The Sunday Best (7/2/2017)

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:


Do you remember Mr. Gremel, the nonagenarian who retired early and much later donated a small fortune to fund a wildlife preserve? The Dividend Growth Investor dug into the story and determined his dividend return on that one stock. This is How This Successful Dividend Investor Turned $1,000 Into $2 Million.


We desire to FIRE largely in order to be location independent and travel internationally. The Three Year Experiment started a series right up our alley, sharing the adventures of people who are doing one or the other or both! Her first two guests:


Speaking of adventures, our part-time radiologist friend The Happy Philosopher turned in his part-time card for a few months. How did that go? Adventures in Full-Time Work.


I don’t often feature podcasts here, but Jonathan and Brad are knocking it out of the park with ChooseFI. Also, they featured one of my posts as the backbone of The Aspiring Minimalist vs The Reluctant Frugalist.


Brad is a travel rewards master. Mr. Crazy Kicks isn’t too far behind. In another installment of his travel rewards adventures, he explains How We Went to Europe for Free.


Don’t think you have to go all the way to Europe to enjoy your summer. Peter of Bible Money Matters created The Ultimate Guide to Having a Blast This Summer Without Breaking the Bank.


Mel of brokeGIRLrich has a metaphorical mountain for you to climb. With several great resources linked at each milestone, she takes you from being flat broke to financial independence. I was happy to be featured among friends at the last stop on The Personal Finance Mountain.


Not all 401(k) plans offer wonderful low-cost funds; some plans are laden with fees. The Wall Street Physician addresses this conundrum in Should You Invest in a Bad 401(k) with High Fees?

Did you catch my post on the hedonic treadmill? Chris @ Keep Thrifty was once on that treadmill (albeit at a slower pace than Johnny Depp). He recently shared the story of Our Not-So-Thrifty Past.


Grab the popcorn, nestle into a comfy chair, and set aside a chunk of time to spend with the Mad Fientist as he regales the story of his past The Complete History of the Mad Fientist.


He’s Worth $2 Million. He’s Given $8 Billion.


You read about the generous man who gave away his $2 million fortune. Today, I’d like to tell you about a prolifically philanthropic man who has kept only $2 million while giving over $8 Billion of his fortune away during his lifetime.

Charles Feeney, 85, built a successful empire of duty free shops. Not comfortable spending his billions on yachts and vineyard mansions a la Johnny Depp, Mr. Feeney quietly established Atlantic Philanthropies in the 1980s.

According to this NY Times article, over the last few decades, Mr. Feeney, the “James Bond of Philanthropy” has given money to build 1,000 buildings on five continents to improve higher education and health care.

His name does not appear on any of those buildings.

He reportedly went to great lengths to protect his anonymity. He didn’t want the publicity. He just wanted to make the world a better place.

Mr. Feeney didn’t need the money for himself. From a 2012 Forbes article:

“On the spending side Feeney obsesses over value, and on the cost side, he loathes waste. Atlantic’s president and CEO, Chris Oechsli, recalls staying in a Vietnam hostel with him on one business trip but adds that Feeney also once sent him back to the U.S. on the Concorde because he understood the need to get him home in time for the holidays.


As for Feeney, he flew millions of miles in coach because first class didn’t get him to his destination any faster. He wears a rubber Casio watch because it keeps time like a Rolex.


During our train back from Limerick he would curse and shake his head each time we passed one of many abandoned housing developments (ghost estates) left over from the country’s real estate bust. “I’m always the first guy to ask how much is that or what does it cost?” Feeney says about living the high life. “I never tried it because I knew I wouldn’t like it.” Feeney rarely owned a car because they were difficult to park in cities–although he admits briefly owning a used Jaguar when he lived in Hong Kong.”

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Where did the $8 Billion go? 


Borrowing from the same Forbes article:

1982: Makes first grant of $7 million to Cornell. Total gifts will reach $937 million.

1984: Transfers his 38.75% DFS ownership to Atlantic.

1988: Gives $142,000 to support the Cancer Research Institute. Worldwide cancer grants will hit $370 million.

1990: Atlantic makes its first grant to University of Limerick to construct advanced research, conference and cultural facilities. Lifetime grants: $170 million.

1991: Funds peace-building and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

1997: Feeney goes public about his charity activities.

1999: Invests in Vietnam in the areas of higher education and health care.

