Today’s interviewee is none other than the radiologist and superhero known for his X-Ray vision. He can see right through you!
His blog is known by the truncated XRAYVSN. I guess it fits on a license plate.
I have known him as a blogger for several years, and I had the pleasure of meeting him in person at the latest FinCon. You know, back when we could all get together in person. Now it’s your turn to get to know the guy who went from nearly a million dollars in the hole at age 40 to FI before 50.
That’s an impressive story, and you’ll learn more about that below. But first, for those who are not familiar with the CGP series, what’s the story behind it?
Christopher Guest Post: XRAYVSN
What in the world is a Christopher Guest Post?
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.
What is your specialty or subspecialty and why did you choose it? If you could turn back time, would you choose to practice medicine and choose the same specialty? Why?
I actually took a bit of a detour after medical school before I found my true calling.
I had aspirations of becoming a surgeon during medical school but it really was for the wrong reasons.
I thought it was prestigious to not only become a surgeon, but a heart surgeon at that.
Perhaps it was what was portrayed in the media, but I thought surgeons were the super cool docs that got all the girls (my dating life at that time was pretty much non-existent so I thought I could use a boost anyway I could get it).
After going through the gauntlet of a surgery residency for 2 years, I found that the reality of being a surgeon was quite sobering.
There were no regulations in place that limited hours of training/week like we have today.
After going back to back through 2 particularly grueling rotations (transplant and pediatric surgery), I saw that my personality took a change for the worse as I was logging over 130 hours/week in the hospital.
At the end of my PGYII year I decided that I had to part ways and then matched into a radiology residency where the lifestyle was much better suited for me.
I lost a year of training because of this misstep and the whole experience qualified as one of the “I made every mistake in the book” life entries.
But in the end, the hard decision to change specialties mid-residency was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
As for the second question:
Because I was “blessed” with a body that was quite non-aerodynamic and both my slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers were nothing to write home about, making a living as an athlete was out of the question.
Although I love music (I play the guitar and piano and have composed a few original songs), I knew the talent was just not there to make the living I wanted professionally (being a rockstar would be my dream job).
I was therefore left with medicine as a career choice back then, and I would make the same decision again.
As for transporting myself back in time, the only change I would make would be to go directly into radiology from the get-go.
[PoF: What a painful way to discover you chose the wrong specialty. Two years of your life but the equivalent of 5-6 years of work when you consider the workload of a resident before the duty hour restrictions.
Now that you’re financially independent, are you ready to become the rock star you’ve always dreamed of being? I hear Cory S. Fawcett is playing gigs once again after his surgical career!]
Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
Can it be a long run on sentence? [PoF: No.]
Crap, I just wasted a sentence (wait, now it’s two wasted sentences).
My blog, Xrayvsn.com, is essentially a chronicle of my life with financial lessons thrown in, both good and bad.
Like most physicians, I received absolutely no financial training despite over 23 years of education.
Throw in an incredibly nasty and contentious divorce that ended right before I turned 40 (as well having to successfully defend a subsequent $4 million dollar civil lawsuit she filed against me) and I had the makings of a financial horror story that would make Stephen King queasy.
I found myself with a net worth of negative $850k at the age of 40 when all was said and done.
I could not fathom myself retiring from medicine at a traditional age, much less trying to FIRE.
When I was at my lowest point, both emotionally and financially, I decided enough was enough and I had to make a change.
It was the subsequent life choices I made, and chronicle in my blog, that I feel physicians seeking FIRE might find appealing and be inspired by.
I was able to become debt free right before my 44th birthday, just 4 short years after my divorce.
A light bulb clearly went off and, in the subsequent years, I have positioned myself financially so that, at the age of 49, I can indeed walk away from medicine at any point and live on the passive income streams I have built.
[PoF: That is a monumentally deep hole to climb out of. Like Mariana Trench deep. The progress you’ve made in under a decade is astounding!]
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?
Once I started consuming everything I could on finance, particularly those topics regarding FIRE, passive income, and real estate, I was constantly sharing this knowledge with my colleagues.
My radiology partner noticed how passionate I was and it was he that planted the seeds for me to try and start a blog.
I wish I had started blogging when he first implored me to, but it actually took an additional 2 years before I broke the bonds of complacency and launched the blog on my 47th birthday in April 2018.
It is pretty easy to pinpoint when I felt like my blog arrived, and it was all courtesy of you.
With just a month of blogging under my belt, I had a post featured on the Sunday Best resulting in a tremendous spike in traffic that had me feeling absolutely giddy.
I was so excited I remember tweeting the phenomenon of being featured on a Sunday Best as an example of “Traffic Viagra.”
As for future plans for the blog, I am hoping to continue my 3x/week (Tues, Thurs, Sun) posting schedule with creative content that readers might enjoy and learn from.
Most blogs die off within 6 months, so I feel blessed that I am almost 2 1/2 years into it.
My biggest fear was that my creative well for content creation would dry up within a few weeks of going live but, knock on wood, that has not been the case at all.
[PoF: I’m happy to have played some small role in your early success with the blog. You’re right about staying power. It can feel like you’re speaking to an empty auditorium when you’re first starting out, but once people discover you and your blog, you keep finding reasons to continue to create new content.
