Today, we are talking with Dr. Stacy Taniguchi about choosing to thrive and creating a life you would want to live over and over again. Dr. Taniguchi is a born educator. After teaching high school for many years, he earned a PhD with a focus in Education Leadership and Foundations. He co-founded Beta Experiences which helps people on their journey to living a life of thriving. Dr. Taniguchi talks about making the most of the time we have on this earth and being intentional about spending our time and money doing what we truly value.



Make a Thrive List, Not a Bucket List 

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi shares his philosophy of creating a “thrive list” as a way to lead a fulfilling life. He traces the origins of this concept back to his teenage years when he was inspired by an article in Life magazine about a person who had created a list of life goals. Unlike a traditional bucket list focused on things to do before one's death, the thrive list is about actively seeking opportunities aligned with one's core values throughout life.

Dr. Taniguchi encourages individuals to be proactive in pursuing their aspirations and not make excuses. He emphasizes the importance of identifying one's values and using them as a guide when creating the thrive list. The goal is to live a life that aligns with these values, seizing opportunities as they come and making the most of each day. Ultimately, the thrive list is a dynamic and evolving collection of experiences and goals that reflect your deepest values and desires; they're meant to be actively pursued throughout life. You can add as many items as you want, but once it is on your list, it cannot come off.

Dr. Taniguchi uses a ladder metaphor to help explain how to determine your core values. The metaphor serves as a powerful tool for self-reflection, helping you identify and distinguish between value determinations (what truly matters to you) and value attributes (how you approach those values). By understanding these distinctions, you can prioritize your values and make informed decisions aligned with your core principles and aspirations.

Imagine a set of three ladders latched together, spanning a bottomless crevasse. The ladders represent opportunities, and the key question is, “What would you be willing to cross the ladder for?” In other words, what is so important to you that you'd take the risk to achieve it? This metaphor encourages people to reflect on their values by considering what they would risk everything for. There are certainly some people who would cross the ladder just for the sake of it. However, most of us definitely would not. But imagine that your child is on the other side of the ladder and about to fall into the crevasse. Suddenly, almost everyone would be willing to cross the ladder because they value the safety and well-being of their child above all else. This exercise helps us recognize and prioritize our values, making it clear which values are most important to us.

More information here:

How Many Summers Do You Have Left?


Live a Life You Would Live Over and Over Again

The question, “Would you live your life over and over again?” serves as a powerful tool for self-reflection and conscious living. Dr. Taniguchi introduces this concept, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's idea of the “eternal recurrence of the same,” to encourage individuals to consider the life they've led and the life they aspire to live. Many people initially reflect on their past experiences when faced with this question. If their past has been filled with hardships and trauma, they might instinctively answer “No way!”—hesitant to relive those difficult moments.

However, Dr. Taniguchi suggests shifting the frame of reference from the past to the future, emphasizing the ability to take control of your life moving forward. The goal isn't necessarily to relive the same life for eternity because it was perfect but to use the experiences to teach and help others thrive. By focusing on a future with more personal control and opportunities for growth, people can build a life they would want to live repeatedly and share the message of choosing to thrive with future generations.

Dr. Jim Dahle adds to this perspective by highlighting that, as people become wealthier, time becomes the scarcer resource. He suggests considering the seasons of life when pursuing the items on one's thrive list. Just as backpacking through Europe is more enjoyable in your 20s than in later years, some experiences are best enjoyed at specific stages in life. Dr. Taniguchi said that the thrive list is not about completing every item but rather serving as waypoints on the journey to a thriving life. It is important to distinguish between the pursuit of happiness and the quest for inner peace. Inner peace involves aligning your values with daily life choices and finding contentment in those choices. By evaluating how daily activities contribute to inner peace and adjusting priorities accordingly, you can create a life worth living over and over again.

More information here:

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The Happiness Index: Mine Required My Own Version of Retirement


Beta Experiences 

Dr. Taniguchi is one of the founders of a company called Beta Experiences. They offer unique educational and adventure trips designed to combine academic knowledge with outdoor experiences. Dr. Taniguchi explained that the company's aim is to help people build their legacy by focusing on financial planning, wills and trusts, and a legacy plan centered on values and multi-generational wealth.

Beta Experiences organizes trips to destinations like Alaska and Nepal. Each trip is hand-crafted to match the goals and needs of the guests. The trips include activities such as sea kayaking, salmon fishing, glacier exploration, hiking, and more. These experiences are not just about fun; they are also designed to deliver content and help participants learn about various aspects of life. The company doesn't teach in a traditional classroom setting but uses multisensory experiences to educate its clients. The Alaska trip typically lasts one week and costs around $5,000-$6,000; it includes activities, equipment, meals, and content delivery. The Nepal trip is more extended, spanning 16 days with additional travel days, and involves trekking in the Khumbu Valley, visiting Everest Base Camp, and exploring the culture of Nepal. Beta Experiences limits the group size to ensure an immersive and educational experience with a minimum of six and a maximum of 12-15 participants.

In addition to the trips, Beta Experiences offers leadership training, legacy planning, and other services that complement financial advisement. If you are seeking experiential learning and a holistic approach to personal growth, you can explore what the company has to offer on its website, If you are interested in getting more information about the amazing educational travel experiences or even planning a trip of your own, go to, and join the email list.


If you want to learn more about choosing to thrive, check out the WCI podcast transcript below to read all of the conversation between Dr. Dahle and Dr. Taniguchi. 


Milestones to Millionaire Podcast

#143 — Emergency Doc Becomes Millionaire in 2 Years

Today, we are talking with an emergency medicine doc who became a millionaire only two years after training. He is the perfect example of how quickly you can get ahead financially if you educate yourself in medical school. If you can hit the ground running as soon as training is over, it will make a massive impact on your nest egg.


Finance 101: How to Spend in Retirement 

Planning for retirement, whether early or traditional, involves various financial considerations. Many of us aspire to retire before the standard retirement age of 60-70. However, achieving this goal can be challenging due to three things: excessive spending, insufficient savings, and unwise investments. To retire comfortably, you must start managing your finances wisely early in your career.

One significant concern in retirement planning is accessing retirement savings before reaching the age of 59 1/2, because doing so can come with penalties. Several strategies can help in this regard, such as utilizing 457 plans, Roth IRA principles, the 72(t) exception, and Health Savings Accounts for specific expenses. These methods allow you to tap into your retirement funds earlier without incurring substantial penalties, provided you adhere to specific rules and guidelines.

Retirees should also adopt flexible spending strategies, as the traditional notion of spending taxable money before tax-deferred and tax-free accounts may not always be the best approach. Your ideal strategy depends on your individual circumstances, including tax considerations and estate planning goals. You should always start with a conservative spending rate in retirement, i.e. the 4% rule, and make adjustments as needed over time. A common problem for people in retirement is actually underspending which leads to accumulating more wealth than expected. We can't forget the importance of financial management and a balanced approach to spending during retirement.


To learn more about spending in retirement, read the Milestones to Millionaire transcript below.


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WCI Podcast Transcript

Transcription – WCI – 340
This is the White Coat Investor podcast where we help those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street. We've been helping doctors and other high-income professionals stop doing dumb things with their money since 2011.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
This is White Coat Investor podcast number 340 – Choosing to thrive with Stacy Taniguchi.

