Time for a Check-up: How Healthy are Your Finances?

Have you had your annual physical yet? If so, excellent! If not, now’s probably a good time to schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure your health is in tip-top shape. But your health isn’t the only aspect of your life that needs a check-up. As a family physician, your finances will also need a thorough examination – and not just once a year. So do you know how healthy your finances are? Whether you decide to do it yourself or seek the advice of a financial adviser, it’s important that you find out which areas of your monetary situation get a clean bill of health and which ones need to visit the ICU.

Net Worth

Just as your physician examines your physical health, you or your financial adviser will need to examine your overall financial health which means assessing your net worth. Physicians who are 60+ could have a net worth of over two million dollars by the end of a career, keeping in mind that they started saving early on. Wondering what your exact net worth is? Simply calculate your assets (stocks, bonds, savings, etc.) and subtract your liabilities (debts, loans, etc.) Use this Net Worth Calculator by CNN Money if you need a little extra help. If your numbers are positive, stay on track. If your numbers are negative, you may need to pinch those pennies and reevaluate your spending habits.

Credit Cards

If you need to take another look at your current spending habits, chances are that you’re carrying a hefty credit card balance. If your balance has remained the same for over a year, you may be living beyond your means and putting your financial health at risk. It’s important that you pay off your credit card debts as soon as possible and avoid paying off a credit card balance with another credit card. Transferring balances from card to card may save you money in the long run if you’re transferring from a high interest rate to a low interest rate, but keep in mind that these transfers can involve fees and may negatively affect your credit score especially if you are still paying back medical school loans.

Emergency Funds

Throughout your life, your health will change, and more times than none, you will make a few lifestyle adjustments. You may need to take a daily prescription, exercise more, eat a low-fat diet, etc. And if your finances change, you will need to make similar adjustments. Life events can disrupt your financial plans, no matter how rock solid they are. Whether you’re getting married, having kids, starting your own private practice, or moving into a bigger home, these all require you to make strategic financial decisions. By setting up emergency funds, consulting with an adviser on a regular basis and saving wisely, you’ll be prepared for whatever life-changing milestones come your way.

Impulsive Spending

So you made it a point to treat yourself after a hard day’s work with an expensive gift. We aren’t talking about treating yourself to a $10 latte topped with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. We’re talking about hundreds of dollars at a time. And while the average salary for a family doctor is around $200,000, just because you can afford to splurge doesn’t mean you should. You can rationalize your purchase decisions until you’re blue in the face, but impulse buys can be risky and financially damaging. Before you lay down large amounts of cash on expensive merchandise and luxury get-aways, comparison shop. Find the best deals out there before you make your purchase. Also be on the lookout for coupons and rebates. If coupon clipping and bargain hunting seem like too much trouble, the simplest solution is to just walk away.

Asset Protection

As a family physician, you’ve probably come across that one patient who refuses to receive any sort of vaccine or immunization. They claim that there is no need for preventative medicine because they have good genes. As their doctor, you know that while your patient may be in excellent health and have a good immune system, their health could still become compromised. The same is true if you decide to do nothing to protect your assets. If you were no longer able to practice medicine, how would you be able to provide for your family without your income? That’s where life insurance and disability insurance (D.I.) come in. Think of these types of insurance as vaccines that provide immunity for your financial health. Life insurance and D.I. are preventative measures that will protect your income, your estate and your family’s well-being in the event that you can no longer provide for them.

Retirement Planning

A general rule of thumb for any professional is to save at least 10% of your earned income for retirement. As you get older and start making more money, you should consider increasing that amount especially if you plan on retiring around age 65. In a 2013 survey on U.S. physicians’ financial preparedness, most physicians were concerned about their financial future. Half of respondents believed they were behind where they’d like to be in their retirement planning, whereas only six percent felt that they were ahead of schedule. It’s never too late to plan for retirement. While your financial outcome may not be as comfortable had you started planning earlier in your career, you will still have a financial cushion to lean on.


Tell us: Which areas of your finances do you think get a clean bill of health? Which ones don’t?


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