Physician Finance Grand Rounds – Anniversary Edition

The Loonie Doctor blog just turned one year old. I am eating solids and have largely stopped drooling.

Thanks to everyone for being readers. I have spent the past year writing about finance, taxes, and investing that is geared towards Canadian physicians and other high-income professionals.

It has been a great experience so far – thanks!

That has partially been because I have learned many things that have helped my own financial planning. More than that, it has been due to the interactions with the folks from whom I have been learning. Some are bloggers, like those listed in my physician finance blogroll. Others have been regular readers and commenters whose names recur in the comments section of my posts. I am grateful to all of you!

If you are thinking about blogging – go for it. The more voices in the discussion, the better. Physician on FIRE has a great resource for those starting a blog.

Challenges

Starting this blog has actually been a bit overwhelming; there are just so many interesting topics to cover. I don’t think that I will ever cover it all. Not only due to the scope of the task, but also because the financial landscape and my thoughts about it keep evolving.

Some of the topics that I have touched upon were personal finance related. These centre around how to have a healthy relationship with money. You want money to work for you, rather than the other way around. I hope to spend some more time on these types of posts.

Other posts have been technically dense, but vital to grasp. I have spent considerable time on these because we need to know these basics whether our goal is to be educated clients or to save money by managing our own portfolio. They have also been topics about which I found it hard to find good detailed information. Voids just begging to be filled.

There was probably a reason for those voids. Those technical posts were very challenging to tackle. Both in terms of filling in my own knowledge gaps, but also to articulate the information in a way that others will understand and not be bored to death. I have to thank my wife/editor for being the canary in the coal mine for both those aspects. She would definitely fall to the lower end of the scale for tolerance of financial geek talk. Then again, geek-tolerance is surely a necessary attribute when married to me.

Corporate Tax Changes & Waking the Dragon

The other reason that I have spent so much time on the technical aspects of corporate taxes, in particular, has been because of the radical changes over the past year. A few years ago, I was honestly content to work, pay my “fair share” of taxes, and just let my accountant worry about the rest. That is probably the approach of most physicians and finding a good accountant is key to that. Practicing medicine and balancing that with our family lives is where our main interests usually lie.

I even felt a sense of: “Well, paying my taxes helps to lift people up as a society, just like the causes that I personally choose to give to do.”

CCPC Tax changes

I still do feel that way. However, the incessant nattering about physicians not paying their “fair share” by Wild Bill, Trust Fund Trudeau, and their media propaganda machines honestly got under my skin. The Minister of Fairness’ “listening tour” last summer was the climax.

This was coupled with the fact that a 50% marginal tax rate had been definitively crossed. There is something psychologically different when you know that when you earn a dollar, 5% is clawed back by the Ontario Government, and 54% is taken as tax.

The combined levels of governments had been sneaking in, like hobbits, and taking a little bit more each time for about 5 years. Each time, it did not make their budgets balance. So, they would be back for more.

However, the thing is, if Hobbits keep sneaking in to steal treasure, they will eventually wake the dragon.

I actually think that, in the end, waking the dragon is a good thing.

Lack of control over your work-life and feelings of not being appreciated for your work is a surefire recipe for burn-out. It is a common narrative in medicine. I was mildly crispy when I started this blog. You can probably sense that from reading my first post. From the politically charged rant above, you may think that I still am burnt out or angry. I am not.

Personally, the situation has given me great pleasure from the opportunity to crack jokes and poke fun at the politicians. It helps me to feel like I am getting my money’s worth out of my increased taxes. It’s like the cover charge to the Federal Dance Party.

In seeming conflict with that, I also must say that I do have some serious respect for anyone who takes the time to put themselves out there for public office to become the fodder for folks like me.

Most are doing what they genuinely think is best for the population (I hope). I may not always agree. However, different reasonable people will have different opinions about what the “best thing” is – hence the politics.

