10 Questions with Physician on Fire

Today is the 51st edition of our periodic guest post series called 10 Questions. We have a list of 17 questions we pose to fellow financial bloggers, and they are free to pick and choose 10 or answer all of them. Let us know if you would like to be featured in a future edition of 10 Questions.

A wise man once said:

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

This quote can also be twisted around to apply to frugality. When I was a college student, I was supporting myself on under $40/week. I was completely frugal. I had to be.

While I’m still frugal now, my lifestyle did expand when I started getting paid: Good-bye spaghetti 5 times/week! However, I still live modestly, saving most of my income.

Recently, I learned that there are physicians on the frugality/ early retirement blogwagon. This is awesome! I love to see people at the top of the income heap who choose to live a restrained life in favor of saving and investing. To rephrase the quote:

“The true measure of frugality in a man is found when he has almost infinite money to spend.”

Today, we have Physician on FIRE. If this Dr. Dude doesn’t make you laugh out loud, there’s something wrong with you. He’s an anesthesiologist, so perhaps he can hook you up with some laughing gas?


Before we begin, I’d like to thank Mr. & Mrs. 1500 Days for giving me a platform to publicize my blog and its mission. I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity, and will absolutely pepper the page with links back to PhysicianOnFIRE.com, a practice the instructions explicitly encourage. Thanks!

I reached out to Mr. 1500 when I realized I was more or less his evil Up North twin. We’re both about the same age, with 2 kids about the same ages, spend too much time at Home Depot, plan to retire early, share a zeal for science, Diet Dew and craft beer, and of course, have a blog. I’m not sure how he feels about run-on sentences, semi-colons, hyphens, and Oxford commas; I’m all about them, though.

Now, on with the 11 questions. That’s right. This one goes to eleven.

1. Tell me how you’re going to change the world with your blog (dream big or don’t dream at all!).
I offer perspectives on life and personal finance that can be helpful to most everyone, but I’m specifically targeting my physician colleagues. Doctors are in a rut. The burnout rate is skyrocketing. There are real consequences for the individual physician, and for society at large.

Frustrated doctors can’t deliver the best care. Depressed doctors will find a way out; the suicide rate of female physicians is double that of non-physicians. Efforts are underway to identify and correct some of the underlying causes of burnout, and I’m glad to see the issue being recognized and addressed.

I’m approaching the issue from a financial perspective. I see other doctors trying to buy happiness. Work more, spend more, smile more? Nope. Not working.

My message is this: work some, spend more time doing the things you want with the people you care about, spend less, and create the life you deserve with financial independence. My goal is to educate, entertain, and enlighten my readers, leaving them informed and inspired to consider living a life unlike the stereotypical spendthrift doctor.



2. What post(s) are you most proud of and why?
I made it plural; I gotta get my links in! I recently wrote up a very actionable 20 Steps to Effective DIY Investing. I think it’s a great starting point, chock full of resources and links to sites better than mine, that can help anyone who’s wondering “how do I get started with investing?”. Investing Fees Will Cost You Millions is a true statement, and you don’t have to be a big saver for this to be true. Writing about the Things I’ll Miss gave me a renewed appreciation for the positive aspects of the work that I do.

3. Do you enjoy writing?
I hate it with a passion. I’d rather trail the Budweiser’s Clydesdales’ parade route with a wheelbarrow and shovel. I hear that gig even comes with some free America!

Seriously, what kind of question is this?

Of course I enjoy writing. I love it. I learn a lot of useful information when I research articles and run numbers, or attempt to answer readers’ questions in a way that makes me seem halfway competent. I learn a lot about myself and my ambitions when I think about what I want my future, and my family’s future, to look like.

Writing for the blog has given me a novel challenge. I want to connect with readers and be influential. This endeavor has given me something new and different to get excited about. I usually wake up at 5:15 a.m. for work, and I tend to stir around that time on my off days. I used to fall back asleep easily. Now, I usually start thinking about what to write next, or ways to improve the site, and gladly get up and get at it.

I enjoy my job, and take it quite seriously, but there isn’t anything else in my career that I want to achieve. I’ve held leadership positions, worked exclusively with veterans for a spell, and have now settled into a good job. The only new adventure I might consider would be an overseas locum tenens job to finish out my career. Writing for the blog, every original post is a sort of new adventure for me.

