The Time I Got Slaughtered on Twitter: A Response

Financial Planning for Doctors

Recently, I came under fire for my open letter to my wife.  If you want to see the twitter rampage caused by my post, you can find it here. It includes comments from people (that don’t know my wife or me) who think my wife should divorce or “accidentally off” me.  This is the story of the time I got slaughtered on twitter.

To start, we will discuss the intent of the original post and where it went wrong.  Then, I’m going to go point-by-point and respond to the three major criticisms that were vehemently thrown my way.  

Note: For those who are interested, I encourage you to check out the #HeForShe Movement. I have an upcoming post dedicated to this topic, but just recently learned the name of this specific movement which helps support gender equality for the women in our lives. 

P.S. Any hateful comments on this post will be deleted and your IP address will be blocked.

The Original Intent

When I sat down to write my open letter to my wife, I had a few goals in mind.  

First, I wanted to encourage critical thinking for people who bear the majority of the responsibility for the technical aspects of their family’s finances (investing, refinancing, etc). 

This stuff isn’t very straightforward for people who don’t have an interest in the financial nuts and bolts.  For this reason, I felt my letter could encourage people to write their own in case they found themselves in a similar situation.

While I want my wife to have as much control of the finances as she is willing to take, she simply isn’t as interested as I am in knowing the in’s and out’s of 403B’s, governmental 457’s versus non-governmental 457s, IRA’s, and index fund investing

This brings me to the second point of writing my letter.  I wanted the post to produce some good conversation about a tough topic: the financial and emotional ramifications of an unexpected death.  

Finally, I wanted my wife to know how I felt and what to consider doing financially if I died. 

Could I have emailed it to her or stuck it in a shoe box under our bed?  Yes. I also could have had a conversation with her.  Likely to the surprise of most of the people who destroyed me on twitter, we actually do have these conversations.

However, this is a blog, and a private conversation alone wouldn’t have been helpful to other people who need to have tough financial conversations, too.

The Original Response Turns Ugly

The original response to my post was overwhelmingly positive. 

Multiple people – both women and men – emailed me and/or commented on the post to let me know that it encouraged them to have similar conversations with their spouse.  

It had the intended impact I was looking for with many of my readers.

A Shot Across the Bow

Then, a few weeks later – after it was syndicated on Kevin MD – I noticed a spike in traffic on The Physician Philosopher. 

Curious to know the source of the increased traffic, I tracked down a tweet by Dr. Jen Gunter (linked at the beginning of the post) and the ensuing negative comment avalanche that followed.   

Her tweet said the following about my letter,

“…is full of patriarchal condescending bullshit and is written like a sophomore.”

The lens with which some people were viewing my open letter to my wife was different than the initial audience.  They felt that I was acting in a chauvinistic, condescending, and sexist manner.  Multiple comments made it apparent that I was talking down to my wife and treating her like a child.

Being a proponent of using criticism to better myself, I read the post again with their lens in place.  

Honestly, without the proper context, I could definitely see what they were saying.  

So, for the rest of the post, I’d like to set the record straight.  Here are the three major arguments made in the comments, and my response to each.  

Comment #1: Flaunting Wealth

Multiple people commented that I was flaunting our wealth by saying that my wife would become immediately financially independent through my life insurance policies if I died.  They made smug comments about buying furs, diamonds, and other expensive items.

Lest we forget, both my target audience and Kevin MD’s include physicians and other high-income earners.  Ultimately, the people arguing that I was flaunting our wealth have two major flaws in their financial thought processes.   

First, income does not equal wealth.  In fact, 25-50% of physicians at the age of 60 cannot retire at their current lifestyle (read: not wealthy enough)  despite their very high-income.  

Similarly, the mere fact that I require a term-life insurance policy to protect my family’s future implies that we are not financially independent.  

So, I was actually flaunting our lack of wealth in pointing out our need for life insurance.  

Second, if you are a physician or another high-income earner who is married or with children and you have not insured your family’s future with life insurance, why are you casting stones in my direction?   