Being a rousted dragon has also caused me to pause, lift my head up from my work, and re-calibrate my life.

Medicine is a very alluring calling. It is intrinsically rewarding, extrinsically rewarding, and the demand is infinite. It can easily consume you if you don’t take the time to pause, reflect, and re-calibrate occasionally. I feel like I have found a good balance due to recognizing my financial independence and using it as a tool.

I am spending way more time with my family, and have rekindled the joy of practicing medicine. It has been gratifying to watch the evolving reflections of Dr. Networth doing the same thing. Dr. Moneyblog seems to have figured this all out long ago and I think those of us following behind could shorten the path to enlightenment by listening to her wisdom. Plus, I think she is hilarious. For a taste, you could read the post that actually made a blueberry shoot out of my nose last week.

As a profession, I hope that waking the dragon does this for us all.

Physicians are waking up to the fact that they need to look after their finances. No one else will. They are also pausing to really consider the balance between working long hours for diminishing returns versus how to spend that time wisely.

This can lead to a healthier and more productive profession. If we take the time to look after our financial health, it enables us to perform better. I am passionate about it (or I wouldn’t be sinking so much time into this endeavour) and I truly believe physicians helping physicians improve their financial health is key.

I recently read an excellent post from WCI calling for physicians to stop money shaming each other. The cultural taboo about acknowledging the financial rewards of medicine has made us vulnerable to the type of political attacks that we have recently seen across Canada. However, I also think that those same governmental actions have woken the dragon to align and galvanize more Canadian physicians to alter this culture.

I see all of these aspects as positive developments from what may seem to have been a dark time for physicians in Canada. If you are reading this blog, you are probably already one of the converted. Please help to convert your peers. One way to do that is to refer them to The Loonie Doctor blog, other blogs, or the Physician Financial Independence (Canada) Facebook Page. Yes, that was shameless self-promotion.

Growth of The Loonie Doctor

The traffic to the blog has steadily grown over the past year. I hope that this will continue as word gets out.

I am strongly motivated by seeing the blog traffic go up, the excellent comments, and the personal messages of thanks and encouragement that I have received. It is also irresistible for me to make a post with at least one graph – so here it is:

I am now averaging around 100 visitors and 200-300 views per day. My subscription list is at about 180 people with about half actually clicking the email to read my new articles as they come out. Most of my traffic comes from Google searches. When I think that I have written something of particular interest, I also post it in the Facebook group which generates a big spike in visits and some great discussion. My most popular post was My Dirty Little 10000 Square Foot Secret with 3415 views. Everyone loves a little real estate voyeurism it seems.

Most people lurk in the shadows like ninjas, but a few make comments. I would tell you that I have had 413 comments to appear more stimulating, but really half of those are just me responding to comments. The volume is low enough that I respond to them all. Thank you to those who have taken the time to teach me things or stimulate discussion in the comments section.

Overall, the financial position of the blog is negative a few hundred bucks. Most of that has been the cost of Photoshop which, with the belly-laughs that it has provided me, I consider to be money well spent.

I am not building this site to make money.

My friends often ask me about whether I plan to monetize the site. My numbers are nowhere near what the “big physician finance” sites are, but I am also catering to a population 1/10th the size of the U.S. I have considered whether I will ever do that even as the site grows.

Some, like White Coat Investor, thrive on the entrepreneurial challenge and he is likely right that most people won’t keep up the work of a blog without some kind of a financial incentive. He has been at this for many many years longer than me and on a much grander scale. Personally, something changes for me when I try to do something professionally rather than for fun or to “give back”. The effort and complexity required to “go pro” are orders of magnitude higher. Plus, the nature of it changes.

I really want this site to be a resource for physicians and other high-income professionals to learn about finance and hopefully share some laughs. Peppering it with too many advertisements would distract from that. I would also feel the need to only allow ads for companies or products that I am comfortable endorsing. That would be way too much work. My hat goes off to those who manage to do this well.