The main thing that holds me back is not a lack of ideas or interest, but the limit of time. There are only so many hours in the day and days in the week. I sometimes wonder how I ever did this on top of a real job! Kudos to you for continuing to juggle both.]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
- I Have Pretty Much Made Every Mistake In The Book Part I, II, III, IV, V.
- It is only fitting that this 5 part series was what I chose to launch my blog with (and happened to be the posts featured in my very first Sunday Best referenced above).
- I wanted to show people that it is okay to make many mistakes because you still have the opportunity to right the ship when you learn from them.
- If You Could See Medicine Through My Eyes: Generation X M.D.
- This was a brainchild of mine that I was especially proud of as it resulted in a collaboration with 3 other physician bloggers representing the Boomer generation, Millennial generation, and a medical resident who simultaneously posted on their sites their respective perspective (sadly Hatton’s website is now defunct and her Boomer contribution is lost amidst the 1’s and 0’s of the blogger graveyard).
- How Dollywood Gave Me A Glimpse Of Retirement.
- It takes a strange person to go to an amusement park and come away with a financial epiphany, but that was indeed what happened to me.
- My Favorite Kind Of Money.
- Don’t get me wrong. I love all types of money but I am particularly enamored with the type of money referenced in this post.
- The Least Valuable Dollar.
- Sad to say but it took me way too long to figure this out. Knowing the system allows you to also game it to your advantage and protect your sanity.
- I Lied About Being Debt Free And Why I Am Happy About It.
- It may not be the wisest move to tell your readers that you are a flat-out liar but I just could not go on with the charade.
- Become A Capitalist, Not A Laborer (Building Your Financial Dam).
- It is quite apropos to equate money with water using terms such as income stream and cash flow. In order to build real wealth you need to make sure you create a dam to stop it from flowing away.
- Case Example: Behavioral Finance Biases In Stock Picking.
- I was a double major in college with Biology and Psychology degrees. I therefore am particularly interested in behavioral psychology with regards to finance. Unfortunately I was the subject behind this case study, demonstrating the many behavioral mistakes possible when buying individual stocks.
- The Seven Deadly Sins FIRE Edition: Luxuria.
- I put a Financial FIRE twist on the classic seven deadly sins in this 7-part series.
- Everyone Needs A Little Radiologist In Them-Mental Checklist.
- I absolutely love finding hidden financial pearls from everyday work experiences in medicine. This particular post initiated an eventual 7 part series on all the financial takeaways I gleaned from my radiology practice.
- The High Income Earner’s Ultimate Guide To Surviving Divorce: Part I.
- I truly wish that no one out there would ever need this guide, but I would be foolish to think that wish would come true. I went into my divorce proceedings completely naive and it truly was a trial by fire. By the time it was over I became an expert on the inner workings of Chancery court and felt it my duty to share it with others so it may serve as a guide during an incredibly stressful time.
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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 am quite fortunate that, at the age of 49, I am actually several years ahead of the schedule with regards to the financial milestones I had set out for myself.
Even though I can probably retire at any point now, I have always had age 53 as a good target to shoot for.
That age was chosen because it will be how old I am when my daughter graduates from high school.
I figured if I retired before then, I would still be tied down geographically because of her schooling.
So if I am stuck here for the majority of the year anyway, might as well work.
The key to making sure I will be well positioned to retire within this window is my transition to capital preservation mode while continuing to fuel the fire for the passive income machine I have created to support the retirement lifestyle I want.
[PoF: I also had 53 pegged as the earliest I might consider retiring and for similar reasons. That’s when my younger son would be old enough to leave the house. Then I realized that I could enjoy a lot more time with my boys if I retired when they were still home with us.
With just a few years left, you’ll reach that milestone soon enough and likely with more money than you’ll know what to do with. But I’m sure you’ll find some fun uses for it.]
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?
One of the biggest regrets in life I have is that I have put off traveling for so long, especially during medical school, residency, and as an early attending.
Although I have started to rectify the situation over the past 5 years or so, it still has not curbed my appetite.
In the back of my mind, I also would love to write books in both the fiction and non-fiction genres.
I’m hoping the non-traveling downtime of retirement can be filled with this endeavor and, if I am still fortunate to be doing so, blogging.
Lastly, one of the things I miss when I was in academics was teaching.
There are some teaching opportunities for residency programs within an hour’s drive of my home and that may be something I explore further when my clinical workload is eliminated.
[PoF: Your vision of retirement sounds a lot like mine. So much to do, and still, somehow, so little time.
I’d be curious to know what you’ve got in mind for fiction writing. That’s something I cannot see myself doing.]
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.
This advice goes out to the medical student:
Do not be swayed by potential income when considering a specialty. Pick something that you can see yourself enjoying a long career with instead of a higher paying one that burns you out faster. Your overall lifetime income will be much higher with the former.
This advice goes out to the youngest of physicians, the recently graduated med student:
It does not matter if you have an M.D. or D.O. behind your name, always show respect to the entire healthcare team and be willing to learn from them.
