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How To Create A Healthy Relationship With Money

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Jun 30, 2021.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

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    Many of us tend to think of money as an inanimate object. It is, in the literal sense. But metaphorically speaking, money can have a life of its own. It’s a force that can be wielded responsibly, or irresponsibly, for good, indifferently, or for bad.

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    In the same way that each of us has a relationship with forces such as authority, power, or desire, each of us also has a relationship with money. Furthermore, just as each person is a product of some combination of nature and nurture, so is our relationship with money.

    On the nature side of things, a 2015 Journal of Political Economy study shed some light on how genetics influence our financial behavior. Researchers analyzed a group of identical and fraternal twins and determined that genetic differences accounted for roughly 33% of the variations of savings propensities. Interestingly, the researchers noted that while parental influence may shape spending and saving behavior, the effects wear off over time. Parental wealth can also influence genetic effects, they found. Furthermore, the study revealed genetic correlations between saving and income growth, smoking, and obesity, “suggesting that the genetic component of savings behavior reflects genetic variation in time preferences or self-control.”

    But, any doctor will tell you that genetics are only half of the story. Let’s use human health as an example. We do get some say in our health status. Good decisions, such as diet and exercise, compound over time, leading to better health outcomes. While we may have certain genetic predispositions to body composition, macronutrient cravings, or overall activity levels, most doctors have a few stories about patients who outplayed the hand mother nature dealt them.

    Is the same not true for money? I’m sure you know a few people who have turned their financial lives around, too, despite these proclivities. Chances are, the people you deem financially successful had or created healthy relationships with money. We at PhysicianSense are firm believers that doctors have the power to create healthy relationships with money despite whatever genetic and/or environmental predispositions they might have. Here’s how.

    Defining a healthy relationship with money

    We can use a dichotomy to categorize relationships. Granted, this is a bit simplistic, but for the sake of explanation, let’s go with it. Relationships can either be empowering or disempowering. Now, let’s apply this to money:
    • Disempowering: Money does X to me.
    • Empowering: Money does X for me.
    The to/for distinction may seem like semantics, but the way we relate to and use language often speaks volumes about our underlying values, assumptions, and attitudes. An empowering relationship to our money fortifies us. We see all that our money can do for us–and for others. We work with (not for) money, and in exchange, money gives us good food, a place to live, and fun experiences with the people we love. With enough reinforcement of this internally oriented money mindset, we stop dwelling on what we lack and instead emphasize how amazing the financial resources that we have are.

    With a disempowering relationship to our money, we are at our money’s mercy. We compare our money to that of others, obsessively save or spend it, let it hijack our neurochemistry. A sudden upswing in the market and we’re riding high. An unexpected expensive home repair and we’re down in the dumps. The externally oriented relationship to money makes a doctor (or anybody, for that matter) money’s slave.

    What’s a doctor to do?

    Again, this is reductionistic for the sake of explanation. Obviously, we all need money to live and are to some degree reliant on money. The key, in our opinion, is to not let it rule you completely.

    While being a doctor has some financial advantages, let’s be honest, the process of becoming a doctor has some sticker shock. Furthermore, while you were grinding it out on $50K or less in residency, you watched your friends in other professions live large, build their investment portfolios, and travel. There may be some FOMO under that white coat.

    The first step to creating a healthier relationship with our money is to identify our underlying values and assumptions about it. Revisiting the Journal of Political Economy study from the beginning of this post, we can see that external forces, such as our parents’ wealth and money values shape our own. Ask yourself the following questions to help identify your underlying money values and assumptions:
    • How would you summarize your parents’ money values and assumptions?
    • Did these play into your selection of medicine as a career choice? If yes, how? If no, why not?
    • Identify an event or events that shaped your attitude about money.
    • What financial behaviors would you say exemplify your money values? For example, you might be prioritizing your emergency fund. Or, you might purchase or lease a luxury car every few years. Don’t judge yourself here. Simply note what you do.
    • What does your money do to you? What does your money do for you?
    • Reflecting on your answers to these questions, what (if anything) would you change about your relationship with money?
    Habits for a healthier money relationship

    The preceding questions (hopefully) help you identify what you believe about money, what you actually do with your money, and what you want to do with your money. This is the blueprint for overhauling or improving your money relationship. The next step is to actually do the work of changing your relationship to money by creating (or eliminating) some money habits. Here are some possibilities:

    Building an emergency fund

    Freedom is powerful. While an emergency fund might not seem sexy on the surface, its power comes from the freedom it provides. Once you have 3-9 months of expenses saved, you can weather a job loss, unexpected home repairs, a medical emergency, or any of the emergent curveballs life throws at you. Furthermore, once your emergency fund is topped off, you’ve already cultivated a substantial saving habit. Think about all of the places you could divert that extra money: your retirement accounts, a college savings plan, a second home, your dream car, that once-in-a-lifetime trip. An emergency fund empowers you with options.

    Budget

    Creating (and sticking to) a budget is one of the best ways to overhaul your relationship with money. Succeed, and you flip the script, eliminating money’s power over you and taking charge of your financial future. Budgeting also shows all that your money is doing for you already. It’s feeding you, sheltering you, and empowering you to do some cool stuff.

    Saving for retirement

    Many think that saving for retirement only empowers future you, but it also does good for present you. Future you (and your family) get the security of knowing you can maintain the same (or similar) standard of living. Furthermore, your housing, healthcare, and lifestyle costs are covered. Present you also gets something invaluable from the deal: Peace of mind. You no longer need to stick your head in the sand or fret about the future. You’re empowered to enjoy life as it unfolds.

    Eliminating student loan debt

    There’s some sacrifice in aggressively paying off your undergrad and medical school education. But, similar to your emergency fund, eliminating your education debt also empowers you with options. Future you could buy a house sooner, plan some overseas adventures, start a family, or some combination of all three.

    Money and you, a match made in heaven

    The best unintended consequence of overhauling your relationship with money is that you might find it makes you more grateful for what you already have, and less ravenous for more. Now, don’t get us wrong, we love ambition. It’s what got you through medical school, and it’s what keeps this blog growing and (hopefully) serving you better. But now and again, it pays to take stock of where you are and how you got there. The money you’ve earned has certainly helped, empowering you to achieve what you’ve aimed at.

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  2. Rami Gawish

    Rami Gawish Active member

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    Money is important but not everything. Doctors are the main witnesses of people who die unexpectedly. The most important is to live securely and simply and be happy with God give us
     

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