- The Physician on FIRE is a part-time anesthesiologist and blogger who plans to retire next year at age 43.
- He abides by the “Live on Half” strategy: Spending 50% or less of take-home pay and investing in passive index funds.
- For Business Insider’s “Real Money” series, he shares how he and his wife spent their money during a week in July.
- Want to share a week of your spending? Email your [email protected]
A few years ago, I discovered the concept of financial independence. I was 39 years old and planning to work at least another 15 years in my chosen field of anesthesiology. However, I experienced inception of an idea – the idea that I could retire early, and it was an idea I couldn’t shake.
I also realised that my wife and I were in a position to pull that trigger at any time. Mine was an unintentional path to financial independence, but a path that got us there in about 10 years, nonetheless. I had been saving, often more than half of my take-home pay, but I never knew what I was saving for. It occurred to me that I had been saving for my freedom; I just didn’t know it.
Financially, I could have afforded to give 90 days’ notice right then and there, but mentally, I was not at all prepared to do so. I had not even worked a decade since finishing residency, and I had a family and a lot to think about.
After spending some time browsing a growing number of FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) blogs and forums, I began to feel more comfortable with the idea of retiring early eventually, but I did not find any sites discussing FIRE from the perspective of a high-income professional.
I decided to start a website of my own to both fill that void and give myself a platform to continue sorting out what an early retirement might look like for my family and me, and how eager I was to pursue this path less chosen.
In January of 2016, I started Physician on FIRE and pledged to donate half of my website profits. By the definition of financial independence, I don’t really need the money, and it feels great to pursue a charitable mission while spreading this message.
Today, I’m 42 years old, and I’m still working part-time, but I plan to retire from medicine in 2019 when my replacement, a final-year resident finishing his training in the same program that trained me, arrives and is ready to work on his own.
I started tracking our spending about the same time I started my blog. I had to prove it to myself and to my readers that we were indeed financially independent!
My wife, a registered dietitian by training, has mostly stayed home to raise our boys, who are now in third and fourth grade. When I do retire next year, we plan to do some extended travel and “roadschooling” while hopping from one family adventure to the next. I can’t wait.
Here’s a detailed look at our expenditures from a recent week in July.
We live in northern Minnesota and spend around $US5,000 a month, or $US60,000 a year. Here’s how our spending breaks down:
My wife and I both had student loans, totaling about $US75,000. I paid off the remainder in 2012, ten years after graduating from medical school, with the signing bonus from a job.
My employer currently provides healthcare for me and my family, but when responsible for all of our own healthcare costs, I anticipate our annual budget to be closer to $US80,000 or $US90,000. I consider our spending to be on the low end for a fatFIRE budget, but certainly higher than that of most early retirees you’ll encounter online.
We’re in the process of building a home on a 7-acre parcel of lakefront property we purchased last year. Eventually, it will be our primary home. Since we have no mortgage (we purchased our primary home with cash) or other debt, and our charitable giving comes from our donor-advised fund, I feel we live quite well at this level of spending.
I’ll be working full-time in the last two months of this year, earning more than I currently do. I expect our total income to be around $US400,000 for 2018, which includes income from my blog as well.
Altogether, we spent just under $US1,300 this week.
There were some atypical expenses related to an upcoming family wedding (about half of the weekly output), but that’s the thing about atypical expenses – they’re pretty typical.
If we spent this amount every week, our annual spending would be about $US67,000. In the first six months of 2018, we spent $US33,000, further proving that the week was typical in some ways, after all.
As a part-time anesthesiologist, I enjoy a schedule with quite a bit of time off and we like to travel.
On Monday, we took a long drive to our cabin in Michigan, spending just over $US100, mostly on gas and groceries.
We woke up bright and early Monday morning to get started on the 550-mile drive from our home in Northern Minnesota toour cabin in northern Michigan.
It may seem odd to leave cabin country to stay at a cabin 10 hours away, but we used to live in northern Michigan, and we have quite a few friends and much of my wife’s family nearby.
