state tax deduction. Read more in I started a 529 Plan and I Do Not Have a Child.


I thoroughly enjoy travel. So does Max, the Gen X executive @ Max Your Freedom. He asks, Would You Spend $15,000 on a Vacation?


Do you like to watch Ted Talks? The Frugal RVer does. Watch These and You May Want to Sell All Your “Stuff” and Start Living! Or maybe not, but interesting to explore the idea.


Speaking of living, this Corporate Monkey CPA will be living with his family for a year in a 6-bedroom home he had built for $20,000. My Big Plans — A Family Gap Year in South America.


We’re not done talking about Harvard. I’ve got a little humblebragging to do. But first, I’d like to highlight MD Disability Quotes.

Their team has been offering specialty-specific disability insurance to resident and attending physicians since 1993.

Their website has a number of useful resources, including an FAQ with questions such as “When is the best time to purchase a personal disability contract?” and a page full of video interviews.

Their blog page has a number of insightful articles, such as The Difference Between Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance and Exclusion Rider to the Rescue. If you’re in need of disability insurance (or term life), be sure to look them up and don’t forget to tell them who sent you!


I went to Harvard, actually. It was just a few years ago; we took the red line. I snapped a few pictures, grabbed a bite to eat just off campus, and wandered just long enough to feel comfortable telling people that I indeed had gone to Harvard.


Harvard Electric Truck
maybe I could drive their truck


I don’t like rejection, and I don’t like to be wrong. Today, I am compelled to admit to both.



As I mentioned above, Harvard was the only undergrad school that sent me a rejection letter. Apparently, Natalie Portman has something that I don’t. In one of my first posts on this site, I talked about being rejected by Harvard but admitted to some excellent schools, but it turns out I misremembered terribly.


Harvard Rejection Letters
undergrad and med school rejection letters


I remembered being rejected by Harvard only. That is true. I also remembered applying to Yale, Stanford, and some other great schools. Also true. While it’s true that I applied to those other schools, as I sorted through papers from 19 to 23 years ago, I realized I didn’t apply to those other schools until medical school. Dang! I’ve since made appropriate edits to My Path to Financial Independence to reflect the historical record, and have wiped the egg off my face.

Undergrad acceptance letters
i wasn’t lying about Duke, at least

I did get into some schools with great names and pedigrees for undergraduate education, but ultimately followed in the footsteps of my Mom, Dad and his Dad, and took a full tuition scholarship to stay close to home and attend The University of Minnesota.

Four years later, as a college senior, I thought I was kind of a big deal. It turns out I was a pretty big fish in my pond, but there were ponds just like it all over the country with fish that looked a lot like me.

I had grades and scores that topped the averages at all the top ten medical schools. I had been a transplant microsurgeon and presented research at national medical conferences as an undergrad. I volunteered on the pediatric ward.

None of that mattered much. This time, I was rejected by a Who’s Who of medical schools. Looking at the career path I’ve chosen, I’m not sure that was such a bad thing. After all, as Smart Money, MD asked, “Is a Degree From a Prestigious Medical School Advantageous for Doctors?” For me, probably not so much. I wasn’t aiming to be a department chairman someday. Any of these schools would have put me much further in debt, though.


medical school rejection letters
so much rejection


I’m sharing this as a reminder that it’s alright to be rejected. It can be good to be humbled (and it can feel good to humblebrag 😉 ). I once lost a lucrative job based on a coin flip when the partners were split between two qualified candidates.

All of it led me to where I am today, which in my estimation, is a pretty great place.



Have a great week!

-Physician on FIRE

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36 thoughts on “The Sunday Best (1/22/2017)”

  1. Great list, PoF.

    My favorite link among the ones you shared would probably be Max’s Would You Spend $15,000 on your vacation.

    Ahh, I remember college rejections. I think the worst one is when you get wait-listed and then told that you are rejected last minute.

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  3. Thanks for the shoutout PoF. I’d like to think we’re both far more motivated individuals for getting rejected than if we’d gotten in. That will probably result in more long term life success than if we had the prestigious degree attached to our names.

  4. Great reminder about rejection PoF. Like you, I’ve received my fair share of rejection. When I was younger, I think it hurt more. Maybe it meant more to me then.

    Now that I’m older, I realize the rejection hurts because I let it hurt me. I was valuing myself based on the judgement of others…which was entirely silly.

    Can’t say I’ve grown out of it, but it doesn’t affect me quite as much anymore.

  5. I too got rejected by Mines for undergrad and grad school. I was fine with not going there for undergrad but I was persistent about grad school. Since I worked 15 minutes away I’d pop over there often and bug the hell out of them for a prof to work with for almost a yr straight, lol. The 3rd application was the charm as my advisor had just started and needed students and fortunately signed me on.

    I appreciated getting in more but know the cards would be different if I hadn’t lived and worked so close and stayed in their face about it. I didn’t take it personally and like you learned some good stuff out of the rejections too.

    Nice round up of articles as always!

    • Things have a way of working out, don’t they.

