Christopher Guest Post: Ten Factorial Rocks



Welcome to the latest Christopher Guest post.

Today’s guest is Dr. TFR, Ph.D. or if you prefer, the author behind Ten Factorial Rocks.

You may be asking yourself, what kind of rocks are those? I remember sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous… but factorial?

In this case, the idea is that the mathematical function known as 10! (ten factorial) is awesome. It rules. It rocks.

The number, which is equal to 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 3,628,800. That’s how many dollars the engineer might like to have before retiring early. The goal exceeds my nest egg goal by at least a million dollars, and should provide for a very comfortable retirement.

This has been a good week for the blogger, with a recent post The Dog Years of Investing featured on Rockstar Finance, and his Christopher Guest post coming two days later.

 

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: Ten Factorial Rocks

 

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?

I like to think I add good value to a company for a living.  Sure, they give me a fancy title but it is ultimately about adding to the company’s top line or bottom line that keeps you on the payroll.

I am a ‘Gen X’ corporate executive in my mid 40’s. I have a Ph.D.  in engineering and an MBA.   I have worked in almost all continents of the world, except maybe Africa and Antarctica so I feel I am qualified to write about geographic arbitrage.  My employer made me head of ‘strategy’ as they probably figured I don’t fit in either pure engineering or in sales.

I am known for asking piercing questions [PoF: Like ‘Does it hurt to get your belly button pieced?’] and to make insightful suggestions on my company’s businesses, so they don’t generally mess with me.  I like that I am able to keep my hands in both science and business in my job.  I also developed a 2-day workshop on strategy and finance, which is highly rated by participants (with some flattering feedback saying it’s better than what they learned at Harvard or Wharton).  I do this on the side for fun but I am told such workshops charge a pretty penny.

If I were a physician, I would be an anesthesiologist.  Seriously.  I am not saying this to please PoF. [PoF: I am pleased nonetheless.]

 

I like quietness more than cacophony, so the idea of being able to shut people up for a few hours appeals to my inner child.  Sure, I want them to wake up at the right time when I am in the mood to listen but I don’t know how to calibrate a dosage for that!  I also like chemistry (between atoms and humans both).

Looking at the income physicians make, it is clear I gave up on a lucrative career option in my younger days.  But having learned much about the medical profession reading POF and other physician blogs, I am now glad I made a different choice.  I probably would have burned out much earlier than in corporate management.

[PoF: Most people look at nothing but income and figure physicians have it made. I’m not saying we don’t, but what most people (including me as a college student) don’t fully consider is the many arduous years of training, the crushing debt, and the late start (typically early-to-mid thirties) we get when we finally start to bring home those paychecks.

I don’t regret the path I’ve taken, but there are other ways to become wealthy and not all of them require carrying a pager. Apparently, some of them will take you around the world, which is a nice bonus!]

 

 

Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.

My blog speaks more to above-average earning professionals, so physicians clearly fit the category.   However, I do like variety of perspectives so I occasionally invite millennials to post.  I am sure some of my posts would appeal to highly-indebted young physicians as well. [PoF: But what about highly-inebriated young physicians?]

I also share my views on the issues young professionals face on different millennial blogs to help them on the FIRE journey.   It’s not as if we Gen-X’ers have done a bang up job with the world so I am doing my part to compensate!  Sure, baby boomers left us with big entitlement burdens so we didn’t have good role models either? [PoF: Yeah, maybe not, although my parents were good role models for me (and might be reading this 🙂 )]

 

Ten Factorial Rocks (TFR) was created to chronicle my journey towards retirement while sharing my views on the learnings, absurdities and pitfalls along the way towards my search for a more meaningful life.

TFR is not just about financial independence.  TFR is also about self-empowerment while getting to financial independence, and our search for a better, meaningful life (of which early retirement is just one milestone).  I also cover topics relating to families, living abroad and interesting financial tidbits from around the world, all learned from my peripatetic career.  Everything I write about is from my personal experience or knowledge so authenticity is important for me.

