Remember the days when you said all you needed was to make just a little bit more, and you’d be happy? We all think that at some point. But without financial self-control, a higher income means more expenses.
As a physician, it’s even more important that you have strategies to monitor your income and spending habits. Otherwise, it’s easy to find yourself in over your head with debt.
Everyone wants to loan money to a doctor. The problem is paying it back if unforeseeable events happen.
Getting economically savvy before the money starts rolling in is the best thing to do. If you’re already making a decent income and you’re concerned about your spending habits, though, it’s not too late. These tips will help you build your self-control and live within your means.
1. Create an Emergency Fund
Emergencies happen. What will your family do if you end up sick or injured and can’t work? Do you have a contingency plan to cover your expenses until you recover?
Most financial experts suggest that to be safe, you have at least three months’ worth of bills tucked away in an emergency fund. This needs to be something you can put your hands on immediately without penalties. Having the money in an IRA or other portfolio account doesn’t count.
Before you make any other major purchases or take a vacation, start putting away your three months’ (or more) of expenses. Then, move on to the next major step in building your financial Self-Control.
2. Pay Off Your Debt
As financial guru Dave Ramsey says, you can’t get out of debt if you continue with the same lifestyle that put you there. Until you’ve paid off all your debt, including your mortgage, student loans, and cars, you’re not financially independent.
Are you trying to sock away funds for a retirement nest egg? It’s a great idea in theory. But the best thing to do to prepare for your golden years is to get rid of your debt, so it doesn’t follow you into them.
This might mean taking on some extra work for a little while. As a doctor, you have lots of side job opportunities. For instance, you might be able to pick up some extra cash working as a locum tenens. The pros and cons of this type of work are described here by Physicians Thrive.
Remember, the extra hours you’re working are for a reason, and only for a season. After you’ve paid off your debt, you get to relax and live your best life.
3. Track Your Money
Do you have your own clinic, or are you employed by a healthcare facility? Either way, who keeps track of your expenses and income?
Many doctors use an office manager or an accountant to balance their books and pay their bills. This is an efficient use of time. Paying an expert to handle payroll and overhead is smart. However, giving them free rein over your money is not.
It’s Your Money; You Need to Keep Track of It
No matter who takes care of your finances, you need to be a part of it. Review your accounts receivable reports regularly. Ask for a list of expenses and work with your advisor to create a budget.
Set a reasonable salary for yourself if you own the business. Keep your personal expenses separate from the company’s, and stick to your income.
It’s tempting to merge some bills and blur the lines, but the IRS only sees them in black and white. You don’t want to end up with hefty fines and penalties. Monitor your expenses and income.
Work with your accountant on your budget and taxes, and stay up-to-date with any relevant changes in legislation that could affect your job. Most importantly, don’t give anyone blanket control over your bank accounts. If they mess up, you’re stuck with the consequences.
4. Start a Portfolio
A savings account is a good start. However, that should only be for funds you need in an emergency. A portfolio is how you take care of the rest of your retirement plan.
If you’re a total beginner to the world of stocks and bonds, find a financial advisor who can explain the different options you have. There are many kinds of investments you can make, from stocks and bonds to real estate. You can choose to be hands-on or off, aggressive or conservative.
Come up with a budget of how much you want to invest, and how frequently. Keep your long-term goals in mind, and monitor your portfolio regularly. You’ll see dips and rises, but the overall picture should steadily grow into a healthy retirement fund.
Getting familiar and comfortable with your spending habits and income is crucial on the road to financial Self-Control and stability.
As you learn the depths of your money and how you’re allocating it, you develop self-control. Soon, you’ll be able to put your funds where you want to, instead of where you have to, and your whole quality of life will improve.
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