Saving your money doesn't have to mean losing out on your comforts.
Managing your money comes down to three steps; earning, making purchases, and saving. But not everyone views all three steps in the same way. In fact, each individual person in the world—doctors included—have stronger feelings about one of these steps than the other two. In addition to helping maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle, the acts of earning, spending, and saving typically also satisfy deep-seated psychological needs.
Earning money, whether through medical work or investments, is considered the first step of money management for most doctors because doctors tend not to outspend their earnings. Deciding how much to save or how much to spend is usually the next step. For some physicians, spending money to acquire goods, services, or experiences is a priority. And for others, saving money takes precedence overspending.
How you manage your money without sacrificing comforts is largely based on what you value as a comfort. Many physicians consider going out to buy breakfast and lunch every day to be a basic comfort, while others are perfectly happy to pack their work-time meals. Such choices can be partially dependent on your current life situation, but when you are in a high earning position, your own personal money priorities are also related to how you are naturally wired from your early life experiences. Working to earn money is generally achievable for most physicians. The vast majority of primary care doctors and specialists are able to find full-time work that pays well. And there are many practice options like locum tenens, moonlighting, and telemedicine that can fill short-term gaps for a doctor who is relocating or riding out a no-compete clause. Many doctors also invest money, which is another way of earning. When it comes to maximizing earnings, some physicians are also skilled at negotiating for a higher reimbursement and strategizing ways to get professional promotions with a better salary.
Earning money, whether through strategic planning or by maintaining a high work volume, makes most doctors feel competent, powerful, and accomplished. Some doctors take every opportunity to maximize earnings by working long hours and even picking up-side projects (like consulting and expert witness work) to earn more during the time that others would naturally consider to be free time.
Physicians are used to feelings of high achievement throughout the educational years, and a high take-home-pay often serves to continue this sense of measurable achievement throughout the professional years too. Yet earning can mean spending power for some doctors, while it may mean saving power for others. Many people, physicians included, have heard the old adage “A penny saved is a penny earned.” In fact, when one considers taxes, a penny saved is literally worth more than a penny earned.
Saving up, whether for a rainy day, for a large purchase, or for the ability to eventually work less, makes many doctors feel secure. Saving, like earning, satisfies a psychological need. One form of saving involves giving up luxuries to avoid spending money. Some doctors may sacrifice luxuries that their peers consider important, such as home additions or car amenities. For those who value these items, and yet want to pay less for them than others do, getting a better deal is the cornerstone of saving.
For doctors, saving may be achieved by shopping around to get better prices or by bargaining with salespeople. Paying less than what something is believed to be worth makes people feel that they have outsmarted their peers, and this is often in line with some physicians’ concepts of self-worth.
While saving and earning both require time and attention, some may consider saving to be enjoyable, while others consider it a hassle. Saving money can become a hobby or an addiction, even for high earners. Money is a currency of exchange, and spending it is the way to exchange it. Doctors are not known for overspending. While physicians typically have earning power to purchase basic needs, meet societal expectations, and pay for wish list expenditures, the decisions regarding what to spend money on is not necessarily the same for all physicians, even for those who earn approximately the same amount.
Some doctors consider living in a pricey neighborhood to be the pinnacle of success, while others consider a certain vacation destination of utmost importance. Some may yearn for more subtle expenditures that are recognizable only by elite peers. For others, a large savings is the most satisfying expenditure of all.
Acquiring products and services can make people very happy. But interestingly, spending money can actually cause some people to experience a sense of anxiety—and even pain, while saving may provide a sense of relief. How much you spend is often a balance between your need for the security of saving and your need for the euphoria of buying.
Doctors can save money without giving up smaller comforts. If your attention is focused on maximizing your earnings, you are unlikely to be able to also focus on time-consuming strategies for saving money, such as waiting to jump on the price drop of a certain home you have had your eye on. This often means that the more you work on maximizing your earnings, the less you can work on getting good deals—unless, of course, you spend every waking second thinking about money. And that type of focus can ultimately take away from your ability to finally enjoy what you have spent your money on.
As a high-income physician, you may be thrilled about your earning power, you may still have some money insecurity (especially if you are still paying off educational loans), and you may be craving certain possessions or comforts that you have had to live without for a long time. Balancing that equation is important when it comes to your ability to happily earn, save, and spend.