Saturday, November 30, 2013

See You Monday

Ladies, it is that time of the month again.... Medical Mondays is on December 2nd and that happens to be just 2 days away now. Even less if you are one of those that wakes up early:-)

Thanksgiving was great. Who doesn't give thanks for good food, homemade pies, friends and family? Black Friday I ignore because I like bucking trends, but it turns out that not buying is now the trend this year so I was left in a bit of a pickle. Or were they just promoting not buying anything on Thanksgiving day? Either way I hate shopping when someone tells me I must shop. I shop on my own terms and preferably alone. There is no alone on Black Friday.

There are now 25 days left until Christmas, and that means I need to find some great gifts that actually get used, unlike the apple TV i purchased for my husband for our anniversary that is still wrapped in cellophane. Maybe I can re-gift it this year.

So that's the spill. This post is a pure plug for Medical Mondays coming to you in 36 hours. See you then!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful I Wasn't the Main Character in a Horror Film

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I received a little wake up slap. You know the ones you get after feeling sorry for yourself for too long, or getting mired down in the details of you.

I received a call last week from a member of our congregation who was coordinating meals for a young woman who had recently miscarried her first child at 4 1/2 months. Heartbreaking. After the call, I tried to forgive myself for yelling at my four children who are healthy and conceived without difficulty or delay.

My husband was home (thankfully) so I set out to make my delivery. I was happy I was able to help someone in need. I was happy I was getting out of the house alone, even for just a few minutes. I was happy this call to serve meant my family would also have a good meal that night. I has so happy that I had an extra homemade pumpkin pie in my freezer that I could share with them. I was happy that I could think about someone else. I needed it.

The apartment complex I was going to was indeed complex with duplicate numbers, one set for East and another for West. I was turned around and lost. I had never been there before and decided that rather than call and ask for directions I would find it on my own. At this point I was only 15 minutes late from my delivery time.

I thought I was walking in the right direction. I saw a man approaching me with a black garbage bag. I have never been comfortable meeting men alone when it's dark. Too many bad movies with that plot. But I also remembered something I had read once about looking your attacker in the eyes and letting them know you aren't afraid. I decided to be pleasant and say hi and admitted that I was lost and if he knew where apartment 48E was. I was only trying to be pleasant... I didn't know what was going to happen after that. I thought for sure he would just say "hi", and "I don't know".

He said, he didn't know but that he had a map in his apartment.  Cue spooky music.

What was I supposed to do?

Not wanting to be that girl who is afraid of her own shadow I began to follow him back to his apartment. What was I doing?????

And then I had visions of what could possibly be in that black trash bag that he was just taking out. Was it pieces of the last girl who got lost in the complex.

I wasn't stupid enough to follow him into his apartment, but I stood outside a ways. It wasn't very far from where I was standing. He let me look at the map for a minute so I could get my directions right and I thanked him for his help.

He walked with me for a few yards until the turn off for the garbage drop off. And then I thought, he knows where I am going! What if he follows me?

What an easy scare I am. I know it is good to be vigilant, but it also feels good to trust people.

Thankfully, I didn't wind up the star of my own horror film. Thankfully, he wasn't a murdered. Thankfully, I was able to help in a family in pain that I cannot fathom. Thankfully, I returned to my family safe and sound.

I hope you and your family enjoy a safe and Happy Thanksgiving this year. Don't forget to join us next Monday for the last Medical Monday of this year!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Here is Your Box, Climb Inside, Make Yourself Comfortable

One of the things that I find so frustrating in my life is that despite trying to live "outside of the box", my decisions seem to be putting me firmly inside the box. It's almost as if someone else has created the box, lead me to it, sold me on the benefits of living in the box, and then shut the lid on me all the while giggling that they caught another one.

But, I know that is a lie. I am the only one responsible for the box. There might be enough of us living in the box, that we think someone else created it - but it is ours alone. The choice then becomes will you make the most of living in the box, or will you try to escape? Escaping takes more courage than you think.

We weren't going to be those doctors. We weren't going to be the ones living at the cusp of their income. We weren't going to be the ones that make minimum payments on their student loans. We weren't going to be the ones that drive new cars. We weren't going to be the ones that had to work past retirement age. We weren't going to be the ones that still had a mortgage payments and student loan payments 15 years after starting practice. We weren't going to be the ones that .... fill in the blank.

There is a reality that I don't think I can impress upon upcoming doctors and their families enough, and it is this:

What you thought was waiting for you at the end of the rainbow, isn't what you think it is. 

