Physician Entrepreneur Spotlight: Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD (Wealthy Mom MD)
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Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Today we have Dr. Bonnie Koo, and she’s an amazing guest. She’s been on Passive Income MD. She’s been on so many different platforms. And we’re here to talk about her journey and all things about financial freedom. So Bonnie, welcome.
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: Thanks for having me on.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I’m so excited to have you on this podcast. And I’m happy to have so many physician influencers, thought leaders, so and so just tell us more about your background, your story. I know you’ve, you’ve told it, shared it, and I just want the audience to hear it again.
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: So I am a dermatologist by training. I don’t know if your audience is specifically physicians. And I am from South Korea. I actually was born there. Most people don’t know that. But I moved here when I was barely two. So it sounds like I was born here basically. So I never thought I would become an entrepreneur. Like I thought I would be a physician and do that for the rest of my life, so to speak. But things change, you meet people along the way. And my life sort of did a big I don’t want to say you turn but took a different path. And that’s kind of why we’re talking today.
I ended up working with a coach, then becoming a coach myself. And I started out in financial education and that was totally unexpected. People always asked me, how did that happen? I was just reading books and noticed that people didn’t really know much about money. And I just was helping a lot of people do that. And I really enjoyed it. And then I realized the missing piece honestly was how people think about money, all their all the belief systems. And so now I do that, and I wrote a book recently. But as I alluded to earlier, I think I’m in the middle of another transition.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: So one thing is, you were in Dermatology and that’s sort of what all medical students aspire to. And so what made you transition from Derm, to doing the work that you’re doing now?
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: I know, everyone’s like, Isn’t that like, the best specialty? But, I think with all things, it’s like, I don’t know. I think, for medicine, you have to do what you love. And so, of course, I think dermatology is best because I love it. But people say that about whatever they do, usually, hopefully people do what they love, right. And so like I said, I wasn’t expecting to do anything else, except for being a dermatologist. But like I said, I just started helping people with money education, and I wasn’t thinking about it at all as a business. But after I started working with a coach, she would tell me that she saw just so much possibility for me. And then other people also said that, and I was kind of confused, if I’m perfectly honest.
I never thought, Oh, this is gonna make me money. But I think one day I just decided, hey, why not? Because people always ask, how did you decide? Like, I think I just literally decided I kind of was like, why not? And then I made money. I made a lot of money doing this. And that was fun. And it wasn’t even so much like, it’s fun to make money, believe me. But it’s also fun to learn about business and entrepreneurship, meeting people who do that. And honestly, I think that’s what’s most fun about business is the self growth, the personal growth, and then being around other people who are doing the same. And I think business is such a great vehicle to facilitate personal growth, because you really have to go against all societal norms to be crazy enough to start your own business.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, yeah. It’s so funny. You’re so passionate about it. What’s so interesting is like you never started out with wanting to make money, it was more just like, cuz you tried something new. And you like, you found it interesting. And then you found a way to monetize it. Most entrepreneurs, they’re like, oh, I want to do this to get into money. And so but I think that’s a really interesting mindset and frame of mind. So
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: you know by definition, a business, an entrepreneur is going to make money. But if that’s the only reason, it’s just not going to be enough to sustain you, because entrepreneurship is hard. It’s so much easier to be an employee. So I think money is definitely one of the priorities. Otherwise, it’s a hobby, right? Or a nonprofit, I guess, but nonprofits have to make money too. But yeah, I think of people. I think the sky’s the limit in terms of how much money you could make, having your own business. But like I said, if that’s the only reason, it’s just going to be hard, and you’ll probably quit.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. So tell us, tell us WealthyMomMD, who it caters to what you offer, I know, a lot of the audience would be interested in finding out more about you and possibly working with you.
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: Yeah, it’s so interesting. Like, whenever I look back at decisions I’ve made sometimes I don’t understand why I made those decisions. But usually later on, it becomes more clear. So I remember when I rebranded, when I first started my blog, it was called MsBonnieMD, and that was just named after me. I didn’t really put much thought into it. And then when I decided to go all in on the business, I decided to rebrand because it’s important to know what a brand name means, for the most part, for coaching business anyway. And so Ms Bonnie MD, it just tells you that I’m a physician and my first name but doesn’t really say anything. And so that’s why I decided to rebrand to a Wealthy Mom MD, I don’t even remember how that name came about. It was definitely lots of brainstorming to get there. I had a bunch of other names. For example, I actually, I actually bought the domain Rich Bitch MD, even though I knew I wasn’t gonna use it, but I was like, that’s such a cool name. And it was available, so I bought it.