Neither your high income nor tomorrow are guaranteed.  Go and get life insurance for your family.  (Note: Buy term-life, not whole life insurance)

Comment #2: Patriarchal, Paternalistic, and Condescending

If I am being honest, the comments about me being condescending and patriarchal to my wife bothered me the most. 

In the world outside of the internet – where real life actually happens – I empower my wife (and all of the other women in my life) as much as possible.   Just like they empower me.

A Part of the #HeForShe Movement

Anytime I am around a female physician who is not called “doctor” by someone else while in front of a patient, I correct them and make sure that they address them as “doctor.”  I do the same for my resident physicians in training who are women. Literally without exception. 

They should be acknowledged for their hard work just as much as any other physician.

I recognize that these women can stand up for themselves.  Still, I want them to know that they have my full support if they ever needed it.

This isn’t to make a big deal about me doing what is obviously right, but to point out why it bothered me so much to be cast in the opposite light in the twitter comments about my letter to my wife. 

Reading My Open Letter With a Different Perspective

When I went back and read my letter again through the lens provided by the comments on twitter – I have to admit – if you didn’t know me or my wife, the letter did seem condescending.  

There were really three major problems.

(1) Poor word choice was an issue (i.e. the comment about prenuptial agreements and her “awesome financial situation” if I died are examples – yes, those were both meant for satire given my obvious infatuation with personal finance). 

(2) Part of the issue involved inside jokes that only my wife would understand (i.e. the math comments). 

(3) And the other comment that upset people is the truth (my wife doesn’t want a lot to do with the technical aspect of our financial plan). 

Let’s discuss these last two items a little further.

Oh, Math.

For the last few years my wife has worked as a reading facilitator (i.e. reading teacher) at an elementary school.  So, she commonly gives me a hard time about mixing up my words when I read to our kids, because I have some trouble with reading.

I can laugh at my faults, and realize it’s all in good fun. In turn, I give her a hard time about math, which isn’t her favorite subject.  

My inside jokes about math are clearly not well translated in the post, because it was written for her. While she understood the jokes and laughed when she read it, I completely understand why people took issue with it after reading back through the post.

Out of context, it reads like a condescending horror novel at times.

A Misunderstanding About Our Partnership

Regarding my wife not knowing what to do with our financial accounts if I died…well, that part is the honest truth.  It might sound like “mansplaining,” but hear me out.

My wife trusts me with the technical aspects of our finances.  I cannot force her to be more involved in deciding which funds to invest into which account.  Actually, I don’t force my wife to do anything.  It’s her choice.  Hopefully, people can respect that.

All of this led to a misunderstanding and wrongful characterization of our marriage. 

Does my wife’s limited interaction with the technical aspects of our finances – like performing our annual backdoor Roth IRA or knowing the intricacies of the student loan landscape – mean that we don’t talk about financial goals and life aspirations?  Absolutely not. 

We have financial conversations regularly, and her opinions matter just as much as mine. 

Still, this doesn’t dilute the fact that she trusts me to help us get to the numbers needed for the goals that we have outlined.  I punch the keys on our 403B, governmental 457, taxable account, backdoor Roth IRA, and student loan payments

In the end, though, we make our life goals together.  

In all sincerity, I apologize for choosing my words poorly.  The apparent condescension certainly wasn’t my intention.   

Comment #3: Divorce and Murder

This is the only response where I intend to be blunt and unapologetic. 

Divorce and murder were the first comment thrown out by many people on Dr. Gunter’s tweet.

I admit that my open letter could have been written more eloquently and with a whole lot better tone given that I put it out there for the world to see. However, it was an honest mistake.  

Calling for my wife to divorce or murder me and make it “look like an accident” is pretty low – even for social media standards.  Particularly, given that many of those commenting were physicians responsible for peoples’ lives. 

Do we think this lowly of every patient we take care of with whom we disagree?

While the divorce comments were meant to harm me, they actually encouraged me. See, my wife loves and forgives me when I don’t say things as well as I should or, God forbid, when I say the wrong thing entirely. 

In fact, there is a lot that we can learn from her example.  

Take Home

We teach our kids that they don’t need to be perfect, because we all make mistakes.  It’s part of being human. 

Hopefully, the people who attempted to crucify me on social media can recognize that they too have made mistakes with their words.  We don’t always get it right the first time.  

