Personal finance

4 money tips for medical students and new physicians

A DO professor and private practice physician shares some of the financial guidance he frequently gives to his students.


With more than 50 years of experience as a family medicine private practice physician, Joel Mascaro, DO, is no stranger to money management. In addition to overseeing his practices and his own finances, he also created non-profit youth sports organizations and managed their financial responsibilities. He also created and ran a 16-team hospital league in Philadelphia, an endeavor that involved overseeing the league’s finances.

As a clinical professor at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Mascaro frequently advises medical students on their personal finances, in addition to lifestyle, career advancement and overcoming mental health adversities. Below, he shares four money tips medical students, residents and new physicians can help in mind as they pursue financial stability in the early stages of their careers and beyond. I provided links in the column with additional resources that DOs and medical students may find helpful. 

Being debt-free is the first step toward financial stability

In some cases, debt may signify an accomplishment or progress toward a goal. For some, it can be a reminder of obstacles or memories. “Finding a debt repayment strategy that best suits your needs can decrease feelings of overwhelm and angst, helping you adapt to new levels of independence,” Dr. Mascaro notes.

Start by creating a list of all your debts, Dr. Mascaro recommends. Knowing the balance owed is a crucial step in creating a realistic plan. Then, total up the payments you must make each month and allocate a certain amount toward loan repayment. Choose a repayment strategy to structure your plan and resources. Know that each plan will have its pros and cons, so it’s worth doing some research before committing to something long-term. Use this repayment strategy to prioritize paying down your debt.

Avoid overspending

“Medical students don’t typically learn much about business or savings,” Dr. Mascaro says. “When one frequently spends more than they earn, it becomes difficult to invest in the future.”

Create a budget for your living expenses and modify your lifestyle to live within your means as much as possible. This might entail living in a modest dwelling and driving a modest car. Limit going out to restaurants—learn to like rice and beans! As your income increases, you will gradually be able to spend more.

Avoid divorce if possible; if not, re-evaluate your financial situation

Divorce can be both emotionally and financially devastating, Dr. Mascaro notes. Any efforts to reconcile the differences are strongly recommended if the relationship contributes to your well-being.

Before divorcing, consider seeking professional help through couple’s therapy.

“If a student loan was taken out before you got married, that loan is basically yours.” Dr. Mascaro says. “If you took out a student loan during marriage and the spouse co-signed, then it is a marital asset. It is a case-by-case basis, but most of the time the burden goes to whomever took out the loan.”

After divorce, it is important to re-evaluate your financial plan, life insurance, disability insurance, property transfer, beneficiaries, retirement accounts, etc. Here are some tips on how physicians can still thrive after divorce.

Consider life and disability insurance

It may be worthwhile to invest in life insurance, as many physicians continue to support their families throughout their career, Dr. Mascaro advises. Life insurance provides financial support to your family if you suffer an untimely death. The amount of money your family gets is based on many factors, such as age, health, net worth, assets and income. The insurance can also cover future expenses such as your funeral, mortgage, children’s college tuition and other bills. Once you apply for life insurance, add your beneficiaries, which are the people who will be receiving the income after your death.

“Life insurance is cheaper when you are younger, so it is sometimes worth getting covered sooner rather than later,” Dr. Mascaro says. “Be discerning when choosing an insurance agent and be sure you are obtaining life insurance from a trustworthy and valid source.”

Here are some tips on how to find the right agent for you.

“Physicians may also want to consider disability insurance, which provides income if you experience a disability that prevents you from working,” Dr. Mascaro says. “This is beneficial for those who depend on you for income, and it also protects you.”

In the 2017 Census, almost 3% of physicians reported disabilities, such as hearing loss, visual impairment, difficulty walking, cognitive difficulty and difficulty with self-care. Every policy has their own definition of “disability” that entails who qualifies, so be sure to pay attention when looking for what is right for you. There are two main types of disability insurance, labeled “short-term” and “long-term.” A helpful table provided by the American Association of Family Physicians can help differentiate the two. For more in-depth guidance on disability insurance, here is an excellent guide that will hopefully answer your questions.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.


  1. B. Carnett

    stay married…the most deadly decision if you succumb
    live frugally as a student
    pay your loans off
    most important….work hard, forget this “work/life balance” business…work, work, work and get out of debt

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