Are Doctors different when it comes to investing?

We do think the answer is a resounding yes! Doctors are different when it comes to investing. Their incomes are higher, more stable, more secure and last longer than any other occupational class. This includes dentists who, despite having higher incomes, may have shorter working lives. As a rule, their IQ is higher, much higher than the median of the “other” clients whom we meet. It means that usually the standard advice given by accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, relationship managers, and investment advisors does not apply to Doctors!

Doctors’ incomes are high compared to the average person.

The average 40-year old doctor makes more than twice to three times the national average for 40-year-old males. Doctors as a broad occupational group have a statistically high median income relative to both the national average and to other professional groups. Most doctors marry someone from the same or a similar socio-economic group, and therefore their spouses tend to have high incomes too. It’s hard for doctors’ spouses, especially wives, to do too much work outside the practice whilst the child bearing and rearing years are in full swing. But most make some contribution. This pushes the total household income higher again.

Doctors’ incomes are stable.

They do not fluctuate season to season like a farmer’s income or fluctuate month to month like a stock broker’s income. Next year will probably be a lot like this year. The trend tends to be an upwards sloping and linear and the monthly income and cash flow is predictable and reliable.

Doctors’ incomes are secure.

I do not know anybody who knows anybody who knows an unemployed doctor. The 45-year-old Doctor is not lying awake at night wondering whether he will be retrenched the next day, or the next year. But the neighbor next door probably is. Life time employment is history, and now short term performance based employment contracts rule. The average guy is only as good as his last quarter’s sales figure or his most recent work performance appraisal. It’s a stressful way to live. There is a serious shortage of Doctors. Everywhere, from Bihar to Boston and from Americas to Zambia, there is only demand. The problem is too much work, not too little. Most doctors have the luxury of being able to choose when and where they will work. Doctors’ incomes do not disappear when the economy takes a dive, and are not tied to any economic cycle. Nor do they need to worry about their job being outsourced to a cheaper location.

If anything, there is an inverse relationship between the state of the economy and the state of the waiting room: more people get sick in hard times. Doctors’ incomes have great longevity. The average retirement age for an Indian is 58, and most are significantly under-employed well before this. Age 58 is irrelevant to doctors. With good health management and common sense there is no reason why a doctor cannot continue working well into his or her seventies, and beyond. We know plenty of doctors earning a good living working four or five sessions a week at age 75. They love it.

And it will be a sad day when they finally hang up the stethoscope. On the economic side, older doctors are still adding to their capital at a time when most people their age are starting to exhaust theirs. This has a double effect: when they do retire they will have more, and it does not have to last as long. This height, stability, security and longevity manifest themselves in many ways over a doctor’s economic life. These features should be borne in mind at all times when considering the financial options and strategies open to doctors.

Doctors are afraid of accountants!

Unless they are married to one! (And many are). Doctors are phobic about maintaining accounts, so they would rather happily outsource it and stay away from it. However when something goes wrong – divorce, income tax raid, family split, etc. they wish they had spent more time learning the basics. At least such people should learn more about investing, track their portfolios and E-file their tax returns. It might just help.

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