There were more than a few occasions where a nurse saved my ass by suggesting a better approach. If you get on their bad side, and trust me I knew a few that did, they can make your call a lot more problematic than it has to be.
This advice goes out to anyone with children:
Children are sponges and try to emulate their parents. So be the best example you can be. Do not be afraid to share personal financial information with them as it helps them learn how it should be done.
My daughter knows my income, my net worth, and my financial goals and what I am doing to achieve them. I always stress financial concepts with her and even created her own bank with outrageous interest rates for saving (inspired by POF). I hope it serves as a guidepost when she leaves the nest and embarks on her adult journey.
Remember your children are only with you for a brief period and will be gone before you know it. We all trade time for money and think our kids prefer the things we buy for them as a result. But time may be the most precious gift of all so be sure you spend it wisely with them instead of always chasing the elusive next dollar.
This advice goes out to anyone married or planning to get married:
Divorce is one of the quickest ways to lose half, or more, of your net worth. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to earn more money which may be lost if we don’t spend enough time working on the relationship.
Finding a partner that is on the same financial page as you is truly hitting the lottery and careful discussions should be made to make sure that this is achievable.
[PoF: I don’t think my kids are old enough to be privy to all of our financial info. They know we’re comfortable and that I no longer have to work for a living. I think that’s enough for now.
Hopefully, at some point, they’ll start reading this blog and will get a better idea of where we’re at financially.
And they do know how much they have, and with that 1% monthly interest rate from The Bank of Mom and Dad (and regular deposits from watching dogs via the Rover app), that number is growing rapidly!]
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?
The best vacation of my life was a 1 week trip to Bali with my now fiancee for my 45th birthday.
I am dying to go back because 1 week was not enough.
Because of the very favorable currency exchange rate a $11k budget will have you feeling like a king, eating incredible cuisine, touring the beautiful temples, and being immersed in the incredible culture.
I would love to continue to pick up some Balinese cooking skills there by participating in a culinary course.
[PoF: Congrats on the engagement! Isn’t it nice to be able to choose your own bride for a change?
One week is definitely not enough when you fly to the other side of the world, especially to a beautiful place like Bali. We were supposed to be spending months and months in that part of the world this year, but COVID. Grrr…]
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Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
- Cendol. My mother is from Malaysia and although I haven’t been back since the late 80s I still remember getting this street side drink and falling in love with it. It contains these green rice flour jelly components, which look like worms, at the bottom that are delicious.
- Taro Milk Boba tea. I now realize I may have a thing for drinks that contain solid components at the bottom.
- Butterbeer. No trip to Harry Potter’s Wizarding world is complete without sampling this tasty concoction. There is a reasonable substitution you can have at Starbucks if a trip to Universal Studios is not in the cards.
- Icewine. For those who have not tried this, it is an almost honey-like elixir that is created from harvesting grapes right before they freeze (thus concentrating the sugar content).
- Honey Jack Daniels. I’m not a big alcohol drinker, but when I do, this is one of my favorites.
- Sweet tea. This is a staple drink of the south and somehow cannot be replicated in the north by just adding sugar.
- Coconut water/milk. Bonus if it has chunks of coconut in it.
- Oreo cookie milkshake. Can’t go wrong with a classic.
- Any Riesling. My sweet tooth betrays me again.
- Water. This is probably what I drink the most and is most important for healthy living.
[PoF: I’ve had the Butterbeer at Universal. I prefer actual beer, but my kids really wanted the souvenir cup, so…]
Now, eleven foods.
- Sushi hands down takes the top spot. If I broke it down by type of sushi at least the top 8 spots would be taken. Salmon, unagi, sea urchin, white tuna, and caterpillar rolls are must haves for me.
- Medium rare steak (New York Strip, Bone-in-ribeye are preferred).
- Lamb Biriyani with Naan.
- Oysters (Raw and Rockefeller).
- Beignets. I grew up in Louisiana and Cafe Du Monde was THE place to get them.
- Bananas Foster. The birthplace of this dessert is also located in New Orleans and it is prepared table side with a flourish.
- Good ole fashion BBQ (beef brisket, pulled pork)
- Fried Catfish.
- Lobster/Crabs/Shrimp. Soft shell crabs and Stone Crab claws are especially favorites of mine.
- Cajun crawfish boil. Again my Louisiana upbringing at play.
[PoF: I am very much with you on this list. Raw oysters took a little getting used to for me, but on a saltine, I’ve discovered I do kind of like them.]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
I was fortunate enough to come across Physician on FIRE early on and, after reading the Tale of Four Physicians, I knew I was on to something special.
It is very hard to give advice to someone who has already achieved what I hope to aspire to, both in blogging and in being truly retired early.
I had the pleasure of meeting you in person and can confirm that you are just as friendly in person as you are online.
My advice, now that you have crossed to the other side and actually retired early, is to continue to share insights on the much trickier decumulation component of the financial life cycle.
[PoF: Thank you for the kind words, my friend.
In order to talk about the decumulation phase, I’d have to quit blogging. And then I wouldn’t be able to tell you all about it. I guess it’s a bit of a Catch 22.]
Have you got a 12th question you’d like to ask our radiologist friend? Comment below!