Have you ever wondered… what would it be like to retire at 38 years old?
What would you do?
How would you live your life?
You are about to discover how one physician could do just that…
In this podcast, you will learn:
- The biggest difference between living overseas and in the US
- Why she was worried about her dad & how it led to a burning interest in money
- How she finished medical school with virtually no debt (Hint: She got most of her loans at a ZERO percent rate. Find out how she did it)
- Discover why she decided to buy a home in residency, even though most of us suggest not to
Resources Mentioned In This Podcast
Announcer: Welcome to the “Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast.” Where it’s all about slashing your debt and taxes, and creating a liberating lifestyle. And now, your host with a love of fantasy books and funk, and a hatred of running more than 3 miles, Dave Denniston.
Dave: My name is Dave Denniston, you host. And welcome back to the latest episode of the Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast. Well, welcome back to our monthly fireside chat, with a physician to get to know their journey, and their joys and their struggles with finances, and even outside of finances. And you guys, this show, it’s not always about action or context. It is, however a chance to see behind the curtains to walk in another person’s shoes, to experience their lives. Now, our next guest was kind enough to allow me to guest post on her blog, which will be coming out here. And now she’s generous enough to share with us, her journey, and her wisdom. She is currently a radiology resident. Known as the debt free doctor, and
“Dr. Wise Money.” She is currently a first year resident, in the Department of Medical Imaging, at Vanner University Medical Center. She firmly believes that financial freedom helps to get better, and better, and makes happier doctors. Hence she created her blog, Dr. Wise Money. D-r. W-i-s-e Money. And as she achieves her own goals, like purchasing a house, and paying off her student loans, or financing her house, maxing out her retirement savings. She is writing about, giving talks on personal finance purposes. Assisting her colleagues achieve financial success. She has been featured on websites like, “The White Coat Investor” and “Non-Clinical Doctors” and this I can’t wait to hear about this. Please help me welcome Dr. Amanda Lui, welcome Amanda.
Amanda: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Dave: Oh, Amanda, it’s my pleasure. So, first tell us a little bit about you. You mentioned, before we started here, that you didn’t grow up here in the United States. So, tell us about your childhood.
Amanda: Well, I grew-up in Taiwan, I was there until I was 16 years old. And then I immigrated to America. And was taken under the wing of my very kind and generous extended family. Mainly my aunt Marion Ilene.
Dave: Now, where in the U.S. did you end up coming to.
Amanda: I was in California and stuff, in Southern California.
Dave: Southern California. Now, that’s not that much different than Taiwan, I would say.
Amanda: Oh, it was a huge cultural shock, very, very different. Yeah, yeah, it was a pretty big transition for sure.
Dave: Tell us about that, what were some of the shocks and the changes? Here you were a teenager 16 years old, moving to the United States.
Amanda: I think some of the, I think one of the, I’m only going to highlight one of the major difference, only give two. In Taiwan, Ong Quong Nog, we were, financially in a pretty tough spot. And I remember there were debt collectors coming to our door. There weren’t a lot of protection for, you know, for consumers. And as I child I would be very frightened, and I always worried about my father, and his welfare when he walked out the door. If he’s going to get into trouble, or physical danger because of the debt collectors. And I remember collecting like a few little coins around the house. And hoping that I can save up that money and pay-off the debt, you know. So, the collectors said, they would bob off our skin. But I
Dave: Wow. What an experience, as a child. I can’t even imagine how scared I was?