4. 1500 Days is about early retirement. Do you have early retirement dreams? At what age do you think you will retire?
I do have early retirement dreams. After all, I am the Physician on FIRE, with the RE meaning Retire Early. The FI part has been taken care of. I could afford to retire now based on our current lifestyle, but I choose to continue working for now. I shared the reasons that I didn’t Retire by 40 with the readers of Joe Udo’s Retire by 40 site a few months ago.

Ask me today, and I’ll tell you 45 is my target retirement age, which is five years away. Ask me tomorrow, it might be different. In doctor years, 45 would be considered fairly extreme in terms of early retirement. We tend to graduate with a lot of debt in our thirties, and have invested a great deal of time and life energy to have the privilege of doing this.

I’m in the middle of my first OMY – that’s one more year for the uninitiated. I’m still working because I kinda like my job most days, I like the idea of a huge safety margin, and I need time to build up our donor advised fund to 10% of our invested assets, a goal I’ve incorporated into my IPS. I like to justify things; I can more easily justify walking away from a lucrative career if I’ve already earmarked a big pile of money to be given away.

5. If blogging isn’t your full time gig, what is?
By day (and sometimes night), I’m an anesthesiologist. I get to be part of a team that ensures a patient’s safety and strives to provide patient comfort throughout the surgical experience. I also get called upstairs to L & D strike down labor pains with epidural catheters, or obtain intravenous access in tiny newborn babies. I sometimes get called downstairs to the E.D. to place a breathing tube for someone who isn’t breathing effectively (or at all), or perform a lumbar puncture (Spinal Tap) in a patient with new neurologic symptoms.

It can be rewarding, and it can be stressful.

When I’m away from work, I try not to let my job define me. I’d rather be known as a homebrewer of tasty IPAs, a decent picture taker, a good Dad, and a do-it-yourselfer. People expect doctors to act a certain way, and I don’t necessarily fit the mold.

covered patio string lights

my diy brewing and hot tubbing patio


6. When you are 110 and look back on your life, what do you hope you have accomplished?
I would like my great, great grandchildren to think of their great, great grandparents as people who have given a lot more than they have taken, lived a meaningful, exciting life, and can swallow their mushy food without too much fuss.

If my last name ends up on a building, or maybe a wing of a building, or a plaque in the breakroom, that would be a nice added bonus.

Half of my blog’s revenue will be directed to charitable causes, in accordance with its charitable mission. As I have said, I like to justify my actions, and a promise to give away half of any proceeds makes me feel better about placing ads on the site to generate money. Speaking of money…

7. Did you grow up with money? How did your money situation growing up influence you?
The short answer is “yes”. My Dad was a dentist and so was his dad.

The long answer is “not really”. We grew up living a comfortable, middle class lifestyle, but we rarely bought things that weren’t on sale. Our family was “Frugal Without a Cause“. We spent hours “garage saling” on Saturday mornings, and collecting and splitting wood in the afternoon. The house doesn’t heat itself, you know. We went to public schools, and got jobs when we were 16. There was no silver spoon.

8. Did your parents teach you about money as a kid? How so?
I came to realize that my parents had money, but chose to spend it wisely. In that regard, they taught by example, and mindful spending is a behavior I’ve adopted in adulthood.

My Dad taught me the Rule of 72 for the doubling of money, harnessing the power of compound interest. We started IRAs with the money we earned in our high school jobs. The foundation for my blog was laid 25 years ago. It took me 24 years to realize it.

9. What is your favorite style of beer – and what is your favorite beer in that style?
A picture is worth 1,000 words, and I think I exceeded my word allotment several questions ago. Favorite beers are like Lay’s potato chips. I can’t have just one, so here’s a sampling.

best double ipa

double your ipa. double your fun.


10. What is the best thing you’ve read lately?
Easy. This post. I just proofread and I have to say it’s the best thing I’ve read in minutes, perhaps hours. For more of my favorite reads, I will refer you to my Sunday Best series, which includes 5 noteworthy articles from the recent and sometimes distant past.

I don’t read books nearly as often as I’d like. There’s never enough time. I have read some quality personal finance books in recent months, but I’ll refer readers to Rockstar Finance’s Best Money Books. Several of my recent reads are on that list and RSF has been good to me. Buy them all!

11. What do you do for exercise?
In a perfect life, I would be working out 4 to 5 times a week. I’m lucky to get in half that.

