Viewpoint: A doctor shares the joys of playing the market

March 20, 2009

Despite today's historic market woes, I have come to the conclusion that stocks or their equivalents are the safest, most convenient, most efficient method of growing your savings and securing your retirement.

I started investing some 25 years ago. During that time, I have dabbled in real estate, oil, natural gas, precious metals, diamonds, and internet sales. Despite today's historic market woes, I have come to the conclusion that stocks or their equivalents are the safest, most convenient, most efficient method of growing your savings and securing your retirement.

There are usually three primal reasons why physicians are reluctant to invest in stocks. The greatest of them-fear of losing your hard-earned money-is a prudent reaction, but fear is based on the perceived risk of any given activity. If you invest in quality stocks, for a sufficient amount of time, the risk of losing money is almost zero. The history of the stock market is one of continuous advancement in value. Yes, we are witnessing proof that there are down years, but over time the up years beat the down years. So you have to conclude the risk of losing all of your money is quite low.

So how do you overcome ignorance? The same way you did to become a physician: you study. Fortunately, it is much easier than medical school and, frankly, it's more fun. It's also very cheap-often free, if you're shrewd enough to use resources such as websites and your local library.

Time is the final factor keeping most physicians from becoming savvy investors. It does take time to learn the jargon and the process needed to become an independent investor. I spent around 40 hours of reading and another 20 hours attending various presentations by stock and mutual fund sales personnel before I felt comfortable enough to start investing. I also spend about 30 minutes to an hour daily looking at the market and maintaining my accounts. Perhaps you don't have such time, but in the final analysis, 30 minutes a day is not too much to expect of yourself to devote to an activity that is fun, enhances your wealth, and provides for your future.

So where is all the fun in investing? I began practice 32 years ago, and I intend to continue for at least three more years, leaving me with a need to provide for myself and my wife for perhaps another 25 to 30 years, and I expect my investments to provide most of those funds.

I suppose it may be my own odd sense of humor, but I find investing to be a lot like sex. Investing is full of mystery and uncertainty, triumph and defeat, excitement and failure, and it's an activity that can be enjoyed by all. You may not share my sense of humor, but I think you will agree that each physician is ultimately responsible for his or her own financial security.

The good news is that it's not that hard to do, and it's fun-maybe not as much fun as sex, but pretty close.

H.W. Collier, MD, is a clinical associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. Send your feedback to meletters@advanstar.com
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