By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder

Frequently throughout the year, we find ourselves wondering about the desires of our audience and the WCI community at large. Just today as we talked about making some changes to the monthly newsletter, I found myself asking whether anyone actually likes the market report we've been including there for more than a decade. Once a year, we try to ask the community all of those questions we have with the WCI Survey. The answers help guide the content that we produce, the products we make, and how we introduce you to advertisers/sponsors/partners and vice versa.

Today, I'll share some of the data collected in the survey that you might find interesting.


Thank You!

First, though, let me thank all 2,605 of you who filled out the survey. Twenty-one of you will be winning prizes. I know that doesn't seem like a very high “win rate,” but the truth is that when surveys are filled out, we all win!



We're well aware that people who fill out surveys may not be exactly the same as people who read blogs, listen to podcasts, or participate in communities. But it's the only data we have.

Here's what we now know about you.

As the survey says, 98.9% of you are from the US. That apparently does not include one of you who put down Puerto Rico. Funny story about that involves a friend of mine going there on his honeymoon. I had a great time encouraging him to exchange money and make sure he had an updated passport before he went (I'll tease him about that forever). The next biggest country at 0.4% is Canada, but we also have people from all six inhabited continents who filled out the survey. The furthest away were probably New Zealand, Japan, and Malawi. Within the US, you reflect the typical population distribution here with most people coming from California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

Your ages range from 3 to 480. Of the serious answers, I think we have readers who are anywhere from 21 to 90, with serious clusters in their 30s and 40s but plenty in their 50s and 60s—which seems like more than we used to have in those age groups. About 84% of you are married, 13% single, and 3% divorced or widowed. That divorced percentage seemed incredibly low to me, but it is what it is. I was surprised how few were single too.

72.6% were men, 26.1% were women, and 1.2% were other. While I don't expect our audience to be 50%+ female anytime soon, there is still some work to do there.

78% of you are in your working years (attendings for doctors), 3% in school, 8% in training, and 11% retired. 69.1% of you are physicians, and 8% are dentists. That might be the lowest this particular statistic has ever been for us. That leaves 23% of you as something else. The most common of those “something else's” are engineers (3.9%), APC (3.1%), pharmacists (2%), and lawyers (1.1%). But there were 99 other professions listed. Whatever you do, you're not alone here.

Among the docs, it seems pretty much every specialty was represented. EM seemed a bit overrepresented, but that's probably more of a reflection of my work as an emergency doctor. It's just easier to reach people of your own specialty.

69% of you are employees with 20% in partnerships and 11% in solo practice. You are pretty evenly split between one-earner and two-earner households.

Dual Earner Households


Student Loans

We did see some interesting data on student loans.

Student Loans

Student Loans

77% of you paid for school with loans. Of that 77%, 61% have paid them off already (69% of you were good little WCIers who did it in less than five years). The average student loan burden by those who have student loans was $187,000, with a low of $2,500 and a high of $700,000. Twenty-five people listed an amount of $500,000 or more.


Financial Plans

This particular response—and it's not new to this survey—is always very disappointing to me.

Written Financial Plan

I mean, these are people dedicated enough to WCI to fill out a survey, and still only half of them have done what I consider to be the most important thing you can do with your finances. Oh well, there are still lots of people to whom we can sell our Fire Your Financial Advisor course.


How You Stack Up

Now, the moment you've all been waiting for. Everyone likes to know how they stack up. Who doesn't like to read a good salary or net worth survey? Well, here's ours for this year.

Household Income


Household Spending

Net Worth

Financial Independence

To sum up, the typical WCIer family makes $100,000-$1 million (mostly $250,000-$500,000) and spends $50,000-$200,000. Most are not financially independent, but over half are millionaires. Less than 18% are worth $4 million or more, and 12% still have a negative net worth.



Some interesting data here.