The TRUTH is that your disposable income, the amount that you actually get to use for your day to day living and saving, isn't going to be as great as you thought it was and everything is more expensive than you imagined. Both are influenced largely by what part of the country you live in.

The TRUTH is that your husband, despite being his own boss, is still ultimately at the mercy of his patients and the hospital and their needs. He is a well-paid servant in a highly bureaucratized system. He carries a pager and jumps when they say jump.

The TRUTH is that you are not done sacrificing. Hard decisions still await you. Long hours and nights don't disappear. Loneliness may still be your friend.

The TRUTH is that your friends and family will still misunderstand your situation in terms of finances, time, and abilities. They will always think you have more of all three.

The TRUTH is income guarantees have expiration dates and so do contracts.

The TRUTH (especially for those of us on the 40 side) is that time isn't your friend. If you want to pay off your house before you retire you have 20 years, not 30. If you want to retire at a normal age you have 20 years to save, not 40.

These are hard facts to face. But they must be faced at some point. Sooner than later. Every one's variables are unique. Do you know yours?

My family has always joked that my mother was the original Debbie Downer. She can't help but interject something like "did you hear so and so passed away, so sad, bless her heart" in the middle of an otherwise pleasant conversation. I may have inherited some of that from her.

There are plenty of things that are great about being done and getting a paycheck this is commiserate with your husbands skills, talents, and education. This post in no way is meant to diminish that. Your situation is probably different, they all are. I guess that may be the point. Just because you know a doctor that ........ doesn't mean that it is going to work out that way for you.

If you are expecting magic, you may be disappointed.  Know what your priorities are. Know what you want today to look like and what you want your future to look like. Know what you have to work with. It's never to early to start making a plan.

Don't be disappointed, be prepared. That means having a trusted financial advisor who will tell you the TRUTH about what your unique situation for the present and future look like. The plain and simple truth. You might not want to hear it, but we all need more of it.

I understand the phrase "the truth hurts" much better now.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

A Good Book Can Do That

Every now and then I begin a book casually and then find myself sucked into a black hole and missing for days. A good book can do that to a person. I should have known better. It was a perfect storm: dealing with difficult situations and a great book. It was as good as a vacation!

My latest gem is Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. I highly recommend it, otherwise I wouldn't admit to having been virtually kidnapped by his work. I am a fan of all his books: Outliers, Blink, Tipping Point, What the Dog Saw.... I have them all, and could read them again and again. One day I will when I finally unpack the boxes they have been living in. I miss seeing my books. If only I had a house to put them in. I have an eReader, but I rarely buy an electronic book because I like the feel of pages and seeing them lined up on shelves makes my heart flutter. I love going to the library, it feels like a piece of heaven.

One of the reasons I am excited about his writing is that he makes you think about things in a different way.  He tells you how you usually see things and then shows you how you may not be right all of the time. He challenges the way you think. His books are very humbling and at the same time empowering.

This particular book, David and Goliath, had so many sections that translated (in my mind) directly to medical training. And even one of the sections talked specifically about medicine and how challenging they way we think about situations can result in huge advances. Read the book!

My favorite concept was that of the inverted "U" curve. There is this sweet spot in just about every thing we do. We often think that if something is good for us than more of it is better. That isn't always the case. You can have too much of a good thing - and at some point that "thing" can actually begin to do harm.  Fascinating.

I apologize for my absence, you now know where I have been.

Along the same lines, thank you for your comments on my last mistake post. Whenever a post gets that many comments I know I have hit on something that people are thinking about and not many people are talking about.

Before I start another book (reading is one of the ways I cope with stress) I will make sure I follow up on that post. It's a new week - anything is possible!


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Friday, November 8, 2013

Making Mistakes: Part 5

I wish you could see me right now. It's 8:30 am. I am in bed. My wrinkled pajamas and bed head clearly indicate I haven't traveled far in the few hours I have been awake. I got out of bed long enough to get the laptop out. The iPad is streaming a show next to me, and my 2 year old is watching a movie on my phone cuddled up to my side. I almost made a commercial for Apple with this image. All I need is a runny nose and cloudy weather outside and it would be justified. I think I am getting sick.

But I am stalling.

This is the mistake that really got the entire ball rolling on this series, and I don't know if I am ready to tackle it. Oh, I've been rolling it around in my head for months, but am I ready to make it public? In a way I already have long ago, under different circumstances, but here it is again.