2001: Funds biomedical research at Australia’s Queensland U. of Technology; Total Aussie medical grants: $320 million.

2002: Makes grant for South Africa AIDS relief: has invested over $117 million in South African health care.

2004: Begins funding efforts to abolish the death penalty in the U .S. –has invested $28 million to date.

2006: Starts efforts to ensure health coverage for the almost 8 million uninsured children in the U .S.

2008: Makes $125 million grant for medical center at the University of California, San Francisco Mission Bay campus. Total UCSF grants: $290.5 million.

2012: With a $350 million investment, supports Cornell’s winning bid to develop NYC Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island.

2016: Will complete $1.3 billion worth of grants.

2020: The Atlantic Philanthropies will close.


I love reading about inspirational people like Mr. Feeney and the dozens of other philanthropists who have made the giving pledge to donate at least half of their wealth.

I’ve pledged to give away 10% of my “fortune” to our donor advised funds before retiring and will be donating half of my site’s profits in accordance with my charitable mission, but I’m afraid I’ll never match Mr. Feeney’s generosity.



Have a great week!

-Physician on FIRE


20 thoughts on “The Sunday Best (7/2/2017)”

  1. Love the idea of the Sunday Best! Digging through your archives now.

    Wanted to comment when I saw that Mr Feeney donated to Queensland Uni of Technology. I’m an alumni, and had no idea that
    a) He’d donated, and
    b) That we even had a world-class medical offering in comparison to University of Queensland (who train most of the medical professionals in the state)

    Must be a valuable project for him to donate to!

    You might also like the story of Clive Berghofer –

    Farm-boy-who-came-good, and donated millions to fund a hospital research centre that eventually took his name.

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  3. I love, love, love the story about Charles Feeney. We will never have $8 billion to give away, but my partner and I plan to give whatever excess we do have to charities and organizations that we feel are worthwhile. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for including me in your roundup this week! That’s a great collection of other posts and podcasts. I can’t wait to check a few out – especially that travel/location independence series. That’s the dream.

    • You bet, Mel.

      I’ve been enjoying the Choose FI podcast quit a bit lately. I’ve learned that it’s pronounced like “fi” like the fi in “fee fi fo fum.” All this time I’d been pronouncing it “eff eye.” I still do in my head.

      Thank you for including me at the end of your “mountain hike”


  5. This is a great example of what can happen if you establish a finish line for your wealth accumulation. Once you cross it, you don’t need any more of your future earnings. You can do something else with them besides making yourself a bigger pile of money. Thanks for sharing this great example PoF.

    • It certainly is a wonderful example. I’m a little bit past our finish line and am working on building up our charitable giving fund, but I’ll never have billions to donate like Mr. Feeney did.


    • It certainly has. He’s been giving it out for over 30 years now.

      You can also imagine how much money there would be to give if he had left the money invested to compound throughout the years, but he wanted to give the money away during his lifetime rather than as a bequest, which I think is really great.


  6. Mr POF,

    I am honored to be included in the POF’s best.

    Mr Gremel is truly an amazing individual. Retiring at the age of 45 to do what he is passionate about, and donating the money to worthy causes, easily overshadows the gains from this one investment. I would guess that there is a little more money left over.

    Have a nice July 4th weekend!


    • Happy to feature your work here, DGI — I had featured Mr. Gremel’s story in a previous Sunday Best, but hadn’t dug into the dividend history of the stock as you did.

      Thank you for giving us the rest of the story.


  7. I think it’s not just how larger his donations set him apart. It’s that he’s also tried to stay anonymous doing so. It’s what you do when others are not looking that matters the most.

    • The combination is astounding. There are literally a thousand buildings that could (and probably should) bear his name.

      I should rename this post the Feeney Sunday Best. I just did.


  8. Thanks for the share, PoF!

    Many Wall Street financiers have named buildings, medical schools, and other things after themselves in exchange for millions of dollars in donations. While there’s nothing inherently bad about naming buildings after philanthropists, Mr. Feeney should be especially lauded for giving generously without much fanfare and living a relatively frugal lifestyle compared to his wealth.


    • I respect his method. Incredibly humble.

      Personally, I like to get credit for the giving I do. I shout it loud on this site and have my name (or my kids’ names) on a brick, a 12″ x 12″ tile, and etched in glass in the hospital lobby.

      Call me vain, but I like to see our family name out there.



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