HIP Exam with Physician on FIRE

Welcome to the inaugural H.I.P. Examination. Actually, we won’t be examining just the hip but rather the H.I.P. (High Income Parent). This is where one parent (me) asks another parent (Physician on FIRE) about his approach to his kids in areas like education, investing, and money in general.

Parenting can be hard. Money can be hard. Put both together and we are probably approaching something the consistency of Wurtzite boron nitride. (Yeah, I looked that up. It’s the hardest substance known to man, not diamond!)

Like, the Physician on Fire is an anesthesiologist. He has done an amazing job of living below his means and intelligently investing his savings. He’s placed himself in a position of financial independence less than ten years after starting his career. PoF is a father, a husband, and a craft beer expert. He’s given us a wealth of knowledge on how to retire early and live well doing it. Now he’s here to shed some light on how he imparts his vast financial wisdom to his kids.

My hope is that these questions reveal some ideas you never thought of and give all of us some tips for making our financial lives better for ourselves and our kids. Without further ado, here is Physician on FIRE.


Two Truths and a Lie. Tell us two things that are true and one that isn’t about you. Make them something not too many people would know. We’ll come back to this later.
  1. I spent a summer in high school as a glassblower’s apprentice.
  2. I held the course record for a 13.1 mile power walk for the better part of a decade.
  3. My first name was the name of a Swedish McDonalds sandwich, preceded by a “Mc” of course.

[Tom: Aha!  If this is a truth, we are one step closer to finding the true identity of PoF. Now to just look up a doctor in Minnesota with the first name “Rib.”]

What do you do for a living? How long have you been doing it? What is your favorite part?

I come up with unique names for McDonald’s sandwiches.

In my spare time, I also practice anesthesia. I finished residency in the summer of 2006, so I’ve been at this for eleven years. To be honest, my favorite part is when I find out the last case of the day has been postponed for one reason or another, and my workday ends early.

My second favorite part is performing peripheral nerve blocks under ultrasound guidance. It’s an incredibly effective procedure that patients absolutely love, and it’s quite fun to be able to visualize the needle adjacent to nerve beneath a patient’s skin.

[Tom: I’m right there with you. Ultrasound guided nerve blocks are da bomb! It is so awesome to have a patient wake up pain-free with no narcotics on board. When I had shoulder surgery, my single shot block lasted 25 hours. Sorry, nerdy anesthesiologist talk.]


How did you learn about personal finance? Did you have any big role models that mentored you financially?

My parents shaped my perspectives on money in so many ways. We were a family of more means than I fully realized, but we shopped at garage sales, thrift stores, and were always on the lookout for a good value.

In an interesting contrast, we often did our bargain hunting on the way to or as an excursion from my family’s second home, which was a lake cabin.

It seems paradoxical at face value, but it actually makes perfect sense. A big part of what allowed them to afford a second home (which they have since retired to as their primary and only home) was their frugal ways.

My father also taught me the Rule of 72 and the power of compound interest when I was first earning money mowing lawns. I took that knowledge to heart.


How many children do you have? How old are they?

HIP Exam with Physician on FIRE

I do have children, but not fourteen or whatever ridiculous number you’ve accumulated. 😉

My wife and I have two boys, now 6 and 8 years old, and they are our world. As my regular readers have figured out, I have early retirement aspirations. Before I realized I could easily afford it, I figured I’d keep working at least as long as we’ve got kids living with us.

Now that I understand that we’re financially independent and work is optional, we’re super psyched to live out some adventures that we could never manage without the benefit of both financial and location independence.


How do you help them manage money while they are young? Do you have an allowance system?

We’re the least original people I know. We have the three jars. Save. Spend. Give. Right now, they get a dollar in each. Every time they reach $10 in the save jar, they get an additional dollar in interest.

If any of y’all know of a similar deal at a grown-up bank, please please please let me know.

[Tom: The classics work. That’s why they are the classics. We started out the same way but with all 14 of my kids 😉 it got a little hectic. 

