A thoroughly enjoyable post from Eat the Financial Elephant recently introduced me to the concept of the Dirtbag Millionaire. This is a rare hybrid of two usually distinct personality types: the “dirtbag” being a necessarily frugal lover of the outdoors who maximizes time spent on passion pursuits (ski bum, river guide, etc) while working the bare minimum to survive, often living hand to mouth. The “millionaire” component refers to a professional with a relatively high income. I love the idea of maintaining frugal habits on a doctor’s income, and investing the difference to make progress toward financial independence.
Physicians as a group are prime contenders for adopting dirtbag millionaire lifestyles that speed us toward financial independence. At every med school, there seems to be one person who took a year off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, or a resident whose life revolves around rock climbing, mountaineering or camping in national parks. These folks began with the advantage of a low burn lifestyle, and they can win the game simply by staying true to their values.
While I’ll readily admit that having a nice home and ample help with the kids won’t qualify me for dirtbag elite status any time soon, certain natural tendencies make the lifestyle inherently appealing.
Except for socks and underwear, my clothes come used from thrift or vintage stores.
My equipment comes from craigslist. I buy it used, at deep discount, and I take care to maintain it well. Until a couple of years ago, I used the same bodyboard that I’d started with as a 16 year old. My mountain bike was bought 12 years ago with points redeemed from an American Express card I’d had since college. My carry-on travel packs were purchased exclusively from REI Garage Sales.
We eschew foodie destinations for international cuisine (the artists formerly known as ethnic dives). America’s top chef? Couldn’t pick her out of a lineup. But we’ll gladly go out of our way for Thai, Vietnamese, or Ethiopian. Our love of Persian cuisine made it a natural choice to serve at our wedding, although neither of us is of Persian heritage.
When I’m working, I sport scrubs. On days off, I don’t tuck in my shirt or shave, and my “style” such that it exists could be generously called Californian adolescent. In fact, odds are that if I’m not in the department I’m on a trail wearing a hat, cycling with a helmet, or splashing around in the ocean, yielding a 50% chance of not brushing my hair on days off. I’m grateful to have married a woman who doesn’t mind - there really is a lid for every pot!
My Kia, bought used nearly a decade ago, is the biggest beater in the doctor’s parking lot. My upholstery is accented with the toddler footprints that time forgot, rock collections from my latest hike with the kids, and sand.
What qualities do you possess that resonate with dirtbag potential?
*Thanks to the Mad FIentist, whose podcast interview with Mrs. ONL put the concept of the dirtbag millionaire on my radar.
Financial Literacy for The Newly Minted Physician