These finance-savvy doctors made big mistakes so you don’t have to

By Jonathan Ford Hughes | Fact-checked by MDLinx staff
Published September 16, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • With a big salary comes big financial decisions

  • Mistakes like buying too much house and investing poorly can put a big dent in your finances

  • Take your time, do your research, and learn from the following mistakes

Whether you’re just coming out of residency and that first big paycheck is burning a hole through your pocket, or you’ve been practicing for years and have your fair share of financial-investments-gone-wrong stories, it’s always interesting to see what those with an established financial online presence have to say. Take a deep breath, and maybe a cold shower. Don’t end up a broke doctor and listen to some pearls of financial wisdom from these six leading physician financial bloggers.

White Coat Investor: Wait a while to buy a house

Jim Dahle is an emergency physician and the White Coat Investor. Dahle made his foray into personal finance and investing after he got tired of being ripped off by financial professionals. His mission is to teach financial literacy to doctors.

His hard-learned lesson involves a house: “I wish I had waited to buy a house until I was in a place I knew I’d be for at least five years. At least I’m not alone in making this common mistake. Other common mistakes I made were mistaking a commissioned salesman for a financial advisor and buying a whole life insurance policy that was completely inappropriate.”

Ben White, MD: Use discretionary time wisely

Ben White is a Texas-based physician and all-around fascinating guy. In addition to being a prolific, insightful blogger, he also has written several books for doctors and curates Nanoism, an online publication for Twitter fiction.

Dr. White offered the following: “The ‘correct’ answer is usually to spend less on a car, not buy a house, put more away for retirement, and get disability insurance. But looking back, my biggest real regret is not being more purposeful with my discretionary time. Time outside of work obligations has both a monetary and nonmonetary value, and I was very free with spending too much of it to ‘maximize’ my income at rates that are trivial to me now. I was worth more on a per-hour basis back then, even if I didn’t realize it.”

Physician on FIRE: Start with a starter home

Physician on FIRE is a practicing anesthesiologist with a secret identity who writes about strategies for Financial Independence and Retiring Early (FIRE, get it?). Think of him as Mr. Money Mustache for Doctors. Here’s what POF had to say: “I did a few things right. I worked locums exclusively for a couple of years, practiced in different settings, and saved much of my income those first two years. “When it was time to settle down in one place, we decided to build our dream house on the water without knowing enough about the hospital’s financial situation. Four years later, the hospital would go bankrupt, and I was left with one of the nicest homes in town and few viable buyers. When it eventually sold, I lost nearly a quarter million dollars on that house. I should have taken the advice to start with a starter home.”

Wealthy Doc: Beating the market is a myth

Wealthy Doc is another established physician financial blogger who writes about creating financial freedom. He also happens to hold a finance MBA from a top-20 business school. He’s completely debt-free and gets returns in the top 15 percent of all investors.

He advises the following: “I wish I didn’t waste so much time trying to ‘beat the market.’ I thought a smart analytical mind like mine could study and discern the patterns that predict outstanding performance. I didn’t want to just settle for ‘average.’ As a result, I wasted a lot of time and money reading useless information and increasing my transaction costs and taxes.”

A Good Life MD: Rent out of residency for a year

A Good Life MD is a radiation oncologist and father of two who writes about finance, as well as some big-picture topics, including morality, charity, compassion, mindfulness, meaning and purpose. He offers the following: “I would not have bought an expensive house out of training. I would have rented a modest home to get a lay of the city, schools, churches, food, etc. and most importantly see if I like the job! Rent out of training for at least a year.”

Wall Street Physician: Index funds are your friends

Before becoming a doctor, Wall Street Physician was a trader at an investment bank on, you guessed it, Wall Street. He brings real-world experience as a physician and financial professional to his frequently updated blog.

He gave this advice: “I spent far too many years trying to find a magic trading strategy that would help me beat the market. I strongly recommend all new investors to understand the basics of index fund investing, and realize that your market returns are not correlated with the time you spend analyzing the financial markets.”

What this means for you

Four out of the six doctors we spoke with mentioned mistakes concerning the purchase of a house. Don’t make a permanent move until you know your employer’s financial standing. Don’t buy a house unless you’re sure you want to be in that location for five years. Rent for a while in a city that you’re inclined to settle into so that you get the lay of the land. And when it comes to investing, trying to beat the market is futile. The best thing you can do is financially educate yourself.

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