[PoF: Darn your big brain and big words. I had to look that one up! I’ve heard the high-income FIRE movement referred to as FatFIRE (as opposed to LeanFIRE). There’s even a Reddit sub for that. I think we both qualify as planning a FatFIRE]

 

 

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?

The idea came to me one morning during a long walk (that’s about all the exercise I do these days). There is so much of misinformation about career and investing in the world with people jumping between two extremes – doom/gloom on one side and extreme greed on the other – so I thought why not be an anchor of balance in this crazy world?

At least, I wanted my son to understand his old man a little better when he grows up.  He loves math, so my blog ended up having a ‘mathy’ name.  Ten Factorial Rocks (TFR) was thus born.  My father and grandfathers were journalists and educators, so you can also say there is a bit of ‘gene effect’ in sharing information.

My blog felt ‘arrived’ within a month of starting it.  I particularly remember the day when Rockstar Finance featured my article on their website, and the same article got picked up by Lifehacker as well.  My little nook in the vast cyberspace, that barely had 10 visitors, saw something like 1000 visitors on that day.   Talk about a huge inspiration.  Another ‘arrived’ moment was when PoF graciously selected my article in his Sunday Best series.

 

[PoF: I hope you find the time to get a little more exercise in if and when you reach your 10! goal and pull the RE trigger! A quick tip: A long walk is great unless it’s on a short pier.

 

 

Those RSF feature days are exhilarating, aren’t they? I don’t quite have the same influence, but I can send you a few hundred readers if you’ve got something good to say, which I know you do. And next up are some of those posts readers will want to check out.]

 

Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.

Alright.  Here it goes, in reverse chronological order (all articles are on my Archives page):

 

Since PoF reaches out to physicians and self-insured early retirees, perhaps this small case on affordable healthcare example would be of interest. Sorry to add a 12th post (11 is a banker’s dozen, so I don’t like shortchanging your readers, only financial advisers and high-fee firms do that ?)  I could also do 13 and call it a ‘baker’s dozen’, but I will stop here.

[PoF: Affordable healthcare is a huge question for aspiring early retirees so I don’t blame you for including the extra post. And by referencing the Dog Years article in the intro, we’ve got our baker’s dozen. Mmmm… donuts…]

 

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 can retire now if I want to, or retrospectively, even 10 years ago.  Though there are certain parts of my job that I hate, there are enough nice parts to keep me at work for now.  But I tell myself every day this could be my last day at work – if I so wished.

Strangely, this has motivated me to work better and tolerate the bad parts.  Though my blog mentions a $10! target, my retirement is not contingent on reaching it.  We have enough cushion in our geographically diverse lifestyle options to temper down our expenses if needed.

[PoF: Good for you! I’m rowing in a similar boat. Actually, when I started my blog, my goal was something between $3M and $4M, which was based more on the timeframe of working at least five more years full-time and what I expected my net worth to be at that time.

After over a year of voluminous reading, writing, and contemplating, I’ve decided to cut back to part-time and shave at least a couple years off that initial projection of five-plus years.]

 

What does an ideal retirement look like for you? What will you do with your time when full-time work is in your rear-view mirror?

I have done a lot of traveling for work so I want to take it easy for a while before I start leisure travel again.

 

Italian Harbor

[pof: yeah, who wants to travel, anyways…]

Going by the mails I am getting, looks like I can help people with financial planning and charge for each session. Since I have no agenda or financial interest in any investment products, people will get it straight from me.  Maybe they won’t like it.  But it would be fun for me to do in retirement.

[PoF: You might have to be careful with what type of planning you do. Advisors with credentials have limits on what they can say on their sites. Compliance is a big issue. A “money coach” on the other hand is basically a lifestyle consultant, and I don’t think there’s much regulation on the coaching side.

Personally, I’m content to hand out advice for free. There are ways to monetize a site that gets good traffic by providing helpful content free of charge.]

