The scene is a little cliché. It’s a family gathered around a table, everybody wearing their best sweaters for the occasion, with an uncut yet deliciously cooked turkey resting on the table next to the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, and the yams. Before everybody digs into the meal that took 10 hours to create but will take only 12 minutes to scarf down, perhaps somebody suggests that the group goes around the table and, one by one, declares what they are thankful for this year.
To me, the scene is stereotypical and yet totally unrealistic. I mean, except for the movies and TV shows, who actually dissects the turkey with a carving knife and large fork in front of everyone sitting at the table? Wouldn’t the tablecloth soon be ruined by turkey juice? Wouldn’t an electric knife be easier if not as aesthetically pleasing? Why do you have to wear an itchy sweater? And what the heck is a yam, anyway?
Even speaking your gratitude out loud in front of others (who could totally judge you!) would normally feel a little Ward and June Cleaver to me. But after what the world has been through since the beginning of March 2020, after doctors have been burned out by the pandemic; after investors endured a brief Coronabear market; after months and months of anti-vaxxers and protesters and nasty partisan fighting, maybe saying “thank you” into the atmosphere is the antidote that can briefly ease the world's wounds (our wounds, not the turkey’s).
So, I asked a number of white coats what they were thankful for in 2021. Here’s what some of them said.
What Are Doctors Thankful for This Year?
Daniel Iyer, a DVM from Georgia:
“There are many reasons why I am thankful I am in the position I am in today. My parents instilled self-reliance and dedication—if you are going to do something, do it right —into me very early. Being a young teenager and saving enough money to buy a car was a dream of mine, until discussing with my father. He said, ‘Why would you want to buy something that is worth less right when you drive it off the lot?' Of course, being a kid, that made no sense because I saw the immediate value and flashiness of the vehicle (a Nissan Xterra) to my friends. Long story short, I bought my first house instead, which was the beginning of my real estate venture that continues today. I had roommates that paid my mortgage, and I never had to make a payment out of pocket during my late undergrad and veterinary school tenure. I am truly thankful my parents taught me to save and never be greedy.
Today, I continue my journey 15 years after vet school, with my lovely three daughters and beautiful wife. I am thankful that I am in a position to provide for my family with my veterinary income and passive real estate income that allows me to work three days a week. Due to this, my work/life balance keeps my stress level much lower than my colleagues in the industry.”
J. Jarred Molitoris, an MD from Ohio:
“I am thankful to be in a profession that allows one of us (in this case, my wife) to take time off and stay home with the kids. She is a pediatrician, so she is giving up a six-figure salary, but we are fortunate enough that we can make up for it or cut back on expenses. As an obstetrician, I can easily add 1-2 shifts a month of resident coverage to make up her income.”
An MD from California who wishes to remain anonymous:
“I am thankful for:
– Those members of the community who not only believe and follow the science, but also have been brave enough to face verbal and physical threats at school board and city council meetings in order to advocate for public health measures.
– The members of the scientific community who rapidly developed and deployed vaccine and treatment options during this pandemic.
– The frontline healthcare workers who treated all patients despite uncertainty about their own personal safety.
– Job security, which has been shattered for so many industries and so many members of the workforce, including some fellow healthcare colleagues.
– A career shift into telemedicine, which has allowed for an improvement in quality of life and afforded insulation from the pandemic during this uncertain time.
– The health of my family and friends, which should never be taken for granted in this line of work.”
Tawny Smith, a Pharmacist from Texas:
“This year, I have a lot to be thankful for, but I am most thankful for my oncology team who helped me kick cancer to the curb. I am also thankful for my amazing friends and family who made my fight easier with their love and support.”
Dr. T, an MD from Minnesota:
“I’m grateful for having added non-clinical skill and experience. It’s broadened my options and given me more control over my work environment and future directions.”
Lee Epstein, an MD from Florida:
“I’m thankful for the health of my family, patients, and practice during this challenging year. With the financial security I gained by following advice from The White Coat Investor I was able to focus on the needs of my staff and patients rather than my own financial concerns.”