Amanda: Exactly, my mom, she set me down, and said, “Amanda, you know we can’t afford to put that money away. You know, we need those coins for food. So, at that moment, I felt pretty powerless. I felt like I was, I only, you know, meager, the only thing I knew, the only thing I could do to help was to help my family collecting those coins. But, even then, that was not too helpful. So, that was, you know, financial life was like in Taiwan. And when I came here it was very different, I see the American dream. I see how my aunt went from someone who was an illegal immigrant to making $2.00 an hour. And just becoming a multi-business owner. And I see how she was able to help the entire family, who follow in her footsteps. And immigrated to here in America. Without the one major difference. And the other thing is, just getting an education. Taiwan, the education is extremely rigorous, and we are all very dedicated. But, at the same time, we spoon fed things, information. But, here in America, it seems like, education is like a buffet. Basically, you’re at an all you can eat place, and you get to grab and reach for whatever you want. And so, it was liberating, it was a pretty interesting transition. I mean, there are some down sides when there are some transitions. But, these I guess the two, major things that I experienced differently, between Taiwan and here, was actually a positive change.
Dave: Isn’t that something? Now is, I’ve never been to Taiwan. And I don’t think many of our listeners have either? I generally think of it as being a pretty developed country. But, it doesn’t sound like there were as many opportunities there perhaps, huh?
Amanda: A yes definitely, what happened is? I think in Taiwan, you get really amazing education in the fundamental sciences, mathematics. I mean, people in 8th grade would be learning stuff that’s college level here, AP stuff. So, I think that’s in a way very, it’s wonderful, I really, appreciate it I had a solid foundation from what I’ve learned there. But, it just, I don’t know how to describe it, other than the difference between you know, being given a bowl of food, in Taiwan, verses coming here and it’s buffet. You know, you have freedom choice, to choose and pick what you’re interests are? What topic you want to dwell, kind of dive in deeper, stuff like that.
Dave: So, is it the kind of thing, you kind of have to choose ahead of time. Where you want to go in time, in Taiwan in terms of you get put into, you’re going to study this. This is what you’re good at. Am I not characterizing that right?
Amanda: I think you’re right the branching in the decision point, to specialize in and to focus on one area of study, is earlier on in Taiwan than in America. But, in general, like, when up to the level of education, which is high school first. Yet for me here in Taiwan, the idea is everyone is pushed to the extreme in every single specialty, in every single subject. But, from one big difference, is that medical school, is that you could start at 18 or 19. And when you finish high school. Rather than, around here, people usually start 22 when they finish college.
Dave: So then, being a teenage, did you always know you wanted to be in medicine when you came over here? Tell us about that journey of being a physician?
Amanda: So, the funniest thing is, I was like any other kid, who wants to be in medicine. It, it’s almost, it’s pretty, ordinary, in that I love sciences, and I love people. And it’s just, oh, figure that was the best comfortable, I can help people, I can continue to study the fascinating sciences. You know, especially the human body. Which I think is the, incredibly well designed and unbeatable, no creation. But then, my mom, you know, quite different from your typical Asian mom. And she told me, she could be anything I want in life, but not a doctor. She told me, if I want to be a pediatrician she rather that I go to be a kindergarten teacher. If I want to be a
Amanda: If I want to be a pediatrician, she would rather I work with old people from other capacity, then being a doctor. So, while I could have gained some other Asian mom’s dream child who would love to be a doctor. My mom, you can be anything in the world, but a doctor.
Dave: And why was that, do you know? What was behind that?
Amanda: She told me, she actually knew me quite well. I kind of have to agree with her, she is pretty wise then that. She told me, Amanda, you were not enjoy one day being a doctor. Because you get too emotionally involved, and get to emotionally attached to people. And you feel their pain. You’re going to die inside if you go be a doctor. And, if you love kids so much, why do you want to see so many sick kids during the day? Why don’t you work with 30 healthy kids in a kindergarten classroom?
Dave: So, despite that, you got here to the U.S. When you applied to colleges, were you planning on attending Pre-Med? Or what was that like?
Amanda: Yeah, I mean, I guess technically I was so interested in the biological chemical sciences, just how things work. Especially how things work, and inside a living organism. That, you know, I was definitely, going for the molecular cell biology, and getting ready for going to medical school. Yeah, I guess, you know, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. So, I just kind of walked the steps and just kind of did it one step at a time. Um, yeah.
