Christopher Guest Post: Think Save Retire

Today, we crank the amp up to eleven with Steve from Think Save Retire. Since the fall of 2014, he’s been encouraging people to Think about what the want from life, Save a good chunk of your income, and Retire when you’re good and ready.

Steve was ready to retire in his mid-thirties after a career in information technology. Now, he and his wife Courtney are living a streamin’ life traveling the country in an Airstream RV with their dogs.

Although he was once a big spender, he realized he’s perfectly happy living on a smaller budget, and took the leap with a net worth just shy of $1 million. Since retiring recently, the market has been kind to them, and they now have a 7-figure net worth.

Let’s get to know Steve a bit better, shall we?

What’s a Christopher Guest post?

 

Think Save RetireInspired 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.

 

 

 

Think Save Retire

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 worked in the mind-numbing field of information technology, anxiously soaking up all that income in a job that I didn’t particularly enjoy. The golden handcuffs kept me commuting to work – day after day.

The most enjoyable aspect of the job was accomplishing a mission – finishing a project that was meaningful to someone else and who got value out of the work that I put into the project. Unfortunately, this feeling was far too fleeting for me. I’d work projects without a clear customer, without clear requirements and, more times than not, an arbitrary task list from my manager that would completely change nearly every day.

If I were a physician, I’d like to think that I’d choose cardiology. The primary reason is money, but also because I naturally enjoy learning about that part of the body.

 

[PoF: If you had said you actually enjoyed mind-numbing, I would have suggested you choose anesthesiology. Mind-numbing is what we do. We literally numb the mind so it takes no offense to insults to the body from needles, scalpels, screws, and saws.

Cardiology is a fascinating field. The human heart beats more than 2.5 billion of times in a lifetime. Kudos to the doctors that add precious beats, extending our collective lifespans.]
 

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

 

My blog has absolutely nothing to do with medicine, but it does channel the frustration of someone who makes money. Good money. Golden handcuff money. In my case, I always enjoyed the business of information technology, but not the “jobiness” of it all.

I’ve written on the blog that I don’t believe in privilege, but in wise decision-making instead. It’s awesome making money, but money alone won’t make early retirement automatic.

To hell with luck. Early retirement isn’t about earning all the money in the world. Or timing the market just right. I talk about choices and making the best ones for you and your fam.

I don’t care about income; in this game, it’s about decisions…your decisions.

 

[PoF: On one hand, I can agree that we tend to make our own luck and the decisions we make each and every day can put us in a fortuitous place. On the other hand, I recognize the many privileges I’ve been granted as an American-born white male and my path to financial independence has been paved with a great stock market run.]

 

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?

 

I started my blog primarily as an experiment. I saw how successful Mr. Money Mustache’s blog was, and wondered if I could bring my own blog anywhere near his. I’m getting there, though I still have a ways to go. It’s all good, though. As an early retiree, the blog is now something I maintain purely for fun. The second it stops being fun, I’m destroying everything.

Once I began getting hate was when I discovered that my blog might actually turn into something meaningful. Hate means that your story has escaped the relatively comfy confines of the personal finance community and out into the general population. That’s a good sign. It means your content has broken through the nearly automatic-sharing mechanism that exists inside. The more hate you get, the wider your story is spreading.

No real plans – just keep doing what I’m doing. I’m planning on releasing a couple new content features in 2018, but that’s really it for now.

 

[Being featured on Forbes and other large sites will bring some hate. There’s no way around it. It’s incredible how early retirement stories are met with an ugly mix of disbelief, jealousy, and plain old anger.

I agree that blogging is fun. I enjoy the creative aspects of writing, the social aspects of social media (they’re a reason they call it social media), and I’ve gotten to meet some really cool people in real life, including Steve!]

 


You're still not using Personal Capital? That's how I track the PoF portfolio.

 

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

 

A whole eleven posts? Okay, here goes!

What is it like making over $900,000 a year?

How we automate our financial lives.

What’s on your personal business card?

Love work, not your job.

What’s your money’s purpose? No one ever got rich by saving money

You don’t need any more financial advice.

What does your “I quit” letter look like?