 

An ideal retirement day for me will start late…with a nice cup of my favorite latte, while reading the morning newspaper (yes, I like the volatile ink chemical smell wafting across a crisp news paper mixing with the aroma of a nice coffee).  This will be followed by a nice long walk, a relaxing shower and a hearty brunch with friends and family.   Then, catching up on an errand or two, some reading and slowly drifting into a nice afternoon nap.  Wake up again with a nice cup of coffee and go for an evening stroll with a friend or see a show with the family, followed by a slow dinner.

If this day doesn’t inspire me to write some great posts after dinner, nothing else will.   After writing some awesome content, and ordering WordPress to publish it at the date and time of my choosing,  I will drift off into sleep.

PoF, look what you did.  By making me dream like this, you have now killed my motivation to work!  And I have a project deadline next week.   I will now blame you in my resignation letter for inspiring this imagery of retirement when my boss asks me why.

[PoF: For every reader I motivate, I probably demotivate three or four. 🙂 Your day sounds mighty fine to me, although I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I actually gave up caffeinated beverages about 10 days ago — I don’t intend to avoid them completely but I’m happy to give up the psychological reliance I had on them. Diet Dew was my vice.]

 

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.

  • Know yourself well and rate yourself fairly (stay far away from the Dunning–Kruger effect). [PoF: Also try to avoid the Freddy–Krueger effect]
  • Live at least two notches below your income (a notch = 10% in my book, so if you make $100K/year, live the lifestyle of someone living debt-free with $80K/year income)
  • Nobody cares about your future more than you and if anyone says otherwise, they are lying.
  • The lines “Go ahead, live a little” and “you only live once” have gotten more people into financial trouble than what’s reported.
  • Carry knowledge, not debt from your higher education.  (If you are a physician, I know you can’t help it, but have a plan to pay off student loans fast like POF).
  • Being debt-free is a great feeling, aim to have it for the rest of your life.
  • When in doubt, save it rather than spend it.
  • Learn the concepts of personal finance and behavioral psychology even as you dive deep in your specialty
  • Be the best you can be in your field (The top 5% of any field get paid 50-100% more than the average).
  • Anything worth working for (like FIRE) is worth working very hard for.
  • No matter how busy you are, there’s always time for a meal with friends and family.

[PoF: Solid advice across the board. That last one is one of my FIRE motivators. Like so many other physicians, it can be difficult to be home in time to prepare and enjoy a meal with my family at a reasonable hour. Until I retire, it’s accepted that I probably won’t be home for dinner 20% of the days on the calendar. 

That will improve to about 10% of the calendar when I switch to a part-time schedule this fall.]

 

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?

I would love to go to Vanuatu (the tiny island nation on the South Pacific).  If you see it on a globe, it looks like a defect speck in a vast blue canvas.   It is a remote, tiny land mass in the middle of the massive Pacific Ocean.

I have always wanted to visit this place, maybe because it is so remote.  Vanuatu is a sovereign nation (has its own passport and currency, vatu).   For what it’s worth, $1 buys 110 vatu.   There are flights from Australia/New Zealand.  Being only a 3.5 hour flight to Port Vila (the capital) from Sydney, I think it is quite doable for a week’s vacation from U.S. on a $11,000 budget for a family of three if you buy off-season (Jan-June) economy tickets and budget stays.  I just hope my cell phone doesn’t work there.

Now, let’s talk turkey.  How do we get there?  Oh wait, what’s that I hear?  A $11,000 check from PoF is coming in the next 2 weeks?  To avoid that check getting “in the mail”, I also accept PayPal, if PoF prefers.

[PoF: WAIT, Wait, wait. I said you’ve got eleven days and $11,000. Not me. If you’re closing in on $10!, I’m sure you can find that money in your spare change drawer 🙂

 

 

You made me use the Google again. There it is, just north of New Caledonia. The pictures of the place do look amazing. Maybe we’ll meet you there!]

 

 

Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.