At our local credit union, we opened three different savings accounts for each kid. Now we track everything on the app. We name each account the child’s name and then Save, Spend or Give. (Example: Bobby Save). I have automatic transfer set up so their allowance goes in each week. If they forget to ask, I just transfer the money back to my account. (See How I Set Up my Kid’s Allowance) It’s not perfect but thankfully my kids get a kick out of opening the credit union app and tracking their accounts. They get competitive and treat it like getting a high score on a video game. It isn’t as impactful to the 6 year old though so maybe yours are still a bit young. Back to PoF.]

How do you plan to help them manage money as they get older? What will change as they grow?

Both my wife and I got “real” jobs when we were 15 or 16 and worked for money before that, so I imagine our boys will do something similar.

We want them to know what it means to work for money, but we also want them to receive an education from others who know a lot more than we do. That provides a good segue to the next question, which is:


How do you finance their education? Do they go to public school? Private School? Home School? What is the reason for your decision?

Both boys had fall birthdays and started pre-school about the time they turned three. Living in rural areas, the bills were quite reasonable. Our younger son does his best to keep up with his brother and was reading chapter books by the time he finished pre-school. He actually skipped kindergarten and went straight into first grade. In hindsight, he might have been better off entering kindergarten early, which would have saved us a few thousand dollars.

Now, they’re both enrolled in the same public elementary school. They both qualified for the district’s gifted program, so they will have the same teachers one year apart and will be learning at a quicker pace with the same group of kids each year.

In another year or two, though, we may very well opt to homeschool, or “road school” or “world school” as we have ambitions to travel the country and perhaps the world while they are still young.

[Tom: With the curriculum and online opportunities out there today, our kids have way more resources than we ever did to try alternative schooling methods. With motivated parents, they can achieve excellent results. I say go for it. It would be an amazing experience for all of you.]


Do they plan to go to college? If so, how do you plan to pay for college? Is the child responsible? Are you fully responsible? Is it a bit of both? How did you decide this?

As an aspiring early retiree, I’m not about to pull the trigger on a lucrative career without fully accounting for our boys’ post-secondary education.

Before I retire from clinical medicine, I will have funded a 529 Plan for each of them with $100,000 or more. We’re about 85% of the way there. With another 8 to 10 years to grow when we are done funding them, it should be a tidy sum when they matriculate to college and perhaps beyond.

I want it to be enough money to keep them out of debt if they pursue reasonably affordable options (like the University of Minnesota attended by the previous three generations) and if there’s money left over, that can grow for another two to three decades and be used for our grandchildren’s’ education.

If they need more than the 529 provides, student loans may be in their future, but we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.


What is the most important financial lesson you could teach your children?

One. Just one?

I’ll assume they’ll read at least some of what I’ve written and know how to be relatively frugal, invest wisely, and attain financial independence in due time. My lesson will be to give generously. They’re starting from a position of incredible advantage and need to recognize that.

In addition to the college funds, I also plan to have donated 10% of our nest egg to donor advised funds designated to be given away throughout our retirement. I’d like our children to be at least as generous, if not more.

[Tom: I have to say that is the number one thing I stress to our kids too. It is so easy for them to forget how good they really have it. The probably get sick of my telling them to give of themselves and have an attitude of gratitude but I’ll keep saying it until the cows come home.]


Okay, fess up. What was the lie? Tell us about the truths.

HIP Exam with Physician on FIREI’m incredibly good at drinking from a glass (you should see me sometime!), but I’ve never blown glass.


Regarding the Power Walk, I refused to run when my new bride wanted me to be a runner. She signed me up for a 5k. I am a stubborn man. She had no idea to what extent.

I walked the 5k.

She signed us up for a 10k. I walked the 10k.

I started getting into the not-running of these races. We signed up for a race that had a half-marathon with a walker’s division. I had perfected my swivel-hip racewalking routine and finished in first place, coming in about a minute ahead of a 66-year old with a two hour and sixteen minute time.

