Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Dr. Dahle, and make modest commissions when readers purchase his online "Fire Your Financial Advisor" course using my affiliate link. I have also appeared as a guest on his podcast.
I received a free copy of his book to review, however, I do not stand to make income from any sales of his new book that result from this post.
Dr. Jim Dahle, a.k.a. The White Coat Investor, recently released his second book, Financial Boot Camp. You can find the table of contents here. It started life as a series of a dozen emails Jim would send you in exchange for signing up for his newsletter (I vaguely recall skimming them; I should have paid greater attention).
Those who received the emails will recognize the original advice has been expanded it into a 205 page book - impressively, without padding the material with fluff.
Like all things finance, the frugal and motivated Do-It-Yourself investor can extract the pearls contained in the emails to save a few bucks. The more typical, "please just tell me what I need to know" docs, from fresh grads to late converts finally ready to receive financial communion, will appreciate both the convenient organization and the extras in the book.
Rather than a comprehensive chapter-by-chapter odyssey, I'll aim for a more concise review emphasizing:
- What will I get out of it?
- Who is it written for?
- How is it different than the bazillion other personal finance books that compete for my cash ($10 kindle version, ~$25 paperback)
What will I get out of it?
First and most important, you will receive an in-depth explanation of the most pressing actionable items in getting your financial life in order, with specific instructions on how to execute them at a basic level. It's a hand-holding introduction to financial adulthood, a sort of Our Wallets, Ourselves for newly minted physicians who find dollars sprouting in funny places where dollars never used to sprout before.
You will also get what you desperately need. Jim starts the book with a chapter on the least sexy financial topic imaginable - disability insurance - because failing to insure your earning potential is the biggest avoidable disaster you need to mitigate against. He proceeds through the typical litany of financial decisions, covering debt repayment, debt avoidance, investing basics, and specific financial landmines you must avoid.
The chapters on investing are most useful in altering your mindset and setting you on a path toward intentional saving and spending. In the ICU, when the patient is in critical condition, you watch their IV drips and pop in a Foley catheter to measure their I's and O's - which translates financially as tracking income and expenses. You are unlikely to emerge a mature Do-It-Yourself investor after reading this book, but you will certainly know what steps to take in order to become one.
Anyone who has listened to Jim on his podcast or read his replies to comments knows he has strong opinions which at times can come across as critical. Many folks newly awakened to the embarrassing shortcomings of their money management are fearful of being further excoriated by their reading material. Fortunately, Jim's book provides a reality check without judgment. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to correcting mistakes that helps you realize a) your screw-ups are entirely unoriginal in the history of doctors losing money, and b) thanks to your relatively high physician income, you will fortunately be able to overcome them quickly with the proper course-corrections.
There are appendices on further reading, a glossary defining investing terms, and (highest yield) the master checklist of tasks at the back of the book. It's convenient, and permits you to break the tasks down into manageable chunks within a ready-made to-do list.
Who is it written for?
Most physicians, dentists and their high-income kin are going to get their money's worth from this book. Consider it if you resemble one of the following descriptions:
- The newly minted physician about to leave residency who doesn't want to screw things up out of the gate.
- The prodigal attending who blew the first ten years of income on living large and seeks to make amends going forward.
- The about-to-be-married physician who's friend suggested she consider a prenup.
- The divorced or widowed physician about to remarry and form a blended family.
- The burnt out physician who is desperate to know how soon she can save enough to leave medicine entirely and open a yoga studio.
- The resident who just realized his friend's husband, the "advisor" he socializes with, sold him a whole life insurance policy he didn't need and can't afford.
- The shoestring budget family who had kids before or during medical school or residency, and already pays a great deal of attention to where money is going by necessity.
As for the financial hobbyist who has read all 31 of Big ERN's Safe Withdrawal Series articles? She's going to get far less out of this book than others, although she might find it validating of her world view. Then again, since half of these hobbyists have their own physician finance blogs, we're talking about a small number of outliers who won't learn something justifying the price of the book.
How is it different?
This book was written in a voice that remains charismatic and forceful without being a scold. When Jim indulges indignation, it's because he's tired of seeing other docs ripped off by unscrupulous insurance salespeople.
He peppers each chapter with illustrative testimonials from readers that describe either how the tenets in the book have worked for them or how they got hoodwinked. The effect links sound concepts with extremely relatable human financial tragedy and comedy. I could swear I knew someone who'd experienced virtually every story I read, which is the point: but for luck, any of us could end up a cautionary tale.
The book is written for physicians, and as such, it acknowledges the inherent late start, high probability of student debt, and pent-up urges that result from years of delayed gratification. These facts are incorporated as part of the overall plan, so that every step is immediately pertinent to the unique situation that docs find themselves in. That's a significant bonus in making the material relevant from the start.
As someone raised non-military and in California, the term "Boot Camp" always connoted expensive workout regimens where attractive women paid muscled men in tank tops to encourage them to sprint between lifting heavy objects, preferably on the beach at sunrise.
Jim's more authentic military "Boot Camp" theme delegates the reader specific missions at the start of each chapter, which are actionable items that the reader is expected to undertake. I interpreted this as a sort of responsible "financial sign out" at change of shift - only by writing it down will you remember to check the potassium and the limits of my umbrella insurance.
Another distinguishing feature dear to my cut-to-the-chase emergency medicine background is the "Can I skip this chapter?" box at the start of each new section, which asks 3-4 highly specific questions that allow the reader to quickly appreciate whether the content covered is something they have previously mastered and addressed. This is a brilliant touch, and the time it potentially saves demonstrates a respect for the reader that most other personal finance authors lack.
WCI's new book, Financial Boot Camp, is pretty darn impressive - it's everything you need to start doing, and how to get it immediately up and running at a basic but functional level.
For those who have managed to elude financial literacy for the first decade or more of their careers - those souls direly need financial triage to stop hemorrhaging more money - I'd recommend it as a higher priority read than Jim's original book, The White Coat Investor.
I'm going to add it to my list of must-reads for doctors, which means that instead of the Holy Trinity of physician finance books, we're now looking at the Fantastic Four.