Thursday, October 24, 2013

Making Mistakes: Part 3

If you haven't noticed I am much harder on myself than anyone else is. As I have been thinking about mistakes made this last year I can't help but see some of them as only half mistakes. After all, every time I drive my van I am not cursing the darn thing. No, I actually love it.  And while "it" doesn't necessarily make me happy, I do derive some measure happiness from it.

The same could be said for all those celebrations. I still wish I would have used a different word for those extra times we ate out because we were just too lazy/tired to cook that day, and suddenly had the option of doing something different.

Occasionally, I look at two presents my husband bought me and wish he wouldn't have. But I don't necessarily want to sell them either. I suppose with a real mistake I would be selling them right?

He likes to give gifts, and has excellent taste, and might have gone a little overboard. We all know those kids whose parents don't allow them to eat sugar and than they get invited to a birthday party and gorge themselves on sweets. I think that is a fair description of what may have happened to him (and I went along for the ride). And this is a little confession within a confession: I might have hurt his feelings with my demand to stop buying things which might explain why for the last 9 months the gifts have been, well, like they always were before.

So where is the mistakes? My ramblings above probably should have made the previous post.

Mistake #3 - Not Being Prepared for End of Training Expenses.

This one may seem like a no-brainer, everybody knows the last year is the most expensive. Maybe. But here is something that really stinks: when you do a fellowship is like having two "last years" and that most certainly stinks.

Our last year of residency was expensive partly because of a house I don't want to write about, but must. My feelings on owning a home during residency are nothing if not strong. Owning is a huge risk. Only you can decide if those risks are worth it. If I had to do it over again I would have rented.

Our fellowship program didn't provide any assistance for moving/relocation, the fees, the licensing, the DEA, all those agencies that require documentation and approval before you can actually begin. It was a brutal year.

By the time we received the stipend things were bad. We had made a vow to not carry balances on our credit cards and this was the first time that it looked like there was no other way. We had already liquidated everything we had. There was nothing left. And then the stipend came and saved us from breaking a vow we had made and successfully kept for years.

Then you discover it is all gone. through a combination of spending/celebrating and more fees/licensing/boards  Yes, you read that right. Gone. In 10 months it feels like it just evaporated. We had a few things to show for it and a great vacation, but that's it. Not a dime was saved.

By the time my husband received his first real paycheck we were broke and putting our groceries and gas on a credit card because we knew he would be paid before the statement came due.

It is an interesting feeling to be so poor and so rich at the same time. We still had our humor and laughed at the situation. My husband is removing a brain tumor in the morning and then listening to his wife cry in the afternoon over not having any money in the checking account. It is funny.

We kept asking ourselves, how is this possible? Well it is. Money is like sand through your fingers - you have to make an effort to keep it from spilling out. We received the stipend and gave up our hold and it slipped through our fingers. It was an expensive lesson.

Here is the warning, given in love, from someone who was recently there:

Nothing compares to the feeling of security and comfort that comes from being prepared. It is truly priceless. And isn't that one of the things you are looking forward to having when you are "done"? The good news is you don't have to be done to have a sense of security. Unless you make an actual plan (that hopefully you and your spouse agree to) you are going to come to the end of your journey in utter disbelief.

You are going to need money in the bank at the end of training, not just promises of money on paper to be paid at a later time.

Although this isn't our particular situation, you don't want to be in such a financial mess that you take the very first offer you are given because you need the money. Desperate people do desperate things. Don't be in a desperate position.


Before you start a spending frenzy or relax your hold, talk about what you want that stipend to do. Are you going to buy a house out of residency? Are you taking an extended period of time off? Are you having a baby? Are you buying furniture? What are your priorities? Make a plan, allow for the unexpected, and then work the plan! Its not enough to just make the plan, you have to discipline yourself to make it happen. Two different banking accounts are a good idea for things like this too.

Do some quick research into licensing fees for your state and set aside whatever amount you need. They are always more expensive than you think. Better yet, have those fees worked into your contract!

Don't forget money you might need for expenses between your last training paycheck and your first "real" paycheck.

It never hurts to have more saved, but it does hurt to have saved too little. Which side do you want to err on? Start saving now, it will be good practice.



  1. This is something I wish more people would understand! Our last year of residency was SO expensive. Mainly because of fellowship interviews. Oh and also the whole not having a paycheck for a month thing before he started fellowship! We had planned and saved up thousands of dollars, but it still wasn't enough. We were completely broke and had to borrow money from family to pay rent the first month of fellowship. Thankfully, my husband's program has paid all of his licensing fees this year. I'm starting to worry that whatever stipend we get will not go very far. We will be buying a house, but I always thought we would get some new furniture as well. Now I'm starting to think I may be moving all of our old stuff with us before we can afford to replace it.

    1. New furniture, now that is funny:-) I hope it works out differently for you, but just in case don't spend it all before you get a paycheck!

  2. I have been trying to save money lately and I will have a budget for November.

  3. Thanks for the heads-up! I really hope we get Fellowship here (Hubby is an intern and we bought our home). I would really like to be here for 6 years instead of moving after 3 then moving again... It is so frightening to think of all of those expenses! I remember the expenses from 4th year of med school (residency interviews) and all of the licensing fees and stuff for residency. We recently paid for Step 3...I guess there's another round at the end of residency. Does it end once we hit the "real world?"

  4. The expenses next seem to stop with residency. It is so ironic.
    4th year of medical school was so expensive with interviews and later moving across the country, and nothing will change in 5 years- the expenses of interviews and potentially moving will all still be there ( on top of all of the other fees!)
    Savings plans and two incomes have made it much easier, but my goodness, I can see the temptation in receiving a large check and not having a plan. Very difficult to have self control after going through all of those years and stress. Thanks for your honesty, I'm really enjoying this series!

  5. This series is equally enlightening and terrifying. We are in the "hawk" phase right now - my husband is applying to residency and we are keeping a running tally of every penny we spend. He's driving everywhere less than a 12 hour drive and it's still terrifying to think of how much we will spend. And this is only phase one! Fellowship looms. Thank you for these posts! May we all learn....

  6. I'm telling you, what they say is so true... More money, more problems. Shesh! Such a double edge sword! I've been dirt poor and now have more money than I ever thought I would, and you know what? It's still stressful!


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