As physicians, we are highly intelligent and care about doing the best for our patients. Despite the many years of schooling, it continues to trouble me how many in the community perceive most physicians as a group who fail to make good financial decisions and are bad business owners. I am no different and have made my share of horrible financial and business decisions. It often takes years to learn good business practices but this can be accelerated.
My observations has led me to come up with 5 consultants that we as physicians should be required to seek early in our careers. These consultants will help you plan the next 30 plus years of your life and lead to decrease in stress, less burn-out, improved family relationships, better patient care, and financial peace.
1. Insurance representative
Many new physicians will come out of residency with a lot of debt and do not understand the importance of having the appropriate amount insurance and type of coverage. Many agents will swarm on you like bees on hives just because they know that you are a physician. Having a good insurance consultant that will aid you obtain the right amount of term life insurance, auto coverage, disability coverage, and health insurance will help you provide for your family in the event that you are unable to work or when you pass away. The key is to work with an agent that is willing and able to teach you about available options and run away from agents that appear to only be interested in getting a commission. If they are more interested in selling you a plan than teaching you about options then they are not for you.
2. Accountant or Business Advisor
I have had the same accountant for over 10 years and I often wish I listened to her more than just heard what she has said in the past. Having a bad accountant, or even worse, having no accountant as a physician can open yourself up for pain and heartache in the future. US tax laws are cumbersome and difficult to understand.
Accountants that have experience with working with physicians can help you save in taxes and give you business advice based on their experiences. You may think you are saving money in the short term but consulting a good accountant will save you money in the long run.
Crazy as it sounds…. I did not think it was important to have an attorney help me with estate planning until a year ago. That’s 18 years after starting residency!!! Planning things before you are no longer on this earth makes life a lot easier for your loved ones.
Even if you are not married, having an attorney complete a living will, power of attorney, and healthcare surrogate documents will keep the state out of personal end of life decisions that the courts should have no business dealing with. That same attorney can help refer you to other legal representatives should the need arise.
4. Financial Representative
A financial consultant is probably the most important consult to have. A good financial consultant will have the heart of a teacher and steer you away from accumulating debt. Astronomical medical school debt leads many physicians to make poor decisions. Consulting with a financial representative that will teach you the benefits of long term compounding interest, avoiding additional debt, having a budget, saving, and investing has the potential to help you retire early and care for patients with less stress.
Just like hiring an insurance agent, you should avoid financial representatives that care more about selling you a product than teaching you the right way.
5. Successful Mentor
Finding a good business mentor in medicine can be difficult. Most successful physicians are very busy and have little time to take younger physicians under their wings. Many physicians are now working for larger organizations and it is getting harder to find that great sensei, but certainly not impossible. I feel that interacting with as many friendly and caring providers is one of the keys to finding that great mentor. If you walk down the halls of the hospital or clinic that you are working in and your colleagues barely acknowledges your presence then they are likely not the one. Find someone that has been in the same practice for over 10-15 years with a great reputation among other medical staff and nurses. Be bold and ask to shadow them or help them in their practice. I did this in my last year of residency with a well known internist in Miami and it really paid off. He gave me sound, practical advice that has helped me ’til this day.
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