Common Sense

Three Questions

Issue: May/June 2019

Author: Joel M. Schofer, MD MBA CPE FAAEM
Commander, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy


As I progress in my career, I find myself getting busier and busier. Some of it is my own doing. Like many successful people, I am cursed by two things — a reluctance to say no and a propensity to have opportunities floated my way.

I also find myself financially independent. When my Navy commitment ends in September of 2022, I will have amassed enough that I no longer need to work. This is a nice problem to have, but it means that I finally have to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. If I continue to work, it won’t be because I need the money.

As a regular reader of financial blogs, I recently read one on titled “Living an Intentional Life: The Three Kinder Questions.”1 The Kinder Questions were created by a financial planning guru named George Kinder. You can read about them in a article titled “3 Questions That Will Get Your Finances — and Life — on Track.”2 If you’re reading this on a format that won’t allow you to click on hyperlinks, Google the titles of the blog posts/articles and you’ll find them.

The Kinder Questions are designed to help you think about how you use your money to create the life you want. Here are the questions:

  1. I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is, how would you live your life? What would you do with the money? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
  2. This time, you visit your doctor who tells you that you have five to ten years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life, and how will you do it?
  3. This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or had been? What do I wish I had done? What did I miss?

Since most reading this are emergency physicians, we can probably relate to the second and third question. Stuff happens, and you never know when or if it’ll happen to you.

Not many people reach the end of their life and think “I wish I had worked more” or “I wish I had more money.” Your career and your financial resources are tools that should enable you to live the richest life you can possibly live. Reflecting on your unique answers to these three questions may help you assess whether your financial journey is getting you where you want to go or if somewhere along the way you took a wrong turn.

If you’d like to contact me, please email me at or check out my Navy blog for physicians,

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or the United States Government.




Thank You to Dr. Joel Schofer

The entire staff of Common Sense would like to thank Dr. Joel Schofer for his many years of dedication and commitment to this publication. His “Dollars and Sense” column has been a regular feature for years and has been very helpful to many of our members. Sadly, despite the many years of education that emergency physicians receive, many of us make poor and sometimes disastrous financial decisions. Joel’s column has brought useful insight into many of the financial issues and choices facing each of us. Common Sense wishes only the best for Joel in his career in emergency medicine while serving in the United States Navy.

— Andy Mayer, MD FAAEM
Editor, Common Sense


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