The Sunday Best (6/11/2017)

The Sunday Best is a collection of articles I’ve curated for your reading pleasure.

Expect most of the writing to be from recent weeks and consistent with the themes presented on this website: investing & taxes, financial independence, early retirement, and physician issues.


Presenting, this week’s Sunday Best:


Tired of hearing my voice yet? Sorry about that. Move along. Unless you want to hear my best interview yet! I talked with Jonathan and Brad of ChooseFI for a riveting 48 minutes in Episode 026 | Physician on FIRE | FI for Medical Professionals | Financial Freedom vs Financial Independence.


I really need to find my way to Havasupai. Two of our physician blogging friends have reported on their trips to this picturesque spot. Julie @ Choose Better Life shared Hiking at Havasupai. Dr. Curious @ My Curiosity Lab captured similar stunning images in Wanderlust: Havasupai.


ESI Money featured me in Millionaire Interview #5. Since then, he’s published 5 more. Millionare Interview #6 Millionare Interview #7Millionare Interview #8 / Millionare Interview #9Millionare Interview #10.

The smiling radiologist known as the Happy Philosopher delivers 16 tips to improve your life and be happy. Make Your Life Upgrade Proof.


What do I call myself after I retire early? A doctor? Dr. Robert Baker attempts to answer the question @ KevinMD. A Retired Physician Asks: Am I Still a Doctor?


Mrs. Grizzly quit her job! And she was in Big Law. Read all about it @ Grizzly Mom & Dad in the appropriately titled I Quit My Job.


Mr. Crazy Kicks quit his engineering job a year ago. How’s it going, Mr. CK? What It’s Like One Year After Quitting My Job.


I preach Geographic Arbitrage, but it doesn’t work for everyone. How is Miss Bonnie MD getting ahead in New York City? How We Are (More Than) Making It in a HCOL.


This post from fellow anesthesiologist (congrats on finishing residency in 3 weeks!) Charlie @ Life of a Med Student pairs very well with Dr. Fawcett’s latest guest post. The BIG Financial Mistake I (almost) Made After Med School Graduation.


There’s frugal. And then there’s Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme who lives in the San Francisco bay area. How I Live on $7,000 Per Year.

A Heartwarming Story


I love stories like these. First featured by Chicago’s Fox 32, then USA Today, Russ Gremel donated $2 million to the Audobon Society for the purchase of a 395-acre property to be preserved as a wildlife refuge in his name.

I was drawn to the story for several reasons. First, I think it’s wonderful that Mr. Gremel chose to donate a generous sum of money, and that he chose to preserve nature with it.

Second, based on facts in the story, it seems that Mr. Gremel found the cause more compelling than spending on himself. According to the article, he lived a simple lifestyle, living nearly his entire life in the same home which he inherited from his parents.

He was also an early retiree. He practiced law, but lived a simple life, and gave it up to retire at age 45.

Finally, I was curious as to how he turned $1,000 into $2,000,000.

Was he a savvy investor, picking out the needle in a haystack that would rise to the top, returning 2,000 times the original investment? If I flew down to Chicago, would he share his secrets with me while we take a leisurely stroll through the Gremel Nature Preserve?

Before firing up Orbitz to book my flight, I decided to do some research.


I've got my 2 acres of non-leveraged, crop-producing, cashflowing farmland via AcreTrader. Get yours.


From $1,000 to $2,000,000


inflation calculatorMr. Gremel bought $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock about 70 years ago, and turned it into two million dollars.

How much was $1,000 worth back in 1947 (in 2017 dollars)?

I don’t know, but I’ll bet you could buy some really great stuff for a nickel. Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. DollarTime has a simple Inflation Calculator for that. So a dollar then is now worth $11.23. And $1,000 meant investing the equivalent of…



What kind of an annual return is a 2,000-fold increase over 70 years? 

XIRR ExcelI don’t know, but Excel does. Plugging in the initial investment, the value 70 years later, and using the XIRR function, we arrive at the amazing figure of…


That’s what compound interest can do when you buy a stock at age 28 and sell (or donate) at 98. That’s a great return, and I would be thrilled to see returns like that over just one decade, let alone a lifetime.

I’ve Included a simple XIRR calculator in the Excel File with all the calculators I’ve created for posts on this site. Want a copy for yourself? Subscribe and I’ll send it to you.

