A Candid Review of WCI’s New Course: “Fire Your Financial Advisor”

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Dr. Jim Dahle, a.k.a. the White Coat Investor, is the hardest working and most entrepreneurial physician finance blogger in the space, and he’s developed an online course to spoon feed the financial GOMERs among us. As far as I’m concerned, every bit of help that weans us off the teat of Big Advisor is a welcome addition to old fashioned books and blogs.

As anyone who regularly reads this blog (I’m talking to you, Mom) knows, I’m a big enthusiast of Do-It-Yourself portfolio management. Doctors, often brilliant at handling high risk scenarios with critically ill patients, are on the whole abysmal at personal finance.

Worse than physician ignorance and disinterest is the willingness to squander their income on financial advisors, who range from honest if overcompensated to far worse. With apologies to Churchill, never have so many paid so much for so little.

Perhaps 10% of physicians possess the innate drive to teach themselves personal finance from free library books. What of the rest of us, who desire the savings and control over our financial destinies but can’t muster the motivation to assemble our own curriculum and teach ourselves?

I estimate there’s another 20% of docs who could, with a bit of basic financial literacy and online mentorship, manage a lazy three-fund portfolio on their own and enjoy tens of thousands of dollars a year in savings. This course is meant to reach that 20% and light a fire under their butts. It’s not a panacea, and it won’t make complacent docs motivated by virtue of purchasing it.

Target Audience
I’d consider the intended audience to include (but not be limited to):

  1. Residents and fellows who want to optimize their finances out of the gate.
  2. New attendings who bought a finance book, made it at least halfway through, and feel ready to commit to doing a modicum of work to reap disproportionate benefits.
  3. Med students in significant debt with the foresight to plan their debt elimination strategy.
  4. A take charge, tiger spouse of a physician who aptly handles family logistics and is motivated to do the same for family finances.
  5. The born-again mid-career physician with a major life change (illness, divorce, loss of mojo) who suddenly finds herself open to radically taking charge of her financial life.
  6. In-sourcers and self-motivated learners. People who like to understand how things work, and who tend to watch youtube videos or read books to teach themselves how to do perform basic home maintenance tasks rather than pay a handyman. The med student who learned to fix his ancient washing machine and perform oil changes on his own car.
  7. Time-conscious schedulers. People who organize their lives on google calendar. Friends who show up at the coffee shop at exactly the time you’d agreed on.
  8. Measurement-obsessed trackers. The gym rat who weighs himself daily. The undergrad who writes a list of goals at the start of every quarter, and then journals her progress toward those goals weekly. OCD is a positive predictor of the ability to manage your own finances.

Equally important, let me identify who this course is not for:

  1. Folks who can’t commit, identified by inability to read a single finance book, or who bookmark without ever reading finance-related blog posts.
  2. Folks who have devoured every blog post on the WCI website, know the specialty of the major commenters on the WCI forum, and have already read the holy trinity of physician finance books. Give it a year and you’ll be managing your own portfolio without the need for this course.
  3. Docs whose parents or spouse have paid for the course as a gift to them, but have no personal skin in the game. This course (and financial literacy) is not a gift, it’s a commitment!
  4. Outsourcers. People who rely on hiring others for any tasks outside of their expertise or existing comfort zone. The med student who paid someone to hang framed posters on the wall. The resident who could not unclog hair from the sink drain without a plumber.

How You’ll Learn
There is no secret stash of never before published WCI posts – everything you find in this course is available free on the website, but it’s scattered and you’ll have to work to find and devour the relevant posts to obtain the same information. A motivated learner should by all means save $500 and do it this way.

The course is a collection and distillation of the most pertinent information into brief, easily digestible videos (think 3-15 minutes) starring the good Dr. Dahle. There are also a few narrated powerpoint presentations that one suspects Jim has given as a lecturer and adapted for this course. This does not in any way lessen their value; it just validates my impression that he is a sharp businessman.

A word about those videos. Jim is known for his authoritative, opinionated views, and he delivers them with the same humor and aplomb you’ve come to value in his writing. He is that whip smart friend of yours from high school who played ice hockey.

You’ll get great and actionable information, just don’t expect Shakespeare from Gretzky. As a kid who participated in high school musical theater rather than sports, I’ll grant that this perspective could be my means of exacting revenge on a helpless jock. On the other hand, after her impressive debut and winsome writing style, why not include a cameo appearance by financially savvy daughter Whitney in the next go-round?

What You’ll Get For Your Money
Most sections begin with an overview video, followed by up to ten videos related to that section’s theme. Each section ends with a quiz, complete with separate explanations to help you understand why certain answers are right or wrong. When appropriate, there are examples of investor policy statements, written financial plans, and asset protection plans.

The examples (and the worksheets that allow you to create your own plan) are the real gems in this course. Dr. Dahle is basically giving you templates that can be tweaked to work for your particular situation.  While the Bogleheads wiki can provide the resourceful reader with similar examples, the depth and care with which each plan component is explicitly laid out means you’ll complete the course having created a written financial plan tailored to your needs.

Topics are comprehensive and include an introduction to personal finance, financial advisors, insurance, housing, spending, investing, estate planning, asset protection, and staying the course.

The course has a “second thoughts clause” where you can get a full refund after 7 days if it’s not for you – a nice touch to let you look over the materials and decide if you can benefit from them.

Why Am I Promoting This?
$499 for an online financial course is a pretty penny, especially for those earlier in their training.  Is this price fair? Let’s put it in perspective. To pay a fee-only financial advisor for one-time creation of a personalized investment plan will run in the ballpark of $5000. On accumulating your first million, you’ll pay $10,000 a year plus fund expenses to an advisor who charges 1% of Assets Under Management for what at that point will constitute a few hours of work per year. Costing one to two orders of magnitude less, $499 seems  reasonable if you can commit to doing the work.

If you are in that 20% of high income professionals, I’d love to be the guy who nudged you into a lifelong habit of saving and avoiding unnecessary advisor fees. You’ll be tens of thousands of dollars richer.

If you purchase the course through this link I’ll make a commission at no additional cost to you. This is my first affiliate relationship, and I’m taking it slow. WCI and I have barely reached first base as affiliates go.

Since I don’t have a formal conflict of interest policy, let me try to lay it out as succinctly as possible:

  1. I’ll be honest like I was when I online dated about any products I sell. You’ll know my real height, my real age, and my real opinion about any offerings on my website.
  2. I’ll always disclose when I stand to make money on an endorsement or referral.
  3. I’ll only be a shill for tools that  will enhance your journey to FI or empower you to manage your own portfolio. Being a rich doctor, I don’t need the money, but I do yearn to satisfy my curiosity about entrepreneurship in an ethical manner.

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