      I wasn’t offered an interview initially by the residency program I ultimately matched to. I went down to interview at another program in the state, and I called the anesthesia department of the program I was more interested in. I let them know I was in town, checking out the campus, and could stick around for a few days if they had an opening. They didn’t.

      A few weeks later, they had a cancellation, and they invited me to interview. I flew back for the one interview, but it was well worth it. That’s where I learned how to “pass gas” and also where I met my wife.

      Persistence can pay off.


  6. Two stories. I got a rejection letter from Emory in Atlanta but I was not surprised. The interview for med school was 3 applicants sitting across from 3 interviewers. Not sure if any one else had an experience like this. The question that I choked on was what was your most memorable childhood experience? The guy who answered first says it was the night my family was burned up in a fire. I really had nothing. I said something about the fact my brother got to see the Beatles and did not (I was 6). I went to my state school on an academic scholarship and graduated 2nd in my class. I went to a southern ivy for residency. I really did not plan it for cost reasons but it worked out well for me.
    My neighbor just tried to give some China from her recently deceased mothers house. I said no thanks I am trying to get rid of stuff myself.

    • Great stories, Hatton1!

      I never had a group interview, but medical school interviews were rather nerve-wracking and full of questions like that. Residency interviews were so much more relaxed. The programs were selling themselves to you!


  7. Rejection just opens more doors you didn’t see earlier. 🙂 And bravo for getting your tuition paid for; that’s a better investment than any fancy-pants degree in my opinion.

    • Thanks, Mrs Picky Pincher!

      That scholarship was offered for the first time that year, and only to 4 individuals, so I felt really lucky to have been given that opportunity. It was paid for by new license plates with the school’s logo that were introduced in the early 1990’s. Now, we pay extra every year for both of our vehicles to have that logo on the plate. How could I not?


  8. I would have loved going to a big ivy league school, but I don’t think I could justify the tuition costs. I have an engineering degree and I got rejected to engineering school at University of Illinois. I could have gotten into any other program, but their engineering school is highly competitive. So the goal was to go to Northern Illinois and then transfer to U of I later. Well, during the next year or two, I decided that I wanted to be in a school environment that fosters collaboration over competition, so I went to the Chicago campus of U of I, instead. I had a blast, made life long friends, did a ton of volunteering, worked fun jobs… things I probably couldn’t have done at a campus in a rural area.

    Also, I ended up graduating number one in my class, which is really cool considering females only made up less than 20% of the students at that time. I had blown the SATs in high school by not doing any prep work, so I was kicking myself for not getting into my school of choice and I think that drove me to work really hard in college. So, like you said, sometimes rejection works out for the best. 🙂

    • It sounds like you made the most of your situation, and clearly have no regrets. Strong work!

      The Ivy league schools were quite expensive if you didn’t qualify for need-based financial aid, which is probably why I only applied to one.

      It’s hard to beat free tuition, though. I was offered a 75% tuition merit scholarship to Vandy, but even then, it still would have cost more than my state university’s full tuition if I had paid sticker price. I was pretty close to choosing Nashville; the home state scholarship came very late in the game.


  9. Oh PoF, fancy schools don’t matter. School, like life, is often what you make of it.

    I went on a residency interview (after attending a very prestigious med school), and all my interviewer wanted to talk about was how horrible my undergrad university was. Well, I actually loved my alma mater and felt that it gave me a wonderful education and plenty of opportunities, so I smiled, thanked the interviewer for his time, and declined to even rank his program. Life’s too short for BS like that.

    • Good for you, Julie. At that point, what does the perceived quality of your undergraduate school even matter? It was obviously good enough (or you were good enough, at least) to allow you to attend the prestigious medical school.

      Did you attend one that rejected me, like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, UCSF, etc…?


      • I did, and hated every minute. The city was flooded by a hurricane, then covered in snow and ice, but it couldn’t quench the fire of hatred that smolders always and erupts occasionally, that feeds a culture where it’s okay for surgeons to throw scalpels and punch secretaries, where patients routinely spit at providers who are just trying to help, where research was historically conducted on unconsenting minority patients used as lab rats.

        And this is the school with all the prestige… Go figure.

        Did I enjoy it? Not at all. Do I regret it? Not at all. The experience taught me about my own values and made me so very, very grateful when I was able to move away, and even more so when I was able to move back home.

        You can’t appreciate the hills if you don’t also experience the valleys.

        • Wow! Just… Wow!

          Write up a story or five about some of those experiences. I can almost guarantee you’d get published on KevinMD.


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  11. Mr. BITA and I work in the same field. He went to Brown. Part of his tuition was covered by a needs based scholarship. His parents paid the rest. I went to a no-name college in India and my tuition was $3200 for a four year degree. Our career paths and compensation don’t reflect that huge disparity in cost of degree. Just sayin’.

    • Ivy league schools can open some doors, particularly in fields where networking and legacy are especially important. Medicine is not one of them.


