6 ways doctors can make their money work for them

You’ve worked hard for your money, now make sure it works for you.

We all want our money to grow and grow and be there for us when we ask for it, serve as our nest egg during retirement, eventually go to our kids, grandkids and charitable accounts when we leave this earth. But if we don’t take the necessary steps now, our money will not do this for us.

This is what you can do for your money:

1. Start now. The sooner you start investing, the better off you’ll be down the road. For example, let’s look at a 20-year-old who invests $5,000 per year (assuming 8 percent interest) for 30 years vs. a 30-year-old who invests $10,000 per year for 20 years.

At age 50:

  • The person who started earlier will have over $600,000
  • The person who started later will have less than $500,000, despite the fact that they are contributing double the amount at the time they started.

This is the power of compound interest: the sooner you start, the more you’ll benefit.

2. Pay yourself first. Why should your cell phone company get paid before you do? You make it a point to pay them consistently, every month, without hesitation and then live off what’s left over, why don’t you do the same for yourself?

When your check comes in (or, in this day and age, is directly deposited), immediately take a predetermined amount each month and invest in your future: investments, retirement, kid’s college education, paying off debt. It doesn’t have to be a lot initially, but as your income ramps up, this portion you set aside should ramp up as well.

Trust me, after paying yourself first, you’ll have plenty left over to handle the rest of your expenses, including that cell phone bill.

3. Maximize retirement contributions. OK, maybe this one isn’t for the students and residents, but once you’re making an attending salary, you’ll realize that taxes take out an incredible portion of your take-home pay. How do you minimize the amount the government wants? Maximize the amount you get to keep before they come looking for taxes.

Depending on your current work situation, there are probably a few different retirement plan options for your choosing. Choose one, max it out, then consider opening another. Remember the 20-year-old that started investing early? Do that with your retirement, with maximum contributions, and you’ll be a millionaire in no time, thanks to our good friend compound interest.

4. Get out of debt. If you have any credit card debt, pay that off immediately! Hold off on investments; the ~8 percent you’ll earn yearly is no comparison to the ~20 percent that you’ll lose yearly, so that needs to go away. I’m not advising against credits cards; I love credit cards for their rewards perks as long as you can pay off the balance every month.

Now, assuming no credit debt, you should still make it a point to pay off your other debts-student loans, mortgage, car. Start with your higher interest loans (if you have student loans >5 percent, you should refinance those now).

5. Diversify your portfolio. Sure, it’s cool to own stock in Apple, Amazon, and Google. If you are one of the lucky ones to get in back when these companies were young, nicely done! But it’s easy to look back and know which stocks have done well and which stocks tanked. It’s not so easy to predict the future, so your protection is in diversification. Here, there is no need to pick winners or losers, a diversified portfolio will have some of each, but more likely than not, you’ll have more winners than losers.

Just ask Warren Buffett, one of the best pickers of stock, what he thinks about which you should own. He doesn’t suggest Kraft-Heinz, Wells Fargo or Coca-Cola, which are amongst his top holdings. He recommends a low-priced S&P 500 index fund so you can have a piece of some of the most prestigious companies out there.

6. Avoid paying extra fees and expenses. There has been a huge shift recently away from actively managed mutual funds toward passively managed index funds. Why? Two reasons: lower expense ratios (the price you pay for the fund to be managed) and the performance of index funds isn’t too far off from the performance of mutual funds (and in some cases actually does better).

Example: you invest $100,000 into a diverse fund. If you place that into an index fund with an expense ratio of 0.05 percent, it’ll cost you $50 a year for that fund to be managed. Conversely, if you put that money into an actively managed mutual fund with an expense ratio of 0.5 percent, it’ll cost you $500 a year. Now if you take that $450 savings and invest it over 10 years at 8 percent interest, you’d have almost $1,000 extra in your account.

You can do the same math with eliminating the expense of having a financial adviser manage your account (I’m not recommending against this, some need/want it, just know it’s an expense you may not need). If you saved money here, either a percentage or flat fee, and reinvested that difference back into the market, you’ll be in good shape ten years down the road.

Some people use the analogy that every dollar you have in the stock market is an employee, that is working around the clock with the sole purpose of making you more money. By taking the necessary steps, especially early on, you can create an empire of “employees” that will do wonders for you. Chances are you’re not there quite yet, so you probably still have some work to do.

“Another Second Opinion, MD” is an anesthesiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, Another $econd Opinion.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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