I spent about eight to ten hours per day studying for my USMLE Step 1. I believe that I did this for about a month of my life. Prior to that, I was probably reviewing the material about five hours a week in addition to studying for my classes. I don’t think that I’ve ever worked that hard in my entire life trying to learn something from a book. Several of my internship rotations were similarly life-consuming, like my general surgery months. I think I was salaried at like $24.40 an hour before taxes, or $50,752 a year. This was good money, except that I worked at least 80 hours a week for more than six months of the year. I think there was a two week period that I spent 252 hours in the hospital! The hospital sure got a great deal having residents putting in central lines, tapping effusions, and pulling JP drains at near-minimum wage. We got an education in return. This lifestyle was absolutely horrible for my health.
But, boy was I good at random medical knowledge. Bezoars? I bet you didn’t know that there were three categories of them. How about George Gershwin’s GBM? Piece of cake.
Since then, I’ve grown utterly lazy. I clock in an easy 55 hours a week. Some of my colleagues in the ER only do 34 hours a week and earn quite a bit more than I do. Is it time to kick back and relax?
Strengthen your knowledge outside of medicine.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. The disadvantage of being highly knowledgeable in a particular subject means that you are less likely to be knowledgeable in other topics. To disprove the stereotypes that doctors or other highly trained professionals don’t know anything outside of their fields, I suggest that you learn about something outside of your profession.
Hiking, sports, photography, finance…whatever. Find a designated time each week to find something you enjoy and learn about it. You’ll be doing this same stuff when you’re retired. If you decide to retire early, then you’d better be prepared to do this for a longer time. Carve some of the time you waste looking through Facebook each day and improve your fund of knowledge. Your future self will thank you later.
How much time do I need to study finance?
Answer: a whole lot less time that it takes for you to do your primary job, unless you are in the financial world yourself.
Most people will figure out quickly how much they love or hate reviewing financial history. If you love it, you’ve found yourself a new hobby. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, one could become relatively fluent in a subject without having to go into profound detail. Think Cliff’s Notes. I remember that I went through review books and summary outlines to learn particular subjects in school. I aced those tests. Did I actually understand the material well? I doubt it. Ironically, I actually synthesized the concepts years later. Yes, I do believe that condensed knowledge can still be absorbed; it just might take longer.
Fortunately, you have time. Commit to learning something about finance, whether it be terminology or principles. If you really hate it, spend an hour on this subject for every five hours you spend with your CME (continuing medical education). If you really like it, ramp up your efforts. Set aside one hour a week to read some newsletters, financial handouts, books, or blogs (like this one!). Your public library has a wealth of resources.
Does gender play a role in financial knowledge?
Gender can place you at a disadvantage with finance. I’ve gone through plenty of finance blogs and books—I think that we can all agree that this a male-dominated niche. Most of the commenters on early retirement websites are male. I don’t think that men are more financially savvy than women either—look at Suze Orman—but I believe that there needs to be more of a female voice in finance.
The medical profession has traditionally been male-dominated but this is changing as well. My medical school class had 54% women. I suspect that the percentage will begin to grow. What this means is that it will be more likely that women will transition to being a breadwinner in a medical professional household. There will continue to be a need for understanding how to maximize our hard-earned dollars.
How do I get started?
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)