Medicine is one of the highest-paying professions, but whether doctors are able to manage their money wisely is another question. Just 28% of working doctors feel very confident they are making the best personal financial decisions for themselves and their families, according to an Employed Physicians Financial Preparedness Survey published by American Medical Association Insurance. Despite that, only 57% say they seek help from a professional financial advisor.
“Doctors go to school for years, and all that time they may have been struggling just to get by,” says Lou Desepoli, president of Desepoli Wealth Management (www.desepoliwealth.com), a firm that has received the designation as an MD Preferred Affiliated Financial Services Professional because of its work with physicians. “Finally, they graduate and suddenly they may be making a six-figure salary. But they’re not necessarily prepared to handle all that money.”
The average primary care doctor in the United States makes $195,000 annually, according to the 2015 Medscape Physician Compensation Report. Specialists make even more, averaging $284,000 annually.
Some issues physicians face as they make investment decisions include:
- Student-loan debt. Young physicians are in a particular financial dilemma because they often graduate from medical school burdened by debt, leaving them with limited resources for smart investing. The average student-loan debt for medical school graduates is $176,000, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges.
MD Preferred Services, an online service that matches physicians with healthcare-friendly professionals, reports that often these young doctors need competent financial advice more than anyone. But in many cases they are not viewed as desirable by financial advisors.
- Finding the right advisor. According to MD Preferred Services, many physicians lean toward advisors who provide fee-only services that don’t include commissions or sales charges. Mike Desepoli, Lou’s son and a wealth advisor at Desepoli Wealth Management, says there definitely are advantages to fee-only services because they tend to be transparent, efficient, and cost-effective. “They ensure that any recommendations are based solely on the client’s needs, and not with the advisor’s compensation in mind,” he says.
- Investment after retirement. Many physicians nearing the end of their careers do not have specific plans to alter their investment and savings plans as they transition into retirement, MD Preferred Services reports. That can be a mistake, the Desepolis say. It is important to sit down with an advisor and map out the better options for this stage in life.
“Most people spend more time shopping for a car than for a financial advisor,” Lou Desepoli says. “Doing research to find the right advisor matters. That’s just as true for doctors as anyone.”