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Monday, March 4, 2024

Physician on FIRE Provides Guidance to Help Medical Doctors Master Their Finances

Physician On Fire Provides Financial Guidance For Mds
Andrew Allen

Written by: Andrew Allen

Andrew Allen
Andrew Allen

For nearly 20 years, Andrew has worked for financial institutions ranging from regional investment organizations to some of the largest banks in the world. At Wells Fargo, Andrew was a Consultant within the Insight and Innovation division. A graduate of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, Andrew’s goal has been promoting personal financial wellness and solid money decisions. As a Staff Writer for CardRates, Andrew seeks to inform readers of solutions to help them on their path to financial freedom.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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In a Nutshell: The FIRE movement guides workers to financial independence and early retirement. Physician on FIRE advises medical doctors seeking a path to financial freedom that fits their unique financial situation. The company helps time-pressed physicians learn how to manage their taxes and student loan debt. Physician on FIRE’s educational content informs its readers of investment opportunities that can grow their money.

No pain, no gain is an adage that refers to the struggles one must endure to reach their goals. The proverb was popularized in the 1980s by fitness gurus who purported that advances in physical fitness required a measure of physical suffering. Since then, people have applied the saying to numerous endeavors outside exercise.

The FIRE movement is a financial strategy that, when followed meticulously, can allow an individual to retire at a relatively young age. FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. Though retiring early sounds like a dream come true, the tenets of the original FIRE movement center on an approach to personal financial management that may be too conservative for most people to adhere to year after year. 

Physician on FIRE is a company that helps medical doctors follow the path to financial independence. Physician on FIRE uses the essence of the original FIRE movement to develop financial guidelines more suitable for a physician’s lifestyle and financial situation.

Physician on FIRE logo

Nirav Shah, MD, is a trained neurologist who joined Physician on FIRE as a Partner in 2023. Shah said Physician on FIRE’s growth has been organic. The company hosts a private chat group for verified physicians, allowing participants to discuss their approach to FIRE and share their progress.

“I attribute most of Physician on FIRE’s growth to word-of-mouth,” Shah said. “We haven’t engaged in any outbound marketing of any kind.”

While most proponents of the original FIRE movement practice austere frugality, Shah said Physician on FIRE highlights the different routes people can take to achieve financial independence.

“Most physicians aren’t going to have the time to engage in some of the more common strategies of FIRE followers, such as working two or three jobs at the same time,” Shah explained.

Discipline and Consistency are Cornerstones of FIRE

Physician on FIRE provides content to steer medical doctors in the right financial direction. Shah said the uniqueness of their career path makes accessing the company’s website important. After graduating from medical school, many doctors complete a residency that allows them to receive on-the-job training.

“Residents don’t make a lot of money, and they may find it hard to live a reasonable life on their salary,” Shah said. “But after their residency, their next position may pay them up to 10 times the amount they had been earning. So the whole transition after a residency concludes is a really unique time for a physician.”

Physician on FIRE educates physicians on tax management. Shah said taxes aren’t relevant to residents but become essential for physicians to be mindful of once they’re in higher tax brackets.

Nirav Shah
Nirav Shah, MD, joined Physician on FIRE as a Partner in 2023.

Shah said physicians considering adopting a FIRE approach face a dilemma — they earn high salaries as medical doctors but have to learn to live on a fraction of their pay. The FIRE movement encourages an aggressive saving and investing strategy, meaning physicians must have the discipline to avoid frivolously spending the money they’ve earned.

“Once physicians start making money, they want to start living the life they feel they’ve deferred for so long,” Shah said. “There’s a lot of psychological aspects around figuring out how to keep the lifestyle of a resident while continuing to work hard without letting lifestyle inflation creep in.”

Shah said many physicians feel like they missed out on living while they were in their 20s, and they want to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

“It’s especially challenging for physicians following FIRE when they see their peers enjoying their successes,” Shah said. “The mental aspect is a huge part of FIRE.” 

Monetizing Passions and Hobbies

Physicians who’ve progressed through undergraduate and medical school may have acquired significant student loan debt by the time they graduate. Shah said many residents carry credit card debt in addition to student loan debt.

“After graduation, residents may not receive their first paycheck for up to three months,” Shah detailed. “And during that time, they have a lot of expenses. They’re likely moving to a new area, and they have to purchase the right equipment for their new job. Some hospitals don’t even provide residents with a white coat, so they have to buy one themselves. Many residents use credit cards to finance this period of time, causing them to accrue credit card debt. It can be stressful.”

Physician on FIRE helps medical doctors find ways to earn money through activities that don’t require a significant time investment. Shah said the company encourages physicians to investigate whether they can monetize their hobbies and passions.

Physician on FIRE's calculator
Financial calculators help physicians track their goals.

“Many people who become doctors have interests that can produce income, such as photography or creating jewelry or crafts,” Shah said. “Those passions can turn into side hustles.”

Physician on FIRE’s blog contains educational content on various topics, including budgeting, investing, and student loan refinancing. The site also provides access to financial calculators so physicians can track their progress as they pursue their financial goals.

Medical doctors can use Physician on Fire’s travel blog to learn how to travel on a budget. Shah said he loves to travel and uses his experiences to help inform physicians on how to follow the FIRE strategy while traveling.

“It can be tough to finance traveling while going through your residency, so it’s important for us to show people how that’s possible,” Shah said.

Educating Physicians on Investment Opportunities

Physician on FIRE plans to educate medical doctors about part-time employment opportunities that allow them to use their medical expertise to earn money. Shah said physicians are good candidates for consulting work in the tech industry and with businesses looking to harness the power of AI in the medical arena. Alternative medicine is another area with a growing interest in hiring physicians.

“These are probably the biggest categories we’re thinking a lot about in terms of the content we plan to offer soon,” Shah said.

Physician on FIRE also plans to offer guidance on investing in cryptocurrencies. Shah said the site won’t tout meme coins, but it will educate physicians on crypto investing and how to best approach it in a safe and fiscally responsible manner.

“A lot of people have lost money YOLOing into crypto, and we want to help physicians avoid investing in the crypto market without understanding it better,” Shah said.

Physician on FIRE's crypto blog screenshot
Physician on FIRE provides guidance on alternative investments.

Physician on FIRE does not promote a one-size-fits-all approach to money management. Physicians need to determine the course of action that most benefits them on their journey to financial independence. For some physicians, it’s maximizing their investing practices. Others may focus on reducing debt and building an emergency savings fund.

The FIRE movement is often associated with a bare-bones lifestyle that doesn’t leave much room for the finer things in life, but Shah said it doesn’t have to be that way.

“There are a lot of elements to the original version of FIRE that people can find depressing, but we want people to know that they can follow FIRE without having to skip avocado toast or their daily coffee,” Shah said. “Part of our goal is to talk about aspirations — and not just focusing on being financially conservative all the time.”