Money has been one of those topics we we’re taught not to talk about… yet most of us don’t have a natural ability to make, save and invest money. This leaves us in a place where it’s easy to mess up and find financial instability.
While in medical school money, salary and investments were never really part of the conversation- the only time you heard about money was when “financial advisors” would do presentations on the wonders of insurance and loans. Rarely, did conversations about saving, investing and pensions really come up.
Everyone seems to expect doctors to be rich, but the truth is, many are not and many are barely making ends meet. For many, if they don’t work they don’t have any money… which can lead to doctors working way beyond the retirement age and still die as paupers.
Why? They’re so many reasons for this… high debt, keeping up with the joneses, spending more than we earn… blah blah blah… it all comes down to poor money management.
They’re several articles on the web that talk about doctors and our poor money management skills… just google “doctors & money” enter those key words and all the articles that come up talk about this.
It’s not just a Jamaican thing- its all over the world. In general, we have a high earning potential but forget to look beyond the now. Planning for the future is always put off until tomorrow and then it hits you- it is tomorrow and you can’t maintain your lifestyle.
The way to get away from this rat race is simple but it takes discipline. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy- especially when you have no experience and have no idea where to start!
The truth is, it all comes down to living within your means… spending less than you earn and preparing for emergencies, retirement and future expenses, such as university tuition for your children.
When someone tells you this the next question is okay- but how?
Learn from others
I look for persons who are doing what I want to do, and talk to them, ask them how did they get there… more and more persons are open about making, keeping and growing money now more than ever. Why? Because talking about money doesn’t make you less money!
Learn to budget.
Budgeting for me has always been difficult- or so I thought. A few years ago I became serious about budgeting and did trial and error to find the style that suits me the best… as my life changes I rework my budget to fit my current life and expenses. Now, I write down all I spend on to get an average of my expenses for the month and then I simply pay myself and any bills first and live on the rest. When I write down my expenses it also helps me see where I can cut back.
Live on less
If you’re making 100k per month, your expenses should not amount to 100k per month. While it’s easy to want to look rich- you shouldn’t go broke trying to do so. Buy or rent property you can afford, get a car you can afford, send your children to schools you can afford. This is personalized, look at your life and be honest about what you’re spending too much on.
I will never bash luxury, or tell someone not to buy expensive items… but I would say make sure you can comfortably afford them.
Find other sources of income
Sometimes it’s not practical to live below your means, maybe your expenses for your necessities are more than your earning which might mean you have to find a way to earn more. This can be by getting another job, getting a credential that improves your earning potential or it can be a passive source of income that makes you earn while you sleep *cough cough* investing.
Learn the power of debt
Most people I know think of debt as a bad thing, everyone wants to make large purchases in cash… in my opinion that can sometimes be impractical and leave you more vulnerable than you need to be. Being cash poor can pose a huge problem- what if an emergency comes up or an investing opportunity and you’re cash poor because you didn’t want to utilize debt for a large purchase? On the other hand- don’t take on debt unless you can’t afford!
Prepare for tomorrow
I cannot stress the importance of preparation. You won’t always be able to work, anything can happen from accidents to death. Preparation can come in the form of pensions, insurance and other investment instruments. Things I think are important to prepare for financially are: retirement, education for your children, medical emergencies, caring for elderly parents just to name a few.
Nothing I have written is new advice or revolutionary… we’ve all heard it before. The hardest thing is starting. It can be overwhelming to the point where you no longer want to do it so- take it in chunks. Write it down in paper what it is that you want to do and break it down into manageable pieces. Make SMART goals and take steps. A lot of times, it’s the small changes that add up and really make a difference. It can be as simple as eating out 4x a week instead of 5. Buying certain groceries in bulk. Finally opening an equity account or pension account.
Don’t be afraid to talk about money with your peers and seeking professional advice from trusted and well trained professionals in the industry. Do your own research and just start- one foot in front of the other.
Samantha C. Johnson
PS. And of course I’m not a licensed financial advisors. These are all just from my own personal experience and observations.