Retirement Age


Nest Egg Goal

While most of you don't want to work until 70, this is not a FIRE-focused crowd. Only 10% would like to retire before 50. However, the 50s seems like an awfully socially acceptable age to retire among this group. So, what kind of nest egg goals do WCIers have? It's a pretty wide range. Almost 1/3 of you want more than $6 million, 1/3 want $4 million-$6 million, and 1/3 are OK with less than $4 million. It sounds to me like most WCIers like their job enough to work longer and retire with more wealth/income than the typical FIRE crowd.



Don't prepare your own taxes? Don't feel bad.

Tax preparation


I just did four tax returns for our kids but paid someone else to prepare the business and our personal taxes.



  • 98% invest in stocks
  • 81% invest in bonds
  • 57% invest in real estate
  • 14% invest in small businesses
  • 14% invest in crypto
  • 6% invest in precious metals
  • 5% invest in collectibles
  • 4% invest in commodities
  • 2% invest in options

Within the last year,

  • 89% have invested in index funds
  • 28% have invested in individual bonds
  • 23% have invested in individual stocks or options
  • 29% have invested in passive real estate
  • 16% have invested directly in real estate
  • 15% have invested in actively managed funds

The average WCIer has 74% stocks in their portfolio. Of those who invest in real estate, the average allocation is 17%.


Getting Help

Do WCIers use advisors? You might be surprised.

Use Financial Advisor

I think this one needs some interpretation. Of those WCIers who are hardcore enough to get this far into a survey, only about 22% use a financial advisor at all. However, if we included all the people who wander onto WCI occasionally, I'll bet that number is significantly higher.

Sick of hearing questions about Backdoor Roth IRAs?

Backdoor Roth IRA

Don't expect that to go away any time soon. Of those who don't do one, 33% don't because they can contribute directly. Another 21% don't know how to do it, while 18% more are concerned about the consequences. Some who are worried about the consequences are perhaps right (pro-rata issues) and some perhaps are wrong (step transaction concerns). One person even wondered if a Backdoor Roth IRA was morally acceptable. Take that 53.5%!



Most of you have disability insurance.

Disability insurance

Most of you have term life insurance.


Term Life


Given that 19% of you are financially independent, those numbers aren't too bad. I do feel badly about the 11% of you who have whole life policies, given that prior surveys suggest that 80% of those who bought one regret doing so. This year, we asked what company you bought your disability insurance policy from. The answers were as follows:

  • Principal: 24%
  • Guardian: 19%
  • Mass Mutual: 12%
  • The Standard: 9%
  • Ameritas: 9%
  • Northwestern Mutual: 3%
  • Ohio National: 2%
  • MetLife: 2%

The most concerning finding? That 18% of you had no idea who was providing your policy. I hope you know where it is.



This year we asked about burnout for the first time. Here is what you said.


Your results are worse than those of the worst national survey I've ever seen. With 62.5% of you saying you have had burnout, almost 18% say it has had a significant impact on your life. We asked you to rank your current/recent burnout with 1 being “managing OK” and 5 being “significant impacts,” and you said this:


Managing Burnout

We asked what you do about burnout.

  • 73% exercise
  • 72% spend time with family and friends
  • 55% adjust your work schedule
  • 55% do hobbies
  • 19% take extended time off work
  • 13% go to therapy
  • 3% do burnout coaching

I know the readers don't read and comment on the articles we do on burnout very much. I know you don't open the emails we send about it (and even unsubscribe more often when you do open them). I know most of you aren't interested in any burnout products we've developed. But this is a big issue, so we're probably going to keep talking about it and trying to help with it.


How You Like Your Content

  • 75% like blogs
  • 70% like podcasts
  • 58% like books
  • 26% like forums
  • 23% like online courses
  • 20% like social media
  • 18% like ebooks
  • 18% like magazines and newspapers
  • 16% like Facebook groups
  • 13% like in-person conferences

The funniest part about this question? Only <1% of you said you like emails. Yet, of anything we do, our email list has the greatest reach and, as near as we can tell, the most effectiveness. Nobody seemed to like video much either. Well, we'll continue to do all of the above (except magazines) so we can reach you in your preferred format.