In the end, if this whole ordeal serves to highlight my failures so that more focus can be placed on respecting the women in our lives, I am fine with that.  But, you should know that’s where my heart was the entire time, even if my words failed to reflect that in my original open letter to my wife.

Have your words ever failed you?  Have you ever had an experience similar to mine?  What do you think of the initial reaction and my response? Leave a comment below.

TPP


35 thoughts on “The Time I Got Slaughtered on Twitter: A Response”

  1. There’s no shortage of people who won’t be offended by something and look to tear you down out there. It’s just where society is at in 2018, and the socials give them the perfect tools to wield.

    I’ve met you in person and know who you are. Press on. 🙂

  2. The one thing about the written form is that without hearing the original author’s intent behind it, it can be loosely interpreted to whatever bias the reader has.

    Sometimes I send a text to my girlfriend intending it to be read one way and then it causes issues when it was read in a totally unexpected light (and vice versa). Emjoi’s can sometimes help with this but even then it is not conveyed as well as hearing the other person deliver it.

    What physicians say on social media no longer shocks me after I read some of the comments on physician on Fire’s post about FIRE. There are some people that just are vile and bitter and wearing a white coat does not take that away. I think it is a reflection of their own inadequacies and they want to lash out against anyone that is doing something that they can not do.

  3. Your letter was fine. I read it and appreciated it at the time.

    The problem here is you are trying to justify yourself to, who exactly? People on Twitter? Really? The underlying premise is that just because someone tweets, he or she deserves a response? It used to be that when people spoke nonsense, or even shouted it, they were ignored. Now they “tweet” it, and suddenly they merit a response? Strange world!

    • Yeah, I partially agree with you.

      The thing is that it’s really important to me that people know that I stand up for the women in my life and (warranted or not) I felt the need to defend that.

      It is a strange world in which we live.

  4. I really enjoyed your letter to your wife. It was spot on. People did not like it because you were speaking the truth and that is hard to hear. Do not let it deter you. Lots of women know nothing about family finances and that’s a big problem if they become a widow. Sorry but this is the truth. I am a female physician who got married late so I do know about financial issues. I think the person who earns the money knows how hard it was to get and has the biggest interest in not wasting it.

    • I appreciate your support, Anne. I think for anyone who is following along with my blog, they read it with the intended perspective.

      Then it got placed out of context and caught like wild fire 🙂

      Thanks again for your kind words!

  5. Wow. Never in my life I would have expected such a negative Twitter response as the one you highlighted.

    I remember reading your letter for the first time several weeks ago and I thought it was heart-felt, sincere, and honestly cute. As someone who is in a similar position trying to do the best that they can… it’s appalling and disappointing that people can take things in such a wrong way.

    It’s brave of you to address this directly. The weird thing is… all of your Twitter haters will likely not read this apologetic clarification and keep on hatin’. On the other hand, all of your supporters / fans / friends (myself included) WILL read it. I think that’s the irony of it all.

    Anyway, I’m sorry you had to deal with such Twitter hate. Especially the murder and divorce commentary. Very senseless in my opinion. Keep on doing what you do. You are doing a lot of good. 🙂

    • Thanks, DMF. I appreciate you having my back.

      I spent a lot of time writing this post (probably double what I normally do) and still didn’t say everything on my mind.

      I, too, was blown away by the hateful response… I guess it’s just the social media murder seen we live in these days.

  6. The internet is a brave new world where we people feel empowered to say things they would never say to a person’s face.

    I know you and know your heart. Even if I didn’t know you, there is nothing condescending in that post IMO. Hateful comments from people with an ax to grind on a particular issue are often the worst offenders. I’d like to say I choose to ignore them. As you know, I also wrote a post in response to a reader comment (which I refused to publish).

    Like you, I wrote a response. I’ve had hundreds of comments on articles I’ve written. 99.99% of them have been positive, not always in agreement. I’m fine with people disagreeing with me. Like you, I hope to learn from it.

    The Twitter rant does not fit into that category. That was off the chain ridiculous. It was like one tried to outdo the other. I wish you and I would have ignored and not responded to the criticism. Having done so myself, I understand why you did.