When you're exploring career choices, consider locum tenens for the sheer number and variety of options. You probably know locums is great for short-term commitment, but do you know all the other ways it provides flexibility? The best way to research the vast world of locums is to talk to an expert.

CompHealth created the locums industry, they're the most experienced in helping physicians and other providers find the best fit. They understand you have unique lifestyles and needs. Medical careers are hardly one size fits all. Whether it's an assignment close to home, across the country, or across the globe, go to to find what's right for you.

Welcome back to the podcast. I’m recording this on the 1st of November. I hope you had a happy Halloween. I know we did. It was a great deal of candy and fun with friends and neighbors last night. We're all recovering today, but hopefully we can still put together a decent podcast for you.


Our quote of the day today comes from Jonathan Clements who said, “Trying to beat the market isn't just a risky endeavor that will almost certainly end in failure. It's also unnecessary and arguably an astonishing waste of money and time.” I love that quote.

And I appreciate you guys and what you do. A lot of you are out there doing hard things. I had a shift yesterday and it's amazing some of the things we're asked to do as docs. Some of you are in other professions. It's pretty wild sometimes to see how the other half lives and to try to assist them in their lives. And sometimes you don't give very many thank yous for that. So, if no one has thank you today, let me be the first.

By the way, if you would like to come to the conference, this is WCICON24, and it's the first week of February. First week of February is when this takes place. It's in Orlando, Florida. It works out great to be combined with the trip to Disney World or other theme parks in the weekend before or the weekend after this trip. But it's fantastic. Bring your family, bring your partner, whatever.

We've got a special bonus though if you register before the 16th. Register before the 16th, and you also get the world's greatest swag bag. So, if you register after that, we don't have time to print the books and cannot get you a swag bag, at least not in its usual glorious form.

So, if you want to come to the conference, it will be best if you sign up by no later than midnight on November 16th. You can do that at I think if you've been listening to the podcast regularly, you kind of know about this conference. It's a fantastic conference. You'll learn about finances, but you're also going to learn about wellness.

And the best part about it is we knock off at four o'clock every day and go do actual wellness activities together. It might be the only conference you've ever been to where you're there with multiple specialties, multiple professions, and you're actually having a ton of fun and not just sitting through presentations.

In fact, the presentations are all going to go home with you. We encourage you to spend your time at the conference doing things that are going to increase your wellness, networking, talking and meeting with other people, and knowing that the content will go home with you.

Now, we'd love for you to attend the classes, and most people do attend at least some classes while they're there. And you can get CME credit for it as well as dental CE credit. You can use your CME money to pay for this sort of a thing. You can write it off if you're self-employed, and we encourage you to come. It's a great conference. I love meeting you all there. It energizes me for the next year of work here at the White Coat Investor. But if you want to register,, do it before November 16th. You also get a swag bag.



All right, we are bringing back a guest that we have had on the podcast before. He has actually spoken at WCICON last year but let's get him on the line and talk with him about the importance of thriving in our lives, as well as some opportunities you have to help teach you how to do that.

I'm excited to have Dr. Stacy Taniguchi back on the White Coat Investor podcast. Welcome back, Stacy.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Hey, thank you for having me.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
For those who don't know, Stacy was one of our keynote speakers at a recent WCICON. He speaks on the topic of choosing to thrive and creating your ideal life, and also runs a company, helps run a company called Beta Experiences that we're going to be talking a little bit about later in the podcast today. But Stacy for those who don't know you, how did you get interested in all of this stuff?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Well, it kind of extends back to my early days of just trying to kind of figure out what am I going to do with my life? Back as a teenager, just trying to understand what's life going to be like in my future? And there were several experiences that really piqued my interest. One of the early ones was catching an article in the old Life magazine that some of your audience members may recall. Weekly pictorial magazine that had an individual who had created a list of things he wanted to do in his life. And that just got my interest to create my own list of things that I wanted to do in my life.

But I think the real understanding of what I was really trying to do was making sure that I would live a life that was a life of thriving and a life of hope and always having the eyes to look for opportunities to go and do certain things. And that extended into my professional career as a university professor and as a researcher trying to understand what makes meaningful life available.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
At some point along the way, you decided to create your own list. Tell us a little bit about that.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
That's correct. That started when really I was a teenager and just thinking what are some of the highlight points that most people might have in their life? I want to graduate from high school, I want to go to college, I want to get a degree. A lot of that was pretty straightforward that most of your audience members probably have thought about as accomplishments that they're looking forward to and have probably done.

The other thing would be what were some of the dream things that I wanted to do? There were places I wanted to go. I wanted to see, for example, Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Alps, French Alps. I wanted to see the Taj Mahal in India. I wanted to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Some of those were at the time that's way out there.

But what I found was as I started creating some of these things, you become very aware that there are opportunities to do that. The question is, do you take advantage of the opportunity? And I know most people, myself included, I'm very good at making excuses of why I can't do that right now, or whatever the reason is.

I have found myself doing exactly the opposite because I know it's on my list that what I want to do is I want to accomplish that or I want to do it, or I want to see it because I may never have this opportunity again. I find myself making less and less excuses and finding more and more reasons why to go and do that. And then by doing that other doors of opportunities come about and I find myself thriving in life. I'm really excited about what the next day holds.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now you've been adamant that this is not a bucket list, this it's a thrive list.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:

Dr. Jim Dahle:
What do you see as the difference?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
As your audience members probably are very familiar with, the bucket list is the things that you want to create and make sure that you can hopefully do those before you die. The famous movie with Jack Nicholson, the whole idea is that he and his roommate are dying and so they better go out and live it up.

That for me has kind of a morbid connotation. And my idea is you're here to live. You're really here to make the most of the life that you've got here on this earth. For me, the thrive list is really a list to live, to go out and do it now, not necessarily wait till your twilight years and then start figuring out, “Well, what haven't I done? So those are the things I want to do.”

It's pretty interesting because I am adamant that I don't want to use the word bucket list. And I was kind of in a doctor's office the other day, just in a large waiting room, and I saw two women on the other side and they were talking about what they were planning to do for the summer. And one lady said, “I have decided I'm going to take a train ride across the United States.” And the lady says, “Wow, what made you think that?” And she says, “Well, that's always been on my thrive list.” And it shocked me because she didn't say bucket list, which is something I always hear. I don't know where she got that from, but I was excited that she sees it as a list to help her to live a life of thriving.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
After listening to your talk at the conference, I put together my own thrive list and this is things that I'd wanted to do earlier in life and had already accomplished, things I still want to do. I'm about two thirds of the way through mine, Stacy.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Oh, good for you. Good for you.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Big challenge I'm having is to limit it to a hundred. I'm over a hundred things.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Well, remember the number of things on that list doesn't matter. In fact, in my presentation I've told people it starts with one and it can go on forever and ever. My list ended up being a hundred things, but I'm actually thinking about adding more things and some of the things that I've been adding are because my wife shares similar aspirations. So we're thinking, “Well, let's go do that together.”

Dr. Jim Dahle:
One of the things that makes me a little bit scared to add things to it is that one of your rules was you could never take something off the list once you put it on there. Why is that rule important?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
If you remember the list isn't just stuff that just pops into your head and then you just put it down. The idea is you have to know your values, what's most important to you, things that are basically non-negotiable in your life, things that you would cross the ladder over the crevasse for. And when you start to think about those kinds of things, it gives a different meaning to what you're going to put on that list.

