Money talks

Making your money grow: A guide for physicians

Andrew Albano, Jr., DO, MBA, shares strategies for wealth accumulation that are tailored to physicians’ unique financial circumstances.

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Despite their high earning potential, physicians often find themselves facing unique challenges when it comes to wealth accumulation. Years of rigorous education, postponement of funding retirement accounts and the burden of student loans can delay their ability to build substantial wealth compared to other professionals.

However, with the right strategies and mindset, physicians can navigate these challenges and achieve financial independence. In this article, I’ll briefly explore some key strategies for wealth accumulation tailored specifically to the needs of physicians. While I do have formal education on this topic (I have an MBA from Auburn University), much of the following comes from my own experiences and journey. I also frequently keep up to date on these topics through resources like The Wall Street Journal, The Motley Fool and various books and podcasts.

Manage student loan debt efficiently

Student loan debt is often one of the biggest financial burdens for physicians. Developing a plan to efficiently manage and pay off this debt is crucial for long-term financial success. Consider options such as income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs or refinancing to lower interest rates.

Allocate a portion of your income specifically towards paying down this debt while still contributing to savings and investments. Aim to avoid forbearance as much as is reasonable. To tackle this financial challenge, it is important to educate yourself and to adhere to the plan that best fits your life circumstances.

Editor’s note: AOA members can receive discounts on certain student loan services from Student Loan Professor (formerly Doctors Without Quarters) and SoFi.

Live below your means

Many physicians fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation, where both their fixed (e.g., mortgage) and variable (e.g., entertainment) expenses rise in tandem with their income. To build wealth effectively, it’s essential to live within and, ideally, below one’s means.

Creating a budget can help with prioritizing savings and investments and also being mindful of unnecessary expenses such as subscription services. There are resources available to help in this space, including RocketMoney, HoneyDue and YNAB, but for most folks a simple budget could be created using Microsoft Excel or a similar platform. At the end of the day, delaying some gratification now can lead to greater financial freedom in the future.

Maximize retirement contributions

Take advantage of retirement savings vehicles such as 401(k) or 403(b) plans, IRAs or Roth IRAs to maximize tax-advantaged growth. Contribute the maximum amount allowed by law each year and consider taking advantage of employer matching contributions, if available.

Employer matching programs can be an excellent way to increase your retirement balance through the accumulation of “free” money. Saving a little for retirement early in your career—even while still in school or training—and consistently contributing to retirement accounts can significantly accelerate wealth accumulation due to the power of compounding interest. Think of this as the “pay your future self first” strategy and I’m confident your future self will thank you.

Diversify investments

Diversification is the key to building long-term wealth. Aim to allocate your investment portfolio across a mix of asset classes such as stocks, bonds, real estate and alternative investments.

And although it is tempting to manage one’s own investments, it would be reasonable to consider consulting with a financial advisor who understands the unique needs and risk tolerance of physicians to create a well-balanced investment strategy. Of course, if one does plan to seek the expertise of a financial advisor, be sure to vet the individual and/or the firm to be sure that they are a reputable fiduciary advisor.

Create multiple income streams

In addition to your primary income from your medical practice, explore opportunities to generate additional income streams. This could include investments in rental properties, passive income from dividends or royalties, consulting work or starting a side business related to your expertise.

Diversifying your sources of income can provide greater financial security and further accelerate wealth accumulation while allowing you to leverage your medical expertise or other skills unrelated to your primary vocation.

Protect your assets

As a physician, you face unique risks, such as medical liability lawsuits potentially jeopardizing your hard-earned assets. It is very important to ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage, including physician liability insurance, disability insurance and umbrella liability insurance.

Also, consider establishing legal structures such as trusts or forming a professional corporation to protect your personal assets from potential lawsuits. Seeking legal counsel on this matter is highly recommended, especially when starting a new job, transitioning roles and/or shifting towards or away from independent practice.

Continuously educate yourself

Just as you invest in your medical education and training, commit to ongoing education in personal finance and wealth management. Stay informed about changes in tax laws, investment strategies and financial planning techniques. Attend seminars, workshops or conferences related to wealth accumulation for physicians and surround yourself with a network of knowledgeable professionals who can provide guidance and support. Think of it as your financial CME!

Plan for succession

As you build wealth throughout your career, develop a comprehensive succession plan to ensure your assets are transferred efficiently to future generations or beneficiaries. This may involve creating a will, establishing trusts or setting up a buy-sell agreement for your medical practice. Planning for succession early on allows you to maintain control over your assets and protect your legacy. Again, it is important to consider seeking legal counsel when creating a will or establishing a trust.

Wrapping up

To conclude, wealth accumulation for physicians requires discipline, patience and a strategic approach to managing both income and expenses. By implementing these key strategies—managing student loan debt, living below your means, maximizing retirement contributions, diversifying investments, creating multiple income streams, protecting your assets, continuously educating yourself and planning for succession—physicians can position themselves to favorably address the unique challenges they face and achieve financial independence.

With careful planning and perseverance, a solid financial foundation can be built to support one’s long-term goals and aspirations. For more guidance on money, see the AOA’s financial planning resources and The DO’s Money Matters topic page.

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.

Related reading:

A housing and real estate guide for physicians and medical trainees

4 money tips for medical students and new physicians

One comment

  1. Steven Kamajian

    And of course remember the greatest loss of financial independence and freedom— the one thing guaranteed to have you work years or decades longer— is a failed marriage or a failed business partnership. Take care in signing any contract , as the government becomes your partner once you have a contract ;and the government will intervene and enforce the contract in full. Please remember that includes a marriage contract

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