    In the future, I hope I can ignore it and move on. Time will tell.

    I loved your post. More importantly, the one to whom it was written did too.

    Keep up the great work, brother!

    • Thanks, Fred.

      I just wanted to defend my beliefs and my thoughts in a way that helped people better realizr where I stand.

      The next time (if there is one) I probably won’t respond. This time it felt necessary for some reason.

      Appreciate your support and encouragement, as always!

  7. I did not read the original thread but do enjoy a brushing online kerfuffle!

    Given the online persona of the primary detractor, and her body of work, the criticism was at least as much about drawing attention to herself as it was about cutting you down. You were just the sacrificial lamb.

    Maybe you got some new readers over the ordeal? The only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity.

    Rock on!

  8. The thing that was top of mind for me reading this and your original was that we don’t tend to realize that we’re a very odd / quirky subset here in the PF world. I can’t bear misogyny and microaggressions and if you weren’t in the PF world, I would have misread your math joke as one of the many that men tend to make about women because we hear that sort of thing *all the time* and it’s not at all meant in a joking or positive light. In this context, I understood it the first time around as an inside joke that you were laying bare for a moment but only because I’m familiar with our community and your writing.

    Too many people are willing to suggest terrible things on the internet, though, and that’s common across every community unfortunately. That stuff, I just don’t get.

  9. Wow. I loved that piece. I had no idea there was such a backlash. I guess I’m glad to not be “internet famous” most of the time. You were vulnerable and shared an important type of communication that all too many of us could use more of.
    Kudos to you for using that as an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement and not lashing out as many of us would be tempted to do.

    • Thanks, WD.

      I’d be lying if I said my first crack at this post wasn’t a bit snarky. Then, I realized there wasn’t any point in having it read that way.

      P.s. you are totally internet famous! You were one of the first to start this whole trend 🙂

  10. I liked your original letter. Made me want to write one too. Maybe I still will. I’ll be sure to include how my wife gives me a glassy eyed stare whenever we talk FI and how she just assumes I’m doing it right. And how much she hates spreadsheets and thinks my expenses tracking is a waste or time.

    We all have our interests. Our wives not so interested in the numbers. That’s cool. I’m not interested in all sorts ofb things she likes.

    To assume she should be or to try and socially enforce her to find it interesting is silly.

  11. Some people just can’t handle when reality actually fulfills a stereotype in their mind. If your wife doesn’t want to be as involved in the finances and she’s made that conscious decision then that’s her right. Should she be someone who she isn’t just to promote what another woman on Twitter considers to be feminism? By definition that’s anti-feminism (not letting a woman be whoever she wants to be). Plus I’m sure she actually really appreciates you sharing your words and being proactive in having a plan in case something happened to you.
    That letter is for your wife. Not for anyone else. You were just kind enough to share this with everyone to help spark the idea of planning ahead for others.
    Just keep being you. Haters gonna hate. They always will.

  12. TPP, sorry you had that negative experience. Things can be taken out of context and twisted to fit someone’s agenda. Just like in medicine. People will always find a reason to sue, justified or not. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re helping thousands of people out there. I’ve met you and you are an awesome human being. Your family, residents, and co-workers are lucky to have you. Chin up – you got this.

  13. People used to give each other the benefit of the doubt, but social media has stripped that tendency away. So those people hating are just automatically assuming the absolute worst conclusions possible from your original post.

  14. The main problem with the letter isn’t the tone, which could have been better (particularity in an open letter where the public doesn’t know your in-jokes). The real issue is the fact that nearly all of your suggestions are wrong. Three mistakes are listed here, I’d suggest consulting with a competent financial planner and estate attorney to find the others (don’t rely on someone you met at church!).

    1. Under current law, you can, at most, place $75,000 into a 529 plan without gift tax consequences. Assuming you have 2 children, your wife will make a $50,000 taxable gift if she places $100,000 into each of their 529s immediately after your death.

