There’s an epidemic in the U.S. that jeopardizes the future of our children more than obesity; is more toxic than the drinking water in Flint, Michigan; grows more insidiously than cancer. I witness countless patients suffering the consequences.of this epidemic daily, and it has even claimed several of my own family members.
It is an epidemic lack of insight.
It haunts the uninsured patient with the latest iphone and the pack of Marlboro Reds in his shirt pocket who asks me, “Doc, I can’t afford these generic antibiotics you’ve prescribed, any chance of getting a free sample?”
It distorts the judgment of the 30-year-old who, absent an emergency cash reserve and still on the dole from parents who pay his cel phone, housing and credit card bills in the expensive city where he lives, decides to blow his latest paycheck on a trip to Europe because, “I deserve it.”
It besieges the new attending with a negative net worth who, tired of postponing the physician’s lifestyle, decides to buy a prestigious new car and costly home on landing her first job out of residency.
We are among the wealthiest societies in the richest period that history has yet produced. But the constant bombardment with messages promoting insatiable consumerism coupled with a failure to sacrifice present luxuries for future security mean many of us will be eating Alpo in retirement (as Drs. Bernstein and Dahle have memorably put it).
As a physician, you are in an exceptional position to earn a high income, live a comfortable middle class lifestyle, and aggressively save the difference for retirement. Those who control spending from the start stand the best chance of eliminating debt rapidly, achieving financial independence early, and allotting their remaining time in a manner consistent with their priorities.