Most doctors are goal-oriented, which is a useful trait (or personality quirk). Motivation helped get us through a decade of training, and to get to the next step. But putting in your A-game for more than a decade can be tiring if you’re not hypomanic. As I mentioned on a previous posting, once we escape from doctor survival mode it’s normal to let loose the reins and slow down.
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I consider anyone to be out of survival mode if she has accomplished most of the following goals:
- Finished medical school, residency, and fellowship
- Board certified (no more exams, at least in the interim)
- No more high-interest student loan debt (>4%)
- Gainfully employed or working with a steady income
Obviously there are many other financial goals that one might add onto the list such as buying a house, having enough to send your kids to school, or simply being financially independent. What’s more important in this checklist of goals is that we all need to enjoy the process as much as possible. YOLO. Leaving your kids with $10 million does you no good if you aren’t around [physically] to enjoy your hard earned sweat.
For most doctors out of financial survival mode, the timeline to further reach our goals tend to get relaxed. At this point in our careers, we typically feel comfortable with our clinical practice, we have a steady income, and most of us are still healthy. There is no longer an immediate urgency to reach the next step in our financial timeline, especially if college savings or another bigger goal requires five or more years to reach anyway. This has certainly been the case for me. It’s better to play the long game rather than sprinting.
Doctors need to remember that nothing lasts forever
That’s right. When the weather is fair, you ride the wave. Don’t expect the wave to carry you through your entire career, however. Bulls can transform into bears, as we’ve seen in 2018. The medical profession, while traditionally stable is fraught with transformations unfavorable to doctors. If you want to hear some unhappy people, go to @SERMO or the doctors’ lounge of your local hospital. 😉
Common complaints I hear and experience in my medical profession include:
- Loss of autonomy – No, we’re not talking about rules preventing us from throwing scalpels in the operating room whenever things don’t go our way. Administrators tell us to improve our Press-Ganey scores when we actually have less control over of the numbers. The death blow comes with our salaries end up getting tied to these dubious numbers. By the way, we also have to chart more than ever without much noticeable improvement in outcomes. This is just the tip of the iceberg!
- Medical insurance restrictions – Prior authorizations. Medical necessity. Painful. This falls under loss of autonomy.
- Medical insurance reimbursement cuts – Doctors are seeing more patients than ever on their schedules, yet salaries don’t necessarily even grow with inflation. Some specialties have even seen salary cuts.
- Electronic Health Record issues – No one wants to spend more of their life clicking around a poorly conceived UI on underpowered computers with way too many icons on the taskbar. ‘Nuff said.
- Getting locked out of a market – Some health insurers won’t permit smaller medical groups or single-doctor practices from enrolled onto their insurance plans because larger groups bid for the same contract [read: willing to pay their doctors less for more work].
- Being characterized as a provider – This hits a nerve with all doctors.
It is upsetting that I see more of my colleagues under some sort of squeeze, and none of it even has to do with the inherent intellectual challenges of being a doctor. How does one get out of this mess?
Financial independence solves all of these problems
If you want to get out of the hamster cage, you cannot be beholden to the system. We practice medicine because we love to take care of people. We also do it to put food on the table. Once we have a suitable means sustain a healthy livelihood outside of our day job, the burden becomes lifted.
Think about it. Why do some of us go abroad to volunteer our skills? We do it because we get intrinsic satisfaction outside of a monetary payment. I find that it’s more fun to volunteer than to go to my day job.
If you know that you can walk away from the painful regulations of a broken medical system at any time, some of the daily burdens are no longer burdensome. You might even start considering your day job to be volunteer work that actually generates a salary! If you ever need the motivation achieve your financial goals, think of the negative changes that you’ve witness in our healthcare system even in the last several years. Use this as motivation to get yourself to financial freedom sooner.
Doctors, if you want to be able to help others with your skills, get yourself to financial independence sooner.
What motivates you to achieve financial independence?