I want people to be a little bit thoughtful for this. If it's something that really goes against your core values, those are probably not things that are going to help you to thrive. In fact, it might even have the possibility of making your life not very good. You're going to find yourself enduring that particular moment or section of your life.

What I have found, this is just from personal experience. Whatever I had put on that list when I was 18 years old, I found myself still very interested to check it off when I was 50 because it had taken me that long to find that opportunity. But when that opportunity came, I was interested in doing it.

I'll give you an example. One of the things on my list is that I wanted to fly a glider plane. And that was back when I was very interested in flying and those types of things. And to have the opportunity to go fly a glider plane just didn't come up very often for me. In fact, it never did until I was just driving near my home here in Utah and there's an airport out nearby that I guess that's where all the glider pilots are.

And I saw a sign that I'd never seen before that says, “Do you want to learn how to fly a glider?” I think I was on my way to go skiing is what I was doing. And then I thought about that, “Oh, wait a minute, that's on my list.” That would've been easy for me to just keep driving and go ski for the day. And I thought, “You know what? I'm going to drive into the airport and inquire.” So I did. And that ended up resulting in me taking some lessons. And I have already had my pilot's license, so I didn't have to do a whole long list of things. I was kind of like pre-qualified. After 10 hours of getting training, I was flying a glider.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
And all it cost you is one missed ski day.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Yeah, right. It's just opportunities that you find. And it doesn't matter how old you are. I've had people in their 80s come up to me and say, “You know what, Stacy? I'm old. I don’t know. Should I make a list?” My answer is absolutely make a list. Start with one.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
We talk about values and how to determine what you really value. You alluded to a part of your presentation at the conference crossing the ladder, and some people may not understand what you're referring to there. But in this presentation, Stacy played a video of one of these ladders. It's like three ladders strapped together, crossing a bottomless crevasse in the Khumbu ice field on Mount Everest, and basically asked, “What would you cross the ladder for?” And there's a few people in the crowd like me that are like, “I'd cross it just to cross it.” Whereas other people are like, there's no way I'd go across that ladder.

And then you tell a hypothetical that your child's on the other side of that ladder and about to fall into the crevasse. Would you cross the ladder then? And now all of a sudden everybody would, so thus that's one of the things they value, what would they cross the ladder for?

But what do you tell people when they're like, “How do we determine what we value? How do you set up your values? How do you know what your values are? What should our values be?” How does someone do all that?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
And that's a very typical question that if I'm just talking to someone about it, and I can't give them the visual of crossing these ladders over a crevasse, it's really difficult. The ladder metaphor is really a tool to try to help people to sit down and think about that image of the three ladders, latched together, trying to cross this stepping rung from rung to rung and knowing that it's a high risk activity, but what would make you risk it all to obtain whatever it is that's on the other side of the crevasse?

People begin to realize money may not be enough. Of course, the amount might make a difference. And if you reword what it is, some people may not cross it for a million dollars because they realize they could die trying to get it. But if you reword it to say, would you cross it for financial security, all of a sudden that changes the image and people, if they're not committed to cross it right then and there, they stop and think, “Is that worth me trying to get across?”

The other issue is we're talking about there can be different kinds of values that I don't talk about in a presentation, but I think people begin to understand it. There's a difference of what you would cross the ladder for versus how you cross the ladder. And so, I also talk about in the presentation that not only do you have to identify what matters to you most by using the crevasse ladder metaphor, but you also have to prioritize what those values are and what kind of values they are.

And even though I don't go into that, a follow up question that I typically get a lot from audience members is, “Well, if I have to prioritize my values, how do I do that?” And I tell them, “Well, the first thing you have to do is you have to distinguish between what I call value determinations, the things you would cross the ladder for versus value attributes, how you cross the ladder.”

And once you do that, then we have a process that we do in our workshops to help people to distinguish those two categories. Because understanding those two categories then begins to help you prioritize what values become more important than others.

And that's something that they have to actually do at some point soon after they identify their values. You don't wait until the moment to make that judgment because typically by then it's too late. Emotions, situational things begin to take over and your mind gets cloudy. Many times people make the wrong choice because they're not thinking clearly because of what circumstances are. The ladder and the crevasse is really a tool to help you determine what are your core values.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I like one of the questions you ask, “Would you live your life over and over again?” And by creating a thrive list that allows you to outline a life that you would be willing to live over and over and over again for eternity. Kind of a conscious living, you're living life the way you want to live life rather than just as your circumstances dictate. Why is that question so powerful for people?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
I think it's a very insightful question. I borrow the question from Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea. He calls it the eternal recurrence of the same. But the idea is to really try to get to understand yourself and for others to understand where you're coming from. Many people will immediately look at that question and they reflect on their past because that's what they have as a reference point.

And it's very easy by looking at your past that if you've had bad moments in your life, you've had traumatic experiences, I could easily see why people might answer the question, “No, I would not want to live my life over. It's been tough, it's been hard. I don't want to do those things again.”

But I try to encourage people to change the frame of reference, change their mental map around that question by looking to your future, which you can control. And the idea is not so much that you live your life over and over again because you enjoyed it so much, but it's really about living your life over and over again so that you can take the experiences that you've had and look for those opportunities to teach people and help people live a life to thrive that you've planned out from this point on.

Because compared to what my past was like, my future is going to be one in which I will have more control. I will look for those opportunities and I will have experiences. Some may be good, some may be bad, but the majority of them are going to be positive to help me grow and that you can help other people grow.

I know a lot of people probably look at the question and think, “I'm going to do this over and over again because I had such a good time.” What I try to teach people in workshops and later is now really the purpose of the question is for you to be able to come back to this life for future generations to be able to teach them the message of choose to thrive. Don't just endure your life. It's something that you can choose to decide how you live your life. And I think most people would rather thrive in life rather than do it.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I've talked a little bit about this in some of my writing, and it's not just about the big things, about checking off one of the things on your list of 50 or 100 or 200 things on your thrive list, but also the day-to-day.

I've told people, actually write down what your life looks like. How many hours a week you're spending doing this, how many hours a week you're spending doing that. And then write down what your ideal life would look like in that same respect. And then try to make positive changes in your life, this is the classic Venn diagram, to maximize the overlap between those two circles and to create this ideal life in your day-to-day life, not just to have these super experiences that you have at times during your life. How can this idea of thriving be applied to our regular day-to-day lives?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Well, I think one of the things that's really important for your audience members to understand is a colleague of mine at Beta Experiences and also a university professor has done a lot of research around this concept called the myths of happiness.

We have this sense that really how we want to live our life is we really want to find happiness. The only problem is people tend to look for happiness in the wrong places. And in some cases, like you're talking about, if they're recording things in their day-to-day life, for example, for many people doing their job and looking for opportunities to discover something that could be beneficial or to help a patient recover from some serious illness or injury. Those are all important things. But the question becomes, is that going to lead to your happiness?

And what I try to tell people is, are you really searching for happiness or are you searching for something I call, and this comes from another colleague of mine, called inner peace? And there is a difference because happiness has this problem of being confused with things like pleasure, wealth, power, in some cases notoriety, influence.