  12. Failure can be the best thing to happen to you for several reasons (speaking from personal experience).

    * It can harden your resolve. Do you really want what you were aiming for, and are you willing to double down, or was it a passing fancy (think of all the people who drop out of premed after taking a few challenging courses)?
    * It can focus your efforts. How much do you know about what it takes to succeed? Are your efforts being applied to optimize your success?
    * It can open up options you hadn’t thought of, which are better. Think of the “road less traveled” and how that can make all the difference.

    When I was rejected at a few key times in my career path, I doubled down, I focused my efforts, and I took the road less traveled and it indeed has made all the difference for me.

    There are numerous old maxims like turning lemons to lemonade, necessity being the mother of invention, and playing the hand you’re dealt. I’m a strong believer that most of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I now look back at my “failures” and realize that they were the best thing that could have happened to me, and that I am stronger, smarter, and in a much better place because of them.

    • I agree wholeheartedly, MFH.

      I have no idea where those other paths might have taken me, but I’m quite happy with the life I’ve lived. And sometimes I feel like I’m just getting started.

      Cheers to our failures and successes!

  13. I’m amazed you still have these. I don’t even have acceptance letters anymore. For my MBA I just want to the closest school I could drive to with an accredited program since work was paying, so not exactly momentous. For undergrad there were only three apps and I went to the one at which I was accepted (which looking back was also the best for my major). If I had it to do over again I’d probably have sent out more apps just in case, but otherwise no regrets. Harvard was never and would never be considered in my field.

  14. Great list as always, PoF, and a fun read as well.

    And I want you to know that, no matter what Harvard might say about you, I accept you just how you are. I accept you.

    (A notarized letter memorializing your acceptance on embossed heavy stock paper bearing your name and today’s date can be ordered directly online for 6 easy payments of $27.99. S&H $4.59 extra. Delivery in 6 to 12 weeks.)

    You are quite welcome.

  15. Big thanks for the mention PoF! School acceptance and rejection letters come with a great deal of emotion, so I can totally understand how old memories can play tricks on the mind. I generally have a terrible memory, but I’ll never forget how upset I was when I got the rejection letter to the school of my choice due to a technicality. I later got admitted, but missed a semester as a result.

  16. Interesting background story today PoF! I am more and more thankful that 18yo me had the wisdom to go to the State college with full tuition & room/board, over a private college on only half tuition, over a big ten school on minimal scholarship (my final three). I’ve ended up in the exact same place I likely would have, except probably $100,000 or more ahead. If you can have the insight at those ages that you don’t have big academic or prestige ambitions – I really think those big name degrees aren’t worth it.

    • What do they call the guy who finishes last in his med school class?


      You don’t actually want to be last in class, but doing reasonably well at a halfway decent school is good enough for the vast majority of us.


  17. Thanks for the shout out PoF! I can’t believe you kept all of those letters. My favorite rejection from applying to colleges is when I applied to Texas A&M. I received a rejection letter pretty quickly, which surprised me since I was accepted into much “better” schools. Only two weeks letter I received an acceptance letter into the Honors College. Still have no idea what happened.

    • You got it, BLI. Great post!

      Those rejection letters can be motivating. I thought about framing the Harvard one. Look who’s not losing billions now, Harvard.

      Me, that’s who.


  18. May I offer a suggestion? Throw those letters away. When I left for college in 1991, I simply took some clothes and a few household items. I left the track medals, certificates of merit, stuffed animals and what have you behind. I then went on to medical school, residency etc. I took the essentials and left the rest in my childhood bedroom. When I finally(!) finished all my training including a fellowship my parents decided to renovate their home. My mother took all my crap and put it in a very large chest and asked me when I would pick it up. I told her to take out the yearbooks and diplomas and dump the rest. She reminded me of cards, letters, my prized Nancy drew collection, awards etc. I told her I haven’t looked at those things for 15+ years. Didn’t miss them then wouldn’t miss them now. I’ve seen 40 and 50 year old friends with crawl spaces cluttered with old cheerleading outfits, wedding gown(s), dollhouses and what have you. There seems to be comfort in having those things around but does anyone really look at them- except maybe to shift them around to add more crap. When my beloved mother died last year I took some jewelry and an old China set. My brother digitalized her photos. I took what I knew I would use. Thankfully she didn’t leave behind 71 years of memorabilia for us to sort through. Just some thoughts.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Mrs ytf.

      I’ve got a lot of stuff like that, and every few years I go through it and part with a portion. What I really need to do (and I’ve started) is to take digital pictures and part with the physical objects.

      It’s hard to get rid of those things — especially when you held on for so long — but it’s mostly dead weight.

      For what it’s worth, having the documents did help me sort out my history, which I’ve apparently remembered rather poorly.


  19. Thank you for the mention in The Sunday Best, PoF! I was not blogging way back in 2009 (or even in 2016), but neither was White Coat Investor (although I believe he was posting on the Bogleheads forums back at that time). While you did not take my advice when you started your taxable account in 2009, you definitely started investing at the right time, and successfully unwound your trades through the DAF.

    • You bet, WaSP!

      There were resources out there in ’09; I just didn’t know where to find them. There are definitely a lot more people writing about personal finance online now compared to then.



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