  1. Pure and clean drinking water from a pristine source (water is the world’s only zero calorie drink).
  2. Cafe Latte (need I say more?)
  3. Champagne (many good memories after successful business/projects)
  4. Fresh lime soda (Arnold Palmer – the way they make it in Asian hotels), refreshing after a long day.
  5. Coconut water (nature’s bounty from the tropics).  Don’t like the canned version, always have it poured fresh from a green tender coconut.
  6. Any Merlot of a decent vintage
  7. Mojito (loved it ever since I first had it in New Orleans, image of a white sandy beach pops up in my head when I have this).
  8.  Sweet Lassi (you gotta have it after a spicy Indian meal)
  9.  Rose and saffron flavored sweetened milk (loved it during my middle-east travels).
  10.  Pomegranate juice
  11.  Chi-Chi (classic Hawaiian drink)

[PoF: Your extensive travels are reflected in your beverage choices. I notice a conspicuous absence of beer, but it appears you know how to party.]

 

Now, eleven foods.

  1. Thin crust pizza verdure (made in a wood-fired clay oven with authentic ingredients)
  2. Authentic minestrone soup
  3. Mexican bean soup (without the animal stock but with sour cream and chopped green chilies)
  4. South Indian colorful vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf
  5. Warm herb-encrusted flat bread that releases steam when broken
  6. Pad Thai
  7. Soupy noodles from Asian street vendors
  8. Basil pesto pasta with toasted pine nuts
  9. Nachos with creamy garlic dip
  10. Ratatouille (from a small town French diner)
  11. McDonald’s hash browns (yeah, I like this better here than in other places)

[PoF: That last one was unexpected. If we’re talking hashbrowns, I thought we’d be talking classy hashbrowns, like smothered covered Waffle House hashbrowns.]

 

How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?

First, I searched for PF bloggers who are still working and handling the demands of a full-time job.  I remember reading a great comment from PoF on a forum somewhere so I thought I should check him out.

When I landed on this blog, I was hooked.  I mean, a busy doctor who finds time to blog and dish out sane finance advice?  I have heard ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ in my childhood, but if the doctor is as entertaining as POF is, well…I say keep the apple away.

I have no advice for you Mr. PoF [PoF: That’s Dr. PoF to you 😉 ] as you already pursue many of the ‘ten factors‘ I mention on my site.  I only wish you great health, good success with your blog and in reaching your financial goals.  You have created an amazing property on the web that I am happy to be a participant of.  May our paths cross in the near future (but not in a hospital).  Travel safely, my 10! friend.

[PoF: Yes, avoid the hospital for as long as you can, and soon enough, I’ll try to do the same. Instead, let’s drink tropical concoctions out of coconuts and enjoy long walks on long piers.

Thank you so much for taking the time to elaborate on your FIRE plans and allow us all to get to know you quite a bit better. Cheers! [coconuts click]

Readers, if you have additional questions for TFR, please ask them below and we’ll see if the good doctor can find the time to answer them.]

 


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21 comments

  • Great to get to know you better TFR! You can get a good sense of folks from their writing and their about pages, but share-outs like this are great to fill in the gaps! I have a number of your posts bookmarked for re-reads this summer. Nice to have some other Gen-X’ers to hang out with on the blogs 😉

    • Thanks Vicki. Appreciate you bookmarking my posts. We are a smaller voice among the millennial-filled blogging world. Glad you could relate.

      And mighty nice of Dr. POF for giving me this opportunity.

    • Thanks Vicki! We Gen Xers are underrepresented in the blogging world. I am honored that you have bookmarked my posts.

  • As always very sound advice from the PhD who seems to like math. The class you teach on strategy and finance, are you focusing on p and l management, acquisitions, and organic growth? Marketing? NPI? Just curious.

    • Thanks FTF. My workshop covers the “how” part of strategic thinking, including common cognitive biases and how to avoid them. It can be applied to any business subject you mention but I use cases in P&L management, how to handle business uncertainty, and also, win-win negotiation under many variables. It’s ideally done with 8-16 participants with significant group work. I am thinking whether I should offer this as a program for companies and hospitals once I leave my job.

