Research and our experience show money and financial decisions are a primary source of stress and depression outside of your practice.
Each year Medscape conducts research on physician burnout. In 2018, over 15,000 respondents said money/finances was the 2nd leading cause of depression after job stress.
But it clearly doesn't affect all doctors. Below is a short self-assessment to help you determine how much it affects you:
1. Do you find yourself dwelling in regret? Do you think about the money you've lost or financial mistakes you've made in the past? (Y/N)
2. Do you have fearful thoughts about your financial future? Are you afraid you'll never have enough to retire or live the life you want because of a lack of money? (Y/N)
3. Do you feel embarrassed or powerless when it comes to money? (Y/N)
4. Does money impact your relationships? Have you argued over finances with your spouse, partner, or other family members? Are you jealous of friends with more money? (Y/N)
5. Have you ever kept a secret about money or found it difficult to be honest about it? Have you ever lied about a purchase, a debt, or a financial decision? (Y/N)
6. Is your health or sleep being impacted by financial stress? Does your body feel stressed when you think about money (tense muscles, upset stomach, agitation, or exhaustion)? (Y/N)
7. Do you find yourself procrastinating or unable to take meaningful action? Do you ever feel frozen with fear because of your financial situation? (Y/N)
8. Do you ever feel hopeless, depressed, or ashamed due to your financial situation? Do you find yourself wanting to disengage with others or with life because of it? (Y/N)
9. Is money your "scapegoat"— the reason you give yourself and others for not living the life you want? (Y/N)
If you answered Yes to more than 5, money is a pretty big deal for you. Yes, to more than 7? Then money is definitely affecting your life.
Now, it is important to take a moment to notice something interesting about the questions asked. Not one of the questions asked about how much you earn, spend, or your credit score.
Money stress affects people who earn $50,000 and those that earn $1,000,000. Money anxiety comes to people who religiously budget and people who don't budget.
Money is just the place where you see some of your own insecurities. It's a place that daily reminds you of your vulnerabilities and fears. Money decisions highlight without error when there is a lack of trust in your marriages/relationships.
It is complicated.
When you've studied so much and mastered so many topics that feel much more complex, why does money bring out a myriad of emotions?
Now, it is time to explain a couple of reasons WHY money decisions are a source of stress for many physicians, dentists, and other healthcare providers. First, it is fundamentally not a lack of income, student loan balances, or concern over taxes that causes the stress. In fact, there's a crucial difference between stress from finances and burnout from medicine. Most of the factors associated with burnout from work are external – things out of your control, like bureaucracy, payer mix, EMR, patient schedule, and on and on. However, financial stress almost always comes from decisions YOU've made or have control over, such as student loans, tax issues, insurance, co-signing with a family member, or regret over investment decisions.
1. Lack of training – the education to become a physician is extraordinary, but it leaves little time to learn about money and financial decisions. Most parents and high schools provide a summary overview at best. Unless you have a genuine interest or proclivity for finances, it's never been something that you wanted to study during your free time. But it's not just a lack of knowledge.
2. Big implications – you know intuitively that the consequences of your financial decisions are serious. As the saying goes, more money, more problems! Physicians and dentists are among our country's highest compensated professions, which means tremendous pressure and expectations on you. Over the course of your career, you'll earn millions of dollars, and the implications of making good – or bad – decisions are significant.
3. Daily reminder – Money is something we all deal with every day. Whether you feel confident or not, you must make daily decisions about how you use a tool you may feel incompetent using, while knowing the ramifications can be profound.
4. Hard to find help (tailored to your situation) – In most areas of your life, you consult an expert when experiencing a complicated problem. When you are uncertain about taxes, you may hire a CPA. If you have blurry vision, you make an appointment with an eye doctor. When you decide to train for a race, you hire a personal trainer. But when you experience fear, confusion, or stress about finances, where do you go? Finances cross so many topics; how do you find someone with the knowledge, skill, and experience to give you good advice?
Add to all this the different ways you and your spouse may view money. Or the embarrassment you feel over past decisions. Or the pressure and manipulation you feel from family members or colleagues in the doctor's lounge to put money toward something you don't understand.
Sound like a lot? No wonder money decisions are a source of stress!
It has been shown that financial managers achieve a better financial return for clients than individuals attain on their own. For the cost of .5 to 1 percent of your portfolio, they seek to provide strong results.
By working with a financial planner, you will be assured that your hard-earned money is being personally managed and is in turn working for you to help you achieve your financial goals. Life is constantly changing, and it is essential to have a professional help you and your assets through both good and bad times.
Dentists and physicians have a unique set of financial opportunities and challenges. When it comes to your financial planning and investment needs, Spaugh Dameron Tenny can provide the perspective and experience your profession demands at any stage of your career.
Our clients often say they wish they could have started their financial plan sooner. So, what are you waiting for? We offer a complimentary discovery call to any doctor who has financial questions.
If you are looking for more information on how to plan financially, please connect with one of our financial planners to help you get additional clarity on how the process works.
Shane Tenny is the managing partner of Spaugh Dameron Tenny. Along with hosting the Prosperous Doc® podcast, Shane has a true passion for behavioral finance, helping clients and audiences understand how to develop successful strategies based on their unique temperaments. An accomplished and highly engaging speaker, Shane is regularly interviewed for television and podcasts, is actively involved in the Financial Planning Association®, and contributes to industry advisory boards.
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