Most financial advisors are not rocket scientists. In fact, some of the very best advisors have only a four-year degree and and the Certified Financial Planner® designation. I'm one of those guys.
And every now and then, I meet a new physician who believes he (or she) is smarter than I am. Let me assure you, this is true. All the people I serve are indeed smarter than I am. That's one of the reasons they're doctors, and I'm not.
A few doctorsthose who might be interested in hiring my firmhave told me, "If I had a little more time, I could do this [easy financial planning stuff] myself."
Well, I'm here today to tell you that every doctor is smart enough to handle his/her own financial planning and investments. Really. Every doctor can do the work I do.
But they don't.
In my career, I've never (not once) met a physician who had the right kinds and amounts of disability insurance coverage. I've almost never met a doctor who had enough life insurance to make sure his family would be able to meet their needs if he bites the dust before he's supposed to. I've met doctors whose college funding plan is to let their kids borrow the money (even though they won't qualify). And way too many doctors believe that fully funding their 401k is all they need to do to prepare for retirement.
Sure, plenty of physician families have a budget, and some can even produce three-color Quicken reports showing how much they've spent on dry cleaning for the past five years . But spending doesn't move you closer to your goals, and budgeting won't cause you to achieve financial security. For that, you need a savings plan.
And of course, there's the Holy Grail: investing. It's that thing your colleagues have all figured out, and convinced you that you will never understand. I've spoken with doctors who love to pick value stocks, who've mastered timing the market, and others who only do real estate. But they've never included their spouses in the self-education process, and it's all ready to fall apart when they kick the bucket (believe me, your widows are going to have a mess on their hands).
Just because you CAN do your own financial planning does not mean you WILL do your own financial planning.
So why not? The Number One reason I hear is that "I'm too busy." O.K. I hear you.
You said you're too busy. But I think "too busy" is only a half truth. The whole truth is that other things have a higher priority in your life. Your practice. Your kids. Your marriage. And even your own health (gotta get that workout in today, right?). Money is important, but it's not a priority for you, so it doesn't get done.
But let's assume for a moment that you've decided to take a 5-day vacation strictly for the purpose of sorting out your own personal finances; sort of a "personal finance sabbatical". On the first day, you decide to tackle your disability insurance.
And so you begin.
But where DO you begin? Do you read through the policy you already have? Do you even have a policy? Maybe you're covered by your policy at work. But you don't have a copy of it because it's not really "your" policy; it's your employer's policy. So you call that H.R. person who must have it, and they make you log on to the website (forgot your password?) to retrieve it.
You sit down to read it, and discover that you don't know which "classification" you belong to, so you call the H.R. person back, and find out you're an "A1t". Then you begin to read your policy from an A1t's perspective. But you've never read a disability policy before, so how in the heck do you know what's not there if something's missing?
AS if you're on some boring, twisted game show, you decide to call an expert. But wait a minute. EVERYBODY is an insurance expert - your State Farm guy, your life insurance guy, the guy at your bank, even your colleagues make you think they've got it all figured out. So which one of those "guys" is the REAL guy who has the REAL answers?
You think to yourself, "Hey, it's a policy from work, it must be OK, I'm probably covered, and I'll probably never need it anyway." So you give up, and move on to the next topic.
But at the end of five precious days of struggling with the five big areas of personal finance (insurance, investments, taxes, retirement, and college, you really haven't made much headway.
In fact, you're still not certain about any of this stuff.
Let me assure you that none of this personal finance stuff is "hard". Anyone physician is smart enough to figure it out. But I've met only a half dozen or so doctors who were so dedicated to their personal finances that they actually persevered through the process and did actually get it all done.
If you're one of those select few doctors, I say "Well done." I am very glad to see you have the gratification of doing it yourself. It's rewarding to know that you're OK, and you're going to be OK, and your family is going to be OK.
But if you're NOT one of those doctors, I have one piece of free advice for you. Find one of those doctors and get them to help you do it yourself, or hire a competent financial advisor who not only CAN help you but one who actually WILL help you take care of this stuff.
Your family's counting on you.