We also got the place for a steal, spending all of $US15,400 for the place at an auction in 2011. It’s a long drive, but one we’ve made many times through the beautiful terrain of northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
We had lunches, snacks, and drinks packed, and we made two stops for gasoline, spending $US39.61 and $US42.11 on fuel.
We reached Cheboygan, Michigan, at 6 p.m. (almost there!) and had dinner at Mulligan’s Bar and Grill which set us back 5.3% of a Room & Board sectional sofa and a $US5 tip.
That sofa bit deserves an explanation. Three years ago, when we were selling our house on the river, the owner of Mulligan’s was moving into a home just upriver. I had him swing by to see if he wanted any of our furniture. He liked the sofa set and I suggested a barter for a $US500 gift certificate to his restaurant. We’ve been enjoying that sofa one family meal at a time ever since.
Before heading to the cabin, we stopped in at theCheboygan Brewing Company, a tasty microbrewery in which I happen to have a 4% ownership stake. As investors, we’re entitled to a couple beers on the house any time we stop in, which we do fairly often in the summer. The beer was free, as was the popcorn, and we left another $US5 tip.
Once we were unpacked and settled in, my wife realised she had no charger for the Garmin Forerunner watches that she and our boys wear. We spent $US15.80 on a charging cable from Amazon.com before heading out to join our friends at the campfire.
On Tuesday we spent more on groceries and gas and about $US220 booking flights for a bachelorette party my wife will be attending.
Tuesday was a low key day. I went for a morning run of 2.5 miles with my seven-year old and my wife did the same with our 9-year old. In the afternoon, we took our boat out with our boys and a couple of their new friends who are staying here on the same resort-turned-condo-association. We did some tubing, the boys caught some air, and my nine-year old made dinner with a little help from Dad.
I made a trip into town for alcohol-free gas for the boat ($US25.05) and stocked up on the finest meats and cheeses in all of Walmart, spending $US96.42. I also picked up fresh fruits and vegetables, snacks for an upcoming Saturday adventure, and enough groceries to last a week or so when combined with the food we had brought with us from home.
In the evening, I spent $US108.80 for a United Airlines flight for my wife from Minneapolis to Grand Rapids and another $US108.80 on a return flight from Detroit. She’ll be travelling in December for her cousin’s bachelorette party prior to the New Year’s Eve wedding in which she’ll be the matron of honour. We often employtravel rewards strategiesto score free flights, but given the low cost of these flights, it made more sense to hang onto our miles and pay out-of-pocket.
We spent most of the day on Wednesday hanging out at the waterfront and enjoyed some free beer.
Wednesday was a five-dollar day with million-dollar weather. We spent the better part of the day in the water. We were paid a visit by my wife’s aunt and uncle (siblings of my mother-in-law). We went for a boat ride, sat our chairs down in waist-high water, and enjoyed the afternoon.
My wife’s uncle brought a growler along, so naturally we went into town to take advantage of my owner’s discount to fill said growler and, of course, enjoy our free draft beer on the premises. We left our customary $US5 tip. I made fajitas at home that evening, tossed some bean bags with the neighbours, and called it a night.
On Thursday, we spent most of the day outdoors. Our biggest expense today was $US150 for condo association dues.
A friend stopped by with her kids to catch up and have a playdate. Meals were prepared at home, so we didn’t have any costs there.
Our outing for the day was a five-mile bike ride down the path that runs behind our property to the nearest public library. My wife met us there with the van, which made my seven-year old very happy – he can only go so far and so fast with his 16-inch wheeled fixed-gear bike. The boys hitched a ride home and I jogged back.
Our expenses incurred on this day were $US20 for two round-trip ferry tickets to Mackinac Island (purchased in advance online to save a few dollars), $US15.32 to Republic Wireless for my wife’s monthly cell phone bill, and $US150 for our monthly condo association dues, which covers lawn care, maintenance, snow ploughing, dock and boat lift installation, removal, indoor boat storage, and more.
