The X-ray Beam: Wealthy Doc
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Welcome to another installment of the X-ray Beam series.
Today we have an incredible treat.
I consider Wealthy Doc the OG (original gangsta) of physician bloggers as even Jim Dahle of White Coat acknowledges the fact that he was not the first on the scene and deferred that recognition to Wealthy Doc.
I am an avid reader of Wealthy Doc’s blog and he has had his share of posts featured on my Grand Rounds blog roundup.
Wealthy Doc has a great origin story and I was thrilled when he accepted my offer to be put underneath the X-ray beam.
If you can please give a brief introduction of yourself (age, medical specialty, years of medical practice:
Okay, old (I’m writing this on my 52nd birthday).
What a way to celebrate, eh?
I’m originally from NY but now live in the Midwest.
I have been practicing for 20 years and am finally getting the hang of it.
The breakdown for those years is: 5 years private practice; 5 years in academia; and 5 years as a salaried employee of a non-profit hospital network.
I’m debt-free and financially independent.
I practice medicine three days a week.
My days off are spent helping at home, exercising, building my income streams, and writing on my blog.
When did you know you wanted to become a doctor? Were there any influential people or events that made you embark on this career path?
I was a late bloomer.
There were few role models with degrees of any kind, let alone in medicine.
My high school teachers and guidance counselors told me I would never go to college.
So graduate school of any kind was beyond my imagination.
When I transferred into my 4-year public college I must have been quite a sight.
I was destitute with just a few clothes in a trash bag.
I had no car, savings, or a driver’s license.
I was a high school drop out with a community college diploma.
I entered as a junior and really loved learning.
I made a few friends in my chemistry classes and realized they were all pre-med.
They explained to me why medicine would make a great career.
You can help people, have a purpose, use your science knowledge, and make a reliably high income.
My faculty advisor encouraged me also.
So, the shorter answer: influence from peers and my professor in my senior year of college.
What were some of the deciding factors that led into choosing your medical specialty? Were there any other specialties that you considered?
[Note: Wealthy Doc preferred to not disclose his exact specialty as it is quite specialized, low in numbers, and may lead to potential loss of his anonymity]
Each specialty seemed to have a stereotypical personality.
When I rotated through a specialty, I would ask myself, “is this a good fit?”
- Internal medicine: nope I’m too dumb
- Orthopedics: nope I’m too short and weak and I don’t enjoy 5:30 AM rounds;
- OB: seeing a 55-year-old attending sleeping in his chair at 2 AM waiting for a baby to be born ruled that out.
When I was around people in my specialty I felt “at home.”
I enjoyed the conversations and camaraderie of shared mission and personalities.
Kind of like being at FinCon.
If you had to do it all over again, would you choose the same profession/specialty?
I love medicine and my field.
I hate to hear doctors complain about their specialty or medicine.
We signed up for this.
We made our choices.
Make them better, change them, or leave- but don’t complain about your life.
I have gotten involved in physician leadership, medical informatics, and burnout prevention to help make improvements in my field, work, and in my workplace.
Overall, I love my work and consider it a calling and a privilege.
I will note that I like it more now that I work three days a week. 😊
If you were not a physician, what alternative career would you have gone into?
This is a bit boring and predictable, but the truth is a CPA or financial planner.
I would enjoy being a stock analyst.
In the past I have been paid for writing, teaching, and for computer programming.
Those could be careers.
As a teen I enjoyed photography, but I wasn’t good enough to make a living at it.
Blogging combines all the above interests: physician practice, investment management, financial planning, teaching, photography, computers, and writing.
I hadn’t thought of blogging in this context.
Interesting insight that popped up.
Or maybe just an “incident finding” seen on this x-ray.
Have you personally fallen trap to any of the typical mistakes physicians make, and if so can you name some of your biggest ones?
How many pages do I have for this answer?
- I had a car loan – more than one over the years.
- Not optimizing points with airline miles and credit cards.
- Not keeping detailed and organized investment records.
- Credit card debt that I couldn’t pay off.
- The “charge offs” trashed my credit almost as bad as a bankruptcy would have.
- Falling behind on property taxes.
- I nearly lost my house and had to pay penalties and back taxes.
- Bouncing checks.
- Poor record keeping and no budget contributed to this.
- Buying individual stocks.
- The wrong stocks. At the wrong time. Then panic selling after a drop. Also, at the wrong time.
- Not buying real estate sooner.
- My rental income and appreciation would be enormous even if I started just 10 years ago. Real estate was on sale and I had the money. I could have but didn’t.
- Ignoring income taxes.
- Income taxes are always my biggest expense. It is easy to ignore though. It comes out before my paycheck. Reducing it means effort, record keeping, knowledge of boring tax codes, time, and audit risk. Doing nothing is easier. But a lot more expensive and that is the route I chose.
You were one of the first, if not the first, physician personal finance bloggers on the scene. What inspired you to start a blog? Were there any surprises along the way?
I have always been interested in economics, investing, and finance.