As far as social media goes, everyone talks about hating Facebook, but it is still the preferred social media for WCIers at over 50%. YouTube was right up there, though (which makes me think we didn't word the prior question about videos quite right). Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and LinkedIn follow in that order. Less than 5% are on TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

We asked about non-WCI financial websites you visit. Some of the most popular answers include Physician on FIRE. Passive Income MD, Bigger Pockets, Bogleheads, ChooseFI, Dave Ramsey, Financial Samurai, Morningstar, Mr. Money Mustache, The Money Guys, the Wall Street Journal, and dozens of others. The most common answer, though? None. That's humbling. Lots of responsibility there.

We asked a similar question about podcasts. Again, the most common answer was no other podcast. But plenty of you listed Passive Income MD, Animal Spirits, Afford Anything. Bigger Pockets, Bogleheads, and others. Another common answer was “many.” NPR's offerings were also popular. About Facebook groups, the most popular answer was none, followed by WCI. Physician on Fire, Passive Income MD, and Physician Side Gigs were also popular. There were many others listed as well but not in large numbers.


How You Found WCI

I always love this question.

How You Found WCI

The most common method of finding WCI is now an internet search. I think Lauren, our Search Engine Optimization guru, can stand up and take a bow now! I don't think that has ever been the top answer before. It's usually the next answer, a referral from a friend. Thank you for doing that, by the way. It really has helped over the years. WCI books are still a huge way that people are introduced to the message. That's why we give away so many to first-year medical and dental students every year. Social media and submitting articles elsewhere is still a big chunk, but so is “other.” The most common answer in “other?”

“I've been here so long I can't remember.”

Speaking of being here a long time . . .


How Long Following

We must have had really good years in 2018 and 2020. And 11% of you claim to have been reading with my mom right from the beginning.

WCI Resources

Everyone has their favorite part of the WCI “empire.” What they probably don't realize, though, is that everyone else doesn't share that view. Yes, most of you know and use the blog, podcast, newsletter, and books. But 12% of survey-takers have taken the Fire Your Financial Advisor online course! And I bet the forum members are going to love having outperformed the much larger Facebook group and subreddit on this survey! Outsized influence there.


Connecting You with the Good Guys

One of the important parts of our mission is to connect WCIers with top-notch financial professionals, and 42% of you have used someone from one of our recommended lists. The most common reasons were insurance agents, student loan refinancing, doctor mortgages, financial advisors, tax professionals, and student loan advice.


Our Most Valuable Asset — Your Trust

As a business, our most valuable asset is your trust. We asked you to rate how much you trust our recommendations, with 1 being “Skeptical of recommendations” and 5 being “Trust recommendations.” Of our survey-takers, 91% gave us a 4 or a 5, and only 0.4% gave us a 1. Seems pretty good to me. However, the real gold in this survey and the part I spend the most time on is the negative/constructive/critical feedback. We simply ask the question, “How can we serve you better?” and let you go wild. And some of you absolutely do go wild. There are always some funny comments like some of these:

“Still don't think the podcast is as good as it could be. I wonder about hiring a voice actor to read some of the classic articles and then perhaps new blog posts as well and release, updated a bit if needed to make it work in audio format.”

I'm not even sure what to say to that one. I'm supposed to write a script but have someone else read it, I guess? That's probably not going to happen. This next one came multiple times, here are a couple of examples:

#1 On the podcast, it is often stated there is a special ‘guest' on the show. Please at least call them what they are—advertisers. Sometimes there are actual guests on the show, but other times they are people who (although they are answering questions, etc.) are actually there to sell a product. For example, becoming an expert witness—your “guest” is selling a product. So just call it like it is, or at least acknowledge the disclosure.

