Future Proof Docs - Physician on Fire (PoF)

After some serious sitting under the apple tree, I came up with this entirely original (#SARCASM) idea of featuring physicians who excel in something outside of medicine on Future Proof, MD.  True to the motto of FPMD, we’re gunning for the oxymoronic “succinct but informative” which is a high bar.  I am proud to introduce the very first guest on the Future Proof Docs series - Physician on Fire (PoF).


[FPMD: Over the last few months, I've gotten to know an anonymous anesthesiologist who happens to run a (much more popular) money blog. Despite the fact we've never met, somehow I feel like we've become great friends. PoF is a trusted confidant and comrade in my crusade against white coat financial ignorance. He has selflessly shared his ideas and experiences on blogging, medicine, finance and life in general. Without further ado - here is your peek behind the curtain.]  

That's a serious mustache...

That's a serious mustache...

I am the Physician on FIRE, an anesthesiologist and family man who plans to make more time for himself and his family by retiring early from clinical medicine by the age of 45. I write about personal finance, medicine, investing, and love to crunch numbers.

I’m not usually into the whole brevity thing, but I’ll do my best to keep my answers succinct. If I’m curt with you, it’s because time is a factor. Bonus points if you recognized the two movies I just quoted.

[FPMD: The Big Lebowski and Pulp Fiction! Talk about classics!]  

When and why did you decide to become a physician? 

I can’t point to a specific time or place, but by the time I reached high school, I’m pretty sure I had decided to become a doctor. My mother was a nurse, and her father a physician. My father and his father were both dentists. I had the pedigree, the grades, and the resolve. The rest just took time.

My grandfather graduated from medical school as the Great Depression hit. He would get paid in chickens, livestock or whatever his patients could afford. I’ve heard a story about a leg amputation that occurred on the kitchen table. That’s one way to save money!

[FPMD: Leg amputation on a kitchen table?! Sure hope there was a lot of alcohol involved. I have a similar story involving my grandfather but not nearly as impressive - I will save that for another time.]

Why your specialty?

I hadn’t considered anesthesia much in my first two years of medical school. I thought I might like radiology, but I took the rotation and realized I couldn’t sit still that long. I preferred many aspects of anesthesia, but it seemed really complicated and nerve-wracking. Once I took the first of two elective anesthesia rotations, I realized it was something I could handle.

I enjoy the quick procedures, and the rapid results from our interventions. We don’t have to rely on the patient or another physician to follow through with our plan. We make a plan and enact it in a matter of seconds or minutes. It is a very active workday, particularly when you’re managing multiple operating rooms, as I typically do. There’s a lot of strong teamwork, and it’s a very social job.

[FPMD: I completely agree about the sitting in a dark room thing - that's why I opted to go into interventional radiology. And thank you for keeping the patients still on the table. Cheers!]

When and why did you start your blog?

I started reading a few blogs late 2014/early 2015, most notably Mr. Money Mustache and The White Coat Investor. I enjoyed both immensely, but saw a wide gulf between their philosophies and presentation styles. I thought I could offer a different voice that would bridge that gap and be useful for physicians. My aim is to educate, enlighten, and entertain.

The idea simmered for about a year before I launched Physicianonfire.com on January 9, 2016. I had made it a New Year’s resolution to take the plunge and start my own blog, despite having very little writing experience.

Why did I think there was a place for a site like mine? I see too many friends and colleagues spending most of what they earn, trying to buy some happiness that’s not being provided by their careers. Spouses do the same to make up for the fact their loved one is also married to the clinic and hospital.

Doctors are burning out at alarming rates. I’m trying to show that parting with your money isn’t a good solution; saving it to buy yourself a better life or career is a far better use of money. Financial independence gives you the opportunity to work in a way that works best for you and your family, or to not work at all.

[FPMD: Buying happiness only works if happiness is sold where you spend your money. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer physicians think that place is medicine these days.]

What is the biggest challenge running your blog while being a doc at the same time?  How do you deal with it?

I thought it would be a lack of ideas. I had a few dozen topics written out when I started, but those would be exhausted in a matter of months. I think I have more ideas in the drafts folder than when I started.

The biggest challenge is finding time to do everything I was doing before, and give the site and its readers the time they deserve. Dr. Dahle, The White Coat Investor, told me early on that I’d spend 10% of my time writing and 90% promoting the blog. I didn’t understand that at first; I do now. If you consider “promoting” in the broader sense of reading other blogs and forums, contributing your thoughts when appropriate, communicating with other bloggers, guest posting, using social media, etc…, it’s a serious commitment. You can skip all that, but readers won’t find your blog, and your mission will go unfulfilled.

[FPMD: Agreed - more often than not I wish there were 36 hrs in a day.]

What are the top 3 life lessons you have for FPMD readers? 

  1. Everything in moderation. In general, this is great advice. Instead of no bacon, no TV, no beer, it can be okay to enjoy those vices occasionally in smaller doses. On the other hand, “everything in moderation” can be terrible advice. A little black tar heroin use or a moderate amount of adultery is never advisable.
  2. No more than one marriage. A person who never divorces could make many big, dumb money mistakes and still come out ahead of the eventual divorcee that did everything else right. Divorce can also be personally devastating, and extremely hard on kids. Get marriage right the first time. Fortunately, I did.
  3. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it.” –Ferris Bueller

Give me 3 blog posts that FPMD readers can visit to get the “core” of what you stand for. 

  1. My Path to Financial Independence – who I am and how I got here.
  2. The Top 5 Reasons I Want to Retire Early – people assume I dislike my job. Not true. I will miss it, actually.
  3. A Tale of 4 Physicians: The Impact of Lifestyle

[FPMD: In true PoF fashion, he snuck in 4! I hope you've enjoyed this first installment in the new Future Proof Docs series. I plan to run a feature ever 3-4 weeks. Stay tuned for more amazing guest physicians!]

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Future Proof, MD

Dr. Bo Liu is an aspiring radiologist-in-training and the founder and editor of the White Coat Money Blog.  He has an interest in interventional radiology and helping his medical colleagues get ahead in this mad world of medicine and money.  When he's not crushing the list at the PACS station or typing up your next favorite blog post, you can usually find him at the local badminton club, movie theater or the most recently opened restaurant.