Young Doctors Face Unique Financial Challenges—and Opportunities

| February 23, 2018
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One of the many crude generalizations about doctors and dentists is that all of them live a life of affluence—that they all enjoy high-paying positions that lend them financial security. This is dubious at best, and for younger physicians it’s flat-out untrue.

Consider: Most doctors spend the bulk of their twenties in school and internships, during which time they can often accrue big student debts. By the time they’re in their thirties they face the decision to either join an existing practice—where they won’t start out making high-end salaries—or launch their own, which can be rewarding but also costly.

For young doctors, it’s overwhelming just to find a sense of financial steadiness. Long-term savings and financial planning can be more elusive still. And yet, it’s when you’re young that financial planning makes the most sense; the earlier in your career you can start outlining your financial goals, the more ably you’ll achieve them.

Too Much, Too Soon

There are certain challenges that are common among young doctors, and one of them is what’s known as “lifestyle creep.”

What happens is this: For years you watch your old high school and college buddies climb the corporate ladder, advancing in both career and lifestyle. Meanwhile, you’re working long, hard hours in emergency rooms and urgent cares, getting your education under your belt but hardly pulling down big money.

When you finally do land that first job, it’s all too tempting to try to make up for lost time—running out to buy a car, a house, or a boat that you frankly can’t afford.

The solution is not for young doctors to live as though they’re in a monastery, but there is prudence in saving some money and easing into your new lifestyle.

Consider three points here. First, the burnout rate among physicians is extremely high—so while you may plan to be making big money in a decade’s or two decade’s time, there’s no guarantee. Second, the money you save now will start accruing interest right away, which means that setting aside retirement funds is something best done early in your career. And third, the more you save now, the more you’ll be able to do down the road; it’s not about being miserly so much as giving yourself plenty of options.

Understanding Your Financial Timeline

Something else for young doctors to consider is that they generally work with a compressed financial timeline—at least compared to the rest of the working world.

Because you spend so many years completing your training, you’re not likely to start saving for retirement right away; in fact, you may not be able to do so until you’re in your mid-thirties. So you’re getting a late start, as far as that goes. At the same time, you’re not as likely to stay working as long as people in non-medical fields—so you’re starting late but also ending early.

The compressed timeline makes it all the more imperative to seek the right financial counsel sooner rather than later. It also means you have more financial potholes to dodge—for instance, it’s not uncommon for doctors to move up in tax brackets quite quickly, meaning you may see your salary rise but also be unprepared for the tax implications.

Asking for Help

A final note: As a doctor, you can get pretty used to being the expert in the room—but remember: You went to school to study medicine, not finance—and the two disciplines really don’t have much in common!

So, in addition to being consumed with running their practice, young doctors can also be reluctant to ask for financial assistance. That’s a mistake. It’s precisely when you are young and busy that it makes the most sense to enlist a financial professional, someone who can set you down the road to personal and professional success now, when opportunities are most abundant.

That’s something The Medicus Group can help with; our financial services are tailored to medical professionals, and we’re especially eager to work with younger docs who want to start their career out on the right financial footing. Contact us today by visiting www.mymedicusgroup.com to learn more about how The Medicus Group can help.

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