Name: James M. Dahle, M.D.
Employer: Utah Emergency Specialists, Salt Lake City, Utah
Undergraduate: Brigham Young University
Med school: University of Utah School of Medicine
Residency: University of Arizona, Tucson
In residency, James Dahle, M.D., developed an interest in personal finance and investing. In 2011, he started The White Coat Investor, now the most widely-read physician-specific personal finance and investing website in the world. In February 2014, he published a bestselling book, The White Coat Investor: A Doctor’s Guide to Personal Finance and Investing. He also runs a successful podcast, videocast, CME conference, newsletter, forum and scholarship program. Most recently, he launched the online course “Fire Your Financial Advisor: A Step by Step Guide to Developing Your Own Financial Plan.” He is a father of four and enjoys skiing, climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, and wakesurfing.
Why did you become a blogger and start a podcast?
I got sick of watching doctors make the same financial mistakes over and over again and felt a bit of missionary zeal to try to get basic financial information into the hands of those who have dedicated their lives to the healing of the sick and injured. Second, I was interested in business and passive income and wanted to learn more about online entrepreneurism.
The blog was born in May 2011 and has grown by leaps and bounds ever since. Over the years, people have slowly trended from blogs to podcasts to videocasts, and we’ve tried to move along with them.
What do you like about blogging?
As a kid, I had three potential career interests: being a physician, being a writer, or operating heavy machinery like huge dump trucks and excavators. I’ve managed to do two of the three, and that’s not too bad.
Besides the writing, I love the interaction with the readers. If you write something wrong, readers will let you know in a hurry. I went into medicine because I like to help people. This blog is just another way to help some of the best people in the world. It’s a bit like practicing medicine in the military. You’re serving those who serve, which is particularly rewarding.
Podcasting is OK. I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as writing. I don’t particularly like hearing the sound of my own voice. I have an assistant that runs the most painful parts of running a podcast; otherwise, there wouldn’t be a WCI podcast at all. I do enjoy the back-and-forth with a guest on the show, and I enjoy answering reader questions on the podcast.
From a business aspect, I love the scalability and passiveness of some of the income sources. It’s a lot of fun to make money while I’m sleeping or skiing.
What are the most challenging aspects?
Blogging is fun; I’d do that for free. But blogging isn’t a business. The blog is just the front door to the business. The business might be selling ads, marketing other people’s products, selling your time, or selling your own products. Some aspects of running a business aren’t very fun, so I’ve been trying to hire and outsource what I can.
Was there anything about doing this that surprised you?
First, I didn’t think it would ever generate more money than my practice, but I think that’s pretty atypical for a blog. The vast majority of for-profit blogs make less than $10,000 a year; it is quite a remarkable one that generates a six-figure income.
Second, I didn’t think I would ever be able to help. That’s been very rewarding.
Third, I didn’t expect quite so much opposition from the people whose business I’m hurting, like whole-life insurance salesmen. You wouldn’t believe some of the hate mail and comments we see.
Do you have any advice for physicians who want to start a blog or a podcast?
Make sure it is something you feel passionately about because you probably won’t ever make a significant amount of money—and even if you do, you’ll basically be working for free for at least two years. But the barrier to entry is low. You could do it for $50 for your first year, so you’re really just wasting your time if it doesn’t work out. You won’t go broke.
Anything you’d like to add?
If I could only give five financial tips to doctors, they would be:
- Live like a resident for two to five years out of residency to pay off your student loans, save up a down payment on your dream home and catch up to your college roommates with a retirement nest egg.
- Maxing out retirement accounts reduces your taxes, boosts returns, facilitates estate planning and protects your assets.
- Whole life insurance is a product made to be sold, not bought. It’s frequently sold to physicians inappropriately, never necessary and almost never appropriate.
- Put 20 percent of your gross income toward retirement throughout your career, and you’ll retire wealthy.
- If you use a financial adviser, make sure you’re paying a fair price for good advice.