Like many of you that went into medicine, I had no clue about financial literacy. Through the pre-med years, I was taking science and liberal arts classes and spending the rest of my time socializing or nerding out doing research.
Then I went to medical school, where the most financial education I received was that I should try to limit the loans I take out, but if I could not make things meet, here are a list of private institutions that will loan you money. You’ll be able to pay them back when you make the big bucks… I saw my friends and I sink deeper into debt.
Looking back, there were a few enlightened medical students that really pushed to enhance our education about financial well being. Unfortunately, like many other idealistic students, I felt that talking about money and medicine was a taboo subject to focus my energy on other extracurricular activities.
I then went through residency and fellowship, where I learned how to become a good doctor and learned how to critically evaluate medical literature to care for patients. It wasn’t until I left academy while my wife was in fellowship that I took the time to enhance my financial literacy.
Once I undertook this task, I realized that it really was not that difficult. Just like other physicians, I had always been told that I should just outsource it to an “expert” because they were trained to do this, and all that financial jargon just intimidated me. What do I do with an HSA? how much money should I put into retirement and why? What should I invest in? It just seemed so mind boggling, but now I had a reason to learn. I had all this free time since I was not mentoring residents and I was newly married and now had to think about the future.
I did the following:
1. Just like we had to take the time to learn and acclimate to medical jargon, we need to put in the effort to familiarizing ourselves with financial jargon. I used the whitecoatinvestor.com and bogleheads.org to get my financial education on.
2. I started to commit myself to reading one financial book at a time such as The Boglehead guide to retirement.
3. I found an financial advisor I could trust, this person helped me get rid of bad “investments”like a whole life policy and a disability policy that was not profession specific that I was sold from my previous “financial advisor.” He then helped me open an IRA or investment account.
4. I started learning how to invest, with the additional funds I had saved in my “emergency” account.
These steps got me started on a road to financial freedom because going out there and applying what I was learning made the financial world much less scary and just like in medicine, by doing, I was learning and ingraining these practices into my brain.