And what you've begin to find is in your day-to-day life, something that I think could be added into what you're proposing to your groups, are they leading to inner peace or are they leading to one of these other things?

And the question is, is it okay if it's going towards wealth or if it's going towards pleasure, whatever. But in the end, are these the things that you value? Are these the things that you would cross the ladder for? And if they are, then you're pursuing and you should be thriving. But if they're not, then just make sure that it's placed in its proper perspective in your daily life.

I'll just give you a quick example. Is most of your day just solely dedicated to your job, to the point where you neglect your family members? And if the answer is yes, because it's one of the things I value, then my question is then where does your family compare to your job and your value of financial security? Does it trump your family? Because if it doesn't, then you have to take a minute to take a look at your Venn diagram and see if your family values can become a bigger part of the overlap rather than the job.

And so, it's things like that that we talk about and choose to thrive to try to help people to understand that don't confuse the miss of happiness as the replacement for inner peace. Because in reality, I think most people are searching for inner peace, not necessarily for just happiness as we typically think about it as wealth, power, things like that.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
A large part of our audience is frankly already wealthy and most of the rest will soon or eventually become wealthy. And I think when people become wealthy, they start to realize that money is no longer the limiting factor in our lives. That the scarce resource really is time. And all of us only have a limited amount of time. We don't necessarily know how much time that is, but it's limited for all of us.

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the seasons of life, that there are seasons of life in which some activities can be done and other activities can't. The classic example, of course, is when you're in your thirties and you have young kids, well, you can read them a book, before they go to sleep, but by the time you're in your forties and your kids are teenagers, they're not interested anymore in you reading a book to them before they go to bed. You have missed that experience. If you did not have it in your thirties, it is gone to you forever.

It's a little bit like backpacking Europe. This is kind of an experience people do in their twenties. When you're in your forties or fifties, backpacking Europe isn't so fun anymore. When you go to Europe, you want to travel very differently.

And so, how do you make sure as you work through your thrive list, that you're doing it appropriately in the appropriate seasons of life? Do you have to plan the order in which you do the things on your list?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
I would say there is a little bit of that, but I wouldn't worry about it when you're making the list and life just seems to have these opportunities. For example, this past spring, I took a group of people to hike to Everest base camp in Nepal, and that's a 12 day pretty strenuous hike. You're hiking over almost 50 miles one way and gaining almost 9,000 feet of elevation gain.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
And as you're hiking, you find yourself that you've got this group that's kind of a mixed group of younger people who can run up and down the trail taking pictures here and there and whatever. And then you have old people like myself who is just putting one step in front of the other and just trying to in a way make it to the next destination.

But what I find is, when those things are on people's list, I had an older gentleman that was in our group. This was something so important to him that even though he was older, he definitely had trained and prepared himself for it when the opportunity came. He specifically was very interested in going because he had heard I was going and I was older than he was. So he figured, “Well, if Stacy can go, I can go.” And he kept asking me, “How do you train? What do you do?” And those types of things.

And he found out, it opened up other doors for him. He was kind of thinking he was starting to get into the twilight years of his life. And to be honest, yes, we're getting. He and I were getting into the twilight years, but it didn't mean that that's the end of it. And so, he was more of, I wouldn't say he was a couch potato, but he wasn't a regular person to go out taking walks in the day.

But this created an opportunity for him to focus on, “If I'm going to do this trip, I've got to get out and I've got to take a walk every day with a backpack on, start getting my legs in shape.”

And he told me afterwards that what he found was this opened up doors of things that he still had on his list, that he thought he was going to just have to let those go. That he now realized, “I can do that. I just need to focus that if I want to make that happen, I'm going to have to spend a little time preparing for it. And that even though I'm older and I've got creaky knees and I've had a couple of surgeries to help me feel better or whatever, it's still an opportunity.”

I think that's what the list helps you to do. And remember, the object of the list is not that you have to complete everything on it. That's not the objective. The objective is that these are reminders of the things that you would like to see as waypoints on your journey to this thriving.



Dr. Jim Dahle:
That's a good segue. Let's talk a little bit about your company Beta Experiences. Now White Coat Investor is partnering with Beta Experiences. Let's talk a little bit about what that company does. What exactly are these experiences that you put together for people?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
We're a group of people who really come from an academic background, but my partners and I, we've all been outdoors people. We've all been guides actually, and we enjoy being in the outdoors and doing fun things in the outdoors. Some of them are very challenging, but they're very rewarding.

And we wanted to find a way to meld our academic background with our enjoyment of being in the outdoors and share that with people. We are a consulting company specifically. We help a variety of audiences. We do executive leadership training types of things but we also work with families. We work with families trying to help them build their legacy. We use the example of the three legged stool. If your family is the seat of the stool, one of the legs is financial planning, which you're very involved with. And a lot of people take the time to do that. They have a retirement fund, they have some idea of how they're going to retire.

A second leg is what we call kind of like wills and trusts. The passing on what you have, the hard assets that you might have. And a lot of people will have wills and trusts put in place, but like any three legged stool, it can't stand unless there's a third leg. And that third leg is what we call a legacy plan. A plan that says, “What do you stand for? What are your values that you want to pass on to your future generations?” And to help them to feel like what they're going to inherit from the other two legs are going to be done in a way that's going to be what we call multi-generational wealth. That's another aspect of what we do, is we help people figure out that third leg.

We also help people with retirement transitions. You're the CEO of your company, and all of a sudden now you're working for a company where probably your significant other is CEO. How do you start learning how to make that adjustment?

And we help people with a thrive sense of life. What we've done is we've taken our academic content and we embed it in what we call multisensory experiences. We take you out to do things like we might take you mountain biking. We might do short hikes, we might do overnight hikes. We might do river rafting, we do canyoneering, we do climbing, we do UTV rides, things like that.

We've even done things like tours in the city. We go to a city and we'll go and visit certain sites, but everything that we do is specifically designed to help teach the content that our clients are interested in learning to help them with pain points or just to be better educated.

We're not the type of consulting company that you would hire to come into a classroom to teach. We take you into an environment that for most people is very different and novel. And we combine doing fun things with content.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now, just to give people a sense of what this really looks like, let's talk about, you've got a couple of trips already on the books for next year. These are already full trips, but let's talk about each of them and what the people going through these experiences are going to experience. The first one, I think, is an Alaska trip next summer, and the second one is another trip to Nepal in the fall. Can we talk about each of those individually and what they look like for the people?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Sure. Our Alaska trip, we try to customize it as much as we can to the interests of the people who are planning to go, but primarily it's based around having a variety of experiences so that they have a taste of Alaska as well. Because if you're going to go to Alaska, you want to get a sense of what Alaska is like. We do, for example, a sea kayaking activity. And this one is actually an overnight one. You'll camp on an island or on a beach somewhere, but you're going to paddle around. And sea kayaking is very different from white water kayaking. This is not like you're going to be flipping over all the time. These are long, big, stable kayaks.

But what we're going to do is we're going to go up and see tidal glaciers that are calving into the ocean. We're going to see sea life that might be swimming around, whales or seals or sea lions and a lot of seabirds. Even have an opportunity to do some fishing. Then also, because fishing is a big part of what people like to do in Alaska, we take people salmon fishing, so they have that experience.