    2. It sounds like most of your wife’s wealth will come from the term life insurance policies you have purchased. Since you are worried about the estate tax, I assume you have purchased at least $20 million. Holding these policies in your own name, rather than in a trust, is, frankly, stupid. In a properly established and funded trust, these funds will be shielded from estate and GST tax forever. They will also not be subject to claims of creditors of your wife or descendants, including any future ex-spouses.

    3. Your Vanguard portfolio allocation makes a certain amount of sense, assuming you are reasonably young. However she will need to re-balance over time. If she sets and forgets, there is a non-negligible chance that she will exhaust your funds, unless you’ve purchased an enormous policy. Having such a policy would also be a mistake.

    • Appreciate the response.

      1. Yeah, some bad math on my part. I realize that you can only up front five years and the current gift tax limit is 15k (which results in the 75k number you mentioned). Thanks for pointing that out, I’ll correct it.

      2. I shouldn’t have said this. My life insurance policies are no where near the new estate tax limits (22.8 million for a married couple). Someone pointed this out, but the response post was getting too long and so I deleted it. So, not quite so stupid on that one 🙂

      3) my letter discussed the first steps and certainly couldn’t discuss all of them. That would require a book. I think that initial asset allocation would be just fine and would stand behind it. As she grows older, the account would require rebalancing and over time a safer asset allocation… But I’d argue not much safer. Once there is too large of a portion in bonds we fail to keep up with inflation and our draw down. This is shown in the safe withdrawal studies.

      P.s. I also alluded to the fact that she might need help from a financial professional, and have written lots of posts (including today’s) on how to pick the right advisor.

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’ll correct the mistakes later.

  15. Looks to me like you just wandered into a hive of misandry with Queen Bee Dr. Gunter. Reading some of her other posts it looks like she has formed an echo chamber for her hatred. The most scary thing is the number of followers she has.
    Granted, I read the rebuttal before the open letter, but didn’t find any of the arrogance she references. I understand that it is an open letter to your wife, knowing her personal strengths and weaknesses. Not a letter to all women. I also understand that you would have inside jokes.

    On the investment advice, unlike the last commenter, I think it may be too conservative. Depending on her age, it might be better to put the retirement accounts into all stocks, not all bonds. With time to grow and plenty of funds in the taxable accounts, there is no reason not to go for max returns.

    • The other commenter is like a financial advisor of some sort 🙂

      Maybe it doesn’t read this way, but I want her to only go all bonds with the small amount of money in our retirement accounts right now. She would likely end up being 70% stocks 30% bonds overall. Maybe a touch more in stocks.

  16. You have to have thick skin if you are going to post something on social media. People get bold at throwing rocks when they can do it anonymously. Many commenters only make bad comments. I have noticed several who only make a comment if they can put you down. The “You misspelled that” comment should not be done on social media, make it a private direct comment so the person can fix it. That would be helpful. I guess they feel the need to tell the world they are a great editor/spell checker. It’s a lot like yelling to the whole room that your fly is unzipped rather than quietly telling you to zip your fly. Putting you down or embarrassing you makes them feel superior.

    Many make comments designed to stir the pot. They get satisfaction in seeing lots of comments about their comment, rather than about the article. The wilder their comment, the better the reaction. It kind of gets ridiculous sometimes. Then the comment section gets out of hand and ends up completely off topic.

    We could all stand to learn to communicate better on social media. More uplifting and less putting people down. Telling your wife to divorce you because a reader doesn’t like what you said is absurd. Unfortunately, the commenter hasn’t learned that lesson yet.

    Keep on writing and just ignore those absurd comments (I know that’s hard) and delete them when you can since they aren’t helping anybody anyway.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    • Thanks for the good advice, Cory. It was hard not to respond, and so I did. Not sure I’ll do it again in the future. Maybe I should just not check my WordPress traffic and then I wouldn’t have even figured it out!

      My skin is growing thicker by the day, though!!

  17. I read the original letter first. Then The Twitter response. Holy cow! I should no longer be amazed at how viciously poor some docs can treat their colleagues because I’ve seen it numerous times, but much of what was said was totally uncalled for and blatantly wrong.

    Keep your chin up and keep doing good work here.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  18. Who cares? Do you let yourself really get caught up in what others say on twitter? Ignore it. Life too short to pay any attention or effort to that garbage.

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