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Doctor’s Orders: 10 Life Lessons on Money and Happiness From a Physician

Many physicians have very little experience outside of healthcare aside from volunteering, or random odd jobs to get help pay for school. Often, they’re too busy studying and building up their resume to ensure entry into medical school. As someone who started working at age 15, I have a different story to tell. 

The Value of Money

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My family was very frugal. Money was rarely spent on fun and instead spent on education and exactly what we needed, nothing more.

I took up minimum wage jobs to give myself some pocket money and a bit of freedom to do things and buy things without my parents’ permission.  

Now that I’m a full-fledged anesthesiologist, here are some lessons I’ve learned since going from minimum wage to where I am today.

1. Respect The Paycheck

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You put in long hard hours to earn every penny that comes through on your paycheck.  It needs to be respected. Respecting the money also shows respect for yourself and the hours and time you put into earning it.  

In other words, don’t take it for granted. Don’t spend just because you have it or you can, and instead try to make it work for you in the most fruitful way possible. For instance, invest so that your money makes money, spend it on the best deals you can get so that you maximize your cash value, and always make sure that you give thanks for your ability to make as much as you do. 

2. Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have

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Keeping up with the Jones’ isn’t a thing. The Jones’ don’t exist! So stop trying to buy things that put you ahead because you will never be ahead. Instead, focus on the things you truly need.

Recreational spending should be reserved for after you pay the bills and invest. Whatever you have leftover is what you have to spend on things you want.  Stay within that limit!

3. Being Frugal Will Always Pay Off

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It sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true! The more you save and look for the best deals, the longer each paycheck will last, OR the most of each paycheck you save.

Why do you need to save? Well, for a rainy day, for emergencies, for transition periods in case you need to change jobs, and for big purchases (if you pay for them right off you avoid debt!).

4. Delayed Gratification Wins

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Impulse buys are never a good idea; buying what you want as soon as you see it, also not a good idea.  Instead, waiting, shopping around, asking yourself if you really need it/can afford it…those things should all happen first.

Personally, I make myself wait for sales or coupons, or check to see if there’s some deal through ebates

To this day, I have never regretted waiting; but I have always regretted jumping the gun too quickly

5. Take Care of What You Do Buy

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Hand in hand with the above, the more you have to wait for something, save for something or want for something, the more you will value it.  The opposite is also true, the quicker you buy something, the quicker it loses its value. How many things have you purchased in the last year that you haven’t even thought about? That are sitting in your closet untouched? Or on the floor in a corner somewhere because you just don’t care? 

When we don’t watch and respect and value where we put our money, then the items we purchase also lose value.  That’s sad. Everything you buy should bring you continued satisfaction and usefulness, and you should WANT to treat your purchases well.  The second you realize that you don’t care about the things you spend your money on, that’s when you know that you also don’t care about your money.

6. The More You Try to be Frugal, the More You’ll Find Deals

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Seriously, though.  Many times you won’t find a good deal simply because you aren’t looking for it or asking for it. However, if you approach each purchase or each shopping spree with the idea that you’re going to find the best deals, then you’ll find them, or they’ll fall into your lap.

A recent example from my life: I bought some new bedding but ultimately decided that I didn’t like it. I returned it and then went looking again. I found something that worked, but the pricing was weird and didn’t match anything else on the shelf, so I asked the cashier specifically to tell me if the item was returnable–just in case.  She scanned it and told me it was 90% off. I literally paid 10% of the original price for brand new, king-sized bedding. 

7. Experiences Last Much Longer Than Material Things

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There are some people who prefer spending on material things because they “use” it daily.  But, when styles change, you’ll be chasing the next item. Chasing material goods will never give you the satisfaction or fulfillment as chasing experiences. 

Experiences give you stories to tell later; wisdom to pass on and to apply to your life; gives you perspective and helps you feel gratitude for the things you already have.

So when you start spending that paycheck, pay attention to where and what you’re getting in return.  Remember, it’s your hard-earned funds; if you’re not keeping it, then you should be getting something worthwhile in exchange. 

8. Money Can’t Buy Happiness

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Money can give you many things–security, a roof over your head, food on the table, insurance–but it ultimately cannot pay for you to be happy. 

Being happy comes from within, and comes from a place where you feel fulfilled in your life.  Fulfillment does not come from material things; it comes from knowing your place, knowing yourself, and feeling like you’re making a difference or an impact. So, if you think your spending on things you “want” is bringing you some good, time to reassess.

8. If You Can, Donate

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This goes hand in hand with all of the above.  Making a difference for someone else brings a more positive feeling than continuing to just do for yourself.  So, again if you’re going to part with your cash, make sure it’s in exchange for this level of satisfaction.

Plus, if you donate a certain amount every year, you can get a tax break.  Just saying, not everything you do for others needs to be detrimental to you.

9. Financial Advisors Are A Waste Of Money

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You don’t need help from someone else to invest your money.  The amount you will pay that person in fees you can invest! There’s so many easy ways to do this on your own. 

10. Trade Money For Time

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You can always make more money, you cannot create more time for yourself. Whenever possible, in life or at work, spend money to free up your time or save time. 

Money is a tool, and if used in this way, you can maximize it’s value and your return on spending. 

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