Dave: Well, that’s got to be something? I can imagine, for many physicians which I know the subject you’re passionate about. What I’m passionate about is, debt. And here you come from a family that’s barely making it. Had debt collectors, and really hard issues. And then you come here to the U.S. And your aunt, it sounds like she was extremely successful.
How did debt play a role for you? In your under graduated education. What did you do to address that? Or what’s been happening there for you?
Amanda: So, yeah. I was, fortunately debt does have a cause for PTSD. I am extremely debt overt. So, in college, what happened was, I was fortunate enough, I believe my grandfather actually set up a $30,000.00, yeah, a $30,000.00 to help with educational fund. And so, for college, that was the help I received from family. And I also had 7 jobs, to support myself.
Dave: Wow, 7?
Amanda: Yeah, at one point it was 7. But other wise, it was like 2-3 every semester, all though out my entire college time. The reason why, that escalated to that. Was because my parents got into debt trouble in America. And then my father fell behind on the, his credit card payments. And his interest rate went up to 30%. And I really panicked, so went from being an honor roll 4.0 gpa. Student, at UC Berkley. To someone who basically really did poorly because I was working 7 odd jobs, trying to bring home some money, to pay the bills. So, the debt really, the debt really had eaten away at me for quite a while. But today, you know, I had a very frightening story to tell. I feel so, fortunate because of the deep seated fear of debt, back then. I am debt free now. I can’t believe that while, some of my unfortunate peers have $300,000.00 of student debt at 11% interest rate. I’ve paid off all of my student debt, and I just feel so grateful, when I feel free.
Dave: That is amazing, though, how did you do that? It sounds like during college you, were trying to pay your way, got some money from your grandparents, and father, which helped out. Which certainly they didn’t pay the whole bill, of going to college. And obviously going to medical school, I’m guessing? You’re paying anywhere from $40 to $50,000.00 a year for 4 years probably, right?
Amanda: Yeah, yeah.
How’d ya do it?
Amanda: Well so, it’s a combination, it’s a combination of working. So, I did have two jobs in medical school. Which averages out to be about 40 hours a week. However, there are lots of options to work in Medical School. While you actually get to study. Or get to do research. Or think you would have been doing it however anyway. Though, if people look into work/study program, they can be paid really quite well, $15.00 an hour, not minimum wage. And since one of my jobs is, was working at the library. And where I will actually hold little study sessions, and help my classmates study, while help myself learn. While I get paid on the clock at $15.00 an hour. While it doesn’t seem like $15.00 an hour is a lot? It actually helped fit some bills. And what’s more important, is that it gives you a cashflow to pay for things. Instead of being living off of a borrowed dollar, that starts at 4% origination fee, plus 7% interest on day one.
Amanda: Yeah, it’s like ridiculous, living off of borrowed money in medical school is a very scary thing. But, none of us with ever, none of us, had any education, or informational session, about how to manage our debt. From day one, prepare, prevention is the best medicine, none of us were taught that. And so, that’s why I’m trying to teach, “How to manage your debt, from day one.” Prevention is the best medicine. But, none of us would have that. And so, that’s why I’m trying to use my blog to reach people, and say, “Hey, if you’re a first-year med. Student? If, no matter what state you’re in, you could get help with your debt. Most ideally, you could deal with that by creeping and preventing it. And so, how do you? A job helped. They charged my parents 30% and they are hard-working diligent people. Who, merely make ends meet, one payment. I turned a whole table around. And I used them to keep my student loan debt. And I saved $50,000.00. of interest alone in medical school. So, if you need a little detail, what I did was simple. Every 4 months, we would need to pay $15,000.00, you know $18,000.00 student tuition loan. And so, they are taking the bigger student loan out. Which is so easy, it’s like my monopoly money. You send a one liner to your financial-aid advisor, and say, I will pay such and such a month. And guess what? Within 30 days, that check will arrive and you will be able to deposit it, and use it like monopoly money. But, instead of doing that? And allowing myself to, you know, have all your money work against me starting day one. Out of medical school essentially at 11%. I just went ahead and charged a credit card. That’s $15,000.00 tuition. So, what happened is, a credit card is 18 months, 0% interest free on purchases. So, that buys me a year and a half before I owe a person interest. Which is close to, 7% interest. And there was no origination fee. So, what happened.
