YOUR MONEY & YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

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Looking back I never really saw the connection between my money & my mental health until I became burned out.


It was only when deciding to take time off to recover that I was forced to take a close look at my finances to see if it was even possible.


Then It dawned on me- having a healthy financial cushion is the lever I can pull if my work in healthcare no longer makes me happy.


With more financial freedom I can work on my terms, focus on the aspects of my job that I enjoy most, & more importantly have the freedom to leave any toxic jobs.







How Your Experiences Shape your Money Mindset



Like many other underprivileged people that pursue careers in healthcare, my starting line into medicine was further back than the majority.


Many times it required sacrifices beyond my means and abilities to go from immigrant to PA.


Even with scholarships, I had to take on massive amounts of student loan debt for my education, because my family was unable to help me.


I had to be a food-insecure student & I had to spend many a lunch break in PA school in my car so I could forget about being hungry.


I had to do it alone without much emotional support because my family was in financial survival mode too & had to work non-stop to make ends meet.


I had to be successful to be an example for my 4 younger siblings to show them it was possible to get out of poverty.


I had to break the cycle of generational poverty because I was tired of seeing my family struggle.



As I saw it, failure was not an option for me so I did what I had to do, with no regard for my mental health in the process.


There was no time, or awareness to strategize how to lessen the financial burden of my career long-term. I just had to get to the other side of school & to a consistent paycheck.


I see now that it was impossible for me to avoid all of the student loan mistakes I made- throughout my career because I was deeply in survival mode.

It was this permanent state of financial crisis mode to put myself through school- that clouded my relationship with money. Also, the ability to see money as a means to have more freedom in my life to do more of what I want to do & the mental health benefits that come with that.

When taking all of this into consideration, It doesn’t surprise me that I didn’t come of age financially until recently.


Similarly, It deeply affected my mindset about money.


Growing up I had an early awareness that my family’s finances were not always secure & my money mindset reflected this.


For a long time, I believed that money was a finite resource I had to fight for, compete for & protect at all costs. This benefited me in ways like my proclivity towards entrepreneurship & great negotiation skills, but it also kept me stuck in a poverty mindset from which I did not have to tools to get myself out of.

Even as my medical career grew robustly & my skills became more and more marketable- I still did not have the tools to optimally manage my money.


This became clear to me after having to take a sabbatical from my PA career to recover from burnout.


But even coming to this realization in the last few years in my late thirties, I am grateful for everything that happened to get me here because now I get to share these lessons with you, & because now I earned the tools to do things better from the school of hard knocks.


So here are a few things to consider when getting your financial 'ish together, no matter what season you’re in.


Mental Health Before Money



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I admit, when I was deep in the hustle of grad school or in trying to take my PA career to the next level, my mental health wasn’t the best.


Perhaps that is an understatement in retrospect, but the truth is that this was a sacrifice I didn’t know how not to do.


You can say survival mode was my default.


Because of my tumultuous upbringing, my insane drive to use my PA career to escape poverty meant that I was likely more comfortable with chaos than I was without it.


So yea, I didn’t have much time or the awareness or guidance needed to analyze my relationship with money or the ways that I could do some things differently that would benefit me in the long term.


But the truth is I was not in a place to receive financial guidance even if I had had it. I simply did not have the ability or bandwidth to be receptive. In a way, things happen in the order they should for our greatest personal growth, I guess.


It took me many stumbles & a burnout sabbatical to come to appreciate how making my mental health a priority first, benefited my financial health in the short & long term.

Here are 8 financial strategies I wish I had the ability to receive sooner in order of importance:


  1. Kept a simple budget using zero-based budgeting

  2. Contributed to my employer 401K at least to match

  3. Student Loan Payment strategy to pay less overall

  4. Started a Roth IRA account & fully funded it every year since graduating from PA school

  5. Had a fully-funded emergency fund with 6+ months of expenses

  6. Gone back & maxed out my 401K

  7. Back door IRA

  8. Invested in real estate for passive income


Here’s the thing though, financial education requires bandwidth, repetition to learn, some trial & error & commitment to grow through it. So beating yourself up for knowing this stuff or not having the tools to implement them is counterproductive. Peace is required to get there & survival mode does not allow for much peace.


So when considering the role your mental health has on your money & financial independence, prioritizing the first will pay dividends on the second. If your nervous system is shot, it will be hard to learn, organize & optimize your money.