I learned a lot about applying that knowledge during my first year of private practice.
I think it was 2002 when I talked to Dr. Julie Silver about revising and updating her book, “The Business of Medicine.”
She had no interest at the time.
In the back of my mind I thought one day I would do it.
Not long after that other books appeared around this topic.
For example published in 2005 were: Marcinko’s, “Financial Planning Handbook for Physicians and Advisors” and Dr. Doroghazi’s, “The Physician’s Guide to Investing.”
I finished my MBA in 2006.
Initially I was looking for a project that could produce some passive income.
I thought I could become an “infopreneur.”
I drafted a model business plan that pretty much describes the current WCI empire.
My colleagues and B-school professors explained to me why and how that business plan was flawed and untenable.
I’m glad WCI showed us all that it can be done.
Even though I didn’t do it, it is validating to me to see the “proof of concept.”
I was teaching medical students and residents at the time.
Our department brought in some financial experts to help our residents.
The residents were very excited.
I gained permission to crash the workshops and sit in the back and learn too.
The “teachers” were “professionals” who were basically commissioned sales people.
They were tall and handsome.
They wore sharp suits.
They spoke eloquently using financial terms.
The only problem was it was terrible and self-serving advice.
Any resident following their advice would put their family’s finances at risk.
They recommended we not only don’t reduce debt, they thought we should get more of it.
Don’t save money.
Buy the biggest house you can get and put little or nothing down.
Use a 5/1 ARM.
Load up on whole life insurance.
And, of course, this is all so complicated that we will need to hire them as advisors.
I asked a few questions.
They didn’t like that.
They eventually asked me to stop, since this was meant to help “those residents who really need this help.”
AKA those who are trusting and naïve enough to be taken advantage of.
I was appalled.
I later told the residents my view of the scam.
They believed me.
Unfortunately, they then didn’t know what to do.
Would I invest their money for them?
No, I don’t do that.
What were they to do?
I recommended a few books to read about investing and personal finance.
A month later I circled back.
They admitted that their limited time, limited sleep, and limited interest prevented them from tackling my list of minimum required reading on this topic.
I then reduced it to one book: Personal Finance for Dummies.
A few read or skimmed it, but most said it was too big and they didn’t have the time.
They asked if there was a simple webpage telling them what they needed.
I thought that was reasonable, so I searched.
I didn’t find much.
There were finance blogs and websites.
There were investment sites.
There was a physician who wrote about finance that I had been reading since 1998 (EfficientFrontier).
Maybe Bill Bernstein should get the credit for being first?
But his was too technical for my residents and covered only investing, not all personal finance.
So, I started a website in 2007 with the name Wealthy Doc.
It was meant to be an independent resource for doctors who want to get their financial house in order.
I knew there could be a business model, but I didn’t want to end up like those guys in the slick suits who sold young doctors down the river.
My technology knowledge at that time was rusty.
My time was very limited too.
I had left academia to start two new private practices.
I was also getting new certifications, re-cert exams, trying to invest in a surgery center and commercial real estate, teaching, writing a book chapter, giving talks in the community, helping raise a three-year-old daughter, etc.
I didn’t give the site much love and attention.
It drifted until 2011 when a guy in Utah named Jim Dahle came on the scene.
The rest is history.
He and his partners have been very gracious in publicly point out that I was the first in this niche.
But Jim truly deserves the credit for making this the vibrant platform and community that it is.
I have tremendous respect for him, his work ethic, and his business acumen.
What were some of the other names you were contemplating for your blog before you chose Wealthy Doc?
I remember brainstorming this.
We were on vacation and my wife was napping.
I sat down with several sheets of paper and wrote down dozens of possible names.
I recently came across it.
I believe I threw it out.
I don’t remember most of them and many of them sucked.
A lot of them were awkward involved the concept of multiple streams of income.
I don’t think PIMD, was on my list.
That one is brilliant.
If it turns out I didn’t throw it out and I come across it, I will write a post about it.
Do you have any advice to individuals who may be contemplating starting a blog of their own?
I’m flattered that you asked.
If I were starting out, I would ask those who have been more successful in this field.
We all know who they are.
For those who enter because they saw a WCI financial report – beware.
If you are burned out and see this as an easy way to make high passive income, you are quite deluded.
Jim makes it look easy, but it is not at all.
I also wouldn’t start “a blog.”
I would see it as a comprehensive online business.
Although blogs still have a niche, they are becoming passé.
Maybe start with podcasts and YouTube and Facebook groups.
A website or blog could serve as a landing pad or transcript repository.
Learn marketing and social media.
It shows in my traffic numbers.
As you can imagine, someone who has been blogging since 2007 has a lot to say, far more than what can be accomplished safely in one sitting under the X-ray Beam.
Fortunately the schedule was clear for both of us and we both agreed to meet up again tomorrow first thing.
I hope you come back to join us as well.
If you are interested in checking out previous individuals that were brave enough to expose themselves to the beams of the X-ray, please check them out here.
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