5 Personal Financial Habits of Successful Young Physicians

What’s the best way to build wealth during your career in medicine? There is no shortage of opinions about it. But like most things, the path to financial security is founded on sound principles. In our experience working with physicians, successful young doctors tend to possess the same five personal financial habits. Let’s take a closer look at some of these fundamental ideas:

Keep Track of Your Financial Situation

Just as patients should come in for their annual check-ups, physicians should also do regular financial reviews. Once you know where you stand financially, you can take specific actions to improve your financial health.  

  • Have you ever looked up your FICO score? A FICO score tells lenders about your creditworthiness, or how likely you are to pay back a loan. A credit score of 700 or above is generally considered good, but you should aim for something around 750 or higher. 
  • Review your credit report – You can request a free copy of your credit report here: https://www.annualcreditreport.com. Examine your credit report and look for errors or signs of fraud. If your report shows a lot of late payments, figure out what you need to do to avoid them in the future.
  • Calculate your net worth, then track and improve it over time. Your net worth is the value of your assets, minus your liabilities. Like your credit score, it’s an important gauge of your financial health. 
  • Track your cash flow It’s easy to overspend if you don’t make a habit of tracking where your cash is going. Set up a tracking system that works for you. Your bank’s tools or mobile apps such as mint.com can help you set goals, create budgets, and stay on target.

Automate Your Savings

Saving money is tough. 40% of Americans don’t have enough to cover a $400 emergency. You are more likely to save consistently if you automate your savings.   

  • Set up your retirement accounts to automatically draw from your paycheck so you’ll never miss the money. Set savings goals and check-in periodically to watch your savings grow.
  • Each time you receive a pay raise, increase your automatic savings in proportion to the increase.

Forgo Your Ego

Avoid the temptation to compare yourself to other doctors. Everyone is in a unique situation, so do your best with the resources you have.

  • Live like a resident – You’ve become a pro at living frugally and being mindful about your spending. Keep up those spending habits so you can start saving toward a financially secure future.
  • Pay off your debt as soon as possible. The majority of us have some degree of debt. Learn about the interest rates on your loans and do what you can to find a better deal or consolidate your debt. The borrowed money served you well, but it’s time to start paying it down. Every bit helps; just keep going! If you can afford to pay more than the minimum payment, do it!

Think Long Term

While building personal wealth takes time and patience, you can gain stability and confidence in your saving and investing habits now.

  • Appreciate the value of time – It’s never too late to start saving and investing, but if you’re starting now, time is on your side. $1,000 dollars invested at age 30 can grow to over $10,000 by age 65 if it grows at 7% a year.
  • Create and record your short-term, mid-term and long-term goals – These may include big purchases or investments like cars or houses, or long-term goals like early retirement. Keep these goals in a highly visible place so you can revisit and adjust them frequently.

Manage Your Risks Proactively

Risk exposures are the potential for loss from an adverse event. Some risks, such as the loss of income from disability or death, can be proactively managed with insurance. Once you identify your exposures, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of protection you need.

  • Purchase a good disability insurance policy to protect your most important assets: your brain and your hands.
  • Make sure you have insurance coverage for your car and home. An auto accident or damage from a storm or earthquake can set you back years financially if you aren’t adequately insured. If you’re renting, be sure to purchase renters’ insurance.
  • If you have a family or dependents, buy sufficient life insurance while you’re young and free from illness. 

The most important advice for building personal wealth and stability is to have a financial plan and follow it. We’d love to talk to you about your individual financial situation. Let us be your partner as you create and set goals so that you can live the life you’ve dreamed of. Your goals are within reach, let’s get there together.

About Monica Ma

Monica Ma, CFP®, CFA® is an advisor and the chair of the Investment Committee at Blankinship & Foster LLC. She helps clients build sound investment portfolios and develop strategic plans to reach their goals. Since Monica is passionate about sharing her knowledge with women and retirees, she co-leads the firm's Wise Women and Living Wisely Educational Series. Monica is a member of the International Community Foundation's Investment and Finance Committee. She has been living in San Diego since 2008 and enjoys travelling and cooking with her family.

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