I already make enough money via a medical career that I enjoy. So, the lure of gunning for blog income relative to the effort and trade-offs involved doesn’t really entice me at this point. Conversely, I have also learned to never say “never” and there are usually good win-win opportunities that reveal themselves over time.

So, where am I hoping to take Loonie Doctor over the next year?

The best-laid plans usually go awry. However, I do have some goals that I want to aim for:

I have been working on building a tool to help physicians step by step get started with DIY investing.

I naively thought that I would get it done over the summer.  Beer, BB Bertha, and board games with my kids derailed that plan. I am, however, undisputed Lord of Catan. Fitting since, apparently, my Wu-Tang Clan name is “Fearless Overlord”. 

Before I got distracted by conquest, my working one on one with some of my colleagues to help them take over managing their portfolios has helped me to develop a good idea of the big issues and an algorithmic approach to them. The goal is to have it be comprehensive and efficient, but still simple enough to implement. I am taking my time because I want to be sure that I get it right. Well, “right enough” would be a better description.

There are many ways to approach things and I am sure that there will be people who can find fault with anything that I put out. No portfolio or approach is perfect. I do, however, want to accompany my approach with enough material that people can link to articles that further explain my rationale behind my suggestions, if they are interested.

I started building that with the articles about how money flows through a corporation and investing through a corporation. More will follow to discuss my preferred strategies for TFSAs and RRSPs when used in conjunction with a corporation. I also want to flesh out some basics about risk assessment, asset allocation, and the roles of bonds and equities in our portfolios in that context.

More articles about spending wisely and lessons from The Loonie Bin.

These are fun to write and relate real-life stories to applications of personal finance. I find reflecting on them myself and hearing the perspective of others reading the posts most enlightening.

Plus, having to read too many heavy investing or taxation posts makes my editor cranky. It is right up there with LEGO left on the floor. Bad for everyone.

More articles aimed at those still in training or just starting their practice.

The blog has been a bit heavy on issues that affect those already in practice for a while. That is partly because it is where I am in my career. However, the big changes to income splitting and investment taxes for corporations urged me to put more focus on these areas. It was important to figure out the impacts of the new rules on big earners or even big savers, and examine strategies to mitigate that.

We have made a good dent into much of that, but there are areas that I want to shift focus to before returning there. These are: debt management, building a financially lucrative and personally rewarding career, billing, and insurance needs. Getting these big pieces right early in a career has disproportionately large impact over time.

Updating and revamping some of my earlier posts.

I think that it is fair to say that I have improved and developed my writing and knowledge-base over the past year. I occasionally re-read some of my older posts and go “uggh, I need to re-do this”. I’ll pick away at this one when I have time.

Thanks again for your support and I hope to see you (plus some more of your friends or colleagues) join us for the coming year of Loonie Doctor.

Make them a Financial Full Code. Unless you don’t like them, then keep Loonie Doctor a secret.

22 comments

  1. Congrats on the 1-year mark LD!!!

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts and have learned a lot over the past year. It’s been comforting and a relief to “meet” other Canadian physicians, like yourself and Dr. MB who share the same interest in finances as me. My wife is also really happy now that I have found others to talk shop about finances with, as she was getting a bit numb to my random ramblings about finances. 🙂

    Your efforts and time put into your blog are definitely put to good use for other Canadian physicians, and it shows with your up-trending web stats. Keep up with pumping out the great content LD! Look forward to following your blog for many years to come!

  2. Happy blog birthday LD!!! Hey DN!!

    You guys are truly my blogging kindred spirits.

    LD, I randomly tap into my phone as I am sure you can tell from my posts. You, however, have done some mighty research and have a great style that appeals to many people. I have learned plenty from your posts.

    I am likely the number one fan of both your sites. May we continue to support one another.

    I feel strongly this information is important. The dialogue matters. Money impacts many aspect of one’s life whether we want to believe it or not.

