The Trend of Diversified Income Streams

March 8, 2019
Heidi Moawad, MD

As a physician, you are in a unique position to use your expertise, knowledge, and standing to earn income from more than just clinical work. However, before you begin to diversify your income streams make sure you are considering these key factors.

Diversified income streams are becoming trendy among doctors and other professionals. Options such as investing, writing e-books, direct marketing, consulting, and speaking are among the side projects that professionals take on to build a reliable second, third, or even fourth income.

Additional Income-Producing Work Takes Time

Taking on several income-producing projects in addition to practicing medicine can theoretically allow you to enjoy a higher bottom line, pay back your educational loans sooner, or retire early. The potential riches, or freedom, may sound appealing. But there are some important considerations to keep in mind when considering whether or not it is worthwhile to pursue multiple income streams, because broadening sources of revenue isn’t right for everyone. More money sounds like a good thing, but all projects inherently take time. Whether you choose to take on medical consulting, start your own side business, or invest in real estate, you will definitely devote time to the work involved in earning those additional proceeds. If you have extra time, then adding one or more revenue-producing endeavors could be a win-win for you.

Cutting Back on Patient Care Might not Happen

If you are already short on time, then spending your hours on an additional source of earnings can interfere with your work-life balance, possibly affecting your relationships and your physical and emotional health. In theory, doctors often hope that compensation from another project besides their day job may alleviate financial pressures, making it possible to cut down on “work”. But clinical practice often requires dividing on-call coverage with other physicians— who are unlikely to pick up your share of weekend and holiday obligations that they want to take as well.

Be Prepared For a Learning Curve

Furthermore, your patients’ urgent needs and disease exacerbations will continue to happen at inconvenient times, and they will need your attention even if you have gained the financial freedom to reduce your work hours. Whether you want to take on expert witness work or invest in the stock market, you need to know how to do it well. The fundamental research and background reading needed to develop enough competence just to get started is not something to take for granted.

You Might Not Get The Full Story

Doing a task like writing up your medical opinion for a legal case almost always takes longer when you don’t have experience. And when it comes to starting a venture that requires a large input of your own money, you need to understand the important issues before you can reap any benefits from the project — and also to avoid losing your own initial investment. As you listen to stories from other physicians who rely on multiple income streams- you may develop a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), particularly when you hear impressively high rates of return and hourly compensation. Keep in mind that it is human nature for people to share their best successes and most notable experiences.

Finding The Right Fit Is Key

This isn’t necessarily deceitful- most people want to be regarded positively, may be embarrassed to share disappointments, or just have selective memories. As you embark on similar projects, you may or may not see equally inspiring results. Be prepared for possible disappointment, especially if you are just getting started. Keep in mind that doing anything right requires time and attention. If you are thinking about adding income streams to your life, it is important that you select projects that work well with your personality, lifestyle, and other commitments.

When Your Day Job Is Enough

Finding the right fit requires thinking about factors such as the required time demands, your financial risk tolerance, and the reliability of your professional partners. But it is also important to consider whether you will be able to sustain your own interest and commitment to the venture for long enough to make it worthwhile. Think about whether you are just taking something on because you have heard it praised from other doctors or whether you are truly invested in the process. Diversified income streams can sound appealing—especially when you hear others talking about their own successes. If you want to pursue projects for financial gain, by all means do what you enjoy. However, being a good physician is a huge accomplishment that should not be underestimated. And it is enough. A doctor should never feel that she or he has missed the boat or lost out on valuable opportunities if practicing medicine is the single and only income steam- because practicing medicine is likely the most valuable project a doctor could take on—in more ways than one.

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