Radiologists Need Financial Mentors

July 21, 2014

Mentors need to step in for what medical school doesn’t teach radiologists, like preparing for retirement.

When I was a brand new, private practice radiologist in West Virginia, one of the older radiologists would say to me, “Let’s go get a coke.” We would then proceed to the cafeteria and he would enlighten me about a great many things including life, marriage, hospital politics, investing, golf, philosophy and the practice of radiology over a carbonated beverage.

One of the first pieces of wisdom he imparted was that prior to this point in my life, everything had been temporary - college: 4 years, medical school: 4 years, residency: 3 years, fellowship: 2 years. From this point in time there were going to be no more “calendar reprieves” for me. I had to accept that I was facing a long term situation and commitment and make the appropriate mental adjustments.

I didn’t fully appreciate the value of the wisdom he was imparting at the time but realize now how important it was to have a mentor. During all those years of medical education, residency and fellowship, there was no education on practical matters such as contract negotiation, practice management, business accounting, life and disability insurance, tax planning and investing.

In all but one of the groups I have been in over the last 30 years, the management of retirement funds was left up to each individual participant with no direction or assistance. The one group that did manage the retirement fund gave me a list of mutual funds to choose from but again no real direction. 

Contrary to what seems to be the prevailing opinion amongst most physicians, an in-depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology and an above average level of intelligence do not automatically confer the possessor of a medical school degree with the ability to invest retirement funds wisely.

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When I reflect on how important saving for retirement is, I wonder why I never took it more seriously or sought professional advice until fairly late in the process. Perhaps this was partly due to the confusion over what a financial advisor is and what they do. It seems everyone who has anything to do with my money including insurance salespeople, bankers, stock brokers and so on, call themselves “financial advisors.”

It took me a while to realize that the wirehouse brokers weren’t really advising me so much as selling me something to make a commission. Perhaps it was because I was doing what I saw all my other colleagues doing.

When I finally decided to take action, I began by reading “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley, PhD and William D. Danko, PhD, reasoning that if I wanted to accumulate wealth, I should begin by studying people who already had. One piece of advice stood out, find the best financial planner you can afford and hire them. I was fortunate to find such an advisor and became so interested in the process that I decided that I wanted to help others plan for retirement, too.

One of my financial coaches observed that as a physician myself, physicians were my natural niche. He obviously did not know much about radiology. After 30 years working as a radiologist, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to work with physicians and their money. Nonetheless, I have made a sincere effort to help physicians review and improve their retirement plans.

I am especially committed to helping the “newbies” in radiology. It is hard enough for them to make the transition from training to private practice without having to earn a degree in finance. Our young colleagues need mentors. There is no reason for them to have to reinvent the wheel and we have a wealth of experience to share with them. I know I am grateful to my mentor. Thanks, Mack.