Money Conversations: Why Some Physicians are Financially Free and Others Are Not

One of the lesser talked about things contributing to the stress and overwhelm of physicians today is financial matters. As ironic as it seems, many physicians struggle financially despite relatively higher than average income.The general public thinks that doctors automatically live lavishly, but the truth is there are a significant amount of physicians who are living paycheck to paycheck.This is another potential contributor to physician burnout, but why are we not talking about it?It's mainly because most don't see the connection. Here it is; The stigma, emotional burden, and pressures (mostly self-imposed) of being a physician who is financially struggling add to all of the other stressors that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Add to this, physician moms who are the primary breadwinners of the household or even totally one income households where one partner is not working, then the stress exponentially multiplies when the doctor working is already not doing well in other areas.So what are some things we can do to begin to build a path to wealth?

  • 1. Change your "money conversation" – Many of us inherited various conversations about money from our parents and the people around us growing up. Some of us that had parents that struggled financially and some had parents who did well but were extremely frugal (living by the old "money doesn't grow on trees" adage). Some of us had parents who regarded money as "the root of all evil" (or some similar conversation). Still some of us grew up with parents who never talked about money except for to fight about it. Even if there were no outlying verbal conversations about money, you likely witness certain behaviors that led you to deal with (or not deal with) money the way you do now. A poor money mindset is perhaps the most crucial block in breaking the proverbial glass ceiling when it comes to income potential. In order to build wealth, we have to have an abundance or what I like to call a "manifestation mindset". Any action you try to take with a disempowering conversation about money will likely land you back at square one and with a more cynical and resigned outlook. While, your conversations may not change overnight (they didn't happen overnight), becoming aware of the disempowering conversations and limiting decisions you have about money will transform your ability to manifest it.What is your money conversation?
  • 2. Talk About Your Money Goals – Whether it's because of our upbringing or our altruism as doctors, other than negotiating contracts and paying bills, many physicians seem to avoid the topic of money. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had where I've asked: "what is your income goal?" And have gotten the response,"well, I've never really thought about that before". While this response is always rather shocking, it's very understandable as most of us did not go into medicine for the money. It is the fulfillment of making a difference in the industry, with people, with the community that really drives us. Still, money is an essential part of our daily lives and avoiding the topic doesn't serve our financial well being. Action steps: Start a money conversation with your spouse, your friends (ones of like mind and whom you trust), and even with your children. Talk about your goals and dreams. In your family, create money values that are healthy and teach them to your children. It will foster a healthy relationship that will ultimately make them more successful in the long run.
  • 3. Recognize Your Value – This is a huge shift, as there are many ways that physicians are devalued daily. If you add being a woman or even a person of color, then the conversations of "less valuable than…" are compounded. For some, this constant devaluing can be a motivator to create something where they ARE truly valued (however these are the people that actually recognize their value).In the days of old, physicians determined their own value, running their private practices and practicing on their terms. Today, the government, insurance companies, and large healthcare organizations determine our value. Many hospitals and large medical groups are moving to RVU based compensation cutting physicians' salaries by upwards of 30-40% in some cases, forcing doctors to work harder than ever to maintain their salaries and leaving them with little hope for salary advancement. No wonder physician burnout is a thing.However, if we take the case that we are 100% responsible for our own lives, then we have to ask ourselves: How are we allowing this to continue? What is our part, and how do we then reclaim our power and our worth. It starts by simply recognizing your value.Part of recognizing value is really seeing the value of the work we do, the impact it has on the lives, and the ripple effect it creates.Think about it: how many children will want to become doctors simply because YOU made them better…or healed a family member…or saved their mother or father's life? That is your true value, and even though we have been conditioned to serve, to be altruistic and not think about the money, the truth is that if you continue to de-value yourself others will too. If you look at the condition of the relationship now between doctors and patients, that is another clear example of how doctors are no longer valued in the same way we used to be.Changing your money conversation and Talking about money will help you begin to recognize your own value.
  • 4. Think Outside the Box – From the time we entered medical school we were placed in boxes.
    "This is how you (fill in the blank). We have existed for so long inside of our boxes as medical professionals that we forget that there are other ways to build wealth. If you are in a work circumstance where your salary will inevitably be capped, and your money goals exceed that cap, then it's time to think outside the box. What other ways could you create income given your expertise? Creating multiple streams of income is simply a smart move. No one source is ever 100% secure. It's like putting all your eggs in one basket.
  • 5. Be Unrealistic & Make unreasonable requests – In medicine, we traffic in what's safe, realistic, reasonable, because it saves lives. We often look down on physicians who take too many risks, labeling them as "disruptive".But what if those things we see as unrealistic and unreasonable were only unrealistic and unreasonable to us? Often times it's our own view of what is realistic and reasonable that limits us. I often see this with the physician moms I coach, when asking them to make requests of their families and even their bosses. They are nervous and afraid that what they are asking is completely unrealistic and unreasonable, but when they have the courage to move through that fear the come to find that the other party has no such view, and they either get exactly what they want, close to or far beyond what they could have imagined. Such is the case with money. What we think is unrealistic and unreasonable is correlated to our own internal conversation and representations of money. When we get this, we will be empowered to make "unreasonable" requests, and fulfill what we previously thought were "unrealistic" goals.
  • 6. Take Action: Start Planning Now – When it comes to money (due to all of the previously discussed limiting views) we can be great procrastinators. But there is no better time than the present to start taking action to build wealth. If you just take 1-2 simple actions each day toward building wealth (whether planning a budget, paying down a debt, mapping out a plan for a second stream of income, talking to financial planner, making a debt payment plan, or just forwarding healthy financial discussions with your family), you will be surprised the progress you can make over time.

Despite our altruistic attitudes, money does matter and our refusal to talk about it is part of what keeps us struggling. If we make these 6 shifts, then we are creating a path to a better and more abundant financial future.

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