The number one tourist attraction in Alaska is Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. We'll fly people in so that they can see the mountain, up close and personal from a plane. And then we land on a glacier so they have an opportunity to be on a glacier. And if we land close enough to one of those crevasses, we will actually set up a type of ladder crossing. What they saw in the presentation on a slide and video, they actually now have the chance of “Would you cross it? You stand over the edge of a crevasses, would you be willing to do this?” It's a whole different perspective.

We'll do some short hikes and we'll just get the sense of what we call South Central Alaska. That's our focus where Anchorage happens to be and just get a flavor of life in Alaska, the last frontier.

But embedded in that is we're teaching some of the concepts about choose to thrive and helping people to understand things. We do a short segment about mindfulness. We take people up into the mountains just outside of Anchorage, it's not very far away, up in the Chugach Mountains. And then we talk a little bit about the place, we talk a little bit about mindfulness, and then I have people actually go walk off into the tundra by themselves, and they just find a place where they can be alone and they practice mindfulness.

It's a very different experience than me just telling you how to do mindfulness in a classroom and you're in this beautiful valley surrounded by these mountains, and you get a chance to do a little bit of meditating.

We will do stuff about when we're fishing where we talk a lot about the ecology of the river, what the fish are doing, and really understanding that salmon fishing is more than just throwing your line out there with a hook on it, hoping that a fish is going to grab it and eat it. Especially when you realize a lot of the salmon don't feed when in a freshwater river. We talk a little bit about what's happening there, and they have to be thinking about that process. And like I said, when we're on the glacier, we talk a little bit about the metaphor, the glacier or the crevasse.

There's content built into the experience, and then of course, my forte is to tell stories. Tell stories about my experiences of being in the place where they're at, get people to understand that this is a pretty cool place. This isn't just the Alaska that the tourist groups see. There's stories of history, science behind some of the stuff.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
What are the specifics on something like that? How long would a trip last, approximately what's the range of cost for something like that? Can you go by yourself or is it usual to bring another person or a few people with you? Can you talk a little bit about some of those specifics?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Okay. Typically, because like you said, time is a very rare commodity amongst a lot of people, we limit the trips pretty much to a one week type of experience in Alaska. It's not worth going to Alaska just for just a couple of days. Our trips are usually around six to 10 days. It just depends on what people want.

The cost is usually we cover everything except for your getting to Anchorage, Alaska. That's on your own. But we're looking probably around the $5,000 – $6,000 range because you're doing all these activities and we supply pretty much all the equipment and meals and that type of thing. And then of course, you're getting a lot of the content delivery, guides, that type of thing, transportation.

We have done trips where just individuals from different places around the world come and join in, and those work out pretty well. But we also have people that come as friends or as family members. And obviously that is a good way to already know that you've got somebody that you're being close to and you know.

We've even done groups, a corporate group, like a management group or a C-Suite wants to do something around the content that we're delivering and they're feeling like doing something in a novel area would just be an enticing way to get people to jump on board and go. We've had a variety of different kinds of clients and they all work because it's really the experience of being where you are, doing the activities and then having content delivery that helps you to learn more about living this life.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
What would a Nepal trip look like?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
The Nepal trip is a little bit more of a commitment for time. Typically, it's a 16 day trip in Nepal, but you need to add at least probably two days of travel if you're coming from the United States on the front end and on the back end, because you're literally on the other side of the world.

You fly into Kathmandu. We spend about a day in Kathmandu. I don't like to spend more than a day because I don't want anybody eating something that they shouldn't have eaten, and then they get sick before the trip. And we're pretty controlling about that, where we usually try to eat together in different places, but we'll spend one day in Kathmandu and I do a tour of Kathmandu so that you can kind of see the flavor of this developing country. And it's beautiful.

You get a taste of the fact that there are two major religions that literally live side by side. The world, I think right now could learn a lot from the Nepalese. You've got the Hindus and you have the Buddhists, and they're not in conflict with each other, even though their religions are very based on different things. They coexist very easily.

Then we take a flight, a helicopter flight from Kathmandu into the mountains, and we'll be at a place where you're at 9,000 feet in the mountains, and that's where we start and we hike to different villages in the Khumbu Valley. And it's the only valley that leads to the south side of Mount Everest. It's the place where the climbers have to hike when they're going to go climb the mountain. And we stay in tea houses. We're not camping, not intense or anything. We stay in these tea houses, they're like lodges, eat our meals there. And we slowly acclimatized because we're going to go from 9,000 feet all the way up to 18,000 feet where the base camp is at.

And then one thing that we do, because we have connections, will go into the base camp. People who are trekking typically don't have permission to go into the base camp. You can kind of go up to the edge of the base camp and look at what you can see from there.

I have connections with climbing expeditions that we'll take you into the base camp, and we've made arrangements to have lunch with a climbing team if they're not on the mountain at the time. But we'll definitely talk to some of the leaders and the base camp managers. And then you're right at the base of the Khumbu icefall. I take people and we go touch the ice. We can't go into the ice fall because of the dangers and things, but you can go up and touch the ice or the icefall and you get to see the culture and the people, of course, the magnificent mountains.

I used to think Alaska had the most beautiful mountains. Himalaya is just very different and much more spectacular because the foothills is as high as Denali. And then of course, you see Everest and there's a small little peak that we climb to hike and we do an early morning hike from that peak, if the weather is clear, like it has been for several times that I've done, you'll see four 8,000 meter peaks. Four of the highest 14 mountains in the world.

And then we hike back and what I integrate with it is choose to thrive. And we talk a little bit about leadership and things like that because I used the 1996 tragedy on Everest. Most people remember it if they follow stuff like this. It was called Into Thin Air, which was a book written by Jon Krakauer about the 11 people who died on Mount Everest in one week. And there was a lot of questions about leadership of those expeditions. We use that as kind of the backdrop of studying leadership, skills and decision making, critical thinking.

Every trip that we do is more than just a tourist visit because there's a lot of tourist vendors out there. You can do those kind of things. Ours is specifically designed to deliver content.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Awesome. All right. Well, thanks for sharing the specifics about those. If you're interested in doing a trip like this, I want you to sign up at, and that'll get you on a list that when this becomes available, there's no guarantee that the dates are going to work out for you or whatever, but when this becomes available, we'll send you an email and give you the opportunity to sign up for one of these trips.

Now these are obviously small trips with limited numbers of people. A typical trip's got a minimum of about six, maximum of 12 to 15. So, it's a small group and for that reason, that's why these two trips Stacy just described for next year are already full. You can only take so many people.

But if you would be interested in being able to sign up for these trips, go to and there's a form there you can sign up and there's no commitment, but we'll let you know when they become available and give you the opportunity to sign up and go on one of these trips and have an incredible experience while learning, while having this experiential learning and help you learn how to thrive.

All right, Stacy, our time is getting short. What have we not talked about that people ought to know?

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Well, I think I would also like to suggest that you visit our website, which is We're trying to work very closely with White Coat Investors, to be a service to your clients and to do things together. We offer the services I had mentioned to you earlier about leadership training, legacy planning, those kinds of things that I think you'll find goes very much hand in hand with the financial advisement that your group, your company is doing.