Dr. JH, a dentist from Texas:
“I am thankful that we were recently able to pay off all my dental school loan debt. We save about 30% of our gross salary together (which goes to IRAs, 401(k)s, ETFs, and other investment vessels). Typically, anything over 30% after saving we use to fund family vacations; home improvement projects; and, in this case, pay off my student loans. By reaching our set savings goal, we have the peace of mind that spending anything after what we saved is guilt-free. Getting the student loan paid off is one more thing that is no longer hanging over our heads, and we can now use that money toward travel and improving all of our mental health as we emerge from COVID.
I am also thankful that because we are a dual-income family, I was able to be there for my kids during COVID home schooling time . . . though I think I would have much rather been at work—WOW! On that note, I’m super thankful for my kid’s amazing teachers who do that full-time!”
Heather A. Dlugosz, an MD from Ohio:
“I am extremely grateful this year for the opportunity to have reduced my FTE status over the summer in order to spend more quality and present-minded time with my family. After a challenging previous year with the pandemic and long hours spent caring for patients, I felt it was important to prioritize my family, as this is values-driven for me. Without the benefit of my physician salary and the opportunity to have saved money and diversified our assets previously, I would not have been able to make this important change. The opportunity to spend quality time with my family and do the ‘routine' things with them, including dropping kids off at camp, was priceless, relative to the reduction in my FTE and salary for the summer.”
Jennifer D., an MD from Ohio:
“I’m grateful for the financial reserves to be able to quickly make an inter-state move this year when we needed to be close to family.”
Jim Dahle, WCI founder and an MD from Utah:
“This Thanksgiving season I'm grateful for PPE, vaccinations, individual liberty, wonderful people to work with, good health, and a plethora of opportunities to help others. I'm also grateful for all the good people positively influencing my teenagers as they pay less and less attention to me.”
As for me, I feel like I’ve been floating through the world of journalism for the last several years, and I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going in my career. Or if I should even be in the industry that I’ve always been so passionate about. But then I started studying the world of finance, and I fell in love with it. Then, this job came along, and I was lucky enough to grab it. I’m thankful for my wife’s neverending support during my journalism journey, and I’m grateful that I get to indulge in two of my passions to make my living: writing and the world of finance. Basically, I’m thankful to be here writing these words for you today.
If you’ve got any reasons to be thankful this year, comment below so we can all bask in your gratitude.
[Editor's Note: I really enjoyed talking to some of my doc friends and the WCI community to find out why white coats are thankful this year. I’d like to do something similar for early January. For the first Sunday of the new year, I want to write about your 2022 crystal ball predictions when it comes to finances or investing. If it’s outlandish with almost no chance of coming true, that’s fantastic. If it’s the most obvious prediction in the world, that’s cool, too. If it’s funny, even better. Either way, email me at [email protected], and tell me your best crystal ball prediction of 2022. At the end of next year, we’ll take a look back at those predictions and laugh at the silliness or congratulate you on your brilliance. Either way, it’ll be good times.]
What I’m Reading This Week
Tithing in Crypto?
If there was ever supposed to be a separation between the church and state and, um, cryptocurrency, those lines have been blurred. That’s because a church in suburban Phoenix has stopped using an offering plate during services and now accepts donations in cryptocurrency.
That church isn’t the only one doing so. As noted in this USA Today story, the VIVE Church in Palo Alto, California also will take Bitcoin off your hands. From the article:
“The Rev. Michelle Stewart, a former lawyer, said her church members in the Bay Area were investing in crypto and had asked how they could give from the financial gains they had made.
Stewart said that two of the pastors helped create software that would allow the roughly 1,000-member church to accept non-cash gifts like crypto, and that many of the givers at VIVE donate that way . . .
She saw the power of non-cash gifts in August and September when the church wanted to put a down payment on a new building and raised $6.3 million—with half coming from crypto and stocks—in 45 days.”