I do think it’s valuable to maintain some level of fitness to enjoy a quality, healthy retirement. I’ll be toughing it out in the mud in something called a Tough Mudder this summer, and I’ve endured a couple Spartan races with my high school buddies in recent years. My current exercise regimen involves some running, with a pit stop at the YMCA for pull-ups, dips, push-ups, sit-ups and curls.

All of it but the curls could be accomplished anyplace that has a playground along the route, which makes it a good, portable workout. I stop at the Y to get credit towards a discount via my health insurance for being a good boy. Yes, I go out of my way at least 8 times a month to save twenty bucks. What can I say, I’m a frugal physician.

A big thanks to Physician on Fire for taking time from saving lives to answer our questions. Well, I hope you weren’t multi-tasking while at work.

Hey Physician, when you come to town, I’ll give you a Juicy Banger or two. Get your head out of the gutter people, I’m referring to beer.

Keep up with the good doctor on Twitter, Facebook and over at www.physicianonfire.com.

Join the 10s who have signed up already!

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*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.

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30 Responses to 10 Questions with Physician on Fire

  1. I can only imagine what the burnout rate is among doctors so what you are doing is fantastic! Also, it is awesome that you are dedicating half of your blog income to charity! I think it is a good motivator to keep working hard at it because the money earned is going to good use!
    Thias @It Pays Dividends recently posted…Cash Priority Plan: Put Your Money to Work EfficientlyMy Profile

    • Thank you, Thias. Burnout is not good and the rate is rising rapidly. In some specialties, over half show at least one sign of burnout. I’m not sure if the situation is getting worse, or if we’re becoming more self aware and willing to admit that our lives are less than perfect.

      A few quick reads at KevinMD will shed more light on the subject. http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/?s=burnout

      The charitable mission makes me feel good about some monetizing. A financially independent anesthesiologist doesn’t need to drown you in ads to try to make more money just for himself.

      PhysicianOnFIRE recently posted…4 Physicians Revisited: The Impact of Specialty ChoiceMy Profile

  2. Nice to get to know you better Physician on FIRE. I imagine being an anesthesiologist is quite stressful, so glad you get paid the big bucks at the day job. What I find most amazing about physician careers is that it seems like you have the ability to actually control the amount of work by taking on less shifts. I can’t think of any other high-paying job where you get to be “on” and “off”. Modern technology has made most of us a slave to our careers 24/7.
    Biglaw Investor recently posted…11 Ways to Make Your Commute More ProductiveMy Profile

    • PoF says:

      I think I handle stress quite well, and I never considered my job to be all that stressful until my wife asked me what were the three things that stress me the most.

      Her three were all children and family related. I care about those things, but hardly stress about them. My Top 3 were all work related. Probably my Top 10 would be work related. That’s when I realized that I do have a pretty stressful job. Eliminating the Top 3 or Top 10 stressors in my life seems awfully appealing.

      PoF recently posted…4 Physicians Revisited: The Impact of Specialty ChoiceMy Profile

  3. Mr SSC says:

    Even though I’m not a physician, I’m going to have to subscribe because I love your writing style, and well, I also homebrew. My wife always tells me, “Yeah, you homebrew, but you need to make good beers. Yours are all hoppy.” (She doesn’t even drink beer) I brew what I like which tends to run towards the hoppy side, like a citrusy, piney, hoppy wheat – Mmmm….
    I try educating my fellow O&G folks that they don’t have to work until they’re 65, and more importantly can take a job where the get to be outdoors again sooner than later if they don’t go the “buy happiness” route, so I can empathize with that part of your mission as well.
    Mr SSC recently posted…Road Less Traveled – SSC StyleMy Profile

    • Sounds great! I mashed in on 2 batches late last night and I’m collecting wort right now, and yes, I’m making a hoppy beer. I’m calling this one Notorious H.O.P. The other is a rhubarb wheat that I’ll ferment on Sour Patch Kids. Trust me, it works.

      What you need to do is make a wife-friendly beer. I’ve got a blue moon clone recipe I can share. Ciders are super-easy, too. Happy wife = happy life!

