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3 Important Ways Family Impacts Physician Finances

None of us are in this alone. I realized recently that in many posts I talk from what can seem like an individual perspective. My written financial plan. I invest like this. And so on. But it never is. For any of us. We all have family. And that family by rule impacts our finances.

Let’s spend this post exploring how family impacts our finances, for both better and worse. We’ll also try to discuss ways to optimize personal finance within our family in the best way possible.

A quick disclaimer

The word “family” here can be applied very broadly. Whether you have a partner and kids like me, are single supporting your aging parents, or have a “family network” of friends who support you more than blood relatives, it is all family. And that family unit necessarily and appropriately have as effect on your finances.

So, this is just to say that regardless of your personal situation, I hope you will find some useful nugget here!

3 important ways that family impacts physician finances

Remember, this can be for better or worse…

1. They shape our financial mindset and values

This comes in a couple different flavors.


In our younger, pre-professional lives, the family we grow up with will create the foundation for our money mindset and overall relationship with money. I’ve discussed extensively before my previous unhealthy relationship with money.

Where and how we grow up is relatively out of our control. However, it’s helpful just to recognize this truism. That the way we grew up being taught thinking about money is not fixed. And it’s not the only option. We can change things and create a new culture for ourselves. I unfortunately see too many people stuck in old mindsets about money just because that’s how they are used to viewing it.

family finances
This is who you do it for!

Instead, keep an open mind. Welcome other ideas. Cultivate healthy habits and a healthy money mindset.


As we grow older, we get to choose the people in our lives. And perhaps the most important choice is our partner. And other than ourselves, our partner in most cases will hold the most important influence on your financial mindset and values.

Money and financial reasons are always cited as top reasons for divorce or break-ups. But the flip side can also be true, shared values related to finance can bring partners closer together and make us more in sync.

Selenid and I held very different money mindsets in the beginning of our relationship. This will happen with just about all partners. However, what is important is that we did talk about money and money issues early and throughout our relationship. This was even well before my financial education. But we still talked about how we felt in different financial situations etc.

We didn’t always agree. In fact, in the beginning, we mostly disagreed. But we kept talking about it. And eventually, we started to converge on our values, both of us adjusting some of our unhealthy values while strengthening our healthy ones. And it has made us stronger together.

If I could nail down the two most important nuggets related to dealing with finances and a partner, it’s these:

  • Focus on educating yourselves together about money, nothing is worse than arguing when neither of you is actually sure about the foundation of your argument
  • Remember that there is never an “ending” to this work. It’s a constant work in progress requiring constant conversation and evaluation of values

Here is our full guide on Finances and Your Partner: How to Get on the Same Page!


If and when we have children, it becomes our responsibility to nurture their money mindset and relationship with money.

I am definitely not an expert on this as it is something we are currently tackling with our young children.

But it is something we need to think about in terms of how we will present the topic to them. And this itself presents a fantastic opportunity to re-evaluate our own money mindset to make sure it is healthy and helping us thrive.

Here are some additional resources when it comes to dealing with finances and kids:

2. They show us the true value of money

In the game of personal finances, it’s easy to get caught up chasing numbers. Saying things like:

  • I need to reach my goal $5 million nest egg to reach financial freedom
  • Until we get passive income of $X monthly, we won’t be financially secure

But sentiments like that really just set us up for another arrival fallacy. If we chase after a goal, even a well-intentioned one like financial freedom, without a purpose, when we achieve that goal it will feel empty. I know many of us have experienced this in our careers. But it can and will happen in our personal and financial lives as well.

That’s why I believe that one of the first and most important steps in your journey to financial freedom is establishing your “big why.” Your “big why” is the reason(s) that you want to reach financial freedom. My “big why” is here.

Because in the end, money is just an object. It’s paper. Or code on a bank’s server. It’s only as good as the joy that it can bring you and your loved ones. That’s ultimately the end goal.

So, if we zoom out for a second, when our financial plan and “big why” are well-aligned, the following becomes clear:

  • Wealth –> Financial Freedom –> Ability to Create Joy for You and Your Family

Family therefore helps us keep our finances in perspective. They help us be intentional with our money.

Which brings me to my last point…

3. Family makes us do some dumb things with our finances

…when viewed from a purely financial perspective.

Because, from a purely financial perspective, having kids was probably be biggest mistake we could have made. But, and let me be very clear, having kids was the best decision (for us) that we ever made.

And that’s the sometimes maddening paradox of family and personal finances. The things we do for family many times juts don’t make financial sense. When Selenid and I moved to Buffalo, we moved to an area with great public schools. However, Selenid, with a PhD in Education, determined that a private school further away provided a better experiences in our situation. (This is less to say about the public school and more at just how great we think the other school is.) So, now we pay $2,000/month/kid for education. And you can see how this fits in with our overall money flow here: Mapping Out My Money Flow.

That just doesn’t make financial sense!

But, it does make sense when you think of it in the perspective of our “big why.” Most of our big why focuses on freedom and joy for ourselves and our family. And this decision brings us a lot of joy. Our kids are thriving and happy. They have amazing friends, while we have made many as well.

Yes, the $4,000/month we pay for tuition could accelerate our path to financial freedom. But what is the difference if we reach financial freedom 1 year, 2 years, or whatever earlier at the expense of something really important to us – to our family? It’s akin to missing the forest for the trees.

And that is what intentional spending is all about. Create a plan to reach financial freedom. And follow it. If expenses come up that allow you to keep following that plan and also bring you or your family a joy greater than or equal to the price tag, then spend the money! Here’s a great example of Selenid doing just this!

A confession

I am not good at this. There are times where spending on things like this, for family, seems to me a hindrance in the path to financial freedom.

I hate admitting this. And I’m not proud of it. And it doesn’t make me wish anything was different. But the thought does cross my mind. Even though I know it’s not a healthy money mindset.

So I am constantly working on this. Selenid helps me. And that goes back to points #1 and #2 above.

I guess I’m just saying that I understand how tough this can be! However, family is really the reason that we do all of this. So, it’s important not to lose sight of that!

A quick bonus

Another way that family influences our personal finance is that they make us think about legacy. And what we leave behind. This is something I explore more in this post: Should Doctors Die With Zero?

But it is an interesting question and a dividing philosophy. But either way, it does make you think…

And if you are looking for a one stop resource to start, optimize, or accelerate your path to financial freedom for you and your family, please consider checking out my best-selling book, Money Matters in Medicine!

What do you think? Do family and finances mix? How? What impact does family have on your personal finances? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

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