Meetings and Events | Illinois WIC Event: Financial Empowerment

We all “know the numbers,” so to speak, but do we know our numbers? While cardiologists are familiar with the saying, “health is wealth,” and have dedicated their lives to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease, are they open to thinking about wealth and financial planning?

Oftentimes considered a taboo topic – as cardiologists go into the medical profession to be of service to others – finances can cause embarrassment for some to discuss.

Having spent 11 years between medical school, residency and fellowship, the most I thought about money was the yearly meeting with the financial counselor to go over student loans. At graduation, I remember getting the sum total of my loans and wondering, “How will I ever pay this off?” Fast forward: being in training is a good way not to think about your finances.

Now that I am in my second year as an attending at Rush University Medical Center, I am thankful to have had Capital Strategies Investment Group LLC speak to the Rush Heart Center for Women about an important topic: “How do I take care of my money?” The group highlighted that financial empowerment is “making choices you want to make when you want to make them.”

Unfortunately, women can be at a disadvantage to becoming financially empowered. Between the known wage gap which exists between men and women and work hours lost due to childbearing and family needs, a female physician’s income throughout her career may not be on par with her male colleagues.

Therefore, one needs to ask: How do I want to spend my money and time? What do I want for myself? The answers will require taking inventory of what you value and what concessions you might be willing to make. The key is being in a position where you can become financially empowered to make the choices you want.

Although not complete, the following list is basic points I took away from the session, which I found most meaningful to achieving financial empowerment:

  1. Get rid of credit card debt! If you use your credit card for everyday expenses to rack up reward points, pay off the balance every month.
  2. Know how you are spending your money and create a budget on Excel or an app of your choice. Look at your bank and credit card statements at least monthly, if not weekly. Not only is it important to know where your money is going but also to flag potentially fraudulent activity on your account.
  3. Have an emergency fund of at least six months. This fund is useful for crisis, but also provides the ability to take time off for personal and family needs or if you desire to switch jobs.
  4. Maximize contributions to your employer retirement plan. Take advantage of the employee match and know how your money is being invested, and find out if there is a pension plan.

It is also important to consider a Roth IRA, which is funded with post-tax income. Retirement contributions should be started as soon as possible with 10 - 15 percent of your monthly income going towards retirement. With life expectancy being longer, one must anticipate requiring a higher retirement number.

These examples are just the building blocks to starting on the road to financial empowerment. If you have a child, you can also look into college savings with 529 plans. You can also use a health savings account with a high deductible insurance plan to save money every year.

Estate planning, power of attorney, medical decision making and beneficiaries are other points to think about when becoming financially empowered. If you choose to hire a financial advisor, ask upfront what the advisory or investment fees cost. Last but not least, determine what kind of insurance you need and how much it cost.

According to Capital Strategies, nine out of 10 women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives. Getting started today and educating yourself where your money goes, how much you will need in the future and what matters to you, will set you on the path to financial empowerment.

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This article was authored by Sarah Alexander, MD, FACC, early career cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.