But anyway, I picked the word wealthy for a number of reasons because I knew at the time that it wasn’t just about money. Like when I think of welfare, yeah, there’s definitely money involved. But I also think it’d be more holistic and what you said earlier about the different types of free We didn’t set for you are all about like, I think emotion, sorry, wealthy, or wealth really also includes emotional wealth, right? And that includes time freedom and all that stuff. So I remember when I chose the name, I knew I wanted to pick a name that was more than just money versus, I guess I could have called myself. I don’t know, Money Mom MD or something, right? Which would have been like a great alliteration. But I think I, it’s like, I knew at the time that it wasn’t always just going to be about money. But I’m so glad I did. Because it really goes in line with what I’m thinking about doing next.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, and that brings us to a good segue if you’ve mentioned transitions. And I’ve known a lot of my friends and colleagues. 2020 2021 these were huge wake up calls, and they’re starting to live life more intentionally just to prioritize their values and beliefs in their goals. So tell us more about this, and then what you’re planning next?
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: Yeah, so, yeah, I think you’re absolutely right, I think the pandemic and not just for physicians, but everyone to kind of rethink their priorities, it really kind of forces people to pause. And I’m glad that happened. Like I don’t, I’m not glad a pandemic happened. But I think many of us really needed to have that forced pause and rest, although not all physicians got to do that. Because depending on what you do, you probably have to work more. But for a lot of people, it was like a forced pause. And I think that’s really important, because I think it makes you really think about what’s really important to you, it’s so easy to kind of like, go through the motions and stay on the hamster wheel, so to speak.
But it didn’t do that, for me specifically, like I just kind of was continuing with my business. And it just really worked out that my business was online. That’s kind of the beauty of an online business. And so I was able to just do that instead of practicing. Meaning like I could take a break from practicing. But it’s interesting, I think a lot of people assume that I must have a lot of money, or something. I mean, not that I don’t, I don’t think I think people will be surprised if they actually looked at my accounts. But that’s kind of what I really want to tell your listeners is, you can give up options that aren’t dictated by how much money you have. I think a lot of people think that.
And, on the flip side, money definitely gives you options. But it’s not 100% necessary. It’s not as necessary as people think it is to start making changes in their life. And I think what stops a lot of people is they have this like forever mindset that if they pivot, then they’re not going to make any money that’s going to derail their whole life. Does that make sense? Yeah, I just really have this mindset that things are temporary, and can change at any moment. And I mean, that in a good way. I don’t mean that in a bad way, like not having a sense of security and things like that. So it’s not what I mean. But I think when we have this mindset that for example, like as a physician, the job, because most of us are employed, it can seem really safe and secure. But I think the pandemic showed us that’s not the case.
But, a lot of the clients I work with, a lot of their goals are to work part time, and they’re so scared of doing that because of money. But it’s like what’s, I just kind of want to show everyone that it could just be temporary, because I think so many people are working so much they don’t have time to think about their life. There’s a quote by Michael Hyatt, I really like. It’s something like, most people spend more time planning their vacation than planning their life. I think that’s really true. Right? People get so excited about planning vacations. And I love planning vacations, too. But like, what if we put that same time and energy into really thinking and planning our life? So, I’m not sure if I answered your question. I may have gone off.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s so profound because, the narrative is you have to have X amount, and then you can walk away. In reality, it’s what you alluded to, it’s more just like having the ability and the means and the freedom. So I think that’s like, it is just so profound, it’s like a whole way of shifting the way we think about money and freedom and time. And I think if more people were to adopt that type of way of thinking a lot more people would be less scared to go out and do you know what they wanted to do?
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: Yeah, I mean, most people think it takes a lot of time, meaning like years, to have that money for the freedom. And I just like to challenge people like, what if that’s not true? I think that’s what stops people . Well, if I pivot, then I’m not going to be able to save enough money because most people aren’t really thinking about money in terms of compound interest in the stock market. it. And that’s like the bare minimum in my opinion, in terms of the speed of how people can make and create wealth.
I was focusing more on the other types of freedom. And obviously I do invest and put things into mostly real estate now, but also myself, like I’m only limited by what I can do, by my mind. And so I’m investing heavily in that. And I have no doubt that I’ll be creating a lot more money than I do now. So I really don’t worry about things like, oh, I’m not putting away 20 or 30 or $50,000 into investments every year. Because I don’t have that self imposed limit that that’s what’s required.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: And that’s one of the reasons why you’re able to be free and not do everything. So then you also wrote a book. And I know a lot of people are interested, because I know it had a great launch and a great public reception. So I’m just and I would love the readers to have you talk more about your book and everything.
