"Financial Freedom" by Dr. Claudia Viens

Back in April, I met up with Sasha at our professional conference and pitched my idea for this guest post. I didn’t write a single word until today. Yes, I know, it’s August. You see yesterday I was riding my bike to work when I was struck by a car. Instead of changing into scrubs, grabbing my stethoscope and ID badge and seeing my first patient, I was taken by ambulance to the ER and became the patient. Today, I’m sitting in bed with my leg propped up. Within arm’s reach I have a bottle of ibuprofen and my crutches. My job as an anesthesiologist has me on my feet all day so for now I’m stuck at home, counting my blessings and finally finding the inspiration to write this post. 

In the next 500 words, my goal is to convince you to take control of your finances. What does this have to do with my accident? In a word, everything.  

At some point in your career you will face an unexpected event; an injury, burnout, triplet pregnancy, career change, or natural disaster that destroys your house. The list could go on and on. Additionally, you may love your job and plan to work into your 60s and beyond, but life may have different plans for you.  You’ve heard this before – it’s called saving for a rainy day. Even better, today you should write out your financial goals and start putting money towards them. After all, the best time to start saving for retirement is ten years ago (because of the magical power of compound interest). The second best time is today. 

I can almost hear the collective groans. Hearing things like 401k, 529, and Roth IRA used to incite nausea in me, too. A few years ago I would have rather spent 2 hours scrubbing bathrooms than reading about finances and reviewing my budget. Budgets are tedious and completely unsexy. They’re often as short-lived as diet plans – you may try one for a while, see some results while feeling completely depraved, and eventually slip back into your old ways. We all have certain indulgences. Some are small (morning lattes), others are moderate (luxury vacations), and still others are purchases that equate to many years of work (dream houses). I’m in no position to tell you what you should and should not spend your hard-earned money on.  But what you must do is spend less than you earn. Actually, a lot less.

Our culture today screams the opposite message: Treat yourself – you deserve this! Buy now – or else! You only live once!!! This is where your budget and your priorities come in. I’m not telling you to buy everything used and never eat out again (although if you did you might retire by age 30 like mrmoneymustache.com ). I’m not telling you to sell your dream house and take local vacations (although if you did you might retire in your 40s like physicianonfire.com). I’m not telling you to simultaneously pursue two time-intensive careers despite a 7-figure income (although you should check out whitecoatinvestor.com). What I am saying is that investing your money now is like purchasing future freedom. Freedom to take time off from work when, heaven forbid, a close family member becomes terminally ill. Freedom to go part-time when you can’t take those night shifts anymore. Freedom to retire with the means to travel and pursue new interests. After all, you only live once, do you really want to spend your golden years eating cat food? 

Today, I’m icing my ankle and not stressing about the income I’ll lose from giving away some call shifts. In a few weeks, I’ll sip my home-brewed coffee before hopefully hopping back on my bicycle and heading towards my financial goals. Before I turn 65, I plan to reach financial independence meaning I’ll work because I want to, not because I need the money. 

Join me! 

-Claudia