"Keep living like a resident" is a common piece of financial advice you'll hear as a young doctor. And while there's logic to the idea of living within your means to build wealth over time, Return on Life isn't about enjoying your money someday. It's about getting the most from your money every step of the way.
Prioritizing is an essential component of financial planning, especially for high earners who have lots of options on the table. Young doctors should consider moving these four things to the top of their monthly and annual budgets to balance practical money management with living their best lives.
1. Pay off your debts.
According to the Education Data Initiative, the average medical school graduate owes more than $250,000 in student loan debt, including premed. Depending on the size of your loans and the interest rates you locked in, that debt could potentially double in ten years if you're just paying minimums every month.
Even a high-earning specialist has better uses for $200,000 than interest payments. And if you lived off credit cards more than you should have as a student, get those debts off your books as well.
2. Take a vacation – or two!
The jump from a resident's salary to earning north of six figures might have you eying houses, vehicles, and home theatre upgrades. But even the nicest stuff is still just stuff that we get used to, and then tired of, much quicker than anticipated. And when it comes to houses and cars, if you're racing to "keep up with the Joneses" rather than meeting basic needs, the extra debt and expenses might stretch your salary thin.
Scheduling a few big trips and weekend getaways throughout the year can give you a taste of the good life without the headaches of replacing leaky pipes and paying higher car insurance premiums. Those experiences will create lasting memories while, potentially, connecting you to loved ones and opening your eyes to the wider world. You'll also learn the value of unplugging from your high-stress job before any workaholic habits have a chance to set in.
3. Invest in your retirement.
Take advantage of any retirement benefits your employer provides, especially an employer-match 401(k) and profit-sharing plans. Also make sure that you're making monthly contributions to a retirement savings account, an emergency savings account that can cover at least 6 months of your salary, and a brokerage account. Automate these contributions so that they don't get lumped into your monthly discretionary spending.
4. Upgrade your quality of life.
Sometimes long hours caring for patients makes it difficult to take care of yourself. If a gym membership or a new bicycle is going to give you that extra motivation to take time for your own health, those are investments worth making.
It's also probably time to put your days of living off microwave ramen and PB&J behind you. Plan your at-home meals in advance and head to your local farmers market or a quality grocery store. If the microwave is still your primary cooking tool, sign up for some classes and invest in some quality cookware.
Sleep will also be an essential part of your wellness routine. Buy a comfortable bed that's going to support your aching joints after a 12-hour shift. And resist the urge to pair it with a bedroom TV that's going to keep you up when you should be powering down.
Once you have some of these basics squared away, you can start planning for larger short-term and long-term financial goals. Do you want to buy a house in the next three-to-five years? Are you planning to get married and have kids? Would you like to open your own practice one day? Do you want to retire early?
Let’s meet to talk about the personal and professional goals we can help you plot on your $Lifeline.