Full stop. There is no debate. I think that 100% of the readers of this blog will agree that financial education needs to be tied into medical eduction in medical school or training. And I think the broader world of physicians agrees. I take the number of grand rounds that I have been invited to speak at as evidence of this. I even interviewed Dr. David Song, a leader in the field of plastic surgery education, about this topic to which he agreed.
The disagreement, however, comes in how to incorporate financial education into physician training.
And this post is going to go through exactly how we can do this.
But, if you came here looking for quick, actionable steps for your personal financial situation, then go here for 11 Finance Steps for a Resident That Will Make You Over $1 Million!
Ok back to the why aspect of financial education in medical training
Last week, I gave a virtual talk to local primary care doctors about breast reconstruction. At the beginning of the talk, the host (a local academic PCP) told me that he had mentioned to his wife that I was presenting the following day. Her response was, “Oh, the finance guy.” I couldn’t help but smile.
But really what this did was lead him to talk to me about how important he felt financial education for physicians is and how much it is lacking.
He shared how during his training, they had a mandatory meeting with the HR folks to talk about the 401k investment opportunities available to residents. After they spoke for 5 minutes, they left and his program director came to the front of the room.
“Ignore everything you just heard. Spend every cent you can and enjoy it now.”
How to Find the Perfect Balance Between FIRE & YOLO
That is the paraphrased advice that he gave a room full of medicine trainees!
And wow, that is bad advice. I’m not saying residents should save everything. But to spend everything, that opens a world of hurt. Trust me, I did it!
And sadly, who do you think the residents in the audience listened to more? The HR person or their program director? I don’t think I need to answer this question.
My experience with financial education in physician training
I am pretty sure that it was in my 4th year of training that one of the senior residents invited 2 “financial advisors” to come to speak with us. Clearly, these advisors had cold contacted this senior resident who took them at face value when they said they wanted to educate us.
They spent an hour talking mostly about what I now recognize was whole life insurance. Then, they passed around a sign up sheet to which I did not sign up.
Life Insurance Advice for Physicians
That was the formal portion of our curriculum.
The informal portion of my education was both better and worse.
It was better because I did receive some very good advice from some attending mentors. It was bad because I did receive some really bad advice from some attending mentors. Sometimes they were the same ones who gave me good advice.
The worst part of it all was that I couldn’t tell the difference between which advice was good and which was bad.
My guess is that this is a similar experience to most residents and doctors in general throughout their training…
How we need to incorporate financial education into medical education
There is a common and legitimate argument by those who agree that financial education should be a part of medical eduction but don’t know how to do it.
The argument is:
With decreasing years of required training and increasing work hour restrictions, there is not enough time to both train competent and independent doctors and teach them personal finance to achieve financial well-being.
I call BS
Let me say why. I completed agree that in training, your major focus should be on learning to become the best doctor that you can.
This means focusing on medical education and experiences. But it also means focusing on self wellness. To ignore your well-being will lead to burnout. Trust me, I know.
And I also know that financial well-being is a critical but often overlooked aspect of overall well-being. And, by increasing your financial and overall well-being, you will actually become a better doctor.
So, basically you need to learn about personal finance in training to be the best doctor you can be.
Plus, it’s actually really easy to do! Just learn to build simple habits. It actually won’t take that much time or effort. But more of that later…
First the nuts and bolts…
Let me explain how to do it
When should it take place
Every residency program in every specialty in every institution has a weekly residency education conference. This protected time from clinical duties for the residents.
In my program, we had the conference from 6:30AM – 7:30AM every Wednesday.
These conferences cover the range of clinical and research topics associated with the given training specialty. In our program and most others, there were also various wellness activities that lasted about 10-15 minutes. These were usually well-intentioned but pretty ineffective. I’m sure you’ve all seen the memes where doing a 10 minute talk about resiliency is like peeing in the ocean of the burnout epidemic and hoping to turn it yellow.
So incorporate 15 minutes of each conference to financial education.
Remember, my financial curriculum is purposefully not strenuous
Recall my simple habits that will make you a financial superhero. It’s all about small habits that add up to big results.
- Read one blog post each day
- Listen to one financial podcast each week
- Read 10 pages in a finance book every day with a goal of reading 1 book each year
These are not excessive or even demanding tasks. They can be incorporated personally for even the most tasked medical trainee.
So tying these financial education strategies into medical education should follow the same advice.
Who should lead these sessions?
Anyone. Literally anybody.
It can be a resident, fellow, attending. Whoever. They can be interested in finance themselves or just want to get their personal financial situation in order. They can be a newbie or a financial veteran.
What should be used as the financial curriculum in medical education?
To start, you could even just read and discuss a blog post during each session. This will certainly take 15 minutes or less.
You could listen to one episode of The Finance Flash Go! podcast. In that podcast, I review a simple financial concept in 5-7 minutes.
You could review a chapter of any of the number of wonderful physician finance books out there.
Hey, you could even schedule a Zoom session with me or someone else to discuss finance for physicians, especially physicians in training. I love doing that.
Physician educators, don’t let the lack of a formal curriculum trip you up
I think that most program directors and such folks get caught up on the task of making a formal physician finance curriculum.
A formal curriculum is not necessary off the bat. Just plan out a set of topics and go over them. Or follow my advice above and use a blog or podcast or book.
Start before you feel you are ready. It will be refined over time.
Every program director is aware of the importance of working to improve and maintain resident well-being. Financial well-being is a huge and often overlooked component of overall well-being.
Don’t miss this opportunity!
Looking for resources to get started? Check these out!
- How to Make and Save Money as a Resident Physician
- Financial Education 101: How to Finally Get Started on the Path to Financial Well-Being
- 5 Easy Steps for Physicians Who Hate Personal Finance
- 7 Financial Habits of Highly Successful Physicians
- Business Meets the Blade: Video Interview with Dr. David Song
What do you think? Should medical education include financial education? Did your training have any component of financial education? Want to get it started? Let me know in the comments below!
And lastly, don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list below or join our Facebook group to learn more from like minded physicians!