Necessity is the mother of invention. If you need something badly enough, you are more likely to find a way to obtain it. This proverb clearly rings true in all aspects of life. The key is really knowing how badly we need it. I knew someone who wanted to become a dermatologist. After several additional years of research after medical school and applying to residency, she eventually achieved her goal. Some accomplishments can be achieved with enough persistence, desire, intelligence, and maybe some luck.
Society loves achievement stories. People who defy odds to achieve. The J.K. Rowlings. The Jay-Z’s. These are people who defied the impossible and found a strategy to transform it into success. As doctors, we’ve all struggled with adversity to get to our current situation. Some of these doctors were first-generation college graduates in their families. Others dug deeply into their reserve to overcome poor academic records to finish in the top of their class and enter the most competitive of the specialties.
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After the early career hurdles, most doctors actually enjoy relatively stable careers. Rightfully, we should enjoy stable careers, given that there is an incredibly long incubation period before we actually become viable in our profession. In fact, job stability, good incomes, and ability to heal are expected returns when we sign up to become doctors.
Stability is good
If you are acclimated to your routine, biweekly paycheck, and tasks, you may have no need to deviate from the plan. This is actually one of the perks of being a doctor. Our daily routine may be challenging, but it is still our routine. Show up, take care of people, do the paperwork, and you will be rewarded. Structure your financial plan around your income and expenditures, and you can have a fairly accurate and predictable financial timeline. Who wouldn’t want to be able to sleep comfortably knowing that junior will be able to go to college with minimal loans or that you would be able to stop working by the time you’re 45?
At the minimum, all doctors ought to be able to create a financial plan. All it takes is not to be derelict in your habits.
Stability precludes vast financial success
Most doctors are busy. Many days I don’t even have time to relieve my bladder, yet alone eat. Some of my colleagues have to do hospital consults after a full day in the office. Afterwards, we go home to our families, and take call over the weekend. Rinse and repeat every day and you will have one fatigued soul. The last thing that we’d want to do is to brainstorm and venture into something else that would surpass the earning power of being a doctor.
Herein lies the dilemma. You can be financially comfortable as a doctor, but you will unlikely be able to afford helicopter rides from your heliport to the local airport. Dreaming of owning a conglomerate of skyscrapers or sprocket factory? Tough luck. You’ll just have to stick with resuscitating drug addicts in the ER at 2am. Don’t worry…you’ll still be able to drive home in your comfortable BMW.
Now there are always exceptions to the rules. We all know of doctors who are business savants, and are able to create equity within their profession. I’ve known doctors who’ve invested in real estate, surgical centers, medical equipment sales, and aesthetic services that are able to generate income that is several multiples of what they otherwise would generate from professional services alone.
If you don’t have a Plan B, then you don’t really have any alternatives. If you’re not working 12 hour days and commanding better than average incomes, you might be more motivated to find a means to achieve a better quality of life. You might also fail miserably, but we all know that we don’t typically hear about those that don’t succeed.
Where do most doctors stand?
I actually don’t know too many doctors who openly admit that they’d like to own an empire of real estate. I’d imagine those who do never finished medical school or opted to pursue an entirely different career. The majority of us just want to be happy, take care of people, and make sure we get compensated adequately for our knowledge and service. The majority of us (anyone, for that matter) will never experience the vast upper echelons of wealth, and that is okay. Our profession overall isn’t in horrible financial shape either.