Financial mentor – Get one or be one

There is no question that the financial house of my family is solid, but it wasn’t always so.  My wife is a PA and finished training 10 years ago and I finished my residency within that period.  We passed though a time of high 6-figure debt, job uncertainty, frequent relocation and financially illiteracy.  Like adolescence, we’ve grown through those “akward times”, and we had a lot of help along the way.  This post is my homage to that help.

So, rewind to a few years back.  We are the peak of all those akward feelings and at high anxiety about the future.  Should be buy the “doctor house”? (we did), should we upgrade our old cars? (we could afford the monthly payment), should we                    *insert money leaching idea of dubious impact on happiness*

I needed a guide, a book, a website, a mentor, anything to give us some clarity.  As physicians we learn nothing about these life skills but the need for these skills comes on quick once our training ends.

I polled some friends and they were all over the board: individual stocks they just knew were going to “pop”, max out 401K and that’s it, what’s retirment savings, isnt’ social security going to be enough?, my inheritance, bla bla bla.

So I searched internet for and stumbled upon a then budding White Coat Investor long before he was a titan of the blogosphere.  There was a great list of books on that site, and I chose The Four Pilliars by William Bernstein, M.D, Ph.D.  Why did I choose that one?  The author is a doctor, duh….. and the book is well, amazing.

Wayne's World were not worthy

That book changed my life.  It was so data driven and the examples just made sense on how markets worked through history, how risk and reward are “inextricably linked”, asset allocation, etc.  Well that opened up the flood gates, I was hooked and ended up reading all of Bernstein’s books (there are a plethora) , even the history books (which are excellent).  Then it was onto more authors.

So I had a nice foundation and was ready to fine tune my skills.  Boglehead forum, blogs (recently been into Physician on Fire and Dr. Curious because they resonate with my current life stage), journal articles, subscribe to American Association of Individual Investors (although since dropped the subscription).  Unfortunately, I didn’t have an actual person as a mentor, but had plenty of “virtual” mentors.

Be careful if you embark without an actual mentor or with a bad mentor, if you/they have bad habits you’ll just fall into confirmation bias and end up buying high, selling low and hating life, or worse… you could end up a sith lord……

Obiwan: I told you to buy and hold a low-cost index fund. No one, not even the Jedi can predict the stock market!
Anakin: But master, my friend Emperor Palpatine  told me it would be the next google!


Once I’d been “in practice” for a few years as Jedi master of my personal financial destiny, I thought it was time I tried my hand at helping out some friends who I thought might be on a bad financial path.  It’s true what they say, The teacher comes when the student is ready.  Some people, no matter how screwy their financial life, will reject even the most subtle charming suggestions about personal finance.  Fear not, there are plenty out there in need of and searching for mentor-ship.

So fast-forward a few years and I have helped several friends, family members, students  and colleagues.  I don’t even search it out anymore, its a reputation thing now.  Each year I lecture to the medical students at several facilities in my area, I have given talks to my alma mater training program and I also work in a few pearls for my rotating medical students.

What do I get from it?  

  1. If I knew then what I know now – I just feels good to help out my younger self.
  2. Pay it forward – Saying “Thanks!” to those before me (part of reason for starting this blog).
  3. There is an unmet need among physicians.  See this recent article on financial illiteracy among our younger brethren.   I love data, so this was a big one for me and I will be presenting this to the students this year fa sho.
  4. The selfish reason –  There is no better litmus test of my grasp of knowledge than an ability to teach that knowledge to another.  Students ask the tough questions and you have an obligation to give them details they can act on, not fluff to make you sound smart.
  5. For the kids.  By the time my kids are old enough to care, my philosophy and “lesson plans” will be well honed.  I already have several of my power points to make them watch!

So if you’re looking for someone to teach you, just ask around.  If you want someone to teach, do the same!



4 Replies to “Financial mentor – Get one or be one”

  1. Having a financial mentor is great — and the semi-anonymous nature of the Internet is the perfect avenue to both give and receive mentorship. The number of people you’d be willing to share your personal financial details with is pretty limited – I doubt I’d share my finances with my professional mentors. But post your details on Bogleheads or the WCI forum, and you can get a wealth of good advice.

    1. No doubt I’ll keep the details private. I see many people posting actual net worth and I’m actually comforted by this proof that they are who they say they are. I’m not at that level of comfort yet, but I don’t mind seeing others numbers : )

  2. I’ve been looking to “pay forward” some of the great financial knowledge for doctors available on the web. I think you’ve inspired me to finally do it!

    So far, I have only really helped my physician brother with some of his finances, and only with limited success. You can lead a horse to water and all that. But the more the message of financial education gets out there, the better.

    1. What’s up Dr. C. I thought you’d be busy on Sunday grilling, drinking beer and listening to your excellent playlist.

      Glad to inspire you. As a profession we have much to lose being being financially incompetent. You’re already paying it forward, I read your posts : )

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