D.J. is a 55 year-old woman with recently diagnosed early-stage left-sided breast cancer. She just had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, and now has to decide whether to undergo chemotherapy after surgery. Her oncologist carefully discusses the clinical and pathologic data about her tumor, in terms D.J. can understand. She discusses the risks, benefits, and side effects of chemotherapy, and recommends treatment. D.J., having learned about the risks and benefits of chemotherapy online, in pamphlets, and from other breast cancer patients, asks her oncologist additional questions about the chemotherapy. After an extensive discussion, D.J. agrees with her oncologist and elects to proceed with treatment.
This is an example of an ideal patient-physician interaction in oncology. The oncologist thoroughly discusses all aspects of treatment, the patient is informed and fully understands the risks and benefits of the treatment, and a shared decision is made between a patient and her physician.
Does a similar interaction occur when a physician and his or her financial advisor discuss investments? Does the financial advisor lay out the potential returns, costs, and fees of potential investments? Are appropriate alternative investments discussed? Is the financial advisor acting in the best interests of the client, or is he or she looking to maximize commissions?
Too often, doctors blindly accept the financial advice of insurance agents or financial advisors. They trust their “money guy” to handle their finances, so that they can focus on being a physician. Unfortunately, many smart physicians have been sold bad insurance or investment products because he or she just trusted their financial advisor.
It is critical to become what I call an informed physician investor when handling your money. Just as we want our patients to be informed and not just blindly accept our recommendations, you should understand where your financial advisor is investing your hard-earned money.
The informed physician investor will be able to have a two-way conversation with their financial advisor. Informed patients ask good questions about the risks and benefits of treatments with their doctors. Similarly, there should be shared decision making between an informed physician investor and his or her financial advisor.
Here is a list of the questions you should ask your financial advisor when they present an investment to you:
- What is the potential return of this investment?
- What are the risks of this investment?
- What are the expenses and fees associated with this investment?
- Are there any cheaper alternatives that are similar to this investment?
- How are you compensated if I purchase this product?
Just as doctors are expected to explain complicated medical treatments in terms patients can understand, financial advisors should be able to explain your investments to you without the use of complicated jargon.
Once you become an informed physician investor, you can have greater confidence that your money is being invested in a way that fits your goals and preferences. When this happens, you can be sure that your advisor is helping you achieve your financial goals.
“Wall Street Physician,” a former Wall Street derivatives trader , is a physician who blogs at his self-titled site, the Wall Street Physician.
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