But we'd like to just make sure that if your idea of learning is more than just sitting in a classroom and you're thinking, we call it experiential learning, then hopefully we're available to give you at least some ideas of what we're doing.

We have a lot of people that are very much into what we call experience design, so they're very knowledgeable about how to journey map out specific kinds of experiences so that we end up with the result that people are seeking.

But yeah, we're out there and we're having fun though because we obviously get to go out and do these things with people. You're from Alaska, Jim. You can just imagine for a first time visitor be able to fly and land on a glacier, to go salmon fishing, to go sea kayaking and watch tidal glaciers cabin in the ocean. That's pretty spectacular. And to be honest, a lot of first time visitors to Alaska typically don't get that. They might get one or two of these, but we put it all together in about a six day trip.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Pretty awesome. Well, thank you so much Dr. Taniguchi for coming in and talking about this. For the rest of you, choose to thrive, learn to thrive, and plan to thrive, and this experience can help you to do that. Again, That's how you sign up so you know when these things are happening. You can learn more about what they can do at Beta Experiences at All right, thanks again, Stacy.

Dr. Stacy Taniguchi:
Thank you, Jim.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Stacy. Stacy is an incredible person. I didn't mention this during the podcast. Stacy's somebody I've known since I was a kid. He was a neighbor, he was a high school teacher. He was a Boy Scout leader. He was my guide when I climbed Denali when I was 17. Somebody I've kept in touch with throughout our lives. Shortly after I graduated from high school, he left his high school teaching career, went and got a PhD and been teaching college ever since and now is running this experiential learning company.

Really an incredible person who really has lived a life just like he teaches you to do. But if you have the opportunity to go on a trip with Stacy, it's something else and not an opportunity to be missed.


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Milestones to Millionaire Transcript

Transcription – MtoM – 143
This is the White Coat Investor podcast Milestones to Millionaire – Celebrating stories of success along the journey to financial freedom.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
This is Milestones to Millionaire podcast number 143 – Emergency doc becomes a millionaire in two years.

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All right, this is the Milestones to Millionaire podcast. It is driven by you and by you are the guests on it. The audience is the podcast. We feature you and your accomplishments, your milestones, if you will. And those milestones range from getting back to broke, buying a car. These things that tend to be on the early end of the financial spectrum to people becoming decamillionaires and financially independent and all kinds of other stuff.

On the other end, we want to celebrate those milestones with you and use them to inspire others to do the same. You can sign up to come on the podcast at

Today we've got a guest that is featuring one of our relatively common milestones, becoming a millionaire. It still means something to our world. Probably not as much as it did when Monopoly came out in the 1920s or whenever it was, when being a millionaire really meant a lot. It's basically the equivalent of being a decamillionaire today.

But it still means something to most of us and it's a goal that most of us have at some point during our lives. So, we want to celebrate with you when you reach it, whether it takes you 25 years or whether it takes you two years like our guest today. Let's get them on the line.

Stick around afterward. By the way, we're going to talk a little bit about what money to spend in retirement, what money to spend first, what money to spend, second, et cetera.



Our guest on the Milestones to Millionaire podcast today is Dusty. Welcome to the podcast.

Thanks for having me on.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Tell us what you do for a living and how long you've been doing it.

I'm an emergency medicine physician and I've been out of training for two years now.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Okay. So, what milestone are we celebrating with you?

Me and my wife have reached a net worth of $1 million, so that's kind of the big one we're celebrating.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Wait, you became a millionaire two years out of residency?


Dr. Jim Dahle:
What does your wife do for a living?

She's an attorney, so that has definitely helped a lot.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
She's an attorney. Okay. And how long is she out of school?

She has been out practicing for 12 years now.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Okay. She's been out for a while. I'm sure that helps some. But when you graduated from medical school or when you finished residency or both if you can remember, what was your net worth then?

When I graduated medical school we were right at negative $200,000. We both had some student loans that we had, that was pretty much our only debt at the time. And then when I finished residency, I looked at this earlier, I think we were right at $100,000 to the positive. So, we had broken even about six months before graduation for residency.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Wow. In residency your wife is working as an attorney, but your net worth went up about $300,000. That's pretty awesome. $100,000 a year in residency. That's pretty good. Just by itself we would've celebrated that with you. But in the last two years you've gone from $100,000 to a million. All right. You got to tell us the story because this is more than you guys made probably.

It's right there at it. We've had a few things that we were lucky in. I went to residency somewhere that allowed moonlighting and I took advantage of that a lot during my third year of residency, which helped a ton to get a head start and everything.

We're both pretty debt adverse people, so I think we're also very careful with spending and we're also lucky to both have jobs that are fairly well high paying. Those combination of factors is really what led us to getting here so quickly.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, I feel like kind of an underperformer interviewing some of these people on the podcast. Those who have read my first book, the 2014 “The White Coat Investor”, know it took us seven years to become millionaires out of residency. And I was pretty proud of that. I thought that was pretty good, that it’s inspiring to lots of people. And yet I keep interviewing people that do it way faster, so it's pretty awesome. Congratulations on that.

Let's talk about your net worth. Tell us about your assets to start with.

Yeah. I just reviewed that this morning because I usually only do it once a month and it hasn't really changed much in the last two weeks. But we have right at $500,000 in tax deferred accounts. That's a combination of 401(k)s. My wife has a TSP currently and I have a 457 at work along with a solo 401(k) I put some 1099 money into.

We have right at $200,000 in tax free accounts with our Roths and HSAs and right at $250,000 at a just regular taxable brokerage account and $50,000 in cash. So, nothing too exciting. 95% of it, I believe, is in VTSX currently. So nothing too crazy on the investment side.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Very simple asset allocation, but you keep stuffing money into it like crazy. I had a fellow doc that I served within the military and that was basically his investment strategy. Everything went into a 500 index fund. Him and his wife, they're both docs and they just stuff so much money in there, I'm like, “Oh, it’s hard to disagree with that plan. It's certainly working for you.” Tell us about your house.

We own our home. We live in a pretty low cost living area and like I said, we really focus on trying to keep our fixed expenses low since we like to travel and do other things. Our current home, we paid, I believe $220,000 for it. Again, probably the smallest and least nice house among all my other physician colleagues, but it works for us and we've kind of decided to focus the money elsewhere. So, one of the big things was keeping our fixed expenses low, which including getting affordable housing.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, this is a very deliberate intentional plan you're working here. I don't think there's anybody else in your residency class that is a millionaire already and there's probably nobody else in your class that lives in a house that they bought for only $220,000. What is your goal? Why are you so driven to be financially successful so quickly?

I think a lot of it comes from upbringing. When I was younger, I remember my grandfather when he was getting ready to retire, which was probably in my late high school years, junior or senior year, he was going through all of his stuff and he had all these Vanguard forms that he was going through. And I'd never heard of Vanguard.

We started talking and I believe one of the first books he showed me, I think it was a The Motley Fool Guide for Teens Investing or something that kind of started the process. I started reading throughout high school and college.

That plan was once we had an income to save it and set ourselves up so in the future we can do whatever we want to do with our time because we're still trying to figure out where we want to be long term and the kind of careers we want to have. And we both agreed that having the big nest egg would give us the flexibility to make decisions so we can always try to find the best place for us career wise and lifewise.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. So you've been financially literate for a long time, you just didn't have the income to go with it until recently?