I lost my six figure income and I’m much happier.

The challenge of making money when we don’t need more of it.

How to deal with people who hate your guts.

Financial independence for the non-early retiree.

 

[PoF: Lots of great money and philosophy nuggets there. I can relate to a number of these titles, particularly the one about people hating my guts. 😉 ]

 

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 retired from full-time work at the age of 35. To hit our target, my wife and I saved nearly 70% of our combined income, sold both of our homes and now travel the country in our 30′ Airstream RV.

 

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?

 

I do whatever I feel like doing each and every day. I’m still heavily involved in IT work, but it’s on my schedule. I do things that are interesting to me. My wife and I maintain a YouTube channel called A Streamin’ Life. I blog at ThinkSaveRetire.com and also dabble quite a bit in photography. And, we travel full-time. Right now, we’re focusing on the United States, but there will come a time when we stretch our wings a bit and go international.

I’m never bored.

 

hawaii

 

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.

 

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t provide advice on that front. However, we all know that doctors make good money. They also have great responsibility. Don’t take for granted the position that you are in. It’s a tough job that pays well, but resist the temptation to grow your lifestyle as you grow your career in medicine. The more money that you spend, the more money that you will need to make just to fund your life – and, the longer you’ll work.

Ultimately, we are judged based on the kind of people we are. If we’re a**holes, then it won’t matter how much money we make. If we’re kind and open-minded, the world will cooperate. Be the best doctor that you can be, set goals for your future self, and work hard to achieve them. Every goal we achieve gets us that much closer to, well, anything our heart desires.

 

[PoF: “The more money that you spend, the more money that you will need to make just to fund your life – and, the longer you’ll work.” This is clearly true, and a fact that many young physicians flat out ignore for what seems like a great reason — they truly love their jobs. 

Unfortunately, a decade or two later, after an MOC debacle and perhaps a lawsuit, job loss, or other career crisis, you might not feel the same. If you ignored the quoted advice, burnout can set in and you’ve got no option to continue for another decade or two in a career that no longer has the same appeal.]

 

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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 visit Costa Rica and live like a king in a relatively low cost of living area. I swim. I sip top-shelf margaritas on the beach and dine on fresh-caught fish in the form of sushi. I stay in one of the nicest hotels with the best view and enjoy every minute of it. I will forever remember that $11,000.

 

[PoF: Sounds lovely! We toured Costa Rica a few years ago. Beautiful beaches, monkeys, sloths, and perfect weather. What’s not to love?]

 

costa rica waterfall

a costa rican waterfall

 

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

hannibal likes chianti

1: Beer – Ambers, Porters and Stouts
2: Wine – Pinot Noir, Chianti
3: Tequila
4: Margaritas
5: Gin and Tonics
6: Coffee
7: Hot Chocolate
8: Sprite
9: Diet Pepsi
10: Diet Dr. Pepper
11: Water

 

[PoF: 1. Beer, 11. Water. A man who has his priorities straight.]

 

Now, eleven foods.


1: Nachos
2: Scallops
3: Fajitas
4: Grilled peppers and onions
5: Basically anything from Chipotle
6: Chips and Salsa
7: Anything with pesto sauce
8: Nearly every pasta
9: Prime-cut filet mignon
10: Spicy carnitas
11: Pineapple

 

[PoF: Sounds like Tex mex with a bit of Italian for variety. I could share a meal with you any day. But what would we have for dessert? Vanilla ice cream with a delightful pesto topping?]

 

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

 

I probably learned about PhysicianOnFire first from Rockstar Finance. Regarding advice, you don’t need any. You’re killin’ it and taking names, and that’s really all that needs to be said.

 

[PoF: You’re too kind, Steve. Thank you for taking the time to indulge my curiosities, and it’s been great getting to know you and learn from you. Enjoy that Airstream — we’ve got plenty of places to park it here in the upper Midwest. I recommend waiting untiil summertime, though.]

 

 

Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out the following Christopher Guest Posts:

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Readers, do you have a twelfth question for Steve? Want to know more about the nomadic RV lifestyle? Photography? Videography? Ask away.

 

 

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22 comments

  • Two of my favorite bloggers in one post! Sweet.