#2 I remember you saying once on the podcast that a complaint was that real estate investing is ‘shoved down your throat,' and your defense was the reason is because of paid advertisers. While I understand that these people are paying to place these types of ads and courses on the podcast, they are not portrayed that way—I think this is why the complaint was made (and why you didn't see it that way). These folks are often introduced as ‘special guests' on your podcast without disclosing the fact that they are paying to be there. Unless of course I am mistaken (thought it seems most ‘special guests' on the podcast are selling us something). Don't take me the wrong way, I understand that you aren't doing what you do for free. But maybe a little more transparency there?”

wci survey

OK, let me be super clear on this one. EVERY GUEST on the podcast (well, not including the Milestones to Millionaire guests)—and the hosts too for that matter—is selling something. Burton Malkiel? He came on when he put out a new edition of his book. Bill Bernstein? Same thing. Leif Dahleen and Peter Kim? Vicki Robin? Ramit Sethi? Paula Pant? They have blogs/online businesses/books, and they go on podcasts to promote them, just like I do. We don't pay our podcast guests. The only reason they come on is to sell something or publicize something they're doing. They all have an outside interest or business. Every one of them. So, assume that every guest, whether “special” or not, has a huge conflict of interest. I will try to quit saying “special” guest, though. I agree I say that way too much. I was thinking that even before I read this feedback.

“There was no mention of filing a form 5500-EZ in ANY of the MANY articles I read about starting a solo 401(k), which is now costing me $1,500. It should be mentioned in the basic article recommending starting a solo 401(k)! (as should any similar basic IRS-related critical information about other financial decisions).”

This one falls into the category of “Every post can't say everything,” but it's good feedback (I did later add a link/mention to solo 401(k) articles). Man, this reader was unhappy with me about this despite having published an article about the 5500-EZ in the past. It wasn't until we published a second one this year that he realized his mistake, and he certainly felt I was at least partly responsible for it. I'd feel worse if I didn't see financial professionals making similar mistakes all the time.

“Jim (and wife) rolled the dice, it worked out and the family is enjoying it . . . good for them!”

I'm very curious how anyone can view anything we've done as “rolling the dice and having it work out.” Are we wealthy? Yes. Was there some gamble we took to get there? Not that I could see. Maybe I would have wasted a lot of time had WCI never made money, but we never took on any WCI-related debt or risked any money prior to booking the first WCICON in 2018. To be honest, we were wealthy before WCI ever made any money, and we still spend an amount that would be affordable on the income of any of my full-time clinical partners.

“Try to have podcasts focus more on one specific topic so I can skip ones I'm not interested in.”

Uh . . . no. The podcast content is driven by its listeners, and our goal isn't to encourage them to skip podcasts. Some podcasts are more focused than others, but if you want articles focused on one topic, read the blog.

There were two big themes in the critical feedback this year:

  1. We want Jim to produce all of the content forever.
  2. We don't want you to monetize the content so much, especially with real estate investing sponsors.

Here's an example:

“Avoid paid advertisement as much as you can. Although podcast/website have good disclosure policy.”

Either of those changes would require major pivots in the direction of this company and my personal life. Not to mention immortality. While we always try to seek a balance between sponsors/promotion and content (and it is entirely possible the pendulum has swung too far), the reason the content (at least outside of books/courses/conferences) is free to you is because of the sponsors/promotion. The alternative is to put it all behind a paywall, charge a subscription, and help a lot fewer people.

I try to make what I do with real estate investing and my thoughts on real estate investing very clear in the content and in our real estate course. I clearly discuss the pros and cons. But just like we have insurance sponsors and student loan refinancing sponsors and financial advisor sponsors, we also have real estate sponsors. Take what you find useful and leave the rest.

There were also lots of very kind, wonderful, and thankful comments in the survey which I appreciate. Here's one of them:

“I usually have no problem with giving constructive criticism. But, to be honest, your WCI universe is exactly how I would build and run it if I was in charge. I wouldn't change a thing. It is such an incredible resource. My guess is you will never truly be able to appreciate the good this blog has done for so many. It has been life changing.”

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and helpful feedback and for participating in the survey. We have implemented many of your suggestions. We are implementing others. And we are evaluating others for possible implementation. All of the winners from the drawing of survey-takers have now been contacted and given their prizes. Thank you for participating!

What do you think? Were you surprised by any of the survey results? Anything else you want to add? Comment below!