      PhysicianOnFIRE recently posted…4 Physicians Revisited: The Impact of Specialty ChoiceMy Profile

      • Mr. SSC says:

        Nice beers, I’ll have to research that sour patch kid technique. I have a hoppy red I’m about to keg today. I did a cider once and it turned out at almost 12% abv and super dry because it converted almost all the sugars to alcohol, oops… It was delicious if you added a shot of Apple juice back into each pint, or after it aged almost a year, lol. Next time I’ll have to stop fermentation earlier, but that’s a great idea for summer. I know what I’ll be brewing next!
        Mr. SSC recently posted…Road Less Traveled – SSC StyleMy Profile

  4. I love how proud you are for being a frugal physician! I can kind of relate since I’m a “frugal banker”, although I don’t make quite as much…but your true measure of frugality quote says it all. Thanks PoF.
    The Green Swan recently posted…“Opportunities Multiply As They Are Seized”My Profile

    • PoF says:

      I’ve been the doctor with the nicest home in town. When we later sold the house we built when I took my first “permanent” job, we lost > $200,00 and I think it was still the highest price for a home sold in the city limits, ever. So nobody can look at me and say I don’t know what I’m missing. I’ve been on the other side, and I like it better over here.

      We still live pretty well, but without a mortgage or other debts, we’re spending around $70,000 a year, or nearly triple MMM. I consider our family to be relatively frugal.

      PoF recently posted…4 Physicians Revisited: The Impact of Specialty ChoiceMy Profile

      • 1500 says:

        “So nobody can look at me and say I don’t know what I’m missing. I’ve been on the other side, and I like it better over here.”

        We’ve been there too. We owned a fancy lake home in Wisconsin and then a 5000 square foot home in Colorado. We downgraded to 1400 square feet, but put a 400 square foot addition on. Those 3200 square feet we lost in going down from 5000 to 1800 in no way made us less happy. In fact, we’re much happier because the surroundings are so much better.

        The location of a home trumps the actual home any day of the week (or month or year or lifetime).

  5. ZJ Thorne says:

    It is so alarming what our medical systems are taking from our doctors, too. I’m glad you are finding a way to make your life work. I hope we find a way to make doctor’s lives sustainable.

    That homebrew & hot-tub patio looks incredible. Definitely jealous.
    ZJ Thorne recently posted…Ways To Be An AllyMy Profile

  6. Physician on FIRE is one of my new favorite blogs. Even though I’m not a doctor (and no where even close to any type of medical field) I can still relate the burnout, investing, FIRE mindset, and other topics he discusses. Great interview!
    Fervent Finance recently posted…Mid-2016 UpdateMy Profile

  7. Nice to get to know you better, Physicians on Fire.

    That DIY brewing and hot tub patio is kick-ass! Really enjoyed reading this post and thanks for 1500 to put this together.


  8. grbkeb says:

    I have to say I really enjoy reading your blog that I found recently. It would seem that we have followed a similar path although I am not a physician. I grew up in the rural corn state and found my way up north and just never left. I was fortunate to have an very lucrative career that allowed me to retire a couple years ago at 43 (like you I could have hung it years earlier). My eyes have opened quite a bit since then to what the hell is really important & it certainly is not more “stuff”. I find my spending is about half of what I had planned for all of those years…I suppose that is a good thing! Your blog is great because although it is geared towards physicians it is very applicable to anyone who has a higher level income. What truly amazes me is the number of people who think it is impossible to retire early so they don’t try. Anyway keep up the good work, I’ve forwarded your blog on to some of my friends that I think it will help.

    • PoF says:

      Husker or Hawkeye? Jayhawk maybe?

      Congrats on your early retirement; that’s awesome!

      And thank you for sharing my blog with your friends. It’s true that the vast majority of what I write can apply to non-physicians. Probably 5 to 10% of the material is physician specific, and even that can be of some interest to everyone.

      Glad to have you on board!
      PoF recently posted…I Just Made a Bad $10,000 Investment. On Purpose.My Profile

      • grbkeb says:

        I’m cursed to be a Hawkeye fan living in enemy territory nearly my entire life LOL.

  9. Good one Mr. 1500. I’ve been following PoF for quite awhile now, but it’s nice to see his interview.

    He really has a different perspective on many things, which I think is great. Very few early retirees I know of are in the medical field, and even fewer blog about it! Maybe it has something to do with their high income levels? Most of us have to work with less than half a doctor’s salary. I don’t know if that’s the differentiating factor, but he’s a pretty rare bird!