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: Yeah, so the book I wrote is called Defining Wealth for Women: (n.) Peace, Purpose, and Plenty of Cash! And so kind of what the title talks about, it is a money book for women, but it’s not your regular money book, I’m not like taking you through, hey, this is how to invest, and this is how to do that. Like I do give some pointers. But it’s more about why so many women have trouble with money, or don’t have the confidence to invest or have self-imposed limiting beliefs. I actually explained why this is the case for most high achieving women. Because I think just from talking with literally 1000s of women, we all kind of have the same limiting beliefs. And it’s like, Huh, that’s weird, or that’s interesting. I wonder why.
And so, I’ve just learned that a lot has to do with the socialization of women specifically, but then also just what most of the world has told us about money, things like money is hard, or the pursuit of money is bad, or don’t be greedy. And people generally have a negative connotation of rich people. Or if you even say, I’m rich, like people think that’s bad. They’re like offended almost right? And it’s so strange. Like, why does money do that? Like, it’s so interesting to me. So that’s kind of what I wanted. The point of the book is just to help people understand what they think about money and how to reframe that. And so that’s why I wrote it. And yeah, so it got published early 2022.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: And so there’s so there’s so many social media posts, and there’s so many great reviews on Amazon. So for all the listeners out there, be sure to go on to Amazon, search Bonnie Koo and check out the book. It’s really a really great book. And I know a lot of physicians, they’re interested in getting started doing what you do. Any tips and pointers on how to get started?
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: So I get this question a lot. And the reason why I’m just hesitating, is because I don’t think I started it in a traditional way. Because I think most people I meet, they have the idea for the business already. And they want to know how to start like, I feel like I kind of did it a little backwards. Because I was never thinking about this as a business idea. I just noticed that I was good at this. And there was a demand for it. But I guess if I was starting all over.
I think the first thing is just having the courage to even verbalize that idea that you want to do. Because I think a lot of us hold it back. Because a lot of us are like, well, I don’t think I can do that, or someone else already does that. And so I think just listening to that inner voice, that tug that you hear or listen or feel. And then I think the next step is really to surround yourself with people doing that. Because I think if you don’t do that, and you talk to your quote unquote, regular friends, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, they’re gonna be like, why would you want to do that? For the most part, right? Like, they’ll think you’re crazy, especially if you’re a physician or some other already, well paid professional. They’ll be like, why would you want to do that? And so I think just expect that people will say that, but then I do think it’s important to surround yourself with people. And, you and I are both in the leverage and growth accelerator community. So I think communities like that are just so important. Not just for the support, but also to see that so many people are doing this because I think it helps you build the belief that well, if they can do it, maybe I can do it, too.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. community networking. That’s so awesome. So I love having continuous conversations. And I know your time is so valuable. So what? What are some final takeaways? And how can people get in contact with you?
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: Yeah, so final takeaways, I think, kind of like what I said earlier about, things are temporary and like, you never know where you’re gonna go. And I think that’s what stops a lot of people is they want to know the endpoint, and they want to know exactly how they’re going to get there. But that’s not how life works.. One of the things I say, just to illustrate that, is, someone’s married, but this could work with any relationship or anything in their life. I ask, Would you have been able to tell me how you met your husband or wife before you met them?
And the answer is always no. Right? It’s not like they had this crystal ball, Oh, I’m gonna meet this person at this place. It’s not how it works. And so yeah, and I think people know that life is not some linear path. I think most physicians, because we’re so type A, we want to be able to control things. I think we’re drawn to medicine because of that set path. But I think you have to be open, that it’s going to be circuitous. And you’re going to hit stop signs and detours, and to be okay with that. And whatever they think now about their idea of what they want to do, just expect it’s going to change over time. You go down the path, like the path is, illuminated as you go. Yeah, that’s, I think, if you’re expecting it to look a certain way, you’re just going to be really disappointed.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I was talking with a client the other day, and then we’re just talking about just like the narratives that we’re fed through just like society, and the way things should be and like, it’s just, it’s just, I’m glad that COVID happened, just because it forced everybody to just sort of wake wake up and like, see what’s going on and realize that there’s so many, we’re being fed so many different narratives, and we were able to choose what we want to believe in. So this was a fascinating conversation. We’d love to have you on the podcast in the future. And so thanks so much.
Dr. Bonnie Koo, MD: You’re welcome.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.