Happy Saturday and welcome to the 43rd episode of the ‘Blogger Confessions’ interview series on the blog. Today, I’m bringing in the good doctor from Physician on Fire to talk about blogging and how they’ve managed to keep everything straight as a personal finance blogger.
PoF, take it away.
Blogger Confessions with Physician on Fire
1: In at least 100 words, describe the target audience of your blog.
In a broad sense, I’m writing for the high-income professional who wants to use his or her income to live a better life.
In my experience, most of us try to obtain a better life by purchasing it. The higher the income, the more one can spend, and the happier one should be, right?
Work that hedonic treadmill!
The cruel punchline is that it doesn’t work that way. In many ways, it’s the opposite. The more you don’t spend, the more you can set aside for a secure and carefree future, and the more freedom you will have to live life on your own terms.
I realize I’m preaching to the choir here on Think Save Retire. In a more specific sense, I’ve heard one should write with a specific person in mind. Some call this individual an avatar. My avatar is a younger me, a new doctor with a great income and little knowledge of what to do with it.
He loves spectator sports, good beer, travel, and his new bride.
2: What makes your blog different from other blogs in the PF blogosphere?
The first two blogs I read extensively were Mr. Money Mustache and the White Coat Investor. A little over a year after discovering them, I started a blog of my own.
In my mind, the blog was going to share some elements with both while offering my own unique perspective. Like MMM, I have a keen interest in retiring early and living an optimal life. Like The White Coat Investor, I’m a physician with a good income and an interest in optimizing my finances in every way possible.
When I started writing, there were maybe a half-dozen physician personal finance blogs. Now there are more than 6 dozen. What sets mine apart is the focus on FIRE and the depth of some of the articles. I sat down to write about 529 Plans the other day and ended up with 3,600 words.
My site is also one of many FIRE blogs. I take the fatFIRE approach with a budget that will easily exceed the average household’s annual spending, whereas most FIRE blogs are written by people looking to stay below the median in the spending category.
While it’s not entirely unique, I was pretty much financially independent when I discovered the concept, so my blog has been written entirely post-FI by someone who accidentally achieved it.
3: What’s the thing that you’ve struggled with the most since starting your blog?
Striking an appropriate balance is difficult, and I’m thinking about lots of different things when I say that.
It’s important and challenging to find balance between blog time, work time, family time, and free time. It’s easy to let every spare minute be soaked up by the ever-present internet.
I’ll be letting go of the work part in August, so striking a balance will be a bit easier.
I also look to balance how much I talk about any one topic. To keep it fresh, I like to mix it up. I have detailed investing posts, retirement posts, travel posts, tax posts, interviews like yours, etcetera.
There’s a balance, too, in how much advertising I allow. I’ve got a charitable mission with a pledge to donate half of my profits. I’ve donated more than half thus far, and I plan to donate a low six-figure amount this year from what the blog earns.
I also recognize that people don’t like to be bombarded with intrusive ads, so I try to keep it reasonable. Balance is tricky here. Too little and there’s no charitable mission. Too much and readers may be turned away.
4: Do you publish your net worth on your blog? Why or why not?
I’ve never published an actual dollar amount on my site, although I did in guest posts and used to have it posted in the Rockstar Finance Net Worth Tracker.
That started to feel like a competition as more and more blogs were added to the top of the list, and I was more interested in retiring than growing the number, so I bowed out.
I do give a pretty good idea of where we’re at, though, so that readers can get a sense of what kind of life we’re living and the sort of goal number they might want to have in mind. If you can do third-grade math, the fact that we can have a low six-figure annual budget with a very safe withdrawal rate of under 3.5% should clue you in.
5: Have you monetized your blog (ads, affiliate marketing, etc)? Why or why not?
I mentioned it above, and I do some of both. Personally, I like to CAPITALize on opportunities for a win-win proposition. I typically promote companies or service that I have used or would use if I was in need of that kind of service.
Having started the blog after reaching financial independence, I’m telling the world I don’t need the money. That’s one reason I decided to donate half of my profits. I still keep half because having that skin in the game makes me focus more and work harder to monetize well while providing an abundance of high-quality, free content.
6: Would you rather be loved, hated or controversial? Explain, please!
It’s probably the worst answer for getting loads of website traffic, but I’ve always sought the approval of others, so yeah, I want to be loved.
Controversial stances and takes do well on the internet, though.
The first time I met Scott Trench, he told me if you can get half of the readers to agree and the other half to disagree with your premise, that’s the sweet spot.
Financial Samurai has a third-degree black belt in this dark art, I think.
I certainly don’t want to be hated, but I know putting myself out there in the public eye as I do online will lead to some inevitable hate. The charitable mission comes in handy here, too.
How can you hate a guy who donates to rescue puppies, feed the poor, and volunteers his anesthesia expertise in Honduras?
7: Who would you be horrified to know read your blog?
For the first two years or so, almost no one I knew in real life knew about it. My wife did, but my kids didn’t. Neither did my father, mother, or brother.
A FI-minded friend in my homebrew club figured me out really early on when I answered Mr. 1500’s ten questions, but I kept it under tight wraps.
I’ve slowly come out of my shell, and now many of my friends and family are at least aware the site exists and a few actually read it. I’ve always written with the thought in mind that everyone in the world could someday read it. That eliminates the possibility of being horrified by any particular person discovering it.
It would be embarrassing if Johnny Depp were to read it, as I used him as an example when discussing hedonic adaptation. However, it would be equally awesome to know that I reached him.
8: What’s your most favorite, least favorite and most embarrassing post on your blog?
That’s like asking which is my favorite child, but I’ll humor you.
My favorite has got to be the Step by Step Guide to the Backdoor Roth, as it has accounted for more than 10% of my traffic over the last six months. It’s thorough and it helps solve a specific problem for tens of thousands of people.
My second favorite is probably Credit Cards for People Who Love Free Travel and Money. Because who doesn’t like free travel and money in the support of a guy’s charitable mission?
My least favorite? At the moment, it might be the post about our 7 Acres of Lakefront Property. I outlined how we planned to build our next “dream home” the, but we’ve since abandoned those plans. Building our vision was going to cost more than we anticipated, and we’re formulating Plan B.
I do expect to turn a healthy profit on the land, though, so it’s not all bad. Expect a future post about the sunk cost fallacy and how it kept us from ditching the project a while ago.
I expected a deluge of traffic that day, and I think maybe eight people read that post. To this day, there are zero comments on it. If anyone wants to be the first to comment, be my guest!
9: Explain your writing process
I spend a lot of time “blogging” but a small part of that is writing blog posts.
I publish four times a week, but only one is a complete new article from me.
My articles are published on Tuesdays, guest posts go up on Thursday, Saturday’s posts are republished classics from WCI network partners Passive Income MD and The White Coat Investor.
Finally, Sunday is a roundup post called The Sunday Best that has links to some of the best stuff I find and usually some personal stuff or small stuff that doesn’t warrant its own blog post.
When I write my own posts, I would guess I spend anywhere from 3 to 6 hours on average to write and research, and maybe another 30 to 45 minutes to format, edit, place ads, and prepare the e-mail. I could outsource or automate some of this, but everything I’m not doing makes the site a little less personal.
I don’t do first drafts.
I’ll have a very rough outline with a sentence fragment for each section. When I write, I take my time to get it as close to right as possible the first time. If I have a few days between writing and publishing, I’ll proofread and make some minor edits, but no major rewrites.
10: What is your favorite blog in the PF blogosphere (other than your own!)?
Are you really going to make me do this? Do I get bonus points for saying Think Save Retire?
Any of the sites I mentioned above, including yours, Steve, would be good candidates, but I’ve already mentioned them, so I’m going to spread the love a little more.
As I said, I just want to be loved! I’ll call it a tie between the Happy Philosopher and The Physician Philosopher. Both are physician personal finance blogs, and both have a focus more on **you guessed it** philosophy.
The Happy blogger has slowed his flow tremendously in the last year, only posting occasionally, but the Physician Philosopher has picked up the slack and really come on with some great stuff over the same time frame.
Thank you for having me, and I’m excited to see you south of the equator… and north of the equator. At one point, we’ll actually be straddling the equator. Anyway, see you in Ecuador in November!
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Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.