How did he know that Walgreens would perform so well? A detailed analysis of the company structure? Pure dumb luck? Or something else?

He told the Chicago Tribune that people would always need medication and women would always need makeup. It’s perhaps an antiquated view, but it’s a view he held just after World War II. You know, the era where our antiques come from.


What if he hadn’t been a smart stock picker?

He got a great return, but it’s not that far above the historical average, right? And weren’t stocks beaten up during the Second World War? What has been the market return since 1947?

Fortunately for us, there’s an easy way to find out. From Don’t Quit Your Day Job, the S&P 500 Return Calculator. Plugging in May 1947 to May 2017, we have our answer.





Or 0.21% less than the return from the Walgreens stock.

I point this out not to take anything away from Mr. Gremel (or Walgreens for that matter) but to point out that he didn’t get lucky, nor did he pick a stock that significantly outperformed the rest. He didn’t buy a stinker, either. He did two really smart things.


He bought. And he held.


Truthfully, he did three smart things. He bought, he held, and he lived a very long time.



Here’s to you and me buying, holding, and living a very long time.


-Physician on FIRE


You’re still not using Empower? Track all your accounts in one place like I do.

15 thoughts on “The Sunday Best (6/11/2017)”

  1. Great story PoF! I’m also a big believer in holding for a very very long time. I’ve held certain funds for almost two decades now, and certain individual stocks for over a decade now!

    Those I’ve held the longest tend to be my best performers too!

  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. That thought once crossed my mind, too, but I decided I’d rather start earning less and living more once I reach a little bit more than Enough (we’re pretty much there). But when I had the $10 Million Dream, I figured that amount of money could double every 10 years or so and 9-figures wasn’t out of the picture if I lived long enough.

    The bummer about that is that with 3% inflation, the purchasing power is halved every 24 years. So if you have $100 million in 72 years, it will be like having $12.5 million today.

  4. Regarding the guy who took $2K and made it $2MM. Compound interest IS that crazy. It’s one of the reasons why I think that within my lifetime, I’m pretty sure I’ll hit $100 million. Sounds nuts, but I think there’s a very good chance it’ll happen. Especially with people living longer.

  5. Thanks, PoF! Put Havasupai reservations on your calendar for Feb 1st. The new computer system supposedly makes things easier, but some of my friends still had better luck calling this year.
    Have a great week!

  6. I have a question on your return comparison for our Walgreens vs. S&P analysis. What did you do with the Walgreens Dividends? For example the Dividend in 2016, alone, would have been $35k (approximately we don’t know the share count) – the article doesn’t say what the investor did and I am guessing DRIP didn’t exist when the initial purchase took place.

    • I don’t think he reinvested the dividends. If you look at historical WBA prices on the Walgreens website ) the stock was worth $0.17 a share in 1972 (the earliest date they have data) and is worth about $80 today. So almost 450-fold return without dividend reinvestment and he invested 25 years before 1972.

      There’s always survivorship bias with these types of comparisons. The average company from 1947 that still exists today has probably done better than the S&P 500. But there are many stocks from 1947 that no longer exist.


      • WSP – agree on survivorship bias. I am a believer in Indexing and all the benefits that it brings. I think we can agree – this comparison is not apples to apples. That’s all.

    • Without dividends, the S&P 500 returned 7.6%. So if it’s true that he didn’t invest dividends at any point, he got nearly a 4% better return.

      Of course, there’s a lot we don’t know. We don’t know exactly when he bought it, how much he paid, whether or not he bought additional shares of Walgreens that he sold along the way, whether he bought other stocks that underperformed, the dividend question, etc…

      I do think it’s pretty cool that he presumably lived like a Mustachian long before “Mustachianism” was a virtue.


  7. I like that you compared it to the s and p and showed how small a difference in return it really was. The media portrays the whole thing as luck with stock picking. But in reality it wasn’t luck, it was compounding. Today’s future 98 year olds can do the same with index funds.

  8. I saw that article about Mr. Gremel’s Walgreens stock. With the power of a stretch IRA, your money could compound for even longer than 70 years, although your children and grandchildren would be the beneficiaries.

    • The amazing part is that Mr Gremel had been living off those Walgreens dividends for the past 50 years or so. And he was also reinvesting his dividends as well. It would be interesting to see what else does he hold in his portfolio.

      On a side note, It is good to see that I invest like a 90 year old…


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