Mental Health & Money Mindset


Another thing to consider is how your mental health has a direct effect on your money mindset.


I shared a bit about my upbringing with you & how at an early age I had an awareness of financial insecurity for my family & how this in turn created a scarcity money mindset for me later on which had its good things & bad things.


What I didn’t share was how witnessing my parents' work ethic & its effect on their mental health also influenced me, in good and bad ways.


My parents were both extremely hard workers. I mean their work ethic has always been beast-mode. I believe it made crazy work ethic & propensity for work-aholicism what it is today.


If I have any career success, it's probably because of this.


But I also witnessed heated fights about money, my father’s business collapsing & what that did to him mentally, as well as the incredible sacrifice my mother, as an immigrant single mom of 5 made by working herself ragged, never having time for herself & what that did to her in the long term. It's been really hard to see some of the effects of that as she ages.


What I also learned, was that hard work does not always equal success.


Because by that metric my parents would be incredibly wealthy & successful, but they are not, at least in the traditional sense.


Hard work must be then coupled with strategy. Especially when it comes to money.


5 Money Strategies to Consider Implementing Now

  1. The traditional recommendation is for people to invest 10% of their income in retirement accounts so that the compound interest you earn on it will allow you to retire by 65. That's great, but if you saved 30%,50% or more you can retire much earlier like in your 30s, 40s & 50s & live your dang life while you're young instead.

  2. Investing in index funds long-term has been proven to conservatively give you a 7% return on your money vs trying to predict the market yourself.

  3. The current saving rates for a savings account today hovers at about 0.5%. So it makes no sense to save here, except for the short-term like emergency funds.

  4. Paying student loans off at the rate your lenders want you to is deadly- it's rigged to benefit them so you pay them more in interest in the long term

  5. Having a student loan strategy that benefits you is important


The Lessons


I like the idea of retiring much, much sooner than 65. Even if I don’t stop working it's nice to know that I can be work optional, so I’m shooting for putting away way more than 10% in my retirement accounts into index funds so I can get there sooner.


I also love the idea of being smarter in my student loan strategy to pay less total in the long term. Once they’re paid off, I plan on to keep paying myself that amount either to accelerate my rate of retirement even more by putting that money in index funds or investing in real estate.



Take-home Points

  • Your mental health has to come before your money because

  • If your nervous system is shot, it will be hard to learn, organize & optimize your money.

  • Financial education requires bandwidth, repetition to learn, some trial & error & commitment to grow through it.

  • When considering the role your mental health has on your money & financial independence prioritizing the first will pay dividends on the second.

  • 8 financial strategies I wish I had the ability to receive sooner in order of importance:

  1. Kept a simple budget using zero-based budgeting

  2. Contributed to my employer 401K at least to match

  3. Student Loan Payment strategy to pay less overall

  4. Started a Roth IRA account & fully funded it every year since graduating from PA school

  5. Had a fully-funded emergency fund with 6+ months of expenses

  6. Gone back & maxed out my 401K

  7. Back door IRA

  8. Invested in real estate for passive income

  • Consider is how your mental health has a direct effect on your money mindset.

  • Hard work does not always equal success.

  • by that metric, my parents would be incredibly wealthy & successful, but they are not, at least in the traditional sense.

  • Hard work must be coupled with strategy when it comes to money.

  • 5 Smart money strategies to consider:

  1. The traditional recommendation is for people to invest 10% of their income in retirement accounts so that the compound interest you earn on it will allow you to retire by 65. That's great, but if you saved 30%,50%, or more you can retire much earlier like in your 30s, 40s & 50s & live your dang life while you're young instead.

  2. Investing in index funds long-term has been proven to conservatively gives you a 7% return on your money vs trying to predict the market yourself.

  3. The current saving rates for savings account today hovers at about 0.5%. So it makes no sense to save here long-term, except for the short-term like emergency funds.

  4. Paying student loans off at the rate your lenders want you to is deadly- it's rigged for them so you pay them more in interest in the long term

  5. Having a student loan strategy that benefits you is important

More Resources:

  1. Student Loan Lessons for PAs

  2. My Favorite Personal Finance Books for Healthcare Professionals

  3. Budget Template for PA Students

  4. Money Boot Camp for White Coats Course


*This blog post provides personal finance educational information & is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice. All of the content of this blog post is my opinion not that of my employer, affiliates, or business partners.

*This post may contain affiliate links & I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.



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