How To Measure Wealth: An Analysis of Money, Freedom, and Health

Society places an enormous focus on wealth as measured by how much money you make. That’s why some of us in medical training automatically believe that once training is over, we’ll be rich. That explains why some feel that training is the “final hurdle” and that once you’ve reached that, you’ve made it.

LET’S PAUSE THERE.

I want to ask some serious questions about what makes a person wealthy…

…is it actually just about Money?

What about Freedom? Physical Wealth (Health)?

Let’s talk about how each of these is different.

How To Measure Wealth: An Analysis of Money, Freedom, and Health

1. Money

The reality is that having a high attending salary isn’t wealth. We have to look at cash flow. For example, let’s say you make a resident salary of $50,000 a year and you live paycheck by paycheck. Then when you get a huge pay raise making $200,000 a year as an attending, but you’re STILL living paycheck to paycheck because you’re YOLO’ing.

Has your wealth grown?

NO, IT HAS NOT!

Because your net worth hasn’t gained one bit!

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, no matter how much you make, you’re definitely not able to do this:

Instead of thinking of wealth as how big a paycheck is, transition your mindset to think of wealth as accumulating net worth. Tracking your net worth in the FREE app Personal Capital. That’s what our DocWife.com household uses and I have no problem recommending it.

BEWARE!

We have to talk about these last two forms of wealth that money can’t buy:

2. Freedom

3. Health

I agree with this person who said it beautifully:

“If you want to know how rich you are, find out how many things you have that money can’t buy.”

To Be Truly Wealthy, Increase Your Freedom and Health

2. Freedom

One way to measure freedom is by the amount of free time we have. But we tend to think of those with a lot of time as college backpackers traveling through Europe. However, medical families can have this type of free time, too.

“How so???”  you ask.

By becoming financially independent (FI)!

Becoming FI entails living way below your means so you can save at a high rate and pay off your debt quickly. That’s why I’m a huge advocate of saving for retirement during medical training and spending as close to as you did as a resident in the first 2-5 years once an attending.

Basically, what FI does is allows your DrSpouse to work because they want to, not because they have to.

Once you hit early FI, your DrSpouse could cut weekend, holiday or night shifts, a random workday of the week, move closer to work and cut commute time, or negotiate for more vacation time. Even just one of these changes just mentioned will create more free time — in other words, freedom.

3. Health

It would seem like a healthy lifestyle should be a no-brainer for medical families. But medical families have trouble being healthy, too. It’s not about not knowing what healthy choices are, but having a lack of healthy habits that  S T I C K.

We need healthful routines:

  • Good sleep hygiene
  • Diet based on nutrition (not out of convenience)
  • Consistent workout regimen

Imagine that you’re old and wrinkly yet you’re able to walk up the Spanish steps in Rome without being out of breath. How fun is that?!

Herophilus, an ancient Greek physician, summarizes the importance of health perfectly:

“When health is absent, wealth is useless.”

In Summary

Some of us believe that because attendings are high income earners, they are automatically wealthy. Turns out, not every attending family is “wealthy.” For instance, some don’t increase our net worth. Some are “poor” in time and “poor” in health.

We need to STOP thinking of wealth as just how much you make.

Defining true wealth early in the medical journey will help us NOT aim to work to the detriment of our time or to our health. The truth is, it’s time and health that has the most influence over our joy in life.

I’m a hugger. I’m hugging and supporting you, friend ❤️

To your strong medical family,