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Becoming a Financially Literate Physician

The majority of this blog is action-oriented, focused on sharing the important “how-to’s” of personal finance for physicians. However, the philosophical aspects are maybe even more foundational. We need to establish the right mindset and approach for our following actions aimed at getting us to financial well-being and freedom. Some of this mindset work may seem self-evident. But the importance of getting ourselves into the right frame of mind to create the financial life we deserve, and desire cannot be overstated. Lastly, these philosophical hurdles were not randomly selected. They represent the biggest hurdles that I experienced in the beginning of my journey of becoming a financially literate physician as well as the most common struggles that others have confided in me as they began their journey.

financially literate physician

The first stumbling block

It’s always the one that seems the easiest: getting started.

As we’ve gone over, personal finance can seem scary, intimidating, complex, and risky. Even though we know we just need to jump in and get started, it’s all too easy to procrastinate and practice avoidance. Did I mention that the first personal finance book I ever read sat on my shelf for over a year before I read it?

The misconception here is that we believe we must “feel ready” to get started. Doctors are perfectionists. We love to feel prepared and hate making mistakes. The reality however is that we will never feel ready to start and that we will make mistakes. And until we accept this, we will never start. 

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My Past & My Unhealthy Relationship with Money

Think back to your first day on intern year. Did you feel ready? It’s easy to convince ourselves now that we were up to the task at hand. But if you are anything like me, the honest answer is, “Hell no!” Now think back to any major achievement in your life. Were you ready or prepared when you began that journey?

Chances are the answer is a resounding no. But you did start. And you succeeded. And that is the lesson. You have to start before you feel ready. In fact, you will not feel ready when you start any journey that is worthwhile. And your journey to becoming a better person and doctor through financial well-being is no different. That’s why this chapter comes before the action-filled ones.

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The next philosophical leap of faith in becoming financially literate physician…

…deals with the timing of this journey.

In my experience in the physician finance space, anyone starting this journey feels that they are starting it too late. Universally, doctors tell me that they wish they started earlier and that they worry it is too late for them. Let me simple reassure you that it is not too late. And yes, that may be the only blanket statement made in this book!

While the best day to start anything is always yesterday, the next best day is today. 

I can assure you that I have seen physicians start this journey and successfully reach their goals in all phases of their career. In practicing medicine, we graduated from training with a bag of skills and tools. The way we help patients is by determining how best to use those skills and tools given the unique set of circumstances that a particular patient presents to us. Personal finance is no different.

Any following this blog, you will possess all the necessary financial skills and tools. You will then implement these strategies based on your own unique circumstances to successfully reach financial freedom. You would never deem a patient a “hopeless case.” And neither should you do the same to yourself and your finances!

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Are you too busy to become a financially literature physician?

And while we are on the subject of timing, let’s talk about time itself as a perceived barrier to financial well-being.

Watch Jordan’s Masterclass Webinar on The 12 Steps to Financial Freedom for Physicians here!

One of my biggest concerns upon recognizing the contribution of my lack of financial well-being to my burnout was that I was just too busy to do anything about it. And I hear this echoed to me by others all the time. The truth is that, as doctors, we are all extremely busy. We have limited time outside of our clinical practice that rightfully is earmarked for family, friends, and personal wellness. So where does personal finance fit in?

Well, I will first point out that financial well-being is an important component of overall well-being as I have shared. So, your financial literacy is a worthy competitor for your time.

But the reality remains, where can we fit all of this in?

When I started my financial journey, I spent hours and hours studying, reading, listening, and testing out huge amounts of financial information. I quickly realized that this was not sustainable. So, what I did was focus instead on learning and creating small but powerful financial habits that fit into my life with minimal daily disturbance but maximum impact on my financial well-being. And here are some of those simple habits to build your financial well-being!

It ultimately took me years of trial-and-error to figure these habits out. But it doesn’t have to for you. This blog breaks down everything that I have learned about, experimented with, failed at, and finally succeeded in the realm of physician finance.

My goal is for you to be able to establish the same “high yield” financial habits that will allow you to focus less on your financial situation and more on your other priorities in life.

And I aim to do this in as concise a format as possible so that even a doctor with the busiest clinical schedule can manage to read 5-10 pages of this book every day, setting the stage for massive financial action in as efficient a manner as possible.

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And to do this, we are going to adhere strictly to the K.I.S.S. principle, keeping it simple.

And that’s not because there is a need to dumb down finances for our population of doctors. In fact, quite the opposite.

Let’s again use medicine as an example. We all know that, in medicine, there are simplifiers and complexifiers. Simplifiers can break down difficult medical concepts, presentations, and techniques to their component parts. Meanwhile, complexifiers take a medical topic and make it seem completely inaccessible. In my experience, simplifiers tend to be the ones who understand the concept at hand the best. So, I always seek out simplifiers in my field. 

Becoming a financially literate physician is no different

There are simplifiers and complexifiers in personal finance. Unfortunately, unlike in medicine, complexifiers in personal finance may have an ulterior motive of making finance seem overly complex so that you determine the only way forward is to hire them to manage your money. On top of this, they may not actually fully understand the financial strategies that they are selling you themselves. As you will see throughout these chapters, personal finance is simple.

So, find simplifiers and learn from them. In fact, if I am ever presented an investment that I don’t understand, I am confident is determining that it is not a good investment. They go into my box of current investments to avoid…

Becoming financially well and literate is achievable for every physician

Once we break down these philosophical and mindset barriers, we start to recognize the massive impact that financial freedom can have on our lives.

Financial freedom – the ability to work and practice medicine because we want to, not because we have to – starts to take focus and become more tangible for us. But one hugely important task remains.

Our path to financial well-being and freedom needs a purpose. And for that we need to answer the question, “Why?”

Here are 12 Why’s and How’s of Financial Freedom for Financial Freedom..

So what is your why? Let’s explore here!

What do you think? How can we each become a financially literate physician? What are the philosophical and action oriented steps we need to take? 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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