But don’t necessarily count on Bitcoin to be the crypto you’ll be using a decade from now. In many ways, Bitcoin is like AOL.
Is Buying a Home a “Terrible Financial Decision”?
According to Ramit Sethi, the answer is yes (that doesn’t mean he won’t do it, though). Blame it on “phantom” costs.
I didn’t mention the Zillow home-buying meltdown in my column earlier this month about whether Wall Street is coming for your house. But if you want to try to take advantage of Zillow’s decision to stop flipping homes, you could perhaps get a good deal on one of the thousands of dwellings the website needs to offload.
Don’t Call It a Comeback . . .
They’ve been here for years and years. They just haven’t been as prosperous as they once were. But earlier this month, Ford eclipsed a $20 stock price for the first time in two decades. You can thank the potential of electric vehicles for that.
As for General Electric, one of the original members of the Dow Jones, well, things aren’t going great. Here’s an interesting Twitter thread that discusses former CEO Jack Welch’s role in all of this.
General Electric is ending a century as a massive conglomerate by splitting into 3 parts.
It is front-page news. Lots of events led to this, but you may not be familiar with some of the more nefarious issues that caused GE to stumble, then collapse.
— Barry Ritholtz (@ritholtz) November 10, 2021
Money Song of the Week
On the surface, “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” by The Beatles seems like an easy song to decipher. With lyrics like “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? Now that you know who you are” and with John Lennon and Paul McCartney singing the same thing over and over again in the chorus, “Baby, you're a rich man/Baby, you're a rich man/Baby, you're a rich man, too,” it’s tempting to draw this from the song: you don’t need to be rich to be wealthy. You’re rich simply because you’re being you.
And that does seem to be an element of the song. But Rolling Stone had a slightly different take, writing that it was actually more of a shot taken at the rich people. Wrote the magazine:
“The title came from McCartney, but the spirit was pure Lennon. The working-class hero loved nothing better than tweaking the moneyed class: ‘The point was, stop moaning—you're a rich man, and we're all rich men, heh heh, baby!’ he said.”
It’s worth noting that Rave magazine tried to estimate—via royalties, film fees, and live appearances—how much each member of the band earned in 1966, the year before this song was released. Apparently, John and Paul each made about £1.2 million. In today’s money that’s £19.2 million (which equals about $25.8 million). So yeah, they were rich men, baby.
One other interesting note about this song that I just learned. In the chorus, they sing, “You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo/What a thing to do.” According to genius.com:
“Brown bags and envelopes are associated with off-the-record cash stores (in other words, attempts to avoid tax). These lines mock Scrooge-like people who hoard money and hide it away simply for the purpose of having it.”
Naturally, that didn’t stop The Beatles from trying to limit its own tax exposure. When the British government began taxing super-rich residents at a 95% rate, the band set up a partnership in the mid-1960s so the members could pay a much-lower corporate tax rate than the individual income tax rate.
“Baby, You’re a Rich Man” was the B-side of “All You Need Is Love.” So, really, all you need is love . . . and a good accountant.
Tweet(s) of the Week
Those of you who have read The Millionaire Next Door should be very familiar with this line of thinking.
The average millionaire drives a 4-year-old car with no payments.
Millionaires are normal people. They're not all wearing designer clothes with sports cars in their driveway. They are people who stay away from debt, live on less than they make, and invest consistently.
— Dave Ramsey (@DaveRamsey) November 5, 2021
And maybe something else that can be added to the next book update from Stanley and Danko.
I used to be impressed by people with fancy houses, cars, and degrees.
Now I'm impressed by people with passive income, quality networks, and complete control over their calendar.
— Brian Feroldi (🧠,📈) (@BrianFeroldi) November 4, 2021
[Editor's Note: Josh Katzowitz is the Content Director for The White Coat Investor, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and CBSSports.com. A longtime sports writer, he covers boxing for Forbes, and his work has been cited twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series. For comments, complaints, suggestions, or plaudits, email him at [email protected].]