    Thanks Mr. 1500 and thanks PoF!
    Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes recently posted…The High Cost Of Mobile Phone PlansMy Profile

    • PoF says:

      I think few retire early because they can’t. I read a survey that said 60% of practicing physicians would retire right now if they could. That’s frightening. Many of us have a spending issue. Once you rely on those paychecks to support a certain lifestyle, it’s really tough to scale back.

      It’s not just docs, of course. Last night, I was working with a 60-year old RN who also homebrews. I had sent him a deal on new 5-gallon kegs (he told me he was looking for 2 or 3 the other day). They were $69. He ordered one, and explained that he could only afford one at a time. So he’ll pay extra in shipping and handling, and who knows when a deal that good will come along again. This is a 60-year old union RN with tons of seniority, whose wife also works. Crazy.

      p.s. I’ve been enjoying your blog as well!
      PoF recently posted…Saving Money in and Around San Francisco Part IMy Profile

  10. Nice to meet you Physician on Fire! Since you’re a physician, you know how to treat burns from being on Fire!

    Jokes aside, it’s great to hear that you’ve had great parents who’ve taught you the value of money from such a long time ago. Money can only work when time is added to the ingredient for maximum success! Look forward to looking at your blog and following more of it!
    Finance Solver recently posted…Win by numbers: How many wins it takes to be successfulMy Profile

  11. Linda says:

    I’ll drink some Surly any day!

    “My message is this: work some, spend more time doing the things you want with the people you care about, spend less, and create the life you deserve with financial independence. ” I love your message! We need to somehow get this message out to every person working a job that stresses them out. There is another way!

  12. Smith says:

    Warning: You’re about to get a lot more readers! Terrific post, PoF, and beautiful writing. I think that expressing your thoughts — just laying them out there — can make a significant difference in one’s stress and perspective. There’s a wonderful quote from the intellectual (and historian, I think) Daniel Boorstin, who said something like: “I write so I can discover what I’m thinking.”

  13. Kyle says:

    Do I spy a Toppling Goliath Pompeii? I still have a special PseudoSue version in my fridge that needs to be enjoyed.

    I think any job that has long hours and can completely take over your life has high burn out rates. I’ve seen people in my field be away from their families during the week days for months on end, that has to have a high burnout rate. I’ve been staying with a company that may pay a little less, but the work load is very manageable without feeling burnt out too often.
    Kyle recently posted…The Obvious Truth About Your JobMy Profile

  14. PoF says:

    Good eye, Kyle. I love me some mosaic hops. Enjoy the pseudoSue. I’ve had the original, but none of the offshoots.

    Sounds like you’ve found a job that works well for you. Congrats!
    PoF recently posted…The Sunday Best (6/19/2016)My Profile

  15. Mrs. PIE says:

    Thanks for all these answers, I’ve very much enjoyed your blog recently, and this is a wonderful deep dive.
    It’s fascinating to me what we learn from our parents about money. I don’t think it really matters whether you grow up with a lot or a little, the lessons you pick up can be the same either way
    Mrs. PIE recently posted…The Simple Path to Wealth, by J L Collins – Our ReviewMy Profile

  16. A friend of mine has been a podiatrist with his own practice for 30 years. he and his wife bought a small house and turned the downstairs into an office and lived in the upstairs until he built his practice off. He always told me they lived on chicken noodle soup and crackers for a few years, but paid off the office property, eventually built a home, and paid that off. They are both frugal, and he bought a Porsche recently and paid cash. He likes to point out that he did this long after he became a doctor, and not at the beginning, but paid off the school loans, the homes, paid for his kids’ college, and built up the practice before he bought the fancy car.
    Jen@FrugalSteppingStones recently posted…Feeding Five For $100 Per Week: 3rd Week of June 2016My Profile

  17. Nice to see that Bells made it into your picture of favorite beers, PoF. I enjoy a cold Oberon in the summer months.
    FinanceSuperhero recently posted…Lessons From Superhero DadMy Profile

  18. I original came across PoF on WCI. I have enjoyed his blog for some time. And he introduced me to Mr. 1500 who I will also now be following.

    I had forgotten you had done a Spartan. I am training for my first Ultra Beast in October (just bought my spot so it has suddenly gotten very real :O) ).

    Since I do a lot of training, I don’t have a lot of time for writing, but I do love writing. I may be making some changes in the future that will allow me some additional time.

    Great job to both of you. Keep up the good work and keep preaching the message.
    cd :O)

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