There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now—and for many, that’s extending into the realm of finances. We’ve covered some strategies for managing rehab therapy clinics during these turbulent times, but today, we thought we’d bring our attention back to individual providers and staffers. After all, if you’ve been personally impacted by the pandemic (and who hasn’t?), you may be wondering how to adjust your financial plans in light of so much volatility.
With that in mind, here are four personal finance tips for physical therapists in 2020 (adapted from this KevinMD podcast with Kevin Pho, MD, and guest Brent Lacey, MD, a gastroenterologist and certified financial coach).
1. Get your feet underneath you.
No one could have predicted that in mid-2020, we’d see so many healthcare providers rethinking their professional careers (or as Lacey notes, “filing for unemployment benefits”). Whether you have been laid off or furloughed, had to shutter your practice, or are just disheartened by the state of modern health care, it’s time to get clear about where things stand for you right now. And that includes getting clear on your financial assets. Do you have an emergency fund? How much is coming in vs. going out? Is your personal budget up to date?
The steps you take next will heavily depend on your current financial situation—so, don’t sugar coat it. But at the same time, if you’re experiencing a financial setback, then your very first goal is “not to panic, as this too shall pass,” says Lacey. After all, he notes, we often make the worst decisions when we’re operating out of fear—“or a lack of knowledge.”
The next goal is to “get your feet underneath you,” which means generating some amount of financial security (and of course, having an honest conversation with your spouse or partner). In other words, if you’ve been laid off, then focus first on money to cover the next few months, so you have enough breathing room to start thinking about the future.
2. Make a plan.
Then, you can start to plan ahead. Lacey suggests asking yourself “what you want your life to look like” in five years, in three years, and in a year. Do you want to be practicing still? If so, do you want to work for yourself or someone else? In what kind of an environment do you want to practice? In what niche? Is there something else you want to pursue entirely? Do you have a passion waiting in the wings that doesn’t involve clinical work at all?
As WebPT Co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, has said before, times of uncertainty often bring forth clarity. So, leverage this time to set goals for yourself—in terms of what you want to do as well as what you want to earn. From there, Lacey says you can “reverse engineer it” to determine your next steps.
3. Save, invest, or both.
According to Lacey, there’s no reason not to invest in the market right now—despite its volatility—if you have the funds to do so. But if you’re not generating any income—or if that income has been cut—then it’s really best to save. He notes that while most people worry about their investment accounts, analysis, and fees, the real determination of long-term financial success is having a plan with long-term financial goals—and making a commitment to save.
Given the fact that we really don’t know what’s going to happen next—and as Pho noted, “the long-term ramifications, financially, of the pandemic” aren’t yet clear—saving all that you can now makes a lot of sense, especially if you never had (or you already burned through) an emergency fund. In that case, be sure to really take a look at your expenses, too. What personal expenses can you cut? Most people aren’t doing a whole lot of traveling or eating out right now, which might help your numbers. But are there any other costs you can minimize to save even more?
If you are planning to invest, Lacey advises against trying to time the market. Instead, he says, “the best day to invest was yesterday; the second best day is today.”
4. Seek out smart resources.
According to Lacey, doctors—and all healthcare providers, really—graduate with incredible skills in their “craft,” but not in business management or personal finance. That’s actually why he decided to become a financial health coach: to help providers learn the ropes of financial success. And he has a ton of great resources on his site—as well as some recommendations for others in the space. While all of these recommended resources are physician-focused, many apply to physical therapists as well:
And then there’s always the ever-trusty Google. Lacey says you can simply search “personal finance” or “physician personal finance”—we’ll add “physical therapy personal finance,” as well—and you’ll find a host of different sources with their own take on personal finance strategies. Some may resonate; others may not. But Lacey suggests starting “really, really simple” with a book or two and expanding your financial savvy one step at a time. With that in mind, start with his reading list and see what jumps out.
While this is less a personal finance tip—and a more just a solid life lesson—Lacey ends the broadcast with a final suggestion to set “your anchor point.” In other words, determine the thing (or things) that matter most to you—whether it be your family, faith, or overarching life purpose—so you can stay centered there, even when life gets tumultuous. We couldn’t agree more.
How are you adapting your personal finance strategy given the current unknowns? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.