  • Thanks for sharing 10! Rocks. I love reading stories about executives with blogs. At the company I work for, I can’t imagine any of our executives having blogs – it seems they are in the office from 5 to 7 each day!

    I’ll be over to check out your content – cheers!!

    • Thanks Erik. Yeah, time management is my persistent problem as well. Executive jobs can kill you if you don’t manage both time and stress well. But can’t be much worse than doctors like POF, I imagine. I don’t know how the good doctor manages to post so much and be so active in the blogging community while being a busy anesthesiologist. He is an inspiration for me to keep my blog going!

  • Hatton1

    In defense of baby boomers we are not all financially irresponsible. Interesting about Vanuatu. Some of your posts sound interesting so I will try to check them out.

    • That was a stereotypical joke Hatton1, as the Boomers are clichéd to have a golden retirement with pensions and fully funded SS! No defense needed, my mentors who guided me in life are part of that fine generation. Yeah, Vanuatu is cool, hope to see it someday. Look forward to having you on my blog,

  • Arrgo

    I’ve never been in the high earner group but find that I can always learn something and appreciate the effort in putting out informative blog posts for everyone to read. I’ve always been on the technical side of things but have seen the time managers and executives have to put in (in early/ leave late) which I can imagine can be hard to sustain over a long period of time. Your strategy workshop sounds very interesting. Could be a good side gig for you in the future.

    • Thanks Arrgo. As the saying goes, “it’s not what you make, it’s what you Keep“. In fact, the biggest disadvantage of higher income is the enormous peer pressure. Besides, my income, while in six figures, isn’t anywhere near what doctors make. The hours can be crazy but the good thing is personal work can also get done in the late hours. Many executives have no choice but to do that, like pay bills, dry cleaners pick up/drop off, meals ordered in and of course, maintain a blog and comment on other posts! ? But the price some pay in health can’t be measured in dollars, especially if you can’t handle stress.

      Thanks for the encouragement on the workshop. I enjoy giving it as much as the participants enjoy being in it. That would be a gig I can do on the side if a company is willing to hire me for training.

  • Great interview, TFR! And a good reminder to read some of the classics on your blog again! Very tasty food/drink picks! One of these days all of us FatFIRE people should have a Fat Tire (beer on tap in the title pic) and catch up in person!

    • Thanks ERN! I like the Fat Tire idea. We have more in common than our next door neighbor or the next door office colleague.

  • As always love the Guest Post. My youngest daughter loves McD’s Hashbrowns, too. We bought a similar ginormous package from CostCo, but they just aren’t the same.

    I too love Coconut water especially when training for a run or ride. So far have not had it fresh though.

    Family time is so important. We are all getting older and just way too fast for my liking.
    cd :O)

    • Thanks Chris. I have had great hash browns in many places but somehow I love the crispy hash brown from McD, perhaps because you can hold it in one hand while you dunk in ketchup and drive with the other hand on the great American open road! Some serious family bonding can happen with McD hash browns. ?

  • TFR – thanks for doing this. I learned more about you and your ideas. I especially liked the blogs on the 1% and on how much is enough.

    PoF – you are a respected presence in the blogosphere for sure. You got 500 people to read my blog on Easter Sunday. That says something!

  • Thanks for introducing me to another blogger. Never read his stuff but happy to go check 10! now.

    Diet dew? No way that is good for you. I am glad you have given up the Dew so you can live a health FIRE lifestyle.

    Part time work seems like a great balance for those with some enjoyment in their job.

    • It’s pretty tasty stuff, but after two weeks and no caffeine (other than a cup of tea that my wife thought I should try), I haven’t noticed much of a difference. I think caffeine’s effect on me is mostly placebo.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • HarjotSingh

    Hi TFR, thank you for adding such a wonderful perspective ,especially on geographic arbitrage. I also found your dog years of investing post to be totally unique, appears self-evident now but needed to be said like how you said it with clarity.

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