There is more to financial stability and success than merely earning money. In order to achieve financial stability and success, physicians must consider their relationship with money—how they manage it and care for it. According to PhysicianSense, healthy relationships with money are empowering, as their dynamic has physicians asking what money can do for them, rather than what money can do to them. Focusing on the latter leads to a disempowering relationship in which physicians become slaves to their money, exhibiting actions like obsessive saving or spending, often accompanied by anxiety. Physicians must work with their money, making informed, calm decisions on everything from food to shelter to personal vacations. This will help to limit financial anxiety while promoting both financial and emotional wellness.

Although established physicians certainly earn a formidable income, the many years of school and residency leading up to that point may have led to an accumulation of debt, as well as increasing envy of friends in other professions who were earning and saving more at that time. Physicians need to acknowledge this time in their lives, but they mustn’t dwell on it.

Parents’ Money Values Influence Their Offspring’s Attitudes

A study in the Journal of Political Economy found that healthy relationships with money begin with identifying how external forces have shaped one’s underlying money values. Physicians should consider, for instance, how their parents’ money values might have affected their own relationship with money, possibly identifying a pattern from which they need to separate. They should also consider financial behaviors that demonstrate their money values. For example, some physicians may find that they prioritize purchasing a luxury car over creating an emergency fund. The goal is not to pass judgment, but rather, to objectively examine priorities so as to create an honest, fruitful relationship with money. A key piece to a healthy physician-financial relationship is paying off student loan debt. Though paying off student loan debt may not initially enable physicians to lead their ideal lifestyle, it serves to establish the foundation for a healthy relationship with money. The sooner student loan debts are paid off, the sooner physicians have more financial freedom to make lifestyle decisions like buying a house or starting a family.

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Emergency funds are excellent tools for establishing a healthy relationship with money. Though they may not be as thrilling as luxury cars, emergency funds establish a different kind of freedom for physicians. With an emergency fund in place, physicians can better manage anxiety due to surprises like job loss, unexpected home repairs, or personal medical emergencies. Furthermore, once a significant amount of money has accrued, physicians will be empowered with the ability to divert some extra money into other areas like vacation homes, retirement accounts, or luxury cars.

In order to form an effective emergency fund while also maintaining adequate funds for daily living expenses, physicians would benefit from creating a budget. Budgets enforce an empowering dynamic in physician-finance relationships, allowing for physicians to take charge of their finances. Saving for retirement also empowers physicians, providing them with the security of knowing they can maintain some semblance of their current lifestyle after they retire. Achieving this healthy relationship with money ensures peace of mind, both in the present and in the future.