Dave: That’s interesting. That’s incredibly smart, incredibly smart. Well, well done Amanda. That’s amazing, and even being a medical student. You were still able to find credit card companies that would give you up to that limit.
Amanda: Yes, yes. Because I firmly believe, I mean, okay, I’m, I don’t have much in common. If you look at the $15.00 an hour I made, it doesn’t add up, out of the whole lot, getting a large credit limit. But, what happened is, I build on my credit gradually. Thanks to what I have to spend as a medical student. Basically the way I see it is, credit score or credit limit, credit history. All affects credibility issue, in consumerism. It’s all about, just like going to the gym. If you stretch or work muscles. It’s not going to grow.
Amanda: So, more and more offers and things start competing for my debt. Because the saw that I was a big spender.
Dave: Well, alright, let’s take a pause here for a second. And go to our commercial break.
Dave: They think they are going to make a boat load in 18 months, right?
Amanda: Yes. And because of this, there are several more steps. And they gave me 18 months. And then Bank of America wants it, they gave me another 18 months. And then CitiBank wants it, and they gave me another 21 months. And then wa la, I’m out of Med-School. And I haven’t incurred one whole penny of interest.
Dave: So, were you able to move from credit card, to credit card? Or did you end up paying it off every 18 months. So, what was that like?
Amanda: Yeah, so basically, my principle was “Cash was king.” I only put cash with where it really, really makes a difference in life. And when I absolutely have to need it. So, yeah, I make a little with $15.00 an hour, 40 hours a week. With that $600.00 per week cash flow, basically I only used that towards whatever I can’t charge. So, in the end, yeah. So, today I’m a second year at PGY 2. I am almost 2 years out of medical school. I technically completely paid off my student loans last year. And I carry no debt, you know, credit card debt for, to speak of mind you. But, through out Med-School, I wouldn’t have the money to truly pay the debt off. So, like you said, it’s pretty much wrote, paid with the lowest interest possible. And occasionally taking out student loans to pay off a balance I couldn’t rotate.
Dave: A-huh, a-huh, but that was relatively smaller amounts. Because you were getting paid to study, I love that idea, that’s awesome! Let’s switch gears here a little bit. The time we have remaining. Now, I know we talked about it, in the introduction. And I think you’ve blogged about it on your site. One of your financial goals, has been to purchase a house. So, I’d like for you to tell us your thoughts behind buying a home while you’re a resident?
Amanda: Okay. So, I know a lot of people have a buy versus rent idea. And if it’s not 5 year. Possibly not worth it. Buy, a lot of people think it’s not worth it, against buying a home? But, for me, the thought was because when I apply for residency, I really had the long shot view of how to line up my internship, residency, and fellowship, all six years in one location. Even though, it’s a lot more work, coordinating all the interviews that way. And making sure things line-up at the front end. If, it really pays off in the long run, that I don’t have to move three times after Med-School. So, as soon as I knew where I matched, and you know, I could, I have accomplished my goal, lining-up all six years of training at the same location. I went ahead and I think it was a good idea to buy. Even for the most conservative people, who say, you know, five or six at least, make five years buy them, if I had a choice. And the other way I look at it is, if I’m going to have to live somewhere. If I’m going to pay rent at $1300.00 a month, I mine as well pay a mortgage that $925.00. I know I have to pay the additional HOA, and with all the other costs I put down. It will bring it up to $1200.00. But, I like the idea of saving $400.00 of equity, every month.
