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Making the Financial Transition from Resident to New Practitioner: An Insider’s Perspective

Morgan Belling, PharmD
Clinical Hematology/Oncology Pharmacist
The University of Kansas Health System
Kansas City, KS

When you finish your residency, your life acquires some new features: more independent practice, additional preceptor responsibilities, more sleep, maybe a vacation (or two), and an increase in salary. So how do you successfully manage your money, or at least get off to a good start? The following are some tips and principles that I have learned from mentors:

It is imperative to create a budget. An objective assessment of how you spend your money will make you more aware of how you’re allocating funds and whether you should be cutting back in some areas and saving in others. Remember how PharmAcademicTM prompted you to set specific, measurable, objective goals so that you could establish a roadmap and plan to improve your skills as a pharmacist? A budget serves the same purpose for your financial fitness, and several apps can help you track this. What’s important is to establish a system that works for you, whatever that may be.

Save 10%–20% of what you earn. Having this done automatically every time you’re paid is a smart move and trains you to work with your budget.

Start saving for retirement early! When I started my new position, I met with a financial advisor affiliated with the institution and determined a set percentage of my paycheck that I wanted to direct automatically toward my retirement. If you can, and depending on your student loan obligations, definitely try to maximize your retirement contributions (the federal government determines this maximum amount every year). This is a good way to reduce your taxable income, especially if you have few other qualifications to do so (no dependents, no mortgage, etc.). If contributing this maximum amount is not feasible, know that saving early is more important than the amount that you save because you’re taking advantage of that compounded interest over time. Many employers offer a contribution match. Be sure to take full advantage of this—it’s essentially “free money.”

Listen to podcasts or read books from reputable financial advisors. These resources cover a variety of topics from mortgage strategies, ways to pay down debt, and stocks and bonds investments to saving for your children’s college tuition. Focus on finding programming that is straightforward—the simplest principles can often take you a long way if you abide by them. Then your financial advisor (ideally, a fee-only advisor, someone who does not earn a commission for encouraging you to invest in certain mutual funds) can help you build on that solid foundation of principles and help you navigate more complex terrain.

Remember that not only does being a pharmacist bring us professional fulfillment; we are also fortunate enough to be in a position to pay back our loans, save for our future, and enjoy the life we build outside of work.