Financial Independence – A Physician Finance Entrepreneur’s Perspective. FiPhysician is a physician finance platform that aims to help physicians attain financial independence. It is owned and operated by David Graham, MD – a practicing infectious Disease physician in Billings, Montana. As fellow physician finance bloggers, we wanted to know more about his experiences and journey towards financial independence, and as well as the challenges he faced along the way. We hope this Q&A blog post could help you in your own journey towards financial independence!
1. Please tell us a bit about your personal story, growing up, medical training, medical practice, and current medical professional involvement.
Currently, I’m still practicing as an Infectious Diseases physician. I get pretty upset about the status quo of medicine and how we have lost our way in providing care to individuals. At times, it feels like we are cogs in a wheel aimed at making money for health care systems rather than improving people’s lives.
I discovered Financial Independence a few years back and at the same time found out that my wife and I were financially independent. After practicing for 14 years, and thanks to a good stock market and frugality (my wife would say cheapness), I went to work one day because I wanted to not because I needed the income.
I’m transitioning away from medicine, but got sucked back a bit by the novelty of Covid-19 and an actual pandemic and public health emergency
2. What made you develop interest in financial literacy in general? Motivating factors? Did you pursue any formal financial or real estate education/training to enhance your financial literacy as you’re working towards attaining financial independence in the long-run?
I was always interested in investing, but had no framework to understand the whole until I learned about Financial Independence. That you turn income into wealth and then can use that wealth to provide income blew my mind. Otherwise, I had no real plan… just to keep working until what? Retirement? Until someone else told me I have paid back my debt to society?
I took CFP classes and got a certificate, and have passed the CFP exam but given the 6000 hour experience requirement, I doubt I will ever use the CFP marks.
3. What is FiPhysician? What is the unique value proposition of FiPhysician as an online platform that values financial independence? Tell us the story behind it’s creation.
Financial Independence Physician. It is a lens through which you view accumulating assets to reach the goal of time independence. When you no longer have to work, but get to work because you control your time, you can do what brings you the most fulfilment.
Originally, I aimed to help young physicians in accumulation, but that part is easy! I discovered retirement planning which is much more of a black art currently. There are huge tax ramifications that are difficult to model on spreadsheets. In addition, there are multiple moving parts which need to be coordinated to get to maximal effect.
I like dealing with intelligent DIY physicians and helping them do retirement planning. Normally, you’d have to pay 1% AUM (Assets Under Management) to get these services. I like an hourly advice only model for those who are 90% of the way there, but want to optimize the last 10%. The difference in that last 10%, honestly, is leaving the kids or charity 10M rather than 2M but that counts for something!
4. How do you help physicians in the US attain financial independence and handle other finance matters? Do you provide any services, courses, coaching, etc. that would help physicians gain financial independence in the long-run?
Advice-only retirement planning for DIY physicians. I start with a 20 year tax projection and professional financial software which helps model optimal tax and withdrawal strategies.
5. As someone who values financial independence, what are some of the mistakes you made in your real estate/financial journey? If you had to redo the whole journey, what would you do differently?
Luckily I made many mistakes early on when there weren’t many zeros at the end of the mistakes. I wouldn’t do anything differently. You are bound to make mistakes given inadequate financial literacy in our culture. Learning what you can do and what you need help with is important.
6. Share a few successful real estate/financial decisions you have made in your career in order to attain financial independence in the long-term.
Believe it or not, the best thing I ever did was set up my 401k properly early in my career and then I lost the password. Literally, I did not check it for 8 years. Set it and forget it is one way to build tax-protected assets. Most importantly, one house, one wife, drive an old truck, and pay yourself first with the after-tax income.
7. As a platform that focuses on attaining financial independence, how is COVID-19 impacting your investment portfolio, how is it impacting your ID practice, and your brand – FiPhysician?
As you can imagine, retirement planning went away after the pandemic and bear market. Luckily, my second job, being an ID physician, picked up substantially. I have an excellent team around me, so they do most of my work for me, while I can strategize about what is best for my hospital and community.
Living through a public health emergency has been an interesting experience. We take care of people in extremes all the time, knowing we rapidly have to make decisions that have meaningful impact on their lives and not having all the information and time we would like. Politicians and others trying to make scientific decisions rapidly with limited information have done a really horrific job with this pandemic. That has been fun to blog about. I write about interesting scientific and evolutionary topic regarding Covid-19, and I make a lot of fun of poor policy decisions. Prior, my brand and blog were wonky tax-heavy retirement topics, so readership is up quite a bit!
8. Many physicians in the US who are aiming to attain financial independence are extremely concerned about asset protection, disability from COVID-19, and loss of pay from COVID-19. Could you outline any asset protection strategies, disability insurance basics, and thoughts on physician financial planning?
Asset protection depends on your life stage. If you are young, what is between your ears is the only asset that matters. That said, imagine doing everything right setting up an efficient private practice only to be closed down by Covid-19. I think we are just learning how to protect assets in this new world where legislative risk (e.g. the government tells you to close down your practice due to social distancing) plays such a large role.
Maybe working on at least a second income stream might be a suggestion. Real Estate will be impacted by Covid-19 as well. But stay agile and flexible in the next couple months. Fortunes are made on the back side of depressions. Now is the time to plan for explosive growth of your assets.
Liability protection is always of interest when you talk about asset protection. Who knows what will happen legally when Covid-19 starts calming down in a few years. Professional liability insurance, personal umbrella insurance, and at least exclusion planning goes a long way in protecting your assets.
As for those who were thinking about retirement or who recently pulled the plug on a physician salary, I hope you had your asset allocation set for sequence of return risk! I spent the last couple years blogging about that!
Bonus Question: Since you are an ID specialist, this one is only for you– What would you do if you were the President of the US, in regards to managing COVID19 in the US? Give us some broad strokes of your action plans from December 2019 to current date.
Wow, if I could go back in time and do anything – the answer is easy. Back in December, you likely could have used aggressive containment policies and shut this thing down when it was still in China.
Beyond that, there were obvious mistakes made at every step, but many of those you could only figure out retrospectively.
The biggest mistake the US got sucked into, however, was continuing on the containment warpath when the horses were already out of the barn and over the fence on much greener grass. By then, it was already too late. We needed to transition to mitigation and suppression but couldn’t get past containment…
Other mistakes were assuming this was similar to pandemic influenza, or worse, like SARS or MERS.
By February, it was too late to do much more than shelter-in-place in most communities.
The largest difficulty now is understanding how heterogeneous the effect of Covid-19 is on different communities. We need to plan and mitigate locally, which is difficult to do given that decisions are almost entirely political and often have no basis in science.
9. A lot of physicians who value financial independence often find it tricky to choose a qualified real estate or financial advisor who specializes in physician finance planning. Please share your thoughts on how physicians should approach the topic of physician financial planning. We hear stories of how their interests are not aligned with their clients financial growth. What are the things to watch out for? How to select competent financial advisors for physicians? What qualifications should be considered for physician financial planning? What strategies should be considered for financial planning for physicians?
Slightly tongue-in-cheek, see my blog on how assets under management differ from a digital rectal exam
Physicians have targets on their backs. We are called whales. Don’t be harpooned.
For physicians who are looking for great resources about financial independence – What is the best way for physicians to reach out to you?
The best way to reach me is through my website at https://www.fiphysician.com/
Here at PhysicianEstate, we welcome all physician entrepreneurs to learn about commercial real estate investments, rental property investments, and wealth generation. We encourage all physicians to eventually become real estate physician investors. We know a great deal about Who – What – Why – How.
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