Financial Tips for the Rest of Us
It’s certainly no secret that I work with doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals as those are people I’ve been surrounded by my entire life. While I truly do enjoy serving that community and focusing my practice to that demographic, sometimes it’s nice to write up some advice for a larger population. Perhaps you’re in medical school or nursing school and need some tips that don’t focus on having completed your degree/residency. Maybe you’re not contemplating going into the medical profession at all and are looking for some good general advice. Either way, this is the blog post for you. Let’s dive in and I hope some of this advice gives you some things to think about.
The Car You Drive
Many Americans identify themselves by the cars they drive, and advertising does a great job of reinforcing that idea. Spending too much on a car is currently the biggest financial mistake that Americans make (followed closely by child care, I’ll get to that later) so while it’s tempting to put significant money towards the car you’ve always wanted it may be best to hold off. While driving a new luxury car or a new Jeep may help project the image of success or being adventurous, the truth is that you aren’t what you drive.
There is an argument to be made that buying or leasing a new car gives you access to advanced levels of safety over older cars and are more reliable which means less costs on maintenance. While I certainly agree that protecting your health is very important, newer cars are not more safe by any major degree, and the reliability is also pretty dependent as there are plenty of older model cars that are perfectly reliable. If you want to spend more time working and being in debt so that you’re minimally safer in a new car, then that’s obviously your choice. When including all the other inflated costs of insurance and financing for a new car, it may make more sense to drive an older car and invest the difference in expenses.
Grow Your Income
If someone called me and asked for advice and I said “Have you thought about making more money?” they likely wouldn’t be interested in anything else I had to say. That being said, growing your income is something that most people don’t think about in any specific sense, so let’s look at some specifics. Here are some great ways to improve your income:
Ask for a raise beyond the cost of living adjustment.
Relocate to get a higher paying job or decrease your cost of living expenses.
Get more education to improve your job prospects.
Change to a more lucrative career.
Get a side hustle or a second job.
When you’re making 50k/year, there are plenty of ways to find more opportunities to increase your income levels. Driving for Uber/Lyft on the weekends could add a significant income stream depending on how much you’re currently making, so the opportunities are out there. Going from 50k of income to 70k can make a huge difference in your overall financial well-being. The big hurdle is that people often get comfortable with their situation even if they could be doing better. I can understand the fear that comes with relocation or a career change, but if you’re truly looking to improve your financial situation than these are options to consider.
For those of you who have kids or have friends with kids, you know just how expensive child care can be. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet for this other than not having children, but there are some options. Having a stay at home parent can help alleviate childcare costs, so if you or your partner can work remotely or transition to a remote job, then that can be a huge boon. Having family nearby to help with childcare can be great, if not potentially a temporary solution. The thing to think about is that if you’re making 2-3k a month and spending 1k in childcare it’s worth re-evaluating your strategy.
One of the most important pieces of financial knowledge you can have is the understanding of your net worth. This can be calculated by taking the value of everything you own like the value of your house, your retirement accounts and other assets and subtracting everything you owe. Doing this will put you ahead of most Americans and will give you valuable insight. Too many people make decisions based on their income and then wonder why they have to work until they’re 75 in order to retire. If you make your financial decisions based off your net worth, you’ll be in a much better place as you progress through your career.
There are many people who use budgeting tools like Mint or YNAB (You Need A Budget) and it’s a great way to track income and expenses. However, the important part of budgeting is looking at what your priorities are and then making sure you’re spending your money on things that you value. For most people this typically looks like food, utilities, rent, and transportation to your job. Obviously everyone’s priorities are different, but food tends to be pretty high up there. After those expenses, there may not be too much left, so it’s important to make sure you have set your priorities. For some, this means that they see contributing to retirement accounts as a low priority. However, if you think of allocating money towards retirement as buying earlier and earlier freedom from needing to work it could rise in your priorities. Regardless, make sure you’re spending money on the things you value and spend the time ordering your priorities.
I mentioned this earlier in my list of ways to grow your income but it’s worth taking a closer look at because of the difference it can make on your finances. As I’m sure you know, not every place is equal in terms of taxes, job opportunities, and cost of living. It’s cheaper to live in Nebraska than it is to live in San Francisco. It can certainly be difficult to leave your comfortable surroundings, but it may lead to higher salaries, better job opportunities, or less in expenses through better taxes and cost of living expenses. Relocation could also provide better educational opportunities or being closer to family to help with childcare. It’s certainly something to think about when looking at how you want your financial journey to unfold.
Hopefully those 6 tips provide some insight and give you something to consider as you ponder your financial decisions. I’m happy to go into more detail on any of these or walk you through your specific situation, just reach out and we can set up a time to chat.