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Physician Finances: the Race vs. the Finish Line

This post is going to be less about specific financial strategies and more about philosophy. I’ve now been writing this blog for almost two years. I really love to stop and reflect on its goals, progress, successes, and failure. And as I’ve done more and more with The Prudent Plastic Surgeon, I find myself often using the same metaphor for what it is that we (you & me & everyone else here!) are doing with physician finances.

physician finances
Can you see us?!

And that metaphor is a marathon.

Let me be very clear from the start. I have never completed a marathon. I have never started a marathon. Same goes for half marathon and 5K. In high school, our gym teacher did make us run a mile every year. But I don’t count that. I also don’t have plans to run any variations on marathons in the future.

So this is purely a metaphor!

The marathon of physician finances

This metaphor works on a lot of levels. Which I guess is an attribute of good metaphors.

1. Timeframe

The most obvious is that what we are all seeking, financial freedom, is not a short term goal. It is a long term goal.

Unless you win the lottery. But even then, most lottery winners squander the money. Why? Because they didn’t have to work and plan and think long term to get it.

So I think it’s actually a good thing that financial freedom comes slowly and needs to be well thought out and planned. Again, that doesn’t make it complicated. It’s actually quite simple. But it is not easy and takes commitment. I think we have all experienced this.

2. Present vs. Reward

The other most important point here is to realize that we need to enjoy the present throughout this process.

Again, I’m not a marathon runner. But I imagine those who do run marathons try to enjoy the process as well. If all you think about is the finish line, thats spells disaster.

You’re either going to try to overexert yourself and burn out. (My burnout story here) Or you will reach the final line however many hours (days in my case) later and be miserable having wasted time being miserable.

Plan for the future. Stay in the moment.

Easier said than done and something I work on the daily!

3. Goal setting

Running 26.2 miles just for the moment you cross the finish line doesn’t sound very appealing…

Saving and investing just to reach financial freedom with no goal or plan doesn’t sound appealing either…

You need to have a “why” for the things that you do. That makes them meaningful and gives them significance.

More over, goals drive you to achieve them. Without goals, we are a boat without a rudder.

Too many people in the physician finances space focus on just the end point. But the end point without meaning, without a “why,” without goals is empty.

Which brings me to my next and last comparison in this metaphor…

4. The race vs. the finish line

When I began my journey with physician finances, I was clueless. So I sought help. I read books and blogs. Listened to podcasts. Talked to mentors. Anything I could.

But one thing really disappointed me.

All of the advice was coming from people at the finish line. They were shouting back instructions.

This was helpful, don’t get me wrong! And I am very appreciative for their guidance.

But I really wanted someone that was in the race. Someone I could run along side. Someone with whom to share my experiences. We all need that in medicine right? Even as an attending now, my colleagues are my biggest resources – especially those sharing a similar time, place, and purpose with me.

And that ultimately is why I started this blog about physician finances

I want to share my experiences in a totally transparent and relatable manner. It was scary at first. Because I have and continue to make a lot of mistakes. But that is the point!

All of us make mistakes. (Mine are well documented!) To pretend we don’t make mistakes isn’t helpful to anyone – especially ourselves. I learned this in medicine, the more I owned my mistakes, the less I became scared of them and the more I learned from them.

Turning that process outward has only amplified this experience!

I also recognize that I had the worst financial situation of any graduating resident in terms of net worth and debt that I have yet to meet.

So, I figure if I can show that I can do it, it proves that anyone can do it!

The race is what matters

In the end, this is what is important.

All of you reading this are on the race with me. And that means so much to me. And it should mean a lot to you.

To borrow from Roosevelt, it takes a lot of courage to get “in the arena.” But that is exactly where you are. And I am there too.

Our shared experiences and support is what will make us successful. It’s also what will make the whole process more enjoyable and fun!

So, thank you for being here! Thank you for allowing me to learn from you! And thank you for supporting me!

It truly means the world.

And to anyone out there who is just about to start their race, come join us!

I know exactly what it feels like to start out. I was scared and intimidated before I took my first step. Like I’ve said many times, I knew nothing and thought my previous mistakes were permanent.

But looking my mistakes in the face was actually totally freeing! It allowed me to finally move on and educate myself and take massive action. Then once you are on the path to financial freedom, it only gets easier!

For anyone at any point of the race, these are 3 posts that I considered “required reading!”

You can also sign up for instant access to my free masterclass webinar on The 12 Steps to Financial Freedom for Physicians!

What do you think? Are physician finances like a marathon? Where are you in the race? Does having a running buddy help you like it helps me? 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]

    4 thoughts on “Physician Finances: the Race vs. the Finish Line”

    1. Dr. Frey,
      I have been a physician in family medicine for 37 years and still practice in a large group 2 days a week. My life changed when 16 years ago I took a chance on starting a cosmetic surgery practice of my own, by being the first physician trained in laser-assisted liposuction in the region. I now have a consistent gross revenue of over $1M per year while still maintaining my family medicine practice. I am the only physician in the practice, my wife is a laser technician and runs the financials, and I have one aesthetician. My practice thrives in Overland Park, KS, a lucrative suburb of Kansas City.
      I believe I have a story to tell about benefiting from career shifting, keeping your career fresh and challenging, and independent financial success in a changing world of primary care.
      I will be retiring soon due to medical issues and plan to sell my practice to a like minded entrepreneurial primary care physician or plastic surgeon.
      Please pass my story on to others and would love to hear your comments.
      Greg Chambon, MD

    2. I align and agree with your concept of enjoying the marathon as much as obsessing about the finish line. There are so many complex factors that doctors balance every day and throughout our careers. Our resilience and sacrifices in medicine seem to exhaust our patience and delayed gratification for everything else but those positive attributes can serve us when we focus on what attracted us to medicine in the first place and what fuels our passion and excitement as we continue to learn and grow outside of medicine. For me, everything I have learned and continue to learn outside of medicine improves my career in medicine and that is the trick to enjoying the race.


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