Dave: Sure, it’s a tough call, I think. We can talk back and forth a lot about this a little because the question is? Do you, at the end of your fellowship, or residency, or whatever that looks like? Is this the place you want to continue to live in, and if not? Which you don’t know for sure, until you transition to practice perhaps, depending on what your specialty is? As a radiologist, maybe? You’re a little bit more in demand. Sure, but let’s say that you decide you are going to move elsewhere? You need to decide, yourself, do you own, or do you rent? And grapple with that distinction. So, where are you at, and in terms of thinking about five, six years from now. When you are in practice. Is this the place you want to live for sure? That you’re going to want to find a job? Or what would that look like for you?
Amanda: I think kinda working my program. You know, it’s been almost over a year in the radiology program. I feel very high chem of thing. In getting a job locally. And I’m really in love with the town of Tucson Arizona. It’s just a gorgeous place, and we finally just, I really love it. So, I see myself here, perhaps, both for professionally, and personal even. However, is it possible that I might move to a different house. But, I have the inclination to keep this house for my parents, since they don’t own a house. And if they are not interested in living here? They might want it to go to someone else? And I’ll rent this house out. But, I’m not the type of person who likes a lot of transaction. Because every time, there’s transaction, I believe the business, the middle men profit, and not me. So, I’d like to keep this house. Either, I could lend board, or give it to my parents as a gift, or just live in it myself.
Dave: And if it’s all debt free by the time you finish. It sounds like you probably be on track to really working towards that, being close to that. But, cash may not be a problem for you.
Amanda: Yeah, I believe so. I basically did the calculation, probably will pay-off this house. If I would like to, within four months of finishing residency.
Dave: Nice. And I did mention in the intro. that you blog about this stuff, on “Dr. Wise Money.” That’s D-r. Wise Money dot com, www.drwisemoney.com. So, tell us, how did that come about? It came about when I tasted what it was like, to not have a debt at 7%, growing and snowballing on my back. And I just couldn’t keep that big good feeling all to myself. I wanted, I want my peers, I want dedicated colleagues who dig their noses into the books, to help other people. And so, therefore, idealistic about caring for patients. Of giving of their whole profession. I want them to be taken care of too. So, I will write one post, and I send it to my mentor, who has a very successful blog. He’s a lifetime investor, yeah, I’ll make this a gift posting. And I say, you know what? I got my own blog too, I should keep writing about this, and I want to see my friends get out of debt as soon as possible, and I want them to feel free, to do what they love to do. Rather than, you know, waking up every morning, just working for debt. Or working for, yeah, yeah.
Dave: No, I can totally hear your heart on that. I feel so much the same.
Amanda: Yeah, exactly, yeah.
Dave: Yeah, in one of your blog posts, that you sent to me, ahead of this call. I thought was really interesting? That I recommend everyone, check out, because there’s a ton of need in here. And the blog post was entitled, “How I can retire at 38.” A, wow, that’s amazing!
So, if you don’t mind, just really quick. Tell us about that blog post, and people can definitely check it out online. But, you got to tell us, how could you, retire at 38, that’s just a, how you can do that on a fellowship?
Amanda: Yeah, that’s a, that’s about 2.8 years out, after fellowship. And it would be, I think? It would be less than nine years out. So, Medical School. And that’s usually the time when people are still 60-80% in debt with their educational costs from Medical School. So, I definitely feel very fortunate. And the reason I could do it is? Really, provide, is that one, I don’t require a whole lot. I don’t spend a whole lot of money because I realize the most important is my happiness comes from free stuff, that’s one. Number two, is that because of that, you know, I really, feel comfortable saving 60% of my income right now. And if I project it further down. If I become an attending, I feel very comfortable saving 86% of my income over the next attending. So, when you can save that much. Because you don’t have that much, better, you don’t have, I’m not high maintenance number one. Number two, you can put away that much. And you can put that much money to work for you, day and night, when you sleep. You know, and it can come as a passive income, than early retirement can, and really isn’t a myth anymore, anyone can do it. As I said in that post, you know. I can retire when I’m 38, but I won’t because I love my job.