  3. Thanks for your efforts LD! This site is fun and informative and I also do like graphs. It’s my favourite site this year as some others blogs I like seemed to have decreased their output. For me there’s nothing like having a coffee and number crunching.

    Phil

  4. Congratulations on making it to a year blogging. It is an achievement to be proud of as the majority of bloggers quit before that milestone. I personally am at the 4 month mark in my blog and have had a blast creating it and interacting with everyone who cares to comment on my posts (by far the best experience). I agree that anyone who is contemplating about starting a blog should go for it. The entry fee is not that bad (can literally start a blog for about $200 or less) so if you find out that blogging is not for you, there is really not too much sunk cost. So far my biggest fear of running out of stuff to write has been unfounded. In fact I have already written so many posts that I am scheduled out till 2019 already. Hopefully I can make it to a year as well and then continue blogging indefinitely because it is a great endeavor that allows me to express my creativity.

    1. Thanks Xrayvsn! I am admittedly jealous that you have been able to write enough to get ahead. I keep trying to do that, but even what I think is going to be a simple post seems to take me forever to research/write. The most that I have gotten ahead was about two weeks which I quickly eat up due to being on service or on vacation! Your productivity rate is pretty amazing!
      -LD

  5. Congrats on the first year! You’ve taught me a lot, especially about the minutiae of the Corporate account!

    I look forward to your tool to help physicians get started on DIY investing. That is big and can do a lot of good.

    1. Thanks Grant! I would definitely say it has been a great exchange of ideas both ways. Your views on investing, and fixed income in particular, have really helped me. I am actually using your thoughts/advice for action personally as I start to shift my asset allocation to match my evolving risk tolerance.
      -LD

  6. Thank you for your time and expertise in taking on some challenging topics for the blog. I’ve learned much from reading. Best wishes in the year ahead.

  7. Hey LD, congratulations on your anniversary.

    I really enjoy reading your blog. Your writing on RDTOH, the flow of money through a corporation, and your other technical posts are some of the best on the web. I’m really grateful to have such good source to refer to.

    Keep up the great work. I’m looking forward to more.

    Cheers!

      1. PS,

        Enjoy being the “undisputed Lord of Catan” while you still can. Catan is a favourite in our family, and we have spent many memorable hours playing the game. However, now that our kids have studied stats, probability, game theory, etc at university, and have the competitive drive of wanting to beat their parents, the games are getting tougher to win.

        1. I can already see the gap closing. Although, it is through inventing unorthodox strategies. Last game my daughter was trying to extort bricks in exchange for placing the robber on someone else’s hex. She’s like “The Goddaughter” 😉

  8. Congratulations on the 1st year! Really enjoy your postings which are relevant and informative.

    I am sure there will be more topics to address as election is coming up. curious to see what new ideas will come to the liberals as they try hard to run out of other people’s money.

  9. Loonie doc,
    Congrats on your first anniversary.You are doing AN ENORMOUS service for docs with your posts,especially on corporate taxation etc. As a 60 year old doc who has has an interest in personal finance for over 30 years, I can tell you that I have yet to find any resource on the web that so clearly explains complex topics like you do, eg RDTOH,TRI ETFs etc, keep up the fantastic work.The current generation of MDs are very fortunate to have ETFs and resources like yours which make it possible to be a DIY investor.When I started MD Growth was the only game in town, which was flogged by MD Management and it was impossible to be a DIY investor. Your material should be mandatory for all graduating docs,all the best,I look forward to your posts.

    1. Thanks Dr. LM! It has honestly been a great learning experience for me so far. I am trying to write about all the stuff I wish I had known when starting. Back then, the internet was dial up and only a few people even had modems… I honestly learned a lot of lessons the hard/expensive way. My hope is that the next generation can short-cut some of that with my blog and focus the time/money savings on more important things like having a rewarding career and awesome family/community life. On a related note – my son just de-throned me as Lord of Catan. Thanks for the encouragement!
      -LD

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