It’s time for academic attendings to teach personal finance

recent post by the White Coat Investor got me pretty fired up.  Dr. Dahle spoke about three of the main financial enemies that face physicians. The third one that he mentioned had something to do with medical culture.  The gist of it was that talking money in academic medical centers is considered taboo.  While I think WCI is right, it really made me angry.  As an academic attending physician, it made me feel like we are utterly failing our students and residents.

Why and how can we make the change?

Let’s dig in.

Why should you care?

If you are in academics, my presumption is that you care about educating future physicians on how to take care of patients.  How well do you think those future doctors will care for their patients if they feel the noose tightening around their neck as they suffocate in debt?

What if, as they age, they realize that retirement is just a figment of their imagination?  It’s not possibly because no one ever cared enough to teach them how to budget, save, and invest their money.  They are at the point where the numbers just don’t add up.  How well do you think they will take care of patients then?

I am sure it is tough to imagine a world where a disconnected administrator tells the doctors you trained how to do their job (even if the administrator can’t do it themselves).  What if your future doctor had the knowledge to achieve financial independence so that they could stand their ground when people encroach on their craft unnecessarily?

All of these reasons, and many more, should encourage you to stop sucking at your job.  Teach your students and residents about money. Answer their questions. Don’t let it be taboo. If you don’t know the answer, go and find someone who does – and is non-conflicted.

The time is past where we ill-equip our future doctors to know how to take care of themselves so that they can take care of others.  Just do your job.  That’s all I am asking.

How can I teach them?

Teaching students about personal finance requires a certain amount of transparency.  Be open and honest.  Put the time in to learn the Pareto Principle (the 20% of the work that accomplishes 80% of the results).

If you can’t do it, then encourage someone else in your program with the requisite knowledge to create a curriculum for the trainees.  Give them the support that they need to fix the problem that you and I both know exists.

You should also try and be an example of someone who places an emphasis on being intentional about your debt and the financial goals you hope to achieve.  When do you want to become financially independent?  How are you going to do it? How did you deal with your loans?

These are not trade secrets.  They are secrets that are rarely traded.  Our trainees deserve better.

Resources and take home

Read the resident physician finance page and the attending physician finance page.  That would be a good starting point.

Consider listening to podcasts like ChooseFIWhite Coat Investor, or the Mad Fientist. Then, Read a few books.  Take a few minutes per week to read a few recommended blogs.

The point is that the resources now exist and that it is your responsibility, as an academic attending physician, to teach our trainees about personal finance.  If you can’t do it, then support someone who will.

Our residents deserve better. It really is that simple.

“The Physician Philosopher” is an anesthesiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, The Physician Philosopher.

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