HIP Exam with Physician on FIRE

Finishing Strong!

It turns out that was the best time in the history of the event and it held for another eight or nine years until an Olympic-caliber racewalker shattered my time by about a half an hour.

When I was a medical student on an away rotation in Stockholm, my name was in lights with a “Mc” as a prefix. I never ordered the sandwich, but in hindsight, I wish I had.


What is the number one money/finance/investing tip you have for high income parents?

Ignore your income. At least when it comes to spending. Take every deduction available by maxing out your tax-deductible contributions and charitable giving, but when it comes to spending, forget how much you make. You’ll be the Millionaire Next Door before you know it.

Thanks to PoF for a very educational and entertaining HIP Exam! Do you have any other questions for PoF? Sound off below. 

Tom is a doctor, husband and father of five with a passion for parenting and finance. When he isn't skateboarding, riding BMX, or jumping on the trampoline with his kids, he is reading and writing about personal finance. He helps high income parents educate and mentor their kids to become financially, emotionally, and intellectually self sufficient.

13 Responses to “HIP Exam with Physician on FIRE

  • I think Mr. AR needs to read about PoF’s walking a Half Marathon… he is in the non-runner camp as well! I like the allowance approach that includes interest to encourage saving. Thank you for the post, PoF and Tom!

    • You should definitely get him out there. That power walking hip swivel is super sexy. 😉

      Tom @ HIP

  • Nice inaugural post to the series! PoF as a sandwich is pretty good. Generosity is definitely important and something we try to instill in our son already. Each Xmas we are going to have him donate a few toys (at least one new and a few old) to a charity.

    • Maybe the PoF sandwich could be a
      Philet o’ Fish? He should ask the breweries he invests in to offer that if they have a menu to go along with the beer.

      Tom @ HIP

  • Nice to see you two working together! Excited to see future series posts!

    • I’ll try to keep them coming. If you know of any other high income parents you’d like to hear from let me know.

      Tom @ HIP

  • What a cool post concept, the HIP quiz, I love it.

    I really like the 3 jars for kids concept, I’ve never heard of that. Our oldest is 3 and she is starting to understand about her piggybank. I think the piggybank alone thing might be dated… time to get 2 more containers, and I especially like the Give container.

    Maybe I will add a Tax container where she puts 10% of the Save and Spend (but not the Give) every April and we give it to her younger brother so he doesn’t have to earn money at all. Yes, I can say that on this blog, we all pay more than enough taxes.

    And yeah nerve blocks are the bomb. I use a cervix GYN block for some of my female cancer treatments (I’m a radiation oncologist). It’s got all the pain control of MAC without all the anxiety!

    • Thank you aGLMD. I’m glad you like the Q&A.
      A tax jar. That would be a good idea to show how money evaporates into the bureaucratic abyss. Maybe her brother uses it to buy something she especially dislikes.
      It would be a good opportunity to help her understand life isn’t fair with a constructive purpose.

      Tom @ HIP

    • aGoodLifeMD,
      Great idea adding the fourth tax jar. WCI also likes to mention to his kids that life isn’t fair and his daughter Whitney even made that point on her first post for WCI. And WCI just had her do her first tax return and have to pay FICA tax. So the tax jar is probably a good way for kids to learn. Life may not be fair but it’s still a good life. Although giving the tax money to her little brother to get something she especially doesn’t like such as a loud drum may be a little too harsh a lesson for a kid!

  • That glass blowing could’ve been a great side hustle. Nice on the race walking.
    Love the idea of world schooling. Thanks for sharing PoF.

    Cool series idea Tom.

  • Loved it. As the father of a 3 and 1 year old I often wonder about how to approach financial education with them in the future. This is helpful. Thanks guys.

    • Hopefully these will help all of us come up with ideas and implement some ideas that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

      Tom @ HIP

Comment Below

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow on Feedly