Doctors are notoriously bad with money. Part of this has to do with the fact that the schools that prepare our future doctors are ill-equipped to teach them about money.
When I was a fourth year medical student, my school had a financial group called GL Advisors come and talk to us about money. Not only was their advice conflicted, but the lawyer who owned GL Advisors would later end up going to jail for fraud. Don’t believe me? Google it.
We doctors have a giant target painted on our backs. But why are doctors such easy targets of financial debauchery?
I hope to answer this question by pointing out five reasons. Hopefully, by the end of this discussion, you will be more aware of how and why people aim to steal a piece of the pie that is rightly yours.
Target 1: High Income Earners
The most obvious reason is that we are high income earners. Even the lowest earning specialties in medicine earn more than $100,000 per year. The highest earning specialists earn upwards of $500,000 per year.
With the median income in our country resting around $55,000–$60,000 annually, the doctor’s salary becomes a point of contention. When the financial industry looks at us, they see an opportunity to convince us to let go of a little bit of that money.
Target 2: Low Financial Acumen
Becoming a board-certified physician requires at the very least four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, and three years of residency training. For many, it involves much more than that. During our training, we work on average 60–100 hours per week to learn our craft.
Given this situation, who has time to learn about financial topics? Our medical education system in the U.S. has failed to make financial literacy a priority while at the same time being perfectly fine with handing us hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to be trained to practice medicine.
Due to the limited time that is spent towards personal finance topics in medical school, doctors often fall prey to the most common financial schemes: We purchase whole-life insurance, actively managed hedge funds, and individual securities pitched to us by financial advisors who have “special access” for high-income earners.
These are just a few of the reasons why it is so important to get non-conflicted advice. Do your due diligence and learn enough about this stuff to avoid being hoodwinked by some would-be salesperson or AUM financial advisor that only pretends to have your best interests in mind.
Target 3: We Are Too Busy Doing Our Jobs
From wealth to health, doctors are not very good at taking care of ourselves. Each month, we receive a large sum of money in our bank accounts, just to see it vanish into the abyss of an inflated lifestyle and poor financial decisions.
Since our education system never taught us any better, our financial futures were left to chance that we might figure this stuff out on our own along the way. However, there are certain people who are more than happy to take advantage of this like I had mentioned earlier.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Hey doc, we both know that you are too busy to worry about this stuff. Just let me take care of everything so that you can do what you do best: take care of patients.”
That all sounds well and good until twenty years later when you realize you’ve been taken into a wooden shed and beaten, without realizing it.
Target 4: Personal Finance is Too Complicated to DIY
This one is pretty simple given what we have already discussed. Doctors are busy and many of us don’t know a lot about finances. So, it becomes very easy for others to convince us that it is all too complicated to handle on our own.
The truth is that it can be complicated if we make it. But it certainly doesn’t have to be complicated. You can get to financial independence without knowing everything—you simply need to know enough. There are resources online that teach you the 20% on investing you need to know and how to be a DIY investor.
It can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Make it simple.
Target 5: Overly Trusting
Call me a pessimist, but the specialty of Anesthesiology exists because we “trust, but verify” what others tell us. Many patients I take care of have benefited from me double checking what others tell me.
In the personal finance realm, I was screwed over enough times to realize that many people did not have my best interests at heart. That’s why I started my blog in the first place—to educate medical students, residents, early career attendings, and other medical professionals on such topics.
People in the financial space do not always have your best interests at heart. It is your responsibility to “trust, but verify.”
In the end, it is also your responsibility to realize that this isn’t so complicated that you cannot do it yourself. There are plenty of people who are looking out for you and are willing to help.
Was there a time when a financial target was painted on your back? How did you realize it and fend off the attack? Leave a comment below!
A version of this post originally appeared on The Physician Philosopher.
The Physician Philosopher is a husband, father, author, inventor, and craft beer lover. He spends his time writing on his eponymous website to help other physicians achieve wealth and wellness. He also spends 50–60 hours each week as an attending physician anesthesiologist in academia.