How I Became A Better Investor Through Self Education

We spend so much time pouring through medical books, watching lectures and taking tests for our 4 years of medical school. We ascend to the top of that totem pole just to end up back at the bottom of the medical food chain.

We spend our lives at the hospital through residency and for some into fellowship. Finally we hit the promised land of attending-hood and after that the rest of our lives are lived happily ever after. Right?

For me as a new attending I found out two things 1) I am super indecisive when I didn’t have a preceptor to bounce an idea off of and 2) I know nothing about finances.

The first issue worked itself out quickly. I feel like that the medical learning curve as a new attending was as steep as it was intern year.

As far as finances go, where do you learn about that? Where do you start? I had no idea at first. My wife has an uncle that was a financial advisor and we really had our hopes set on him guiding us through to a happy retirement.

When I was talking to my future financial planner I was trying to get advice on our finances, he said something I hadn’t expected. He told me I was smart enough to figure it out on my own.

It seems so simple now, I had already learned so much about the inner workings of the human body, why couldn’t I learn more about finances? When you take a step back and just look at yourself, you can honestly do practically anything you want.

We are all most likely in the top 1% of intelligence. We did well in high school, we did well in undergrad, we made it through medical school and we survived residency. Why can’t we learn to do our own finances?

When I talk about finances I’m alluding to building a budget and retirement plan. It seems like a daunting task but with a little effort, it’s easy to put together.

I had heard of the White Coat Investor while I was in residency. I also had read 1 financial book during residency The Millionaire Next Door, both of which were key to my success.

I reviewed The Millionaire Next Door (I have since read this 2 more times) and then I bought the White Coat Investor book by Dr. Jim Dahle. My first thought after I read the white coat investor was ‘damn, I should’ve read this in medical school’

Medical school and residency is great for teaching medicine. It’s terrible for teaching you about anything else.

After reading the White Coat Investor book I went to his blog. Dr Dahle has literally hundreds of posts ranging from setting up budgets, paying off loans, how to invest, and how to distribute your money in retirement.

Dr. Dahle is clear that he isn’t a financial advisor so we have to take his advice and decipher it for ourselves. Then again, has everything you learned about diabetes come from an endocrinologist? Has everything you learned about hypertension come from a cardiologist? You don’t have to have a financial planner to teach you about finances. You need a mentor who is there to help you, not to make money off of you like many financial planners do.

White Coat Investor led to physician on FIRE ( FIRE= financial independence, retire early). That led to Financial Samurai and JL Collins. I read the Mad fientist and Mr. Money Mustache. Many of these pen names sound ridiculous but they really are excellent sources of information and are highly regarded in the financial independence community.

Reading books and then blogs then led to podcasts. Podcasts are my new obsession. On my way to and from work I listen to Choose FI, Good Financial Cents, and our old friend The White Coat Investor.

As life has moved on its more difficult to focus on having time to read. Podcasts give me the opportunity to learn on my drive to and from work. Listening to them at 1.5 or 2x speed allows me to get through whole episodes in a single day.

I have spent the better part of 2 years learning about finances. I feel confident in my abilities to set a financial plan, to evaluate Investment opportunities, and to be ready for retirement.

In my mind every doc needs to set time aside to learn about finance. There aren’t many other professions where you quadruple your income in the matter of a year like you do when you’re done with training.

You may feel like a kid in a candy store. A kid with your pockets stuffed full of cash. You also my feel entitled to nice things since you just finished putting so much work in. I get it. Treat yourself. Do something nice for yourself and then learn, come up with a plan, and execute.

If you are not like me and can’t stand the thought of DIYing things yourself let me leave you with this. Betterment is an online advisor service that will keep fees low and help you come up with a financial plan. If you want to find a financial planner, find a fiduciary who legally has your best interest at heart.

Don’t fall into the trap of whole life insurance, universal life insurance or annuities. Insurance is for replacing things when disaster strikes. It’s not the best retirement plan.

Whatever you decide, remember that nobody cares about your money more than you do. Along with that, you have the mental capabilities to master anything, finances included.

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