    Great advice on not letting lifestyle creep so that retirement happens earlier because you A) need less money to retire, and B) will spend less money so it’ll last longer in retirement.

    When doing medicine starts to feel like “a job” I’ll know it is time to step away. For now, it still feels like a calling. That said, I am thinking saving and (going to be) retiring when I can. Or at least stepping back to part time. As my side hustles grow and I enjoy them more, I look forward to being able to spend time on them more.

    Now to go check out those posts to make sure I’ve read them all!

    • Hah! Thanks – it’s awesome that you’re still in love with your job. Seriously, I only wish I had loved mine longer. I think you’ve got your attitude spot on…as long as it still feels like your calling, keep at it and bringing in that beautiful greeeeeeeeen. 🙂

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  • Hi Steve! I didn’t realize you guys lived in an RV! Or had a Youtube channel! Nice editing.

    Have you ever done a comparison post of RV vs. renting? Is the mortgage process the same? It’s definitely a cool way to travel and must save a ton of money (I’m assuming).

    • Thanks, Olivia! Yup, we’re producing quite a bit of content over here. 🙂

      I haven’t done a post like that, actually…though it probably would be a good one. Though, I can’t talk toooo much about the mortgage process with an RV because we bought ours outright. However, I do believe it’s more similar to an auto loan than it is a traditional mortgage on a house.

  • Sorry about the hate. Unfortunate societal trend. Keep living the life you two deserve.

  • “But these go to 11” LOL!

    Great post and love the reasons for blogging and retiring early!

    Enjoy your travels 🙂

  • Nachos and beer topping the lists… mmmm, I’m ready for a happy hour!

    — Jim

  • You retired around the age I did. I have been at this stage for about 13 years now and being FI is beyond fantastic. However, I never saw FI/ retiring as a forever thing. I simply wanted to take care of my own children while they were growing up. Not for their benefit but because I wanted to. It was probably a mild detriment to them that I was around so much.

    Now that my youngest is heading to university, I am actually looking forward to working a bit. Thankfully I suspected that would happen. The math of FI is simple. It is wonderful to see so many finally figuring it out. I think the best benefit of retiring so young is that you had to become a very different person to achieve FI and that growth is what will make any future endeavors successful for you as well.

    My husband dreams of a buying an Airstream…

    • Thanks, Dr. MB. I can totally understand your situation. Maybe after years of doing this, I’ll want to start doing something again as well. You never know I guess. But to me, that is part of the fun in this process….figuring out what the next step is, because being FI means that it can be *anything*!

  • Great post Steve!

    Love this “The more money that you spend, the more money that you will need to make just to fund your life – and, the longer you’ll work.”

    If you want to work after funding your life, nobody’s going to stop you. You might as well give yourself that option though right?

    • Yup! There is nothing wrong with voluntarily working a full-time job after you’ve reached FI. But, there’s also incredible wisdom in keeping your options open and giving yourself the choice in the future. One day, you might no longer enjoy your job as much. 🙂

  • We should get dinner!!!! I wonder if anyone puts pineapples on nachos…or is that weird? I think it sounds delicious. I found filet mignon cuts at Safeway and it did taste pretty good (but I doubt comes close to the quality you’re talking about.)

  • Gasem

    I think much of the impetus for social media hate is subconscious or at least sub-cortical. I think it feels good so people do it because it feels good. Not engaging robs the hater of his dopamine dose.

    Enjoyed the post.

    • True that, Gasem. Or, responding with brutal happiness. Ultimately, they want to get under your skin, and by responding, you’re showing them that not only did you SEE their message, but you’re also taking the time out of your day to respond – and, the implication being that their message didn’t succeed. 🙂

      • Gasem

        Not only didn’t it succeed but the lack of response is a negative reinforcement since the presumed dopamine hit never materialized.

        In rat lab the worst thing you can do is intermittently reinforce a behavior. That will result in persistent and possibly escalating “hate responses” just in case continued badgering results in a reinforcing response.

  • Happy Margarita Day! Learned a couple new things about you, Steve, but Diet Pepsi?? At least you stared with Porters and Stouts.

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