My wife grabbed groceries on her way out of town on Friday and the boys and I biked to get ice cream.
As the weekend kicked off, my wife headed out to fulfil her duties as the matron of honour for her cousin’s upcoming wedding. On Sunday, she’ll be the hostess of the wedding shower, and many family and friends were coming to town (about an hour away from our cabin) for the festivities.
On her way out of town, she stopped at Walmart to pick up groceries for her weekend and a couple of bathing suits, since somebody (not naming names) forgot to pack one for the lake, and hey, they were on clearance for $US13 apiece. The total Walmart bill this time was $US62.57.
The boys and I stayed back. We don’t believe in a summer devoid of any learning, and on Friday, our kids did what they do at least a few times a week – practiced piano, guitar, and ukulele, learned some maths and Spanish on their Chromebooks, and did a little reading and writing.
After dinner (pork tenderloin and pasta cooked by my older son with some assistance), we biked about a mile up the trail to the Mullett Lake General Store for ice cream. Three cones set us back $US5.91. I got the Buckeye ice cream, which one might think would be outlawed in Michigan, and the boys enjoyed their tri-coloured Superman variety.
On Saturday, we adventured through Mackinac Island, stopping for pizza and ice cream, while my wife had a pizza dinner of her own.
When the wife’s away, the boys will play. We headed up to Mackinac City, and hopped on the 9:15 a.m. ferry to Mackinac Island. I hadn’t told them where we would be going on our adventure, but gave them a few hints and they were excited to go for the boat ride. I had commuter passes that I picked up years ago, and the boys’ passes were pre-paid, so we didn’t shell out any additional dollars for the ferry.
When we landed on the island, the boys eyed up the 3D mirror maze as we walked by, and I loaded up the geocaching app on my phone. We had already located one cache in Mackinac City, and we started hiking the perimeter, stopping at a handful of the 100+ caches located all over the island.
I had packed a snack for each of us to enjoy at each mile marker on the ring road, which on a beautiful weekend day, was filled with bicyclists, a few horse-drawn carriages, and the occasional hikers like us. The last time the boys went all the way around the island, they were side-by-side in a double jogging stroller. Today, it was their turn to put in some work.
The hike took up the bulk of the day – by the time we returned to the town center, we had hiked over nine miles, and had eaten our lunches and a bunch of small snacks. I took them to the fudge shop, and they opted for rock candy on a stick, instead. There went $US1.62 (instead of $US20). My guys really wanted to do the mirror maze, even though I knew it would be five minutes and meh. I let them spend their own money.
A pizza joint on the island had a gal out front hawking a $US10.99 dinner buffet, while a 16-inch large pepperoni pizza was only $US9.99. We got one of those and the boys each got a soft-serve ice cream, for a total of $US12.69.
After dinner, we took the ferry back to our car and Dad got his after-dinner treat via a stop at the brewery. The beer was free, the tip was $US5, and everyone went home happy.
My wife had a fun day with family and much of the wedding party. My wife picked up lunch for herself and a friend at Knaabe’s Apple Farm for $US16.94 which included a margherita pizza and a flight of hard ciders. She also spent $US49.71 on actual gifts in the gift shop, picking up three shirts and chocolate covered coffee beans. We don’t often hit up gift shops, but we do like to support local businesses, and this one is in my wife’s hometown.
My wife picked up the tab for a 21-person wedding shower luncheon on Sunday.
Reunited and it feels so good! My wife hosted the wedding shower luncheon. She paid the tab for 21 gals’ lunches and drinks, which totaled $US477 after tip.
We met up at her family’s lake lot where we provided dinner for our immediate family and another dozen or so extended family. I had purchased the whole beef tenderloin months earlier when Costco had it on sale for $US9.99 a pound, and the rest of the meals’ groceries had been purchased earlier in the week, so there were no additional expenditures on Sunday.
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