From Full-Time Anesthesiologist to Charitable Entrepreneur | Physician on FIRE

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On today’s episode, Cody and Justin are joined by Leif from Physician On Fire. Leif didn’t even discover the idea of financial independence until he was 40 but has truly hit the ground running. In just three years he has created a massive online following where he helps reach high-income earners to educate them on finances as well as spread the message of giving.

He donates 50% of all blog-related income and has donated up to $100k in a given year. Stay tuned to get Leif’s background and take on topics such as backdoor Roth IRAs, discovering financial independence at a later age, travel hacking, and his donor fund.

Go give it a listen and let us know what you think!

Episode Summary

  • Leif was born in 1975 and began understanding money even as a 5-year-old
  • He came from a family of physicians and knew that’s what he wanted to do as well
  • At age 30 he was completely finished with schooling and residency and became an anesthesiologist
  • He was able to keep student loans low by sticking with in-state schools, earning scholarships, and a college fund his grandfather had left him
  • At age 30 he had a slightly negative net worth and didn’t discover the idea of financial independence until he was almost 40
  • Even before discovering financial independence, he was saving about 50% of his take-home pay but it was intentional
  • The discussion then transitions to the topic of financial advisers targeting high-income members like physicians and possibly taking advantage of them
  • He reaches other high-income earners to help them learn how to invest for themselves and even find a local financial adviser through his blog and Facebook groups
  • One of his Facebook groups is for anyone in the “Fat FIRE” community which he describes as anyone looking to be able to spend $100k or more per year in retirement
  • He then starts breaking down tax advantage strategies especially as they pertain to high-income earners including the backdoor Roth IRA and Mega backdoor Roth
  • Then he describes how he got into blogging and making money through this other source
  • It wasn’t actually until a little over 3 years ago that he discovered financial independence for himself and saw The White Coat investor as a role model in the space
  • His hope was to provide advice similar to White Coat Investor with a voice more similar to Mr. Money Mustache
  • When he first discovered financial independence he had a five-year plan which would have been around 2021 but instead, due to the success of the blog and the realization of his financial situation, he went part-time almost right away
  • We then dive into how he keeps his spending reasonable because so many high-income earners aren’t able to maintain a high savings rate even though they have so much money to work with which he credits to living in reasonable homes, driving cars for 8-10 years, and only eating out a couple of times per month
  • They were spending between $60k-$70k per year for total expenses with a paid off home
  • One area where his family has found efficiencies with spending is through travel hacking
  • Travel hacking just means finding creative ways to use points and miles from things like credit cards and promotions to travel for cheap or even free
  • He has done this for trips with his family to places like Hawaii and Honduras.
  • His family spends around $5k per year on travel but estimates that number could be closer to $25k if he didn’t take advantage of travel hacking
  • We then dive into his goal to spread a message of giving back and his own experiences with doing medical mission work with his family
  • Then we discuss the mechanics behind a donor fund which allows him to donate money now and disperse it in the future where he’s given up to $100k in a given year
  • One advantage of these donor funds is that it allows you to donate investments as well as cash so he was able to donate assets that had greatly appreciated to the fund so he was able to avoid capital gains taxes while still being able to donate a large sum for a big impact
  • This vehicle for charity allows him to donate more money than he could if he simply gave cash but is not some way for him to earn more money or benefit himself in any way
  • One note is that once you’ve put money in the donor fund, you can’t change your mind and take it back
  • When we asked about other advice he would give people he describes being prepared in case you don’t love your job in the future because those fortunate enough to love their job may not see the need to save now but if something happens to that career, it will be too late to fix things if you wait till they break
  • You also won’t want to miss him breaking down his love for curling (no not the bicep workout) and some interesting curling moments

Key Takeaways

  1. Make a difference: The number one takeaway for this episode was the insight Leif gave about donor funds and his medical mission efforts. Sometimes a pursuit to FI can seem like a selfish one but when you consider how much more you can do to help others when you have an abundance, it’s obvious how powerful it can be.
  2. Never too rich: We loved that Leif is still excited about things like travel hacking even though he has plenty of money to pay full price. It’s simply a commitment to not being wasteful and making every dollar mean something.
  3. There is no single path: Every episode we’re amazed to find yet another completely unique path to financial independence. Leif had a negative net-worth and didn’t discover the idea of financial independence until 40 built an amazing path to FI despite all of that.

Call to Action

Find a good cause and donate something. Money, time, knowledge or stuff. Just give something.

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Links from the Episode


Contact Physician On Fire:


Twitter: @Physicianonfire

Instagram: @Physicianonfire


Learn More About Your Hosts:

Fly to FI (Cody’s Blog)

Saving-Sherpa (Justin’s blog)