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Why Most Australian Doctors Fail Financially

I have written about this topic before, i.e. the myth that all Doctors must be incredibly wealthy and financially successful. Alas, often that is not the case.

I wanted to raise this issue again, as it is the main reason why I focus on working with Medical Professionals – you dedicate your entire life to helping people remain or become healthy, but in the process you ignore your own financial health.

Also, I recently came across the results from a 2016 US study on Physicians’ Financial Preparedness (See the Study here). The issues highlighted in this report are very relevant for Australian Doctors as well, and it is clear that the lack of financial preparedness for Doctors is caused by their profession.

Let’s look at 4 main issues raised in the study.

Retirement Planning

When asked in 2013, approximately 50% of doctors felt that they were behind when it came to retirement planning and saving, and only 6% felt that they were ahead of the curve. This has actually improved in 2016, with the latest report showing that only 39% of doctors reported feeling behind on their retirement planning, and the number that felt they were ahead of schedule increased from 6% to 11%.

Based on my experience, I would say that at least 50% of Australian Doctors would share these concerns. The reasons are quite simple:

– Doctors start to earn and accumulate savings later than other professionals; – Many Doctors have high student debts and continue to spend a significant amount of money on further education and specialisation; – Doctors have very little time to think about their retirement planning, and as a result are lacking clear direction.

Saving for Retirement

Doctors in the US are “very concerned” about their ability to save for their retirement. In the 2013 report, between 29% and 55% of doctors listed this as one of their top financial concerns. This number decreased slightly, with 16% to 35% expressing concerns about saving for retirement in the 2016 report, but this is still a significant portion of medical professionals.

I have no doubt that Australian Doctors share similar concerns as their US counterparts. Many Doctors struggle to manage their cash flow, with the pressures of high income tax rates, mortgage repayments and living expenses limiting their wealth creation opportunities…unless you have a personalised plan. This is where we provide the best value for our medical clients, by ensuring they are making the most of their cash flow and are actively building wealth for their retirement.

Financial Planning Knowledge

Medical professionals are intelligent, educated people, and yet the 2013 and 2016 reports show that many US Doctors still do not feel competent when it comes to personal finance. In 2013, 74% of physicians felt that they were knowledgeable, or at least somewhat knowledgeable, when it came to personal financial planning. That number has unfortunately decreased, as the 2016 report found that only 69% of US Dcotors felt knowledgeable or somewhat knowledge about their personal financial planning.

Based on my experience and my research with medical colleges across Australia, there is a significant knowledge gap for Doctors when it comes to understanding and applying important financial concepts and strategies. To that effect, we have developed the Medico CFO course, which is designed to give Doctors across Australia an excellent, practical foundation in all the financial issues affecting them. As a bonus, several colleges have already endorsed the course for CPD points. Refer to www.medicocfo.com.au for further details.

Estate Planning

While medical professionals are often thinking ahead and concerned about their future, many doctors do not have a complete estate plan in place. The 2013 report found that only around 50% of United States doctors have a full estate plan. In 2016, only 35% of doctors said that they have a full estate plan and Will ready in the event of their passing.

In Australia, my guess is that the number of Doctors with a valid and up to date estate plan is more like 25%. Often, the Wills are more than 10 years old, and/or did not consider the benefits offered by testamentary trusts. Yet, Doctors often have significant estates to pass on to their loved ones, so comprehensive estate planning should be a priority.

Conclusion

Doctors in the US and Australia certainly have plenty of challenges when it comes to repaying debt, making smart investments and financial decisions, and planning for the future. The best decision medical professionals can make with regards to their financial future is to engage a medical financial planning specialist, to ensure that they are on the right track for their future.

If you are interested in exploring such a relationship, we would love to talk to you. Please contact us on 08 6160 5918 or yves@affluenceprivate.com.au. We would love to talk to you.


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