Dave: Wow, well that is just a fantastic story Amanda, a fantastic post. One, that I think a lot of physicians could really, think about it. In this time where we can see so many folks that are struggling with burn-out. And they are struggling, wondering if they can make it. And I’ve talked to a lot of physicians, a lot of clients. That they just don’t want to keep going at the pace that they are. And they are thinking of going to three quarters time. But, yet when they have all these student loans and ex-sizable mortgage. Unfortunately, they have to keep on the track that they are. Because frankly they are living expenses don’t allow them to. Which is not necessarily wrong with that. But, then they don’t have this freedom. The freedom to make choices. And we are running out of time here Amanda. But, I would like for you to finish us out with a couple of different things.
Number one, I would like us to let you know some resources that are awesome that you would like to point other physicians.
Amanda: Okay, I definitely, definitely, recommend white coat investor dot com. www.whitecoatinvestor.com, he has a very amazing website he has all sorts of good information for people on, for especially doctors, residents, fellows to benefit from. He has become a great mentor to me. And he’s helped so many, many countless doctors. Definitely, white coat investor.
Dave: A-huh, and there’s so much more we could talk about. And let me say first, I’m so proud of you. For doing what you’re doing, consider where you started, the hunger you’ve had. You’ve set yourself up wonderfully, so congratulations on that. Do you have any closing thoughts on other physicians that you’d like to leave with us today?
Amanda: Hum, I think, we all started Med-School with so much idealism. And we were all overachieve at and do the very best at of our ability. And then we went to Med-School, it’s a grueling experience, and the residency is tough. And then on top of that, mental exhaustion. You have the financial news that the burden is so ownerous.
It’s someone else’s mortgage on top of your back that you don’t have a house to speak of. And it’s at 7% and not like regular 15%. I think it’s so important that number one, we have to be very truthful with our situation.
And number to, we need to be really, looking out for each other. We are not here to compete, with each other. We need to be loving each other’s back, because no one else will have our back’s covered. I just have to quote a quick incident, antidote in college, one experience I had. When I was competing at UCFF interceding professional radiology. It’s the most renown clinic, to do interventional radiology. There are 30 people, 30 staff positions. Now, I, they are like God sends. They are so admirable, so intelligent people. The one thing I learned what that, in-between cases. I see the technologist, I see the nurses, PA, everybody. Taking a nice lunch break, chatting, just taking a nice break. But in this case, I didn’t see any doctors, going down to eat, or use the bathroom or anything? And I see them as 3 minutes to ram some fries down their throat, and kept working at it, from 4:00a.m. until 10:00p.m. that night. And not worry if the case runs late. No one, went and tapped on their shoulder and saying, “Hey, take a break,” And so, if we as physicians do advocate for ourselves and don’t look out for each other, who is going to do it?
Now one last thought, just hope that all of us look out for each other. And share information. And if we share it, so other people can replocate it, if we have failures, that’s okay, share it, so other people can avoid it.
Dave: That’s beautiful. Well, thank you, Amanda, for spending the time with us, and investing in physicians, and having a heart. For other people if you have more questions? How can they get in contact with you? And how can they find your blog?
Amanda: It’s through my blog, it’s www.drwhitecoatmoney.com, I check for comments, if people have questions right now? I will share within 24 hours. That’s the best way to contact me.
Dave: Okay, wonderful. Well, Amanda, it’s been a pleasure, and to all our listeners out there, definitely check out her resources. There’s lots of great info. On there. And in the future, I’d like to tell your story, it would be my honor, to host you on the next Podcast. In fact, I know we can learn from your journey, just like Amanda’s with all the great information provided to us. And it will help other doctors after. Who better to speak to us, a physician, than another physician. So, there’s going to be some awesome stuff in there. And drop us a line today. Make sure to contact me, David Denniston, at www.daviddenniston.com, or my website – www.freedomphysicianpodcast.com, if you have any questions, or if you would like to be featured on the next – Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast. For the Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast, this is David Denniston, thank you so much for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and check in again soon, have a good one.