The following blog post is an excerpt from my new book "Healthy Money: Making a Successful Transition from Resident to Attending"
Copies of the book are available (paperback and Kindle) on Amazon. A link to the book page is at the bottom of this post.
Thank you for reading!
MY FIRST FORAY INTO THE WORLD OF FINANCIAL ADVICE
Finding a good firm to launch my career was a challenge for me. I didn’t know a lot about how the industry worked or about the players in the industry. They all looked the same to me. I interviewed at all of the big investment houses – the names you’d recognize from the commercials that run during football games on Sunday’s or the ads you see while sitting on metro trains. My interviews at all these different companies took a similar path. I’d ask all of the questions that one would ask when interviewing for a job. Selfishly, I had one key question that was the essence of each interview.
“OK, a prospective client walks into your office carrying this huge stack of financial stuff. They give it to you. You read it and make recommendations, right?” I’d ask.
The advisor would look at me a little annoyed, “Yes, that is what we do here”.
I continued, “Great. So, what do you base your advice and recommendations on?”
The answers I was getting weren’t good answers. Instead of a clear methodology or client-based advice, the advice generally gravitated towards pushing the financial products the firm sold.
I was frustrated so I reached out to a friend of mine from college whose father owned a financial firm in Baltimore, MD. The daily drive would have been too long so I hadn’t initially considered the firm as a potential place to work, which was why I hadn’t reached out in the first place. By this time, I was extremely frustrated and no longer had a lot of faith. I needed a friendly face to explain the industry to me.
We met for lunch near his office and he broke the industry down for me, which is essentially made up of investment companies (wire houses), insurance companies and fee-only financial planning firms. All the places I had talked to were investment companies. His firm was insurance based and they also managed investments for their clients. With his help, I had a better handle on the industry and why I was hearing what I was hearing. I took a deep breath and asked him my big question.
“When your advisors give advice to their clients, what is that advice based on?” To be honest, by this point I was completely certain I’d be disappointed in his answer.
Without hesitation, he replied, “We use a planning process based on a series of financial tutorials that cover everything from your personal insurances, your insurances through work, cash savings, investments, real estate, debt management and cash flow management.”
He then shifted gears and told me that he had recently acquired a firm in the Washington, DC metro area closer to where I lived.
“John, I’d like to suggest you meet with the person that runs our Washington, DC office. Let us do your plan. See it for yourself through the eyes of a prospective client. Then, you’ll be able to see if its what you are looking for.”
Two weeks later, I met with an advisor in their Washington, DC office to start going through the planning process. After I went through all their tutorials, this advisor proved to me that this firm had a methodology they followed to educate the client on the who, what, where, when, why and how behind their recommendations. I made the decision to join this firm and started immediately.
WHY I DECIDED TO SPECIALIZE IN WORKING WITH PHYSICIANS
There are a lot of financial advisors out there, many of whom are excellent and really do care about their clients. But, there aren’t quite as many who understand exactly what you, as a resident transitioning to an attending, are going through right now.
Physicians are unique individuals with unique needs. You have to be incredibly smart and talented to become a physician. If you aren’t smart, you cannot possibly learn all the things you need to know to graduate from medical school and to get selected into a good residency program. If you aren’t talented, you cannot possibly execute on your craft in a manner that will allow you to graduate residency. And if you’re not executing, it won’t be any fun for you – you might even quit before they throw you out.
So, not only are you beyond smart and talented, but you’re also expected to work pretty hard for very little compensation, at least at first. You’re dealing with massive loans and expenses, and all the bills just keep piling up while you’re eating noodles and even at times maybe wondering why you’re even bothering.
And then, you come to the end of your residency and are staring at a contract with a massive amount of money on it. Life’s going to be so different, right? After all, you’re not earning a pittance anymore. But soon enough, you realize all the financial baggage you brought with you from your school days and residency is acting like a millstone around your neck and seems to be dragging you deeper and deeper into the muck.
When I say financial baggage, I’m not referring just to the debt, but also to the bad financial habits you’ve picked up along the way. It’s understandable. You were studying to be a doctor and now you’re focused on saving people’s lives. No one can expect you to be a financial wizard too. But, it’s hurting you and causing more stress than you need in an already stressful life. And these are issues you shouldn’t be facing – certainly not alone – when you are such a smart, talented, unique individual who has dedicated their life to helping other people.
That’s precisely why I ended up specializing in working with attending physicians. Just like you have the knowledge and skills to help people and do so every day, I have the knowledge and skills to help you.
The story of how I came to work with resident and attending physicians is pretty simple. In 2009, I was referred to a resident physician that was in her final year of training. They are a wonderful family. With the student loans and the low income that residents are paid, their finances were under stress. She explained to me that she was about to sign a contract where her income was going to increase five-fold.
It was then that I also saw that this was an inflection point in the life of this family. A properly executed cash flow strategy could potentially remove the financial stress from their lives – forever.
I began interviewing resident and attending physicians. Anyone that I could get to talk to me I’d go an interview them. I wanted to know how the training years (residency and fellowship) worked. I wanted to know how one became an attending physician. I wanted to know how their loans worked. I wanted to know and understand everything because I’d finally found the place where I could be of use. Where I could make a difference.
That’s my story. Now, you know who I am and why I’m uniquely qualified to help you with your finances. So, let’s get back to Mary’s story and discover how she shed the millstone from around her neck.
Copies of the complete book are available on Amazon at: