Have four minutes? Great. I think I can change your life.
The core values that embody this site:
- Our careers demand most of our attention.
- We still want to live well now while preparing to live epically (is that a word?)
- Our time is our most valuable asset.
- Financial wellness is a key to our future career happiness.
My belief, and the reason Millennial in Medicine exists, is that there are tools that can help us achieve all of the above. With that in mind, here are the criteria for advice I try to live by and share on this site:
1. Question preconceived notions.
Following the herd gets you to where healthcare careers are now, which is good but not great. The averages are 40-60+ hour workweeks (70-90 as a resident), a lot of administrative tasks, and an average debt of $183,000 before interest. It is easy to get pulled into the mentality that anything you spend on your education is “just another drop in the bucket,” that you can’t stay in shape or have hobbies in training, and that we should live and eat and travel a certain way because other doctors do it. That line of thinking already led most of us to historically high debt levels. Don’t get swept up in a historically unfortunate crowd.
Instead, question what everyone else takes for granted. Most of the answers might be ‘no,’ but not all of them. Do you need a car in professional school? Do you have time to study, have a hobby, and work out? Do you need to buy any books? Can you earn money remotely and on your own time while in school? Can you start saving for retirement in school? Is it better to pay out of state tuition or establish residency first by working for a year? There are hundreds more questions like these. An unexpected number have exceptional answers.
2. Automate everything that can be automated
Bill paying, investing, grocery shopping, other tasks that are frequently time consuming, and even meals should take up very little of your time. Most of this is free except for up-front time investment. Use your credit card (automated to pay off in full at the end of each billing cycle) to automate utility payments, and rent or tuition if possible. Use your Human Resources department (if working) or your checking account to automatically invest in your retirement accounts and/or HSA each month. You can even automate small investments or debt payoffs with purchases, or services that hunt for cost adjustments and discounts for late shipments without you lifting a finger.
Look for more posts in the future about automation. Unfortunately for me, they don’t get written automatically.
3. Any energy or time that we input needs to manifest with results that are magnitudes greater.
Something that only makes a small difference better require less than five minutes to complete, or I won’t put it on this site. That’s why I don’t advocate coupon clipping, most easy side hustles, or exhaustive budgets. Our time is worth more than we gain from those activities, and in training, that time is more important than our money. I try to classify tools and ideas as such: low/no input for moderate payout, moderate input for big gains, or large investment for explosive results.
Question if how you are studying is getting the results it should, or even if the specialty you’re aiming for has a payout that is significantly greater than the input. Don’t ensnare yourself in the competitiveness unless it’s for something you know you’ll love to do. Hot specialties come and go with legislation and reimbursement, and even the highest paying specialties can’t touch what original-minded people are able to accomplish, and earn, through innovation. I guarantee that there are family medicine docs who are independently wealthier than neurosurgeons (easy to say because I know some). Follow our Docs Outside of the Box series for more.
4. Our time in training matters, as does the balance of our lives.
Now is the time to improve our health, our diet, travel, be active, and set the stage for our financial habits. Many professors, attendings and senior level residents will act like your time is disposable, because that’s how they were treated. Sometimes you have to grin and bear it, but outside your med center, your free time matters. Calculate the value of your time to make purchase and outsourcing decisions. Leverage your position as a college graduate and professional student or resident to make more money in less time. Once you’ve done that (or saved a lot of money in other ways), pay people (or computers) to do tasks that consume a disproportionate amount of your time or energy, especially during practically impassable stretches like exam weeks, intern year, or some rotations. Use any time you free up to increase your overall wellness or make more money. There are times when training is so demanding that you won’t have balance. It’s healthcare. You can forecast those stretches and plan for them.
* Don’t put the camper before the minivan. Optimize your financial wellness through saving and investing strategies or side hustles first. Always keep your investment/debt ratio in mind.*
5. Our generation has selective advantages–a lot of them. There are still no substitutes for sound, long term habits that start with discipline.
If we want a better result than many of our peers, we have to do some things differently. I don’t advocate strict line-by-line budgets or skimping on necessities, or even foregoing some luxuries. I do try to make smarter decisions ahead of time, stay dollar wise even while I’m penny stupid, and pay for experiences over things. If you set up the right framework-one that offers accountability and flexibility- and accounts for the occasional splurge, you’re better off than 95% of your peers. The strategies and stories we share here will impact everyone differently; it is not designed to be a one-size-fits all solution. What is important to you is entirely up to you, so make judicious innovations and sacrifices that fit the lifestyle you want. Whether you use this site to achieve a high standard of living and financial independence within 10 years of graduation or just scrape enough aside to fund a Roth IRA while traveling as much as possible while you’re young, your plan should be realistic, predictable, and scalable.
6. Nothing is impossible until we’ve given it our best shot, and even then, we probably just need to tweak it a bit.
If you agree with any of the above then this site can help you. Personally, my mission is to take it a step further. I believe that we can collectively solve our healthcare and career problems better than an insurance company, corporate board, or anything that Congress decides. We need to be well-trained, well-informed, and have the autonomy to tolerate risks to accomplish any of this. Having a community of creative, intelligent, driven people is essential, and I have never worked with a group more capable than those I’ve met in dental and medical school.
What ideals drive your everyday life? How do you balance your life with the demands of professional school? I’d love to hear your ideas, techniques, or critiques.