Yeah. I worked a few years before medical school, about two or three years. I was a big reader in Mr. Money Mustache for years and then along with you when you started the White Coat Investor blog, I was probably one of your first readers and it has been super helpful having your site, especially as our income has grown and being able to have specific advice that really fits our particular situation. Also a lot of luck involved getting exposed early on.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. WCI and Mr. Money Mustache have actually grown up together. Mr. Money Mustache was started the month before WCI in April, 2011. We started in May. So, a lot of people have had that experience of following along with both of them as they've grown.

All right. Tell us about debt and what role debt has played. Obviously you had some student loans and it sounds like you may even still have some and you've got a mortgage. Tell us about your debts.

Yeah. We have a mortgage. When we first married I had about $325,000 in student loans and my wife had about $60,000 from her from law school. Now we're down to, hers has been completely paid off for quite some time, several years now, and I'm down to my last $80,000 in federal student loans.

And the reason we have the $80,000 is I have a loan forgiveness program through my current employer who pays a set amount every month. And I have another two years left in that agreement and at the end of that two years it'll be basically paid off. And the total benefit was that it was right at $100,000 that our employer offered for student loans. So they paid $100,000 and we've pretty much done the rest ourselves.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
And then the mortgage.

I think it's right around $190,000, $200,000. We've been in the home for two years now and we put a little bit extra every month, but we got lucky with having a pretty low interest rate. So, I think it's only $300 or $400 extra a month, basically rounded up to an even number for our monthly payments. We're just kind of letting that do its thing. And no other debt. We have credit cards we used for spending that we pay off every month. No car loans. That's pretty much the only debt we have now is the mortgage and my student loans that I left.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
What part of the country are you living in?

We live in the southeast on the Gulf Coast.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Okay. And was that just where you wanted to live in your life or was that a deliberate decision that had some sort of a financial impetus behind it?

A combination. We're both from near this area. I grew up about three hours from here and my wife grew up about an hour and a half from here. So we were familiar with the area.

When I finished residency, the initial plan was to go somewhere else. We have a few places we looked at for the future that we'd like to move to, but the combination of the low cost living and emergency medicine physician compensation is fairly high in this area. It was kind of hard to pass it up. And so, the current plan is to stay here two to three or four more years until we're pretty much financially independent and then look at moving somewhere else.

We bounced around the idea of we love to travel, we've been to New Zealand a few times. We just got back there. Three weeks ago, we went to the Women's World Cup. And so, that's a place we're looking at potentially moving or potentially some other bigger city in the country. Just to kind of try somewhere else for a little while.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
What advice do you have for somebody that's just like you were a few years ago? Maybe they're just coming out of med school or they're in residency now and they're looking at you going, “Man, I'd love to go to New Zealand. I'd love to be a millionaire two years out of residency.” What advice do you have for that person?

I think coming up with a plan is the biggest part and then spending. Especially early on, if you can find a way as you are a med student, if you have a spouse that works or while you're a resident to put money away, it's really, really easy when you become an attending, when you already have those things in place.

Most of our things come out of our paycheck without us even seeing them. And just when you put things on autopilot and you come up with a good plan, it's really easy. And that's why when you say you were impressed by it, I'm not sure if it's impressive because a lot of things we did were just things that got put on automation. We came up with a plan years ago and really haven't required any ongoing effort at all.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, that's the benefit of a plan for sure. Every month you got money coming in and you don't have to make a new decision about what to do with it. You already made that decision a couple of years ago. It's like I tell my kids that you can decide today not to do drugs and every time somebody offers them to you, you don't have to make that decision all over again. It's the same with finances in a lot of ways.

Well, what's next for you guys in your financial goals? You've talked about having flexibility, but I'm not sure I'm hearing a discreet early retirement goal or something like that out there.

Yeah. I don't think of the idea of early retirement, I'm that interested in it. I really like what I do. I'm sure I'll do it on some level for the rest of my life to some degree. We would like to travel more so I can definitely see, emergency medicine is very easy to go part-time or work locums or things like that. I'd imagine in three or four years we'll probably spend a few years either in New Zealand or Australia or somewhere outside of the country and then come back to the US and try to find somewhere that worked four or five shifts a month and just kind of enjoy life.

I've also bounced around the idea of going back to where I did training at. I really have some great relationships with people I worked with there. And to me that would also be a really cool place to be a part-time faculty member one day, once we kind of have the financial things taken care of.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. You guys sound like you're pretty much on the same page when it comes to finance. I'm curious what your biggest conflict was or disagreement was about how you're running your finances now. Do you have any recollection of a time you guys had to make a compromise on it?

I'm probably a lot more frugal than my wife is. She's not a spin thrift by any stretch. But I knew when we first started she didn't really want to know anything about the financials. She just wanted the money came in the account and you spend it.

I think when we first started dating and especially the first year of marriage, I think I'm a little more of a numbers guy than she is, so that was probably tough for her early on for us to get on the same page. But that was pretty short lived and once I explained to her the reasoning behind it and got her engaged to figure out, got her input for what kind of life she wanted to live in the future, it actually was really easy.

Again, she is now probably more financially literate than me in certain items because she reads a lot on her own and she comes to me with ideas and they're usually good ideas. I think that was probably early on, just getting on the same page spending just because she had never really looked at it that way or had never budgeted.

She had an IRA, I think it was some financial firm that she had been invested in for years and had really high fees and she didn't understand why that was a problem. In her mind “I have a financial advisor, he's doing everything for me.” Those early conversations were tough, but after that we've been on the same page ever since.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. And the truth is on a high income like you guys have, there's not a lot of sacrificing. You can pretty much buy what you want and still do pretty well. But you guys have done exceptionally well so congratulations to you. Thank you so much for coming on the Milestones to Millionaire podcast to share your experience and inspire others to do the same.

Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right, I hope you enjoyed that interview. Dusty has done fantastic, obviously. For a lot of us, if you can become financially literate before you start making the big bucks and have a plan in place, you really hit the ground running.

Now this is what Katie and I did. We weren't as early as Dusty. We were probably halfway through residency when we started really learning this stuff. But we had a plan in place when we graduated. The problem is I wasn't making very much income. I was making about $120,000 a year as a military attending so we couldn't do that much, but we still hit the ground running with what we had and it made all the difference in the world.

So, please, those of you who are in medical school, those of you who are in residency, in dental school, whatever, that you're coming up on those big earnings years, put a plan in place first. It's amazing what you can accomplish. And all of a sudden, just a few years into your career, you have so much flexibility and so many options to build this awesome career you're going to enjoy and be able to do all kinds of cool stuff with. So take care of business early on and you will not regret it, I promise.



All right, I promised you at the beginning that we're going to talk a little bit about spending in retirement and I think this is an important topic to understand. The truth is that many doctors dream of retiring from the workplace before that traditional retirement age of whatever it is, 60 to 70 somewhere in there.

Most docs can't do it though. Why can't they? Three reasons. They spend too much, they didn't save enough and they didn't invest wisely. They simply don't have the resources to retire at the time they desire to retire so they end up working an extra few years.

Now it's not the end of the world. Life isn't all about money. It's not all about retiring as quickly as you can or having the biggest nest egg in the graveyard for sure. But paying some attention early on in your career, like our guest today can facilitate this as at least being an option for you.

