What Can Athletes Teach Doctors About Money?

Big-time athletes earn huge salaries, but that doesn't always translate into financial security and a comfortable retirement.

I’ve heard it hundreds of times, everywhere I go in fact. When people hear that I help physicians understand the business of medicine or that I wrote an e-book on personal finance for physicians, they feel the need to tell me how bad doctors are at business and managing money. I get it. We didn’t go to business school or get an MBA in finance, but that doesn’t mean we should just accept that we are going to be bad at those things forever. If anything, doctors have proven that they are very capable of learning. Just because we don’t know a lot about a subject doesn’t mean we can’t use the same tools that got us through medical school to master other topics.

One area I have an interest in is sports. Over time I have noticed a lot of current and former athletes have gone bankrupt. There are infamous stories of guys like Mike Tyson who made millions of dollars on every fight, but ended up with nothing. However, he is far from the only one. Professional football players, baseball players, boxers — there are example from probably any sport – have all shown the ability to earn tremendous amounts of money, but still never achieve true wealth. Doctors may not be quite at the same level when it comes to burning through their earnings with reckless abandon, but quite often our wealth – or lack thereof – does not match up with what is expected from a group of people who earn such a high income.

Sure there are some doctors who are financially savvy, just like there are athletes who have gone on to amass even greater fortunes after they retired. But for every Magic Johnson who displays tremendous business acumen, there are hundreds more former stars struggling to make ends meet. Likewise, I don’t want to be one of those doctors who gets to the end of his career and wonders how he is ever going to retire. I’ve seen colleagues who were asking themselves that questions as they rounded on their patients well into their seventies. Now if you want to work that long, then by all means go for it. But I want to be working because I enjoy what I do, not because I can’t stop.

Doctors, like athletes, have shorter careers than the average American worker. We get started working at least ten years after our college classmates. Because of that we have to catch up on things like investing and saving for retirement. That is why it is so important to make good financial decisions early in our careers. That is why I applaud you for checking out this website and reading the articles by my fellow contributors. You are making the choice to educate yourself and take control of your financial future.

Physicians need to continue to become financially astute. As times change and reimbursement declines, it is up to us to secure our financial future by making wise decisions with our money. I look forward to helping you on your journey to creating, maintaining and preserving wealth for the long-term.

Christopher Burton, MD is an Amazon best-selling author and founder of the physiciancoach.guru website. He is a consultant for medical practices and coaches physicians on areas of career development, leadership, communication, and finances. He serves as Chair for the Florida Medical Association’s Young Physicians’ Section and Adjunct Clinical Professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.