Financial literacy can help the medical community

The public generally does not think of physicians as being financially stressed, but in many instances that is the case.

April is Financial Literacy Month, which is very timely for many residents, physicians and other medical professionals who have struggled through the pandemic. Unfortunately, in late March, roughly $15 billion in new coronavirus aid had not passed Congress as the White House warned that inaction threatened to imperil the country’s ability to deliver tests, therapeutics, and vaccines. Next to this over-arching problem, the medical community has other serious concerns, too.

The public generally does not think of physicians as being financially stressed, but in many instances that is the case. The International Journal of Medical Education, in a study published last September, found that medical residents and fellows have low levels of financial literacy and high debt. Nearly 33% of respondents noted struggling to find funds for monthly expenses, regardless of their median income being around the national average. Researchers concluded that training in budgeting, estate planning, investing, and retirement planning are essential for providing medical school students (and doctors) with the ability to effectively manage finances.

I alluded to the pandemic at the outset but the recommendations I made to clients at that time are still valid. These tips can diminish anxiety and provide a justifiable sense of security.

Tip #1: Do a cash flow exercise. Go over income after taxes from all areas and look at current expenses. It can be painful but think of it as just a first step to more peace of mind.

Tip #2: See what percentage of expenses can be cut down. Keep in mind that many people spend “side by side” or throughout the day, especially if they are working in offices or even if they are part of the workforce on Zoom. After a busy day at work, we order takeout butnow that Covid regulations are changing, we’re going to restaurants again. A cash flow sheet could help visualize where you could cut down on those expenses.

Tip #3: Set a time to put savings in an account. If you are saving weekly or semi-monthly you will be surprised at how fast the amount can grow.

Tip #4: Find a trusted advisor. And last, ask friends and family if they have a trusted advisor whom they work with who can help prepare for these unprecedented times, as the impact of the pandemic has eased but inflation is driving up prices on many goods and services.

The points I have made go beyond the needs of individual physicians of course. Having come through a period of great stress, the medical community needs help and recognition of the underlying problem. As reported in Physicians Weekly in late 2021, a California Medical Association survey found that 64% of physicians expressed a need for financial assistance, 47% required temporary housing, and 95% of physician practices reported concern about their financial wellbeing.

Ultimately, what we are talking about is financial literacy, which has been my favorite topic throughout my career, causing me to write the Peter Saves series of books to help increase financial literacy among children. The book series helps kids understand savings accounts, rainy day funds, and life insurance. Not just the medical community but many Americans, in all walks of life, can benefit immensely from being financially literate.

I wrote “The Peter Saves” book series to start an educational movement to instill financial literacy in children. I know from experience that introducing the concepts of savings accounts, rainy day funds, and life insurance provides children thebuilding blocks to a strong understanding of finance. Inspired by my seven-year-old son, Peter Saves for a Rainy Day is a great first step for any child to learn the basics of financial literacy. It has spurred a passion in me to impact as many children as I can – and to help our more-important-than ever medical community.

Rosanna Guardavaccaro is a Financial Planner based in Barnum Financial Group’s New York City office. She can be reached at RGuardavaccaro@barnumfg.com or by phone at 212-631-2061

Rosanna Guardavaccaro is a registered representative of and offers securities and investment advisory services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC www.SIPC.org 6 Corporate Drive, Shelton, CT 06484 (203) 513-6000. CRN202503-2121815