Whether you just want to cut back and be a part-time doc like I am and like I suspect Dusty will be in just a few years or whether you want to retire completely, you got to have the money to do it. A lot of people just have to wait until they have more savings, until compound interest can do more magic on their nest egg, until they start getting some social security money. And that's fine. But if you want to retire early, you got to spend a little more time thinking about how to spend in retirement, especially those first few years.

People worry about this age 59 and a half rule. You basically can't get into your retirement accounts, at your IRAs, till age 59 and a half. Or you'll have to pay not only taxes that are due but penalties. 10% penalty. That rule is actually age 55 if it's a 401(k) and you've separated from the employer.

So, that's the first way you can get into your money earlier is don't roll it in into an IRA, leave it in the 401(k) and then you can spend it at 55 without any penalties. So, that's kind of cool. Don't forget about that if you're thinking about a retirement date earlier than 59 and a half.

Other great options for that time period. The truth is most people who have enough to retire early, if you have enough money to retire before age 59 and a half, you almost surely have a taxable account because you just haven't been able to stuff enough into your retirement accounts in order to retire early. So, that's what you spend first. You get into that taxable account and you spend the high basis stuff first so it doesn't cost you much in taxes and then eventually you may end up spending the low basis stuff as well before getting into your retirement accounts. Especially if you're still at an age where you have to pay a penalty to do it.

Don't forget, there's also lots of exceptions at that age 59 and a half rule. One exception is a 457 plan. This rule does not apply to 457s. These 457(b)s are deferred compensation plans that lots of employers, particularly academic employers often offer.
Depending on the plan provisions, you can often get into that as soon as you retire. And so, that's what lots of people do to cover years from 50 or 55 to 59 is they use their 457 money. So, people are living off their taxable money, they're living off their 457 money.

Don't forget there are other exceptions for that age 59 and a half rule as well. For example, you can take money out to pay health insurance premiums, for a first home, for you or your kids, if you're disabled. Obviously, if you die you can get into there earlier.

There's some new exceptions that came up with the Secure Act 2.0. For example, if you've been the victim of domestic abuse, you can get to some of that money penalty free. So, lots of options there. Roth IRA principle you can get to before age 59 and a half.

There's also this cool exception they call the 72(t) exception or the SEPP exception. SEPP- Substantially Equal Periodic Payments. This is basically the early retirement exception. If you retire early, you can get to your retirement accounts without paying penalties. You just have to take out only a reasonable amount each year and it works out to be 3% or 4%, which is about what you want to take out anyway if you want that money to last. So, that works just fine.

That's how you get to your money before age 59 and a half without paying that penalty. And it's not the end of the world if you do have to pay a little bit of that 10% penalty on some of your retirement money. Because chances are, if that's the case, you're probably paying at a much lower rate, even including the penalty than when you put the money into the account.

Other things you can rate, health savings accounts. For health medical expenses you can take money out of there any time, penalty and tax free. If you've been saving receipts for prior medical expenditures, you can take that money out and spend it on anything and just put it up against those prior receipts that you have, again, tax and penalty free. But you don't really want to raid that for non-medical expenses ever if you can avoid it but certainly not before age 65 because then you got to pay a penalty. It's not a 59 and a half rule with an HSA, it's a 65 rule. So, keep that in mind.

Now, once you're kind of past these penalties that you got to worry about for early withdrawal from retirement accounts, you should also think about how do I want to spend this money? And somewhere there's this dogma out there and I don't know how it got started because it's not always true, but the dogma was basically spend taxable first and then spend tax deferred and then spend tax free money.

That's not the case. As a general rule, yes, you generally want to spend taxable money before retirement account money, but that's not always the case. If it's very low basis money, especially if you're going to be dying soon and your heirs would get a step up in basis on that money, you may not want to spend that before retirement account money.

And then of course when you're talking about tax deferred and tax-free money, you can adjust how much you take from each of those accounts and basically set your own tax rate. And it's unlikely that the most efficient way to do that is take all the tax deferred money before taking any of the tax-free money. A combination is probably the right way to go. You take tax deferred money up to the top of whatever bracket you're in and then tax-free money above and beyond that. That's probably a more tax efficient approach to take to spending your money in retirement.

Now you might have some other assets out there that are available to you. Maybe you have some home equity. Typically that's something you tap pretty late if you need to at all.

Likewise, if you for whatever reason ended up buying a cash value life insurance policy, like a whole life policy, that's generally something you want to take relatively late. The best use for that is to leave it to your heirs. And so, if you don't need it, that's one of the last things you'll leave. It goes to them totally tax free because that's the way death benefits are. Just like your taxable account goes to them tax free, of course, thanks to the step up in basis of debt.

You also want to keep your estate planning desires in mind. If you're planning to leave a whole bunch of money behind to charity, you preferentially want to leave them HSA money and tax deferred money because they don't pay taxes on any debt. So, you won't pay taxes, they won't pay taxes. You can make a big difference there. And if that were the case, you might spend your tax-free money preferentially because it'll lower the overall tax burden paid.

On the other hand, if you're planning on leaving all your money to your kid and your kid's even more financially successful than you are, they'll certainly appreciate inheriting the tax free money. The Roth IRA kind of money. So, you may want to spend that last in order to leave more of that to them and live on your taxable and tax deferred assets during your lifetime.

So, estate planning certainly plays into it as well. Be careful with people who are dogmatic and telling you exactly the order you must spend in. It's really a year to year decision looking at your tax bill and deciding where to pull the money from. I hope that's helpful in understanding how to spend in retirement.

The other thing to talk about I suppose is how much to spend in retirement. And the general rule there is, again, don't get dogmatic. Start with something like 4% of your nest egg and adjust as you go. If a really bad sequence of returns, crummy returns show up in your few years of retirement, you might want to dial it back a little bit. Maybe only sending 3% or 3.5%, certainly not more than 4%.

If it doesn't show up, you can spend a little bit more than 4%. And certainly if you're now 85 or 90 years old, you don't have to hold yourself to the 4% rule. You're not immortal, right? Spend a little bit more, it's not a bad idea.

One plan some people do is they just spend their entire required minimum distribution and that percentage goes up over time. It starts at about 4% at age 75. By the time you're 92 or something, it's like 12% a year. It's okay to spend that much. If you're spending about what an RMD would have you spend, that's actuarially pretty sound and not a bad way to decide how much to spend each year in retirement.

The truth is most people die with more than they retired with because they just don't spend. People that have been good savers, they don't spend that much in retirement. They're worried they're going to live to be 105 and really they only live to be 85 on average or 83 on average. And their nest egg continues to grow throughout retirement. That's certainly what's been happening to my parents and most good savers. That's how it works.

So, most people who have become millionaires by the time they retire need to be encouraged to spend more money. And so, if that's you, spend a little bit more money, find something that'll make you happier, find a cause you support and give away some money and quit worrying about running out of it. You're not going to live forever and you're almost surely not going to run out of money.

If you've been managing your money so well that you were able to become a millionaire by retirement, it's not like that goes away instantly when you go into retirement. You just become this total spend thrift. It doesn't happen. You're still good at managing money and if something bad happens, you'll be able to dial back your lifestyle just like you used to adjust your lifestyle to your income and be able to be okay.



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