[Editor's Note: Today's guest post was submitted by regular reader Joshua White, a 2019 DO graduate from Midwestern University who is currently a PGY-2 in Emergency Medicine in Corpus Christi, TX. His passion for financial education and physician wellness shows in this article encouraging financial mentorship—something that many of us would have benefitted from early in our careers and something we wholeheartedly support here at WCI. Stay tuned later this month as we'll announce our annual Financial Educator of the Year Award! We have no financial relationship.]
As an Emergency Medicine resident at the beginning of my financial journey, I have been looking for how to find the right financial mentors in my life. For those also on this journey, here is what I have learned. It is easy to set many financial goals. But how do you close the gap between your dreams and reality? Isaac Newton said,
”If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
He credited his successes to those before him because he was able to learn from and rely on them, which boosted his progress. Have you identified people that have accomplished the financial goals you seek after? Who are the giants that have shoulders you want to stand on? Your ability to find and learn from good financial mentors will be critical to your future success. Look for others who have become what you want to become and learn what they did to get where they are. In your pursuit of financial goals, it is increasingly important to identify good financial mentors. Many mistakenly seek financial advice from those who are incentivized to sell you financial products or who are not really qualified to give financial advice.
Why Should You Have a Financial Mentor?
- You can learn to emulate their pattern of success.
- They can warn you to avoid financial mistakes.
- They can help you find sources of good financial information to help you progress.
How to Find a Financial Mentor You Can Trust
Rule 1 – Choose Financial Mentors Who Consistently Live Good Financial Advice
Financial information is in no short supply. A simple Google search will produce answers to any question you can think of. But are they the right answers? The beauty of having mentors is not simply to obtain financial information, rather it is to emulate financial behavior to obtain similar results. Before deciding that you plan to emulate someone’s financial behavior, find out what that behavior is. Is it consistent with good financial principles? Will their behavior lead you to obtaining your financial goals? Are the results that they obtained likely reproducible? Although many are well-intentioned, I avoid financial mentors who speculate by attempting to “pick” the right stocks or time the market. Why? It simply is not in line with my financial goals and is less likely to have long-term reproducible results.
Rule 2 – Choose Financial Mentors Who Are Truly “Wealthy”, That Is, Have a High Net Worth
In the search for a financial mentor, it seems intuitive to find those who appear to be wealthy and to find out how they got where they are at. In The Millionaire Next Door, the author observes,
“Ask the average American to define the term wealthy…wealthy to them refers to people who have an abundance of material possessions. We define wealth differently. We do not define wealthy, affluent, or rich in terms of material possessions. Many people who display a high-consumption lifestyle have little or no investments, appreciable assets, common stocks, bonds, private businesses, oil/gas rights, or timber land. One way we determine whether someone is wealthy or not is based on net worth—'cattle,' not ‘chattel'.”
Finding people who have a high net worth instead of just those with a high standard of living will likely be more difficult. It will take active seeking. I find that when I make it a priority to talk to many people about financial principles I value, I find opportunities to acquire more financial mentors.
Rule 3 – Choose Financial Mentors Who Are Becoming Wealthier, and Who Have a High Savings Rate
Find financial mentors who have a high savings rate. What percentage of their gross income are they investing? While it is good to have a high net worth, more important than net worth is the direction your net worth is going. Is your financial mentor going to inspire you to lifestyle creep or invest creep? For reference, the White Coat Investor recommends saving 20% of your gross income, and 25-30% of it for those who want to retire early.
Rule 4 – Diversify Your Financial Mentorship: Create a Mentorship Panel
Customize your financial mentorships to your future goals. I find that it is helpful to identify financial mentors at different stages of their careers: retirement, near retirement, mid-career, and 1-2 years ahead of you. Finding mentor experts in different niches of finance: real estate, passive income, taxes, entrepreneurship, etc. will help you to accomplish the different financial goals you have. Just like it is important to diversify your investments, choosing to diversify your financial mentorship will improve your likelihood of future success.
Rule 5 – Find Financial Mentors That Have Happy Lives
When all is said and done, the purpose of developing financial wellness is to have healthier and happier lives. Financial ambitions that compromise overall wellness, happiness, or relationships come at a cost that is too high.
How to Learn from and Emulate Your Financial Mentors
#1 Regularly Ask Your Mentors Questions and Find Common “Success Patterns”
Those who are financially successful follow good financial principles to get where they are. Use every opportunity you can to ask good questions to find out what they did and what you can replicate to find financial success.
#2 Find Out Your Next Step to Financial Health
After you have made your own financial plan, bring it to them and see what they suggest you improve to ensure success. Then quickly begin implementing what they recommend if it parallels the financial principles you know.
#3 Learn from Someone Else’s Mistakes
Ask your mentors what they wish they would have done differently and ask them what mistakes they commonly see others do. It is good to learn from your mistakes, but it is even better to learn from others’ mistakes.
#4 Make a List of Mentors' Recommended “Best Financial Books” or Other Educational Resources
Making a list of the books that are most recommended from your financial mentors allows you to gain more knowledge on your own.
My Financial Mentors
My overall financial mentor is a physician that will remain nameless for the sake of privacy. He has been out of training for several years, paid off all of his student loans in under 2.5 years, and has maintained a savings rate of approximately 40% of his gross income. Additionally, he is someone that I see frequently and is someone I feel comfortable to go to with my most simple and complicated financial questions because of his persistent enthusiasm for financial education.
For passive income mentorship, I have a friend who has demonstrated great competency in his ability to manage real estate. He has created a passive income stream that has become self-sustaining. Once I pay off my student loans, I plan to seek his expertise so I can at least partially emulate his real estate strategies.
Although I do not know this physician personally, for retirement planning my mentor is someone who challenges others to have a net income savings rate of 50% on the path to financial independence. This is the live on half challenge issued by the Physician on Fire. He demonstrates that, when done consistently, it will make work become optional. Although I am still in Residency, this challenge is my plan when I make attending pay.
Finally, one of my mentors in financial education is someone who has taken sound financial principles and explained them to others in order to make them more easily reproducible. Instead of showcasing the complexity of finance as many do, he has shown others how it is achievable for anyone to be financially successful if they are willing to follow simple financial rules. This is the White Coat Investor. Because this has changed my perspective and given me hope, I want to help others in the same way.
I am grateful for the financial mentors in my life and how they have inspired me to improve and grow step by step. I continue to seek for more people who demonstrate excellent financial behavior so I can emulate them on my path to financial freedom. I invite you to do the same and promise that as you seek financial mentors who are worth emulating, you will find giants whose shoulders you can stand on.
How has having financial mentors helped you in your financial journey? What advice would you give to someone looking for financial mentors? Comment below!