Deep breath.

I hope you believe it when I say I do believe every situation is different and what may look like a mistake to one is exactly the right choice for another. It's up to each of us to decide what is right for us. I really do believe it. I hope you do to. Age and experience does that to a person. Lots of experience.

Now that all the appropriate disclosures have been made, read on.


Mistake #5: Buying a home.

There I said it. Before you disagree with me, keep reading. Buying a home is a mistake IF the timing is wrong. My history with housing has produced fairly strong feelings on the subject. Buying a house is always a big decisions, but now that we are at this junction in our lives it is huge. It's not something to rush into or take lightly.

What is the first thing that everybody wants the minute they graduate from school and move for residency, or pass from residency to the real-life? What you had before was real too, but you know what I mean.... that life that everyone told you was waiting around the corner and would be a shifting point in your experiences. Everybody wants a house. There isn't anything wrong with that. Or at least I hope there isn't. I have been carrying around a photograph of a house and floor plan that I saved from a magazine from the year 2007!

After fellowship we were completely unprepared to buy a house. Of course, we wanted one. By all accounts we deserved a house, and not just any regular house: we deserved a dream house. The word deserve drives me nuts. And we can certainly afford one. Can't we?

Yes our income skyrocketed, but most of the time you still need a down payment to buy a house. (Yes, there are some loan products available for doctors with zero down - but don't be fooled, there is always a catch, like higher interest). Unless you are going to buy a house identical to the one you lived in in residency - it is going to take time to get it together. More than a month. The more you put down the more favorable your rates, and the more leverage you have.

You may be wondering how this mistake is my mistake? Well I don't know if it is a mistake yet or not. We sort of bought a house - but that story is too long to tell today.


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

Nobody likes moving twice. So buying a house directly after residency/fellowship is tempting. Take your time. You have waited so long already, can you give it another 6 months?

Get a feel for your new city. Yes, you can research online but there is nothing that compares to being on the ground and getting a feel for a neighborhood. Listen to the sounds, watch the traffic. Notice the location of grocery stores and schools and power lines. It can't be replicated through online research.

Get a feel for your new income. There are going to be some shocks (taxes) and other expenses that you never dreamed of. You may not actually have as much to work with as you think you will. And even then you might be surprised to find out that what you have doesn't buy as much as what you thought it would. If you have deferred your student loans you will also be adjusting to that expense that wasn't previously a consideration. There is an adjustment period that will take place before you know what is really your disposable income to work with.

Do you plan on giving generously to worthy or unworthy causes? Do you plan on traveling extensively? Do you want to buy furniture one day? Will your children be attending private school? How do you image utilizing the money you earned?

If you buy a house before getting your other ducks in a row you will be working around a house, possibly at the expense of your retirement future, and the lifestyle you want for the present. If you put your plans for the future in place first you can confidently plan for a house that works for you not against you. 

Banks are eager for the business of a new doctor. They will always lend you more money than you need. They aren't interested in whether or not you are able to save 20% of your income after the house payment is made... they just want you to make the house payments. They don't work for you, they work for the bank. What's good for the bank may not be what is good for you.


Suggestions:

Retain the services of a financial planner that you trust and who understands the unique circumstances of your profession several months before you start the "job". 

Most of us are starting careers at least a decade, or more, after our counterparts in other professions. The majority of us have no speakable assets and an abundance of liabilities. The hole is really deep and we are significantly behind the curve. Not to mention we have a limited window of earning opportunity for savings before desired retirement.

Do not trust the bank who is lending you the money to tell you how much you can afford. You need a third party who knows your spending/saving goals to help set a realistic budget for a home.

Only a professional can help you make sense of what this means for you. You have stepped into a new world and need help. You DO need help. This is not the time to do it yourself.


P.S. Yes, I will write about our potential house experience soon.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Medical Monday's In November

My goodness, it is time for Thanksgiving, and I haven't even finished all my Halloween candy yet! Somebody please explain how the year can be winding down so quickly. I am amazed, and terrified, and of course grateful. 

Recently, I have been reminiscing on mistakes I have made this past year. I am thankful that I have mistakes to make and that the ones I do make aren't the end of the world. When all is said and done, life is really good. I mean how could it not be - the training years are over! They weren't really as bad as you think they might have been or are. We have so much to be grateful for.

And I am grateful